Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is roughly 24 hours away from uncorking its UFC 210: "Cormier vs. Johnson 2" pay-per-view (PPV) fight card, which takes place inside KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York, on Sat., April 8, 2017.
UFC 210 features the hotly-anticipated rematch between UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and hard-hitting No. 1 contender Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, who run it back after “DC” reigned supreme at UFC 187.
In the UFC 210 co-main event, former middleweight kingpin Chris Weidman will look to get himself back into the 185-pound title chase following consecutive losses at the expense of ex-Strikeforce kingpin Gegard Mousasi, winner of four straight.
But you knew that already.
Before we start dissecting the five-fight main card, have a look at what’s happening on the UFC 210 preliminary cards on FOX Sports 1 and UFC Fight Pass here and here, expertly deconstructed by the warm-and-fuzzy Patty Stumberg. UFC 210 odds and betting lines can be crunched here.
With that out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
205 lbs.: Daniel “DC” Cormier (18-1) vs. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (22-5)
Nostradumbass predicts: When we talk about Daniel Cormier the fighter, the conversation typically revolves around his wrestling attack. Rightly so, as “DC” did not end up captain of the U.S. Olympic team by accident.
But as good as he is, wrestling alone is not enough.
What makes Cormier the second-best fighter at 205 pounds is his uncanny ability to remain composed during any exchange. His fidelity to gamplans is unlike any other, and I believe his height and reach — not his I.Q. and skill — are the reasons behind his loss to Jon Jones.
Can he beat Anthony Johnson?
The easy answer, of course, is that “DC” already has, and simply needs to replicate that performance in tomorrow night’s main event. But I would be remiss to overlook the facts that Cormier is now two years older, and once you get north of 35, every year counts like dog years.
It’s combat sports, and following the UFC 187 headliner — in which Cormier submitted Johnson — the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) leader went through a grueling, 25-minute war with Alexander Gustafsson, then spent 15 minutes mugging-and-slugging Anderson Silva.
During that span, he also suffered a debilitating knee injury.
Johnson, meanwhile, shook off that loss and made a mockery of the light heavyweight division. “Rumble” didn’t just win, he made his opponents — two of which were ranked in the top five — suffer mightily by way of extreme violence.
The former welterweight has entered the prime of his career and continues to mature as a striker under the tutelage of stand-up deity Henri Hooft. Conversely, the Cormier we saw at UFC 187 is probably not that far off from the Cormier we’ll see at UFC 210.
Against the rest of the division, that may be enough.
While I'm confident Johnson is a refined version of himself, we don’t yet know if he’s mastered the art of adversity. Some folks rise to the occasion or at the bare minimum, maintain their momentum. “Rumble,” if you’ll forgive the pun, has been known to crumble.
It’s hard to master a skill that so infrequently presents itself, a testament to how dominant Johnson has been in a majority of his fights.
Whether or not Cormier can retain his title all depends on his ability to take punishment. Johnson was able to connect — hard — in their first go-round, and no doubt he’ll be landing in their sequel, as well.
As much as I’d love to see Johnson “Rumble” with “Bones,” I usually bet a horse by its record. I’ve yet to see Cormier fold up like my eighth-grade Trapper Keeper, but I’ve definitely seen an impatient Johnson get frustrated and make poor choices.
Tomorrow night will be no different.
Final result: Cormier def. Johnson by submission
185 lbs.: Gegard “The Dreamcatcher” Mousasi (41-6-2) vs. Chris “All American” Weidman (13-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: On the surface, this three-round co-main event appears to feature two very talented fighters on two very different career trajectories. Namely, Gegard Mousasi is way up, while Chris Weidman is way down. A fair assessment, but as always, there’s much more to the story.
Mousasi is a terrific striker with a stinging jab, with a submission attack that can rival most middleweights not name Ronaldo Souza. But let’s not get too carried away with his recent win streak, which looks wayyyy better on paper.
“The Dreamcatcher” has 11 fights under the UFC banner and not a single one of those opponents is currently ranked in the division top 10. None. Nada. Zilch. And let’s not pretend his technical knockout loss to Uriah Hall — since avenged — was ancient history.
By the same token, he’s already established himself as an outstanding fighter, competing for more than 15 years on the international circuit. I just wish there weren’t so many head-scratching performances.
Like that draw against Keith Jardine.
Weidman has fallen on hard times, but the “All American” was facing much stiffer competition. Mousasi never had to stare down the likes of Yoel Romero and Luke Rockhold, or former pound-for-pound great Anderson Silva.
And Weidman was able to outstrike Lyoto Machida whereas Mousasi was not.
The path to victory against Mousasi is clear. Trying to stand-and-bang with a fluid striker like “The Dreamcatcher” is a fool’s errand. Weidman won’t be able to knock him out and likely won’t get knocked out in the process, but why take a chance? For the Hofstra grad, this fight is won or lost on the ground.
Assuming he follows “King Mo” Lawal’s blueprint for success.
