clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UFC 187 predictions, preview, and analysis

We've sure come a long way since "Snaggletooth" vs. "Crumble."

Esther Lin

Now that you've (hopefully) finished making fun of dead Malaysians and people with Down syndrome, it's time to sit up straight, puff out your chest, and celebrate Memorial Day Weekend in patriotic style, my fellow mixed martial arts (MMA) fans.

This is the time of year the American propaganda machine wants you to quietly remember those brave souls who perished while serving in the armed forces, as opposed to rushing out for all the leftover inventory retailers mark down after failing to unload it over the holidays.


Keep your yellow ribbons and soiled-mattress sales, this weekend is all about barbecues!

That means it's time to bust out your hardware, stock up on assembly-line beef, and drink yourself stupid. In other words, it's just like every other weekend, except those of us in the northern hemisphere gradually relocate outdoors as the weather gets warmer.

Speaking of which, this is the hotbox I'll be abusing over the next few days:


Lotta miles on those tires.

The illegal immigrants who trim my hedges and stare at my wife's cleavage call it "El Gigante," which is pronounced "L-hee-gahn-tay," which kind of rhymes with Gian Villante, who is the best friend and training partner of Chris Weidman, your UFC 187 co-headliner.

Segue complete!

Weidman fights Vitor Belfort on tomorrow night's (Sat., May 23, 2015) pay-per-view (PPV) card in Las Vegas, Nevada, and part of me wonders if the promotion will shoehorn a replay of a select "Prelims" bout in between their middleweight title fight and the main event, featuring Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson.

Fans may need a few minutes to compose themselves if there's a big finish or some sort of controversy.

Speaking of "Prelims," the kind and gentle Patty Stumberg shucked the husks of the UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 preliminary cards, revealing sweet and juicy breakdowns here and here. Never one to rest on his considerable laurels, ol' Stummy followed that up by crunching some of the numbers in his UFC 187 odds and betting guide here.

What a day, what a lovely day!

But don't fill up on the appetizers, as we have ourselves a pretty big main course. Five outstanding main card match ups capped off with a championship doubleheader. Remember when I recently said I wasn't all that jazzed about UFC 187? Yeah, forget all of that, as I'm subject to frequent bouts of misanthropy.

It's kind of like Tourette's, except every few seconds I act like a sissy.

Shall we?

205 lbs.: Anthony "Rumble" Johnson (19-4) vs. Daniel "DC" Cormier (15-1) for vacant light heavyweight title

Nostradumbass predicts: What's great about this match up is it shines a spotlight on two MMA phenomenons that likely occur in most other sports, as well. Daniel Cormier was undefeated and making it look easy until he lost a convincing unanimous decision to Jon Jones, so now he's "exposed."

Conversely, Anthony Johnson won a couple of big fights in his new division and became a light heavyweight Doomsday, capable of killing any and all super men. The reality, I think, lies somewhere in the middle and that's what makes this such a compelling fight.

Neither combatant has faced anyone like the other, up until this point.

Sure, Cormier has overcome some heavy-handed punchers like Roy Nelson and "Bigfoot" Silva, but never anyone as quick and explosive as "Rumble." By that same token, Johnson has turned away some gifted wrestlers, like NCAA champ Phil Davis, but never anyone with Olympic credentials like "DC."

That begs the question, whose disadvantage is more exploitable on fight night?

I believe it falls on Johnson, who is going to have trouble adjusting to his opponent's speed. In addition, trying to understand the complexities of Cormier's transitions between wrestling and striking is a maddening affair, one that can fluster and aggravate even the most seasoned veteran.

It also has a habit of shutting down gameplans.

As this fight wears on and Johnson slows down, his inability to fight his fight -- coupled with a handful of trips to the canvas -- will force him (perhaps subconsciously) to abandon his offensive strategy and instead hunt for the revenge punch.

It may not be pretty, but Cormier knows what he has to do to survive this contest and barring a flash knockout early in the fight, I don't believe Johnson has the defense to stop it.

Final prediction: Cormier def. Johnson via unanimous decision

185 lbs.: UFC Middleweight Champion Chris "All American" Weidman (12-0) vs. Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort (24-10)

Nostradumbass predicts: This is not a competitive fight. Vitor Belfort is so deflated, he was just suspended four games by the NFL. This is the middleweight who is going to beat Chris Weidman? The new generation of fighter? "The Phenom" looks like Peter Griffin from Family Guy when the Genie wished away his bones.

But enough jokes (pffft, as if).

The fighter who looked like a Brazilian challah bread and killed Luke Rockhold with a Tatsumaki Senpukyaku would have beaten any middleweight in the world, Weidman included. But since he's no longer Bane-fort and lost those little TRT tubes that made him a super villain, he's just plain old Vitor.

Who is 38 years old and hasn't competed in a year-and-a-half.

There's a reason he went on TRT to begin with and it had nothing to do with impotence. Is he still a dangerous striker with pinpoint accuracy? No doubt, but the days of beating up brittle names of yesteryear like Rich Franklin and Yoshihiro Akiyama are long over.

This is the new breed.

Weidman is no stranger to strikers, knocking out Anderson Silva and going punch-for-punch with Lyoto Machida. And he's also pretty comfortable on the ground, out-wrestling decorated collegiate imports like Mark Munoz and controlling submission wizards like Demian Maia.

