What arrives is not what once set out, but it's still a sight to behold.
This Saturday (May 23, 2015), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns from its adventures abroad with a bang as it hits MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, with two title fights atop a stacked pay-per-view (PPV) card.
In the main event, Daniel Cormier will get his second chance at a Light Heavyweight title thanks to Jon Jones' run-ins with the law, with knockout machine Anthony Johnson playing the role of spoilsport. One fight prior, the long-awaited showdown between Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman and long-time wrecker-of-faces Vitor Belfort goes down 20 pounds south.
Elsewhere on the card, Donald Cerrone will face fellow striking specialist John Makdessi at Lightweight, while Andrei Arlovski attempts to continue his unexpected resurgence at the expense of towering Heavyweight Hawaiian Travis Browne.
It's a hell of a PPV, one that will be bolstered by an additional seven "Prelims" undercard bouts. Three of them, which we cover below, will stream online via Fight Pass before the FOX Sports 1-televised action unfolds.
Scroll down to see what $9.99 a month will get you this weekend:
170 lbs.: Mike Pyle vs. Colby Covington
Mike Pyle (26-10-1) -- who is entering his sixteenth year as a professional -- carved out a place for himself in the Welterweight division with seven wins (including five finishes) in eight fights after starting his UFC career 1-2. Recently, he's hit something of a snag, his recent brutalization of T.J. Waldburger flanked by first-round knockout losses to Matt Brown and Jordan Mein.
"Quicksand" is 12 years older and two inches taller than Colby Covington (7-0).
Covington turned heads in his Octagon debut by utterly demolishing The Ultimate Fighter: "China" alum Anying Wang until he tapped to strikes. His second appearance was less destructive, but still dominant as he choked out Wagner Gomes to cap off three rounds of once-sided grappling.
He replaces Sean Spencer on approximately three weeks notice.
Covington has tremendous physical strength and a quality wrestling background that will likely carry him far in this division. Further in his favor, Pyle is pushing 40 and been at least knocked down in three of his last four fights.
Covington's future is almost certainly brighter than Pyle's, which makes it somewhat unfortunate that he's going to lose this one.
Out of nowhere, Pyle has developed a lethal clinch game, predicated on devastating knees he can time and place perfectly. In addition, he showed against Rick Story that he is still a legitimate threat off of his back. Covington does not seem to have the stand up prowess to crack his chin and will be in danger both during and after his takedowns.
I say "Quicksand" still has a couple of good performances in him -- expect him to crack Covington with a knee as soon as "Chaos" gets too complacent working for a takedown.
Prediction: Pyle via first-round knockout
155 lbs.: Islam Makhachev vs. Leo Kuntz
Islam Makhachev (11-0) is the latest member of the Dagestani invasion, bringing with him a wealth of Combat Sambo experience. A long-time friend and training partner of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Makhachev has cut his teeth in top Russian promotions like ProFC and M-1 Global.
Five of his wins are via submission and he owns a win over French standout Mansour Barnaoui.
Leo Kuntz (17-1-1) -- a member of American Top Team -- has not tasted defeat since his fourth professional fight in 2009. Overall, he's stopped 12 opponents, seven by form of knockout. This will be his first fight since Dec. 2013, having pulled out of a bout with Yosdenis Cedeno, and his second chance at UFC glory after washing out of TUF 16's elimination round.
There's really no recent footage of Kuntz to go on, save for his absolute pasting at the hands of Sam Alvey on TUF, but Islam is promising enough to get my vote of confidence anyway. He's been described as like Khabib without the same sort of physical dominance, but with a more active and entertaining ground game. He can hit takedowns seemingly any time he's touching the opponent and has a fast-paced, scramble-heavy top game that makes up for his occasional lack of positional authority.
On the feet, he's cut from the standard Sambo mold of wide, winging punches with speed and accuracy.
Makhachev has already faced superior competition in his career and, at just 23, is improving constantly. Whether he stays at 155 pounds or drops to Featherweight, expect this man to make an impact. He'll start by dominating Kuntz on the mat for a wide decision victory.
Prediciton: Makhachev via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Justin Scoggins vs. Josh Sampo
American Top Team's Justin Scoggins (9-2) quickly established himself as one to watch with impressive wins over Richie Vaculik and Will Campuzano in his first two Octagon appearances. Since then, he's lost a narrow, entertaining decision to Dustin Ortiz and fallen victim to John Moraga's lethal guillotine after dominating the early portion of the fight.
Six of his wins are by knockout, including one by hook kick.
Josh Sampo (11-4) -- who entered the promotion as the CFA Flyweight champion -- would have taken home quite a bit of dosh after his submission of Ryan Benoit in his Octagon debut had he not missed weight. Like Scoggins, he will be looking to bounce back from two straight losses, having lost a decision to Zach Makovsky and been submitted by Paddy Holohan in recent bouts.
Six of his professional victories have come via submission.
Scoggins' biggest enemy right now is himself. He's got terrific speed and balance, even among flyweights, and his unique striking game is complemented by a quality takedown attack that makes him a multi-dimensional threat. He had a clear edge over Moraga on the feet, only to shoot directly into Moraga's best weapon.
Sampo, while better than his UFC record suggests, should be facing a sizable deficit on the feet and I'm not convinced he can score the takedown. Scoggins has all the tools to win this one just so long as he avoids the scramble-heavy exchanges that are Sampo's forte. After his recent defeats, I expect him to do just that, outlanding Sampo on the feet and engaging just enough on the ground to open up a fight-ending strike in the second
Prediction: Scoggins via second-round knockout
Four more UFC 187 "Prelims" fights to preview and predict tomorrow, featuring fan-friendly talents like Rose Namajuas, Uriah Hall and John Dodson, among others.
See you there, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 187 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.