UFC 210: Cormier vs. Johnson 2
Welcome back to the MMA DFS Playbook, fight fans! The UFC heads back to New York for UFC 210: Cormier vs. Johnson 2. The show will go down in Buffalo, New York for the first time since UFC 7 in 1995. For the 2nd pay-per-view in a row, the card is headlined by a title rematch, as Daniel Cormier defends his light heavyweight belt against Anthony Johnson. In the co-main event, the surging Gegard Mousasi faces Chris Weidman in a middleweight bout with big implications. We’re back to preview some of the more notable fights, and as usual, I’ll offer my insight. On to the picks!
Anthony Johnson ($8,100) vs. Daniel Cormier ($8,100)
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Since the first title bout between Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson almost 2 years ago, the landscape of the light heavyweight division has remained virtually unchanged. The fight was made after Jon Jones was suspended following his legal issues, as Cormier took his place against Johnson for the vacant title that Jones was forced to relinquish. Fast forward to April 2017, and not much has changed. Jon Jones is again suspended, and Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson are still head and shoulders above the rest of the division. With that, we have the rematch.
Since losing the first bout to Cormier, Johnson picked up where he left off before the match, dismantling every contender thrown at him. He’s fought 3 times since the submission loss, utterly destroying Jimi Manuwa, Ryan Bader, and most recently Glover Teixeira. While the knockouts of Bader and Manuwa were impressive, his win over Teixeira was absolutely terrifying. In just 13 seconds, Johnson shut the lights out on the durable veteran with a nasty uppercut. Johnson undoubtedly earned his shot to rematch Cormier.
Cormier meanwhile, has had to endure multiple bouts of adversity since choking Johnson out in the first meeting. After narrowly defending his title against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 192, Cormier was forced to withdraw due to injury from the scheduled rematch with the returning Jon Jones at UFC 197. The match was rescheduled for the historic UFC 200, until Jon Jones was again suspended, this time due to a doping violation. He fought Anderson Silva who filled in on extremely short notice in a 3 round non-title affair, and won that bout by unanimous decision. Cormier controlled the fight with a smother top game, while taking Silva down at will.
As for the rematch between Cormier and Johnson, this fight could conceivably go either way, just like the first fight. Both fighters have clear paths to victory, and it all comes down to which fighter is successful in implementing their game plan. For Johnson, it’s very simple. If he allows Cormier to land takedowns at will, a repeat of the first fight is bound to happen. Cormier broke Johnson in the 3rd round, and bullied him into quitting, tapping to a rear-naked choke. That’s not to say that “Rumble” didn’t have his opportunities in that fight. He clipped Cormier with a punch behind the ear that had him rocked badly. If Johnson lands a flush power punch on anyone’s chin, they’re likely to go out, and Cormier is no exception. Cormier can’t let this bout play out entirely on the feet, because he will be more likely to get caught at some point over 5 rounds. The first fight was pretty telling for me. Johnson couldn’t defend the takedown then, and he hasn’t proven that he can defend it now. I won’t believe it until I see it, and I expect the fight to go much like the first encounter. Cormier and Johnson will test the waters in the standup until Cormier inevitably lands a takedown. He’ll bully “Rumble” again forcing another submission in the middle rounds. I’m taking Cormier to win again by submission in the 3rd round.
Gegard Mousasi ($8,300) vs. Chris Weidman ($7,900)
The co-main event is a big one for both fighters, and for very different reasons. Mousasi is riding a hot streak and is poised to be knocking on the door of a title shot with a win. He’s rattled off 4 wins in a row over stellar competition, and even dominantly avenged his only loss in his last 7 bouts. After losing in spectacular fashion to Uriah Hall in 2015, he bested him in under a round last September. A win over Weidman would undoubtedly be his biggest since joining the UFC ranks, and would cement him firmly in the crowded mix for the middleweight title held by Michael Bisping.
For Weidman, the pressure is squarely on his shoulders for this one. After holding the middleweight strap for over 2 years, he was badly beaten by Luke Rockhold at UFC 194 in December 2015, losing the belt and his undefeated record. After another string of injuries, including a withdrawal from a title rematch with Rockhold, Weidman finally returned last November, in a bout against Yoel Romero. After keeping the fight extremely close for 2 rounds, he was knocked out in brutal fashion by a Romero flying knee. After 2 damaging losses, Weidman is in desperation mode here against Mousasi. A third loss in a row, especially a devastating one, could be career threatening.
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While Mousasi has been on a tear, this could end up being a crushing loss for him. I like Weidman in this fight for a few reasons. To start, Weidman is by far the better athlete here, and is also the better grappler. While Mousasi has a respectable jiu-jitsu game, Weidman’s otherworldly wrestling should be more than enough to stifle it. He’s also very competent in the jiu-jitsu area, owning a black belt under Matt Serra and Renzo Gracie. Mousasi does have a chance on the feet, as he is definitely the more polished striker in the match-up. The only problem is, Weidman is more than capable in the striking department as well, so the advantage there isn’t so glaring. If Weidman fights smart in this one, and I believe he will, he should be able to employ a heavy wrestling attack to take the victory. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal used this game plan with perfect success in the Strikeforce days, and Weidman will surely do the same. The pick is Chris Weidman in a dominant unanimous decision.