Taller, stronger, and eight years younger, there's just no way around it: Weidman is the better athlete.

In addition, Belfort does his best work from the outside and works a slow, methodical pace. That's death against a pressure fighter like Weidman, who is going to relentlessly stalk him, push him into the cage, and beat the snot out of him.

The "All American" clinch is one of the most devastating in this -- or any -- division.

"The Phenom" will hang tough for the first few rounds but Father Time will eventually betray him. It won't be long before Weidman gets this fight to the floor and once he does, there is no escaping his mount. While a ground-and-pound victory would not surprise me, I think Vitor wilts and gives up his neck.

Final prediction: Weidman def. Belfort via submission

155 lbs.: Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone (27-6) vs. John "The Bull" Makdessi (13-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: John Makdessi is taking a page out of the Donald Cerrone playbook and stepping up on short notice to try to out-cowboy the "Cowboy." I'm not sure that's even possible, but when you strip away the nut-hugging, it's important to recognize the dangers in this fight.

Makdessi is an underrated striker -- with power -- who has nothing to lose.

In addition, Cerrone is hittable early and doesn't put his foot on the gas until the second round. The key to goring "The Bull" tomorrow night in Vegas is pressure, as the Canadian operates most efficiently when he has room to work. He's also a solid defensive wrestler, which means nuts-and-bolts wrestling probably won't get it done.

Does Cerrone win this fight?

Probably, assuming he's taking this as seriously as he's led us to believe. The size advantage cannot be overlooked -- particularly in the clinch -- and "Cowboy" has a much deeper skill set, one that includes endless cardio and submissions from anywhere (and everywhere).

If he can avoid the slow start and stay out of the firefight, he should be able to jab, kick, and punch his way into close quarters, which may eventually lead to a trip takedown and before long, the rear-naked choke. Even so, this is a scary fight for Cerrone fans, whether they choose to admit it or not.

Final prediction: Cerrone def. Makdessi via submission

265 lbs.: Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski (23-10) vs. Travis "Hapa" Browne (17-2-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: Folks, Andrei Arlovski is not "back." The "Pitbull" you'll see tomorrow night is the same one who once held the 265-pound strap. Skilled striker? Yup. Effective grappler? No question. Collapsible chin? Well ... that's up for debate.

You can argue that he has the worst defense of any heavyweight striker.

Look no further than his stats. This is a fighter who has seven of his 10 losses by way of knockout or technical knockout, and a few of them have come against opponents who were not as technically sound as the brawling Belarusian. But they didn't have to be.

All they had to do was run right at him and swing for the fences.

To complicate matters, Arlovski turned in one of the worst fights in all of 2014 against Brendan Schaub, then followed that up with a redeeming performance against Antonio Silva. But I can't put too much stock in a knockout win over "Bigfoot," as he's been KOed in six of seven defeats.

That was like two pinatas in a head-butting contest, it was just a question of who landed first.

I'm not suggesting that Travis Browne is Joe Frazier. The hulking Hawaiian has 15 finishes in 17 wins, but has also experienced his fair share of missteps. He won the Alistair Overeem fight, but "Demolition Man" had him fetal before punching himself out. And the aforementioned Silva delivered a lunch box without much resistance.

That said, "Hapa's" finish over Stefan Struve was eerily reminiscent of Arlovski's loss to Fedor Emelianenko.

If the "Pitbull" -- who has a formidable Sambo background -- employed a gameplan like Daniel Cormier and effectively transitioned between takedowns and strikes, he could be a top five heavyweight and possibly a title contender. Instead, he prefers to stand and bang.

Tomorrow night he will stand, and Browne will go BANG!

Final prediction: Browne def. Arlovski via knockout

125 lbs.: Joseph "Beefcake" Benavidez (21-4) vs. "Chicano" John Moraga (16-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: Imagine how disheartening it must be to know you're a great fighter and still face the reality that you can't beat the top three guys in your division. That's kind of where we're at with John Moraga, a talented and well-rounded combatant.

One who was also finished by John Dodson and Demetrious Johnson, widely considered the two best fighters at 125 pounds.

At UFC 187, he'll fight the third best in Joseph Benavidez, who is quickly becoming the flyweight version of Urijah Faber. In addition to his No. 2 ranking in his current weight class, "Beefcake" is a former contender at bantamweight, too, even going the distance with Dominick Cruz in a pair of barnburners.

Hard to bet against Benavidez in this one.

There was some concern that getting KTFO by "Mighty Mouse" would mess with his head, but he roared back to choke out Tim Elliot before dominating Dustin Ortiz. The concern here is Moraga's power, as well as his sneaky guillotine, but outside of those two danger zones, he's not as skilled as Benavidez on the feet.

"Chicano John" was a talented collegiate wrestler, but as far as MMA wrestling, that advantage goes to his opponent, who sharpens his blade in Sacramento with guys like Chad Mendes and TJ Dillashaw, among others. And we haven't even talked about speed.

Wherever Moraga is good, Benavidez is better. Even so, this is almost guaranteed to be a fun fight.

Final prediction: Benavidez def. Moraga via unanimous decision

There you have it. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 187 fight card RIGHT HERE, 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.

You've heard from me, now let's hear from you. Who gets it done tomorrow night in Vegas?

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania