Two title fights, a red-hot lightweight, a pair of heavyweights trying to knock each other out and flyweights hoping to get back in the championship picture.
That’s what UFC 187’s main card this Saturday night presents, and despite losing Jon Jones, it’s still a pretty sound event.
The main event will feature Anthony Johnson and Daniel Cormier meeting to determine the new UFC light heavyweight champion after Jones was stripped of the title. The co-main also boasts a title fight, as Chris Weidman – finally – defends his belt vs. Vitor Belfort.
And while Donald Cerrone-Khabib Nurmagomedov would have been a “Fight of the Year” contender, we still get “Cowboy,” as he meets John Makdessi.
Former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski tangles with Travis Browne and the card kicks off with flyweights Joseph Benavidez vs. John Moraga.
Here’s a look inside those fights. And as always, FightLine will have complete coverage, including live play-by-play and results.
Joseph Benavidez vs. John Moraga
With a combined 37 wins and three previous shots at the belt, you would be hard-pressed to find a main card opener more talented than Benavidez vs. Moraga.
Benavidez (21-4) has suffered two of his four career defeats at the hands of UFC champion Demetrious Johnson, while Moraga (16-3) was topped by “Mighty Mouse” before, as well.
The Team Alpha Male fighter owns an incredible 3.2 significant strikes landed per minute and has a 55-percent takedown defense. Moraga lands at 2.4 and has stuffed 42-percent of takedown attempts.
And for a division that constantly gets called out for its lack of finishes, Benavidez has topped 29- and 43-percent of his fights via either knockout of submission, while Moraga is at 13- and 50-percent.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Travis Browne
Top-10 ranked heavyweights Arlovski (23-10) and Browne (17-2-1) put those stoppage percentages of Benavidez and Moraga to shame, as they have finished nearly all of their opponents.
“Hapa” sits right outside the upper-echelon of heavyweights at No. 3. He’s turned himself from a basketball player into a complete mixed martial artists, and will actually have a reach advantage over Arlovski.
“Pit Bull” once held the world title and would like nothing more than to become a challenger once again after all these years.
Donald Cerrone vs. John Makdessi
The idea of Cerrone-Nurmagomedov being just a highlight on this card was almost too much to believe, and maybe that’s why we don’t have that fight.
Nevertheless, credit Makdessi (12-3) for agreeing to fight just under a month after besting Shane Campbell. And while he doesn’t have the resume of a Cerrone (27-6), he does hold a strong offensive game, as “The Bull” lands 4.8 significant strikes per minute.
Of course, this one should be all “Cowboy,” who has worked his way back to No. 3 in the lightweight division on the heels of impressive victories. He’ll have a five-inch each and has finished over 50-percent of his wins.
Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort for the UFC middleweight title
It’s been talked about since last year, and we’ll finally get to see Weidman (12-0) and Belfort (24-10) go toe-to-toe.
While the majority of the “numbers” favor Weidman, the only one that is really important will not show up on the fight-sheet.
Belfort was forced to stop taking TRT after the UFC and Nevada Athletic Commission moved to ban the substance. He is a former champion, has fought for the title before, but “The Phenom” we watched on TRT destroy Michael Bisping, Dan Henderson and Luke Rockhold is not likely to be the same one to take on Weidman.
Along with finishes vs. Anderson Silva, “The All-American” has topped Lyoto Machida and Mark Munoz during his impressive Octagon career.
Anthony Johnson vs. Daniel Cormier for the UFC light heavyweight title
Many felt that “Rumble” was the toughest opponent to date for Jones and his title. That includes the likes of Cormier, Rashad Evans, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Machida, Glover Teixeira, Alexander Gustafsson and Chael Sonnen.
Johnson (19-4) fought previously at welterweight for the UFC, but returned at his more natural 205-pound weight and has dominated Phil Davis, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Gustafsson since. He is both an effective striker – landing three significant strikes per minute at 45-percent – and wrestler – 2.5 takedowns and 85-percent takedown defense.
Cormier (15-1) suffered his first pro loss at the hands of Jones earlier this year and is an ex-Olympic wrestler. He’s stuffed 81-percent of takedown attempts against him and has a 53-percent finish rate via knockout.