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Matt White breaks down Saturday's (April 8) UFC 210 action – Cormier vs. Johnson II as well as Weidman vs. Mousasi – with a little help from 5Dimes.

 

 

Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson II

UFC light-heavyweight title

 

Despite winning the belt almost two years ago, in the first booking of this fight, UFC 210 marks the only the second defence for Daniel Cormier. Cormier defended against Alex Gustafsson in October 2015 in a fight he barely won, holding on by contentious split decision. Since then injuries, and an untimely positive test for Jon Jones, have rendered the title stagnant. When Jones was pulled from the UFC 200 headliner, Anderson Silva stepped in as a late replacement, but the belt was not on the line. Since becoming the champion, Cormier has seen his AKA teammates suffer the indignation of winning and losing their titles, leaving him as the last man standing in San Jose.

 

Anthony Johnson is enhancing his reputation with each passing fight, and his power shows little sign of dissipating. The first encounter with Cormier was AJ's first loss since 2012, a defeat which marked the end of his experiment at 170 and 185lbs (which resulted in him being cut from the promotion). Since then he has gone 13-1 and his last five wins have all come by KO or TKO, with only Jimi Manuwa surviving the first round. As he showed in the first fight, he has the power to end any opponent with a single punch, and the punch Cormier absorbed when the pair first met in 2015 would have likely finished any other light-heavyweight.

 

This fight is extremely difficult to call and it really comes down to two variables. Firstly, has Johnson's cardio dramatically improved since the first fight? For most of the three rounds Cormier was like a backpack on Johnson and it clearly showed as he finally submitted to DC's rear-naked choke. If his cardio has improved, or he is able to avoid the clinch, then it could be his night. Secondly, how has Cormier's chin aged? The chin doesn't age particularly well and, although DC ate a power shot previously, he has recently turned 38 and been relatively inactive.

 

I went with AJ first time round and I'm taking him again. I think he could legitimately finish Cormier, becoming the first man to do so. But it's all about those variables.

 

Recommendation: Anthony Johnson – 2 units at -125 (4/5) @ 5Dimes

 

Gegard Mousasi vs. Chris Weidman

 

Gegard Mousasi is certainly a man on a mission. The former Strikeforce and Dream world champion, not to mention a veteran of Pride, had a rather inauspicious of starts to his career in the UFC; going 2-2 in his opening four bouts, it wasn't clear whether this was a Mousasi on the decline or a Mousasi that simply hadn't bothered to show. By all accounts it appeared to be the latter as he tasted defeat just one more time, to Uriah Hall in a fight he was comfortably winning, in his next seven bouts. In his last three fights Mousasi has rediscovered the ruthless aggression of his early years and has once again taken to finishing fights, something that will get the attention of his bosses and other suitors alike. This is the last fight of his current contract and, Gegard being Gegard, he isn't too shy when it comes to openly discussing his perceived lack of financial compensation.

 

Once hailed as the undisputed future of the 185lb division, it is shocking to realise Chris Weidman is winless in almost two years. Granted, in that time injuries have taken a substantial toll on him, but back-to-back defeats to Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero were not exactly a surprise. Rockhold managed to overpower Weidman, taking his title along the way, while Romero knocked him cold with yet another flying knee.

 

Weidman had his moments in both fights, but never did he look particularly convincing. Since taking the belt from Silva he has stuttered to a decision over Lyoto Machida and survived being busted open against Vitor Belfort. None of those fights are legend-making, and it could now be argued that it was Silva's time to lose, rather than Weidman's time to win.

 

This has the makings of a classic and it could be a crying shame that we are denied the opportunity to watch this over five rounds. Where Weidman has declined, Mousasi has exceeded and I feel the Dutch-Armenian holds the edge over the native New Yorker. Mousasi has the power to finish this on his feet, on his back or safely by decision. Either way, I’m with Gegard.

 

Recommendation: Gegard Mousasi – 4 units at -110 (5/6) @ 5Dimes

 

 

 

 

As seems to now be an annual pilgrimage, the UFC returns to London, England to once again take up residence at The O2. The UFC have filled this card with top British talent; they occupy slots in 10 of the 13 booked fights, as a nod to the hometown faithful.

Superbowl weekend usually brings with it a numbered PPV UFC card, stacked with talent, but the new owners have taken a different route and are also headed to the Lone Star State for a Fight Night card in Houston, Texas – the same city that's hosting the NFL Finale  24 hours later.

