clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Bonus watch! UFC 187 'Johnson vs. Cormier' award winner predictions tonight in Las Vegas

UFC brings a scintillating line up of fights to "Sin City" tonight (May 23, 2015) for what should be a thrilling night of MMA action inside MGM Grand Garden Arena. There is bound to be a few fighters leaving the confines of the Octagon with deeper pockets than the ones they came in with. We took our ole' crystal ball out for a spin and this is what we came up with ...

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

No Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) card is ever safe. So when UFC President Dana White and Co. put together a stellar fight card like UFC 187, which takes place TONIGHT (May 23, 2015) inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, it was bound to fall apart.

Indeed, complete with insult and injury, UFC travels to the fight capital of the world, bringing with it a fun evening of mixed martial arts (MMA) action despite the setbacks. For the night's main course, Light Heavyweight No. 1 contender Anthony Johnson faces off with former title challenger Daniel Cormier for the vacant 205-pound strap.

Prior to the show's headliner, Middleweight champion Chris Weidman will put his title on the line against No. 3-ranked contender Vitor Belfort.

But, that is not all folks!

Fearsome Flyweights, hard-nosed Heavyweights and lethal Lightweights make up the annual pay-per-view (PPV) extravaganza. Meanwhile, UFC 187's "Prelims" undercard bouts are scheduled to take place on UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1.

Are you ready to rumble, Maniacs? HERE. WE. GO!

Below are my predictions for which fights, and fighters, will be awarded performance bonuses for their efforts in the Octagon. As always, sound off in the comments section below:

5. Joseph Benavidez vs. John Moraga

Tale of the tape: 8 T(KO), 17 submission -- total finishes by both fighters combined

In a battle of fighters on two-fight win streaks, former 125-pound title challengers Benavidez and Moraga look to keep their impressive runs alive.

"Joe-Jitsu" was last seen putting on a kickboxing clinic against Dustin Ortiz in Nov. 2014. Before that victory, he locked up a guillotine choke on the frenetic Tim Elliott. Both victories illustrated what fight fans already knew -- that Benavidez belongs up there with John Dodson as the No. 1- and 2-ranked guys behind champion Demetrious Johnson.

There's not one aspect of the Team Alpha Male representative's game that can looked at as a weakness. Benavidez has it all. Grappling? It is in his name. Striking? He has some of the most powerful hands in the division, as well as great kicks. And wrestling? Psh, I'm wasting my time.

Alright, in his aggressive nature, Benavidez may overextend a little bit as he is not the most traditional boxer. He will swarm in with a bevvy of shots, but when they land, THEY LAND. His hooks are particularly devastating.

Stylistically, this match up with Moraga is fantastic.

The MMA Lab-trained fighter has finished two-straight bouts by way of submission. On the ground, Moraga has a solid guard and is capable of holding fighters in check without taking too much damage. He would prefer to keep the fight standing, despite owning four times as many submission victories in his career, as opposed to knockouts. That alone should tell you just how good of a guard he has.

In the past, the Arizona-based Moraga has had a problem with wrestlers. It was his pitfall against Ortiz, Johnson and Justin Scoggins. Benavidez will have a field day against him. He is simply better in every area of the fight game than Moraga, but that doesn't lead me to believe the latter will be finished.

What to watch for: Moraga's takedown defense

Prediction: Benavidez via unanimous decision

Andrei Arlovski vs. Travis Browne

Tale of the tape: 29 T(KO), 5 submission

"Pit Bull" has enjoyed something of a career renaissance since departing as a struggling Heavyweight in the now-defunct Strikeforce organization back in Feb. 2011. He is perfect (2-0) in UFC since his return in 2014, defeating the likes of Brendan Schaub and Antonio Silva.

Arlovski displayed a crisp, much more free and fluid boxing style in his last fight against "Bigfoot." The 36-year-old carefully poked and prodded the giant until he snuck two-straight right hands past the defense of Silva, ending their bout at the 3-minute mark of the first round.

The Belarusian fighter is also susceptible to the takedown as he showed against Schaub. He likely won't have to worry about his takedown defense against the heavy-handed Hawaiian.

"Hapa" most recently floored Schaub in Dec. 2014. There's not much that the 32-year-old isn't capable of when standing up. His power is crippling ... just ask Josh Barnett.

Browne destroyed "Warmaster" with elbows in Dec. 2013 and did the same exact thing to Gabriel Gonzaga earlier that year. He also flattened former renowned K-1 kickboxer Alistair Overeem with a front kick after nearly being finished himself in the fight's early going.

With both of these men swinging for the fences, it is hard to imagine this fight making it out of the first frame. Arlovski is going to be staring up at the rafters.