Weidman has always been an exceptional wrestler and his fight night opponent — who went to great lengths to improve that aspect of his game — is not going to last 15 minutes without getting dragged to the floor. What he’s able to do from there is the X-factor in this fight, but I’m picking Weidman by WrestleMania.
Hey, winning ugly is still winning.
Final prediction: Weidman def. Mousasi by unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Cynthia Calvillo (4-0) vs. Pearl Gonzalez (6-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: Considering both fighters, combined, have just one appearance inside the Octagon, it was a bit surprising to find Cynthia Calvillo and Pearl Gonzalez smack-dab in the middle of a major PPV card. Not that I’m complaining, as the women’s strawweight division could use a couple of new faces.
Calvillo arrived with a first-round submission over the venerable Amanda Bobby Cooper at UFC 209 just last month. Like every fighter who cuts their teeth at Team Alpha Male, the scrappy wrestler does her best work on the ground, suffocating her opponents and working for submissions, though she seems to be content with a blitzkrieg of punches in the absence of the tap.
Her stand-up game has a long way to go, but is consistent with a 4-0 fighter.
Gonzalez has been equally impressive in her short but successful career, compiling five finishes in six wins. Four of them are by way armbar, which is impressive when you consider she prefers to stand-and-bang. She was last seen tapping out Katie Casimir for Hoosier Fight Club roughly one year back.
Therein lies my biggest concern.
Calvillo has competed four times in the past seven months and has already notched her first appearance inside the UFC cage, so we know the jitters are gone, though I’m not sure they were ever there in the first place, judging by her dominance at UFC 209.
Conversely, Gonzalez has competed just once since August 2015 and we don’t yet know how she’ll perform under the bright lights and big city of Buffalo. Going from the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana, to a UFC PPV inside the jam-packed KeyBank Center — especially after a year on the sidelines — is a pretty tall order for any combatant.
Final prediction: Calvillo def. Gonzalez by submission
170 lbs.: Thiago “Pitbull” Alves (21-11) vs. Patrick “The Predator” Cote (23-10)
Nostradumbass predicts: These two are loosely connected in one of those weird, MMA match-sort of ways. Thiago Alves is a former welterweight No. 1 contender, losing to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 100 in summer 2009.
Less than a year after Patrick Cote came up short in his title fight against St-Pierre’s oft-teased “super fight” rival Anderson Silva at UFC 97 in late 2008.
A lot has changed between now and then, as both “Pitbull” and the now-welterweight “Predator” have dropped out of the top 15. Between the two, there is more concern for Alves, who moved down to lightweight after Carlos Condit turned him inside out at 170 pounds.
The weight class changed, but the result was still the same, and now Alves — who competed just once in 2016 — has returned to welterweight on the heels of back-to-back losses. That’s a far cry from the destroyer who ran through Matt Hughes and Josh Koscheck when all three were competing in their primes.
Cote has been far more consistent, but just when you think he’s ready to break back into the top 10, he comes up short in the big spot. That includes his technical knockout loss to Donald Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 89, which snapped a three-fight win streak.
Alves and Cote aren’t going to waste any time fooling around on the ground and I think they would get booed out of the building if they did. They both hit with power and strike in different (but effective) ways, so I think this is a question of who lands first.
Final prediction: Cote def. Alves by technical knockout
155 lbs.: “Ill” Will Brooks (18-2) vs. Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira (21-7)
Nostradumbass predicts: Will Brooks came into UFC with a lot of hype in tow, thanks in part to his performances in Bellator MMA, where he not only captured gold, but also turned in some dynamic performances against the likes of Michael Chandler, among others.
Then he got stopped by Alex Oliveira last October and MMA fans, predictably, buried him behind the woodshed and had every single accomplishment stricken from the record. Forget the fact that “Cowboy” missed weight by six pounds and has since returned to welterweight, because this is MMA and one loss means you suck and were never any good to begin with.
Brooks is a talented wrestler with great cage awareness and one of the few lightweight fighters who can do it all — and do it all well — wherever the fight goes. The biggest knock on his “Ill” performances has been his inability of finish his opponents.
Two stoppages in 10 trips to the cage is not going to light the world on fire.
But finishing fights can go a long way in terms of career longevity, which is why Charles Oliveira continues to hang around the promotion’s lightweight division, a place he was forced to readjust to after failing to make weight at 145 pounds.
“Do Bronx” has been finished six times in seven losses.
That live-by-the-sword attitude makes him an exciting fighter to watch. So too, does the prospect of witnessing a new or fan-favorite submission bubble to the surface. The Brazilian has done everything from the anaconda choke to the calf slicer.
But those finishes, for the most part, need to be gift wrapped.
Brooks will not be outmuscled by Oliveira and how this contest unfolds depends largely on his ability to keep the fight standing. While a sneaky submission is not out of the question, the former has been the model the consistency while the latter ... it’s mostly a crap shoot.
I’m sticking with what I know.
Final prediction: Brooks def. Oliveira by unanimous decision
There you have it.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 210 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.
For much more on tomorrow night’s UFC 210 fight card click here.