Patrick Cote ($8,500) vs. Thiago Alves ($7,700)
I’m surprised this bout wasn’t the Fox Sports 1 featured preliminary fight, or the main card opener, as this is the type of fight that could really jump start a good night of fights. With equally exciting fighting styles, Patrick Cote and Thiago Alves should please fans when they make it into the cage. Cote had a 3-fight winning streak end when he was thoroughly outclassed by Donald Cerrone last June, so he will look to right the ship in this one. A loser in his last 2 bouts, Alves will also try to correct the course of his career, and a 3rd straight loss would be devastating. He failed in his attempt to become a lightweight when he came in grossly overweight against Jim Miller in November. Due to NYSAC rules, Miller had to rehydrate to close the weight differential just to allow the fight to go on as a “catchweight.”
This fight is hard for me to confidently pick a winner in, so tread lightly if you choose to play this contest. I’m leaning slightly towards Cote here. Cote is the bigger, taller man in this one, and I like his ability to pick his shots on the outside, while also landing hard shots that will put opponents out. Alves is also an accomplished striker, having finished his fair share of fights by knockout, but I don’t believe he’ll be able to close the distance on Cote to land anything worth note. I’ll take Cote here by decision, as I see him winning the striking exchanges with cleaner combinations over 3 rounds.
Will Brooks ($9,000) vs. Charles Oliveira ($7,200)
Former Bellator lightweight champion “Ill” Will Brooks battles submission wizard Charles Oliveira in the main card opener on pay-per-view. Brooks finally saw his 9-fight winning streak derailed, as he was knocked out by Alex Oliveria, an underdog in that bout. He’ll look to get back on track against Oliveira, who is also looking to reverse his recent fortunes. After winning 4 straight bouts in just over a year, Oliveira has seen his momentum completely shift, losing 3 of his last 4, including 2 in a row by submission.
The manner in which Oliveira has been losing is beyond concerning to me. He’s a decorated grappler, who can be dominated on the feet by good strikers. That already doesn’t bode well for his chances here, as Will brooks will surely pick him apart in the stand-up exchanges. If Oliveira is being submitted by fighters with less grappling credentials as well, then it isn’t looking good for him going forward. I think this is another bout where a fighter could be jobless come next week. Brooks avoids the submission attacks from Oliveira and destroys him on the feet quick. The pick is Brooks by 2nd round knockout.
Myles Jury ($9,400) vs. Mike de la Torre ($6,800)
After missing all of 2016, Myles Jury, one of the brighter prospects in recent UFC history, makes his return in the Fox Sports 1 featured preliminary bout against Mike de la Torre. A 2-time veteran of The Ultimate Fighter, Jury compiled a perfect 15-0 record with 6 of those wins coming inside the UFC, until he was dismantled in January 2015 by Donald Cerrone. Jury was outclassed in that match, showing the difference between rising prospect, and established super star. He returned in December of 2015 against Charles Oliveira, and was surprisingly submitted. He’ll surely look to get his promising career back on track against de la Torre in this bout. de la Torre has experienced an up and down UFC career to this point with a 2-3 record as well as 1 no contest. Jury will represent arguably his toughest match-up since joining the promotion.
This bout is one that the UFC seems to be giving to Jury to get back into the swing of things. de la Torre is not of the same caliber as Jury, and I’m sure this is set up for Jury to slowly ease his way back into fighting after the layoff and tough 2 losses. I expect Jury to outclass de la Torre in every aspect of this fight. He’ll tune him up on the feet, and should mix in some well-timed takedowns as well. I predict Jury will dominate de la Torre on the feet before transitioning to the mat where he’ll finish the fight. He’ll have to deal with ring rust, but should finish it at some point. The pick is Jury by submission late in the 2nd round.
Kamaru Usman ($9,200) vs. Sean Strickland ($7,000)
Rising welterweight prospects put their winning streaks on the line as 11th ranked Kamaru Usman battles Sean Strickland. Winner of season 21 of The Ultimate Fighter, Usman has gone a perfect 4-0 since debuting at The Ultimate Fighter season 21 finale, employing a dominant, albeit not fan-friendly style. Though fans have yet to latch onto Usman, he is undoubtedly on the rise to stardom, as no one has really challenged him in the UFC to this point. Strickland has also been incredibly impressive since his debut in March 2014. He’s gone 5-1 inside of the promotion, including 3 straight wins. Without question, Usman will represent his toughest challenge to date.
This one is fairly easy for me to call. I do not expect much variance from Usman’s previous outings here. While Strickland is a capable fighter, Usman is too skilled for him at this point in their respective careers. The takedown should be there all night for Usman, and he would take a huge step forward with the fans if he can somehow steal a finish with a submission or a TKO with ground and pound. I see a finish just eluding Usman, and he’ll have to settle for a clear-cut unanimous decision after dominating Strickland on the mat.
Jan Blachowicz ($8,200) vs. Patrick Cummins ($8,000)
A bout with potential fireworks opens the Fox Sports 1 portion of the card, with Jan Blachowicz taking on Patrick Cummins at light heavyweight. Since debuting with the promotion in 2014, Blachowicz has stumbled to a 2-3 record, though he has only lost by decision to some of the division’s elite in Alexander Gustafsson, Corey Anderson, and Jimi Manuwa. Cummins has also had a rough go of it since a last second debut against Daniel Cormier in 2014. After 3 straight wins, Cummins has dropped 3 of 4 against tougher competition. A win for either man would do wonders for their career going forward in the crowded 205 lb. division.
If recent trends continue, Cummins will be in for another long night, and potentially unemployed come next week. While he’s a highly-decorated wrestler, he has seen his fair share of struggles against fighters who can put it on him with power strikes. Blachowicz fits that bill, with great kicks and punches, as well as a solid submission game should Cummins land a takedown. I don’t think he will. I picture Cummins telegraphing a takedown, leading to his demise early. Blachowicz stuffs the takedown attempts and brutalizes Cummins on the feet, ending the fight with a KO in round 1.