UFC 187 will bring fans a new light heavyweight champion for the first time in over four years, with either Daniel Cormier or Anthony “Rumble” Johnson getting the strap. Chris Weidman will defend his middleweight title against the ageless Vitor Belfort, and The Cowboy is back to take on The Bull. Let’s take a look at some UFC 187 picks.
Daniel Cormier ($10100) vs Anthony Johnson ($9400)
Daniel Cormier has the Olympic pedigree for wrestling, but there’s more than meets the eye here. Anthony Johnson actually averages more takedowns per 15 minutes. Cormier completes takedowns only at a 42% clip, while Johnson successfully defends takedowns 85% of the time. So the question becomes whether Cormier can go five rounds without getting nailed by one of Rumble’s power shots, and if he can, will he score enough to win by decision? I don’t think he can. Rumble will KO Cormier and become the new UFC light heavyweight champion, scoring over 120 points for you at just $9400 in salary.
Pick: Johnson by KO/TKO
Chris Weidman ($11400) vs Vitor Belfort ($8000)
Chris Weidman defends his middleweight title against Vitor Belfort, who no longer has the power of TRT coursing through his veins. Weidman will be able to takedown Belfort as he pleases. He’s bigger, stronger and unlike Belfort has gone five rounds before. Belfort is known for his highlight-reel KOs, but Weidman has out-struck Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva, so I doubt he’ll have trouble defending against Belfort. Weidman will finish Belfort, and I predict that will come from major ground and pound after a takedown, sooner rather than later in the fight.
Pick: Weidman by KO/TKO
Donald Cerrone ($11200) vs John Makdessi ($8200)
Donald Cerrone is one of the most exciting fighters to watch in MMA, and he should lay a thrashing on John Makdessi, who is making quite the step up in competition. Makdessi is a fine fighter, and he’s improved greatly over the last few years. But Cerrone is at the top of the division and can beat him anywhere the fight goes. Cerrone holds a 7-fight win streak, but hasn’t finished anyone in his last three fights. That will change here, as Cerrone’s length and speed will be too much for Makdessi. It might not be until round two or three, but Cerrone will knock out Makdessi.
Pick: Cerrone by KO/TKO
Travis Browne ($11300) vs Andrei Arlovski ($8100)
I badly want to call an upset here, but Andrei Arlovski’s chin is preventing that. Arlovski can definitely strike with Browne, and Browne is also very hittable. But Browne has absolutely feasted on heavyweights the same size as Arlovski: Overeem, Schaub, Barnett and Gonzaga, to name a few. Browne proved he can take a beating in his loss to Fabricio Werdum. I think Arlovski will hang for a while and score against Browne, but a Browne knee or elbow will halt Arlovski’s winning streak at 4. And just like that, we’ll all remember how good, how dynamic Traivs Browne is.
Pick: Browne by KO/TKO
Joseph Benavidez ($11700) vs John Moraga ($7700)
So far it’s been all KOs through the first four fight predictions. Time to add another. John Moraga is a fine fighter, a gatekeeper in the UFC flyweight division. Joseph Benavidez is a stud, someone that could possibly unseat Demetrious Johnson as champ, even if he lost to him in their first match. Benvaidez has a unique striking game and is a beast on the ground. He likes to put enormous pressure on his opponents and usually makes them crack. I don’t think Benavidez would be happy with a decision win against Moraga and I think he has the speed and power to finish him.
Pick: Benavidez by KO/TKO
John Dodson ($11200) vs Zach Makovsky ($8200)
Makovsky is the former Bellator bantamweight champ, and he has flown under the radar since joining the UFC. Dodson has just one loss in the last five years, and that was to champion Demetrious Johnson. Makovsky is a grinder that loves to get fights to the ground. That’s probably not a winning gameplan as Dodson has successful turned away 82% of the takedown attempts against him. Because of that this will be a standup battle, and that favors Dodson. He has more speed than Makovsky and on average doubles the amount of significant strikes landed. Makovsky will make it to the final horn, but this will be a Dodson win.
Pick: Dodson by decision
Dong Hyun Kim ($10800) vs Josh Burkman ($8600)
Kim, aka “The Stun Gun,” has three losses in his career, all to top-level fighters: Condit, Woodley and Maia, which was ended when Kim suffered a rib injury. I’m not quite sure where all the Burkman love comes from. He was mediocre at best his first time around in the UFC, and his comeback fight against Hector Lombard was uninspired, to put it nicely. Kim has more speed and power, as well as a sound wrestling base to nullify the best part of Burkman’s game. This is another fight that will go the distance but Kim will win handily.
Pick: Kim by decision
Uriah Hall ($11000) vs Rafael Natal ($8400)
Hall was the hype king after his amazing performance on The Ultimate Fighter. He got off to a rough start in his UFC career with back-to-back losses. But he has looked like the killer we saw on the show in his last three fights: first-round KOs of Ron Stallings and Chris Leben and a well-earned unanimous decision win against Thiago Santos. Natal has been knocked out four times in his career, and speed kills. Hall will add to his highlight reel with a head kick KO.
Pick: Hall by KO/TKO
Rose Namajunas ($10900) vs Nina Ansaroff ($8500)
A year from now, we could easily be talking about Rose Namajunas as the UFC strawweight champion. She has all the tools and is getting better each time out. Carla Esparza’s ground game and wrestling were too much for Namajunas in her UFC debut, but that won’t be a concern against Ansaroff, who is primarily a striker. Namajunas is the faster, more dynamic striker and she’ll probably win any scrambles that take place. She could pull off the sub or KO win, but I suspect that Ansaroff makes it until the end. Wither way, it’s “Thug Rose” for the win.
Pick: Namajunas by decision
Colby Covington ($10700) vs Mike Pyle ($8700)
Covington has rolled through his first two tests in the UFC, finishing both his opponents. He gets a solid test at UFC 187 with veteran Mike Pyle. Pyle is an outstanding striker who generates power with his hand speed. But Covington has absorbed less than a strike per minute in his first two fights, proving very hard to hit. What I don’t like about Pyle is that he has suffered two brutal knockouts in his last three fights, all the more problematic considering he will be 40 in September. Pyle has also had problems in the past with grapplers like Covington. I think Covington will eventually get this to the ground and score a submission win over Pyle. He could also get it to the ground and pound Pyle out. Either way it’s Covington with the finish.
Pick: Covington by submission
Islam Makhachev ($11000) vs Leo Kuntz ($8400)
This matchup features two fighters maikng their UFC debuts. Makhachev is the younger of the two, and he has been battle-tested in M-1 against some tough competition. Kuntz, not so much. Makhachev has it all — speed, power, poise, excellent ground and pound and sick submissions. He’ll either beat Kuntz up from top position until the ref stops it or he’ll grab a limb and make Kuntz tap. Makhachev is definitely a prospect to keep your eye on.
Pick: Makhachev by KO/TKO
Justin Scroggins ($11100) vs Josh Sampo ($8300)
UFC 187 begins with two flyweights who are both badly in need of a win. Scroggins, just 23, won his first two UFC bouts but has since dropped two in a row. Sampo has also dropped his last two, and if he loses here he will likely be out of a gig. Sampo is a ground specialist, which likely isn’t the way to victory over Scroggins, who is excellent on the ground, too. All the metric point to a big Scroggins win: he outstrikes Sampo nearly two to one, and he does not absorb many strikes. He also averages a gaudy 5.93 takedowns per 15 minutes. This one will be all Scroggins. Sampo is tough enough to survive, but it will be a decision win for Scroggins.
Pick: Scroggins by decision