UFC 187: Johnson vs. Cormier – Shortcut predictions for the entire card

In the photo above: (L-R) Daniel “DC” Cormier, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, UFC middleweight champion “The All-American” Chris Weidman, and “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort.

The shadow of Jon “Bones” Jones looms large over the main event at UFC 187: Johnson vs. Cormier. After all, were it not for Jones’s serial bad decision making, it would be him and not Daniel Cormier standing across the cage from comeback kid Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. Now with the title vacated, fans may actually be treated to an even more compelling matchup than what was originally on the docket; Johnson and Cormier square up much more competitively than did Jones and Johnson.

UFC 187—which hosts in its co-main event slot an overdue title tilt between undefeated middleweight champion Chris Weidman and former heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort—also happens to boast the highest average betting odds ever for a full UFC event (-338, implying a win percentage of 77%, according to FightMetric.com numbers cruncher Reed Kuhn), meaning there are more projected mismatches on this card than on any previous UFC card in history.

With that in mind, here are my predictions for this Saturday’s proceedings in five sentences or less per fight.

PAY-PER-VIEW MAIN CARD – 10PM/7PM ET|PT

Main Event: #1 Anthony “Rumble” Johnson vs. #3 Daniel “DC” Cormier: Although his stats have skewed southward as a result of his unfavorable encounter with the former 205 lb. kingpin, it’d be foolish to not give Cormier the grappling edge in this matchup despite what the numbers may currently say to the contrary (Johnson’s takedown average, accuracy, defense and submission average are all at the moment superior to Cormier’s, according to UFC.com). It’s also important to look at exactly how Cormier’s grappling works—or, more accurately, where it’s most efficient. “Rumble” is among the most physically powerful fighters in the UFC, however his success defending UFC-to-Bellator transplant Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis’s shooting takedown style may have raised his wrestling stock a bit cosmetically. Takedowns from the clinch have always been Johnson’s bane and, unfortunately for him, those are Cormier’s bread and butter. If Johnson can manage to defend the takedown and get his hands going, though, it won’t end prettily for the former Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion. Cormier def. Johnson by SUB. 

Co-Main Event: (C) Chris “The All-American” Weidman vs. “The Phenom” Vitor Belfort: With height, reach, youth, less wear and tear on his body, a significantly better grappling pedigree and less Octagon rust going into this Saturday’s long-awaited showdown on his side, all signs point to middleweight champion Chris Weidman walking out of the cage with a 13-0 record, leaving a beaten and bloodied Belfort on the mat behind him. To date, the 6’2” Serra-Longo product from Long Island has been nigh-flawless in competition and, while one would be a fool to count out the “old lion” Belfort altogether, he faces far stiffer opposition in the future in one Luke Rockhold. By now, we all know what to expect from Belfort: explosiveness in the first (and perhaps, if he’s really hit the treadmill, the second) round(s) followed by a steep and dejecting decline. Weidman proved in his terrific contest against an always-dangerous (but declining) Lyoto Machida that he has the tank to go 25 minutes. Don’t expect for him to take that long to send Belfort packing. Weidman def. Belfort by TKO.

#3 Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone vs. John “The Bull” Makdessi: Originally slated to face off against a man many herald as the uncrowned 155 lb. champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Donald Cerrone will make it a career-high eight consecutive victories against late notice fill-in (and brave opportunist) John Makdessi. This is a tailor-made fight for Cerrone, who despite having a phenomenal submission game (which has won him 15 of his 27 victories to date) is far more well-known for his deadly kickboxing (which, conversely, has earned him only four striking-related stoppages). The Canadian Tae Kwon Do, Shotokan karate and kickboxing specialist Makdessi will no doubt look to circumvent Cerrone’s stiff style by using angles and feigns to keep the Jackson-Winkeljohn pupil guessing, but let’s face it: he’s out of his element, momentum-wise. Cerrone will earn his title shot this Saturday. Cerrone def. Makdessi by UD.