What to watch for: Browne's power in the clinch

Prediction: Browne via first-round technical knockout ("Knockout of the Night")

Donald Cerrone vs. John Makdessi

Tale of the tape: 13 T(KO), 15 submission

"Cowboy" took a break from competing in the Octagon after having fought twice in the span of two weeks back in Jan. 2015. Cerrone has won his last seven fights, four of them being finishes.

He last bested former 155-pound champion Benson Henderson over 15 minutes in a close fight. The Jackson/Wink Academy-trained product is as well-rounded as they come. Cerrone fought as a professional kickboxer prior to his time in the sport. He is also one of the very best 155-pound fighters on the ground.

Cerrone doesn't advance typically when he is on top, but try getting past his guard. It is not very fun. Getting the fight to the ground on him is even more difficult when you consider he has conceded only five takedowns, according to FightMetric, during his UFC tenure.

Makdessi takes this fight on short notice, having beaten Shane Campbell at UFC 186 last month. The 30-year-old Tristar Gym staple is best when he is on his feet with a full head of steam. Makdessi employs a great deal of kicks, including spinning body kicks and back fists. When he is backing up, he is not quite as good, as was the case against Dennis Hallman.

If Cerrone doesn't take the Canadian carefully, it could spell trouble for him. However, it is pretty clear who should win this fight. Title shot or bust for Cerrone.

What to watch for: The infamous Cerrone kicks

Prediction: Cerrone via second-round technical knockout

Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort

Tale of the tape: 22 T(KO), 6 submission

"All-American" sits atop the middleweight division undefeated. Weidman beat up former 205-pound titleholder Lyoto Machida in July and now awaits his much-talked about title defense against Belfort.

The 30-year-old has fought an array of fighters in his rather short MMA career and remains one of the most scary men in UFC. The man who dethroned long-time champion Anderson Silva brings forth unmatched cardio, a noteworthy wrestling pedigree and underrated hands.

In his tussle with the Karate specialist, Weidman showcased his all-around game by planting "The Dragon" on his back, while pressuring him endlessly. He tagged Machida with hook after hook, chopped him down with leg kicks and landed some good dirty boxing.

And now, he has the added experience of going five rounds with a high-level fighter. "The Phenom" would rather call it a quick night, though. It is no secret what Belfort wants: A quick knockout.

Belfort's career has been one long highlight reel. The Brazilian likes to utilize the right hook from his unorthodox stance and the straight left missile. And then, of course, there is the head kick. Well, how do you counter Belfort's pressure? By not giving him any room to breath, which is something at which Weidman is excellent.

He has become something of an expert at defeating top-notch strikers by getting inside on them. Belfort is dangerous, but Weidman can and will likely make this messy. If it ends early, I would say Belfort is likely to see his hand raised, but if it carries on, the fight obviously turns in Weidman's favor.

What to watch for: Belfort's counter-striking

Prediction: Weidman via fourth-round technical knockout

Anthony Johnson vs. Daniel Cormier

Tale of the tape: 19 T(KO), 4 submission

Is there a fighter out there as hot as "Rumble?" Probably not. He has relentlessly went to work, dispatching each of his three Octagon foes with ease, bringing his MMA win streak to nine after his one-sided thrashing of Alexander Gustafsson.

Johnson, a former junior college wrestler, has left his grappling days in the past -- partly because of his ability to end fights in a flash. He can counter you (i.e. Gustafsson), he can overwhelm you (i.e. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira) or pick you apart from a distance (i.e. Phil Davis).

What we haven't seen yet is anyone come close to taking him down. You can bet your ass that the former Olympic wrestler Cormier is planning on that. The 36-year-old has one heck of a shot and can take you down in the clinch. From the clinch, he is also effective in his dirty boxing, landing uppercuts and short punches.

Defensively, he is also pretty solid and -- because of his thick frame and granite chin -- can absorb a decent amount of punishment. Though, has he really been pitted against anyone with the power that Johnson brings to the table? That is a clear no.

It feels just like what many MMA pundits were saying right before Cormier took on Jon Jones in January: 'How will Cormier fight his way into striking range?' Like Johnson has said before in the build-up to this fight, Cormier -- especially with a second chance -- is a more dangerous opponent than Jones. And while he may not technically be right, I'm sure we all understand where he is coming from.

What to watch for: Volume of kicks Johnson throws/Cormier's takedowns

Prediction: Johnson via second-round technical knockout (Fight of the Night)

Sorry guys, no submissions on this card! Enjoy the Memorial Day weekend festivites Maniacs!

Be sure to keep checking MMAmania for all things UFC 187, including previews, fight night coverage, LIVE results tonight (right here) post-fight recaps and much, much more!

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