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UFC 187 preview: Five burning questions for 'Johnson vs. Cormier' PPV in Las Vegas

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the pay-per-view (PPV) platform this Saturday night (May 23, 2015) with the stacked UFC 187 fight card, featuring two title fights in the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions, respectively. We here at MMAmania.com took a gander at the mammoth event, and put together five burning questions heading into this weekend.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is ready to put on its most stacked event of the year this Saturday (May 23, 2015) as a new light heavyweight champion will be crowned for the first time in four years. Meanwhile, Chris Weidman looks to defend his 185-pound title against the always-dangerous Vitor Belfort in the co-main event of the UFC 187 pay-per-view (PPV), set to go down live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Follow along with the live play-by-play and results of UFC 187 right here.

Elsewhere on the card, streaking lightweight contender Donald Cerrone looks to earn a UFC title shot by taking out John Makdessi, top ranked flyweights square off as Joseph Benavides faces off against John Moraga, and heavyweights throw down when Travis Browne meets former heavyweight kingpin Andrei Arlovski.

With a PPV fiesta just days away, MMAmania.com pondered "Five Burning Questions" heading into Saturday night.

5. Will Jon Jones' absence hinder PPV buys, or will the stacked card still be this year's most successful event?

In short, Jones' absence will undoubtedly hurt the card. Anytime a champion is pulled from an event -- whether it is a result of injury or being stripped of the title due to a hit-and-run -- the event will take a hit.

Fortunately for the promotion, UFC 187 is one of the most stacked events it has ever put together, let alone the most impressive PPV line-up this year.

The closest comparison to UFC 187 is UFC 181 from last December, topped by welterweight and lightweight title fights. The event also featured Travis Browne vs. Brendan Schaub, Tony Ferguson, Urijah Faber, and more.

UFC 181 ended up with 400,000 buys according to MMA Payout, which was among the best results in the previous 10 UFC PPVs.

Of course, UFC 182 featuring the light heavyweight title fight between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones raked in 800,000 buys, and that event was bolstered with far less supporting talent than UFC 181.

Jon Jones' PPV numbers have always been steady around the 400-500k mark -- with the exception of UFC 182 -- so losing him at UFC 187 will definitely take a toll on the buy rate.

In my estimation, you can probably expect this card to hit around 350k.

4. Does Donald Cerrone deserve a UFC title shot with a victory over John Makdessi at UFC 187?

Donald Cerrone may say he does not care about earning a UFC title shot, and he honestly may be telling the truth, but that won't stop UFC brass from giving him the opportunity if he takes out John Makdessi this weekend.

It certainly is not Cerrone's fault that Khabib Nurmagomedov got injured again, because had "Cowboy" beaten "The Eagle," there would be no question whether or not he would be fighting for UFC gold.

In my mind, why punish Cerrone and take away his possibility at earning the No. 1 contender spot, just because Nurmagomedov had to withdraw from the fight?

Sure, a win over Makdessi is hardly as impressive as a victory over Khabib would have been, but that doesn't take away from the fact that if "Cowboy" gets it done in Las Vegas this weekend, he will have extended his winning streak to eight fights in a row.

Not to mention that Cerrone is a fan favorite who has been putting on enthralling fights all the way back to his World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) days.

If Cerrone takes out Makdessi at UFC 187, expect the Colorado native to be rematching Rafael dos Anjos for the title later this year.

3. Travis Browne vs Andrei Arlovski: Is this a No. 1 contender bout?

Before I even delve into this heavyweight slugfest, we simply cannot forget about top ranked contenders Stipe Miocic and Junior dos Santos.

Both of the aforementioned fighters have an argument for the next title shot, and Dos Santos holds a recent victory over Miocic.

The most important heavyweight fight coming in the next several months is obviously the title-unification bout between Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum.

If the champ retains his belt by defeating the Brazilian, there is almost no way UFC will throw Dos Santos back into the fire against Velasquez. If that is the case, expect "JDS" to take on Alistair Overeem.