#3 Travis “Hapa” Browne vs. #8 Andrei “The Pit Bull” Arlovski: If you wanted an example of how MMA math doesn’t really work out, this is the fight to look at. Arlovski holds wins over both Antonio Silva and Fabricio Werdum—both of whom own wins over Browne—and is currently on a four-fight win streak (compared to Browne’s sole win after being UDed by Werdum in Orlando back in April of last year), but he comes in as the deserving +340 (to Browne’s -410) underdog. And I say “deserving” because, despite what the numbers and names say to the contrary, he is severely disadvantaged in this contest in almost every imaginable area outside of raw one-punch knockout power. Short of a freak injury like the one he sustained before losing by TKO to Silva back in 2012, Browne’s passage to the contenders’ circle should be violently green-lit. Browne def. Arlovksi by KO.

#2 Joseph “Jobi-Wan” Benavidez vs. #5 John Moraga: This fight was inevitable, as both Benavidez and Moraga have only ever lost to the best. Although odds makers have Benavidez as a heavy favorite in this matchup (-550 to +420—the most disparate odds on the entire card), this bout will be much closer. However, that doesn’t mean the odds are incorrect. Try to answer this question honestly: Where can this fight take place to put Moraga at an advantage? Benavidez def. Moraga by UD.

FOX SPORTS 1 PRELIMS – 8PM/5PM ET|PT

#1 John “The Magician” Dodson vs. #9 Zach “Fun Size” Makovsky: Welcome back, John Dodson! Oh, how we’ve missed you. Considering it’s been almost a year since Dodson has stepped in the cage, it speaks loudly to the thinness of the flyweight division that not a single contender has managed to wrest the #1 slot from “The Magician.” And sorry, Zach Makowvsky, but this one ain’t even gonna be close. Dodson def. Makovsky by TKO.

#8 “The Stun Gun” Dong Hyun Kim vs. “The People’s Warrior” Josh Burkman: This will be a memorable barn burner unless “The Stun Gun” learned a lesson from his last outing against Tyron Woodley (a nasty TKO at just one minute into the contest) and has returned to decision-hunting. Josh Burkman, a welcome returnee after a five-year stint in the lower and regional circuits (where he won a few titles—most notably the World Series of Fighting belt), took everything a juiced-up Hector Lombard could throw at him and retained his zero-knockout record the last time we saw him, so don’t expect him to go down easily. In fact, look for his solid fundamentals to open a few eyes when matched up against the Korean judoka’s wild style and provide him entry into the welterweight top 15. Burkman def. Kim by TKO.

Uriah “Prime Time” Hall vs. Rafael “Sapo’ Natal: Could Hall, 30, finally be living up to the potential he showed on The Ultimate Fighter? Chael Sonnen’s prized pupil has now won three in a row going into his fight with “Sapo,” himself the winner of two consecutive bouts. However, Natal doesn’t fit the mold of what has been Hall’s Achilles’ heel to date: heavy-handed pressure wrestlers. He’s well-rounded, certainly, but he tends to stall now and then—something which has gotten him caught on more than one occasion. This is no gimme for Hall, but it is obvious UFC matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby are building the striking dynamo up. Hall def. Natal by KO.

#4 “Thug” Rose Namajunas vs. Nina Ansaroff: Namjunas def. Ansaroff by submission.

UFC FIGHT PASS EARLY PRELIMS 6:30PM/3:30PM ET|PT

Mike “Quicksand” Pyle vs. Colby Covington: Covington def. Pyle by UD.

Islam Makhachev vs. Leo “The Lion” Kuntz: Makhachev def. Kuntz by SUB.

Justin “Tank” Scoggins vs. Josh “The Gremlin” Sampo: Were this not taking place at 125 lbs., this would be a “loser leaves town” bout, as both men have lost two in a row. Scoggins def. Sampo by TKO.

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Jesse Scheckner

A freelance MMA, entertainment and business journo born, raised and residing in Miami, FL, Jesse Scheckner is a former semi-serious musician, cinephile and recovering ne’er-do-well who still believes Mickey Rourke’s finest performance in film has yet to come. He is TuffGnarl.com's editor-in-chief, a feature staff writer for MMASucka.com and the 2014 MMA Media Correspondent winner at the Florida MMA Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner to talk about the stuff he writes about with him.

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