If Werdum pulls off the upset, then I would be stunned if Dos Santos wasn't rematching his fellow Brazilian for the belt later this year.

So, where does this leave Browne and Arlovski?

Both men need an impressive performance at UFC 187 -- and a Cain Velasquez victory -- in order to be deemed the No. 1 contender.

If either man gets a devastating finish on Saturday night, one that is more impressive than Miocic's recent beat down over Mark Hunt, that man could very well be next in line to face off against Velasquez later this year.

While it may seem convoluted right now, UFC's heavyweight division is just about as fun as it has been in years.

2. Vitor Belfort has not fought in 19 months. Can "The Phenom" really trouble Chris Weidman?

In mixed martial arts (MMA) history, we have often seen fighters choose to wait for their crack at UFC gold, rather than risking another fight in the interim to lose their No. 1 contender status.

In the case of Vitor Belfort, "The Phenom" has waited more than a year-and-a-half to face off against Chris Weidman.

After an unbelievable 2013 that saw Belfort knockout Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, and Dan Henderson all via head kick, the former UFC light heavyweight champion was scheduled to face off against Weidman at UFC 173, just about six months after defeating "Hendo."

When the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) banned the use of Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT), Belfort opted to withdraw from their title fight in order to allow his body to acclimate to training without TRT.

The title fight was then re-scheduled for UFC 181 after "All American" defeated Lyoto Machida at UFC 175. This time, Weidman had to pull out citing a broken hand, and the fight was again re-scheduled for UFC 184.

Unfortunately, the streak of bad luck continued when Weidman once again pulled out of the fight with an injured rib, and Belfort turned down potential interim title fights against Lyoto Machida and Ronaldo Souza.

Now, 19 months after knocking out Dan Henderson, Belfort will finally take on Weidman in the co-main event of UFC 187, but will the long layoff affect him on fight night?

Also, we have no idea how Belfort will compete without TRT, so could this be a disastrous evening for the perennial UFC contender, or perhaps he can shock the world and take the title back to Brazil.

We hopefully find out in just a few days.

1. Anthony Johnson vs Daniel Cormier: Who becomes the next UFC light heavyweight champion?

UFC's light heavyweight division is arguably the most storied in the promotion's history, with legendary fighters holding the belt in Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, "Rampage" Jackson, "Shogun" Rua, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Jon Jones, and more.

All of the aforementioned fighters are Hall-of-Fame worthy, and have enjoyed storied MMA careers.

With Jones out of the picture after UFC stripped him of his title, and possible jail time facing the former undisputed champ, a new era in the 205-pound division will begin this weekend.

Anthony Johnson -- who once competed at welterweight inside the Octagon -- could become a UFC champ just three years after he was cut by the promotion for badly missing weight and losing to Vitor Belfort at UFC 142. On the regional MMA scene, "Rumble" fought at light heavyweight, and even defeated former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski in a heavyweight bout.

Six straight victories gave Johnson the chance to return to the Octagon against the dangerous Phil Davis, and "Rumble" made it look easy in a 15-minute beatdown over the former NCAA Division-1 Wrestler. Following two straight knockouts over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Alexander Gustafsson, Johnson has found himself in a UFC title fight.

As for Cormier, the former Olympian kicked off his MMA career with 15 straight victories, including dominant wins over Antonio Silva, Josh Barnett, Roy Nelson, Frank Mir, and Dan Henderson. Those fights earned Cormier a shot at the greatest light heavyweight of all time in one of the most anticipated bouts in UFC history -- with the help of an infamous brawl.

"DC" was thoroughly beat down by Jones at UFC 182, and the storyline following the loss was that Cormier would likely never earn UFC gold at 36 years old. But as luck would have it, the Louisiana native finds himself in a title fight just four months after his loss to "Bones."

Who will cap off their Cinderella story on Saturday night and ring in a new era in the light heavyweight division? Will "Rumble" complete his career turnaround, or is it Daniel Cormier's destiny to become UFC champion?

We find out in just a few short days.

For more information on UFC 187, including the full fight card, results, news, and more, click here.