For the first time since May 2016 the UFC heads back to Brazil, as Cris 'Cyborg' Justino finally gets an opportunity to headline an event in her home town. As with many Fight Night cards this isn't stacked with stellar names but it does contain a few standout fights that wouldn't look out of place on a PPV. FO breaks down the top three for betting purposes with 5Dimes providing the odds.

The UFC heads back to Fortaleza, Brazil with a card packed with local favourites in each of the 13 booked bouts, which should ensure a rabid reception from the fans. Top to bottom the card isn’t the strongest so I've focused on the main and co-main event for betting purposes. My thoughts are below, along with odds provided by 5DimesLines.com.

 

Edson Barboza vs. Beniel Dariush

Barboza gets another opportunity to continue his rise back up the ranks of the 155lb division here. Sidelined for a few months after his win over perennial challenger Gil Melendez, which followed a win over former divisional kingpin Anthony Pettis, the Muay Thai specialist will be looking for opportunities to unleash those trademark devastating leg kicks.

Since recording a series of high profile finishes, Barboza has allowed his game to develop, and is far more patient in his approach these days. The result has been a series of clear decision victories, although interspersed amongst a couple of losses, albeit against legitimate contenders. This is the blueprint of a fighter getting ready to reach his prime and uncovering his fight IQ.

Dariush is a fighter who's flirted with the top 10, but never quite cemented his place or gave the impression he really belonged there. This was demonstrated when he took a highly contentious split decision from Michael Johnson.

Although clearly undeserving of the 'W', Dariush was unable to capitalise on his good fortune and was submitted by Michael Chiesa next time out. His stock rose slightly with a convincing performance against James Vick, and an underdog victory against Rashid Magomedov, but a win over Barboza would see his stock rise exponentially.

Although I heavily favour Barboza in this matchup Dariush does carry a submission game that could give the Brazilian nightmares. Barboza has been relatively easy to submit when getting hit in the face, a glaring chink in an otherwise solid armour, meaning this could be another chance for Dariush to cause the upset.

If Barboza has truly matured, as I feel he has, then he should be able to use his kicks to keep Dariush at range and take a comfortable and clear decision. That fight IQ is always suspect though and it’s the one thing that stops me pulling the trigger on him for a bigger stake.

Recommendation: Edson Barboza – 3 units at -170 (3/5) @5Dimes

 

 

Vitor Belfort vs. Kelvin Gastelum

Belfort is a fighter who requires no introduction. A certainty for the UFC Hall of Fame, a legend of Pride and a man who made his promotional debut almost 200 PPV’s ago at UFC 12. He's faced the very best MMA has had to offer and beaten a large portion of them. That was then, however, and this is a man on a decline, only three weeks away from his 40th birthday.

Since 2013 Vitor has fought sparingly, making just four appearances with a single victory. His defeats have been relatively early finishes, all of which ended in brutal fashion. After UFC 204 in Manchester, England, there was a sense we'd seen the last of Belfort. But with a home date fast approaching this could well be ‘The Phenom’s big sign-off from competition.

Gastelum made his name by defeating one of the most hyped fighters ever to appear on The Ultimate Fighter, Uriah Hall. In the finale Gastelum was a 5/2 (+250) underdog, winning by split decision for his first official UFC bout. Other than a pair of contentious split decisions, one to the reigning welterweight champion, his only professional defeats have come via the scales.

With a little more development he could be the best prospect to ever graduate from the TUF house. The manner with which he dismantled Tim Kennedy, putting the US Army Ranger into retirement no less, was as impressive as it was brutal and it has showed the world that the 185lb Gastelum is even more destructive than his rarely seen 170lb alter ego.

This is very much a case of the new breed meeting the old. Gone are the troubling weight cuts of Gastelum's past, and it doesn’t take a lot of foresight to see him as a legitimate contender – he's top 10 at 185lb for sure. As for Belfort, he hasn’t looked anywhere near the athlete he did while on TRT and his time must surely be almost up.

Belfort can still deliver a first round flurry, but all Gastelum needs to do here is weather that storm and then comfortably run away with the fight. There's not a chance this goes the distance.

Recommendation: Gastelum inside the distance – 4 units at -350 (2/7) @5Dimes

It has only been eight months but it feels like longer as the UFC finally returns to England, with Manchester hosting the first defence of its home town fighter, UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping. The night will be long as the action starts at 11pm but the price is small for the best card the UK has seen in many a year. Here's the best of the main card with odds provided courtesy of 5DimesLines.com.

With four months still to go, 2016 has already seen shocks aplenty in the world of MMA. Michael Bisping, Tyron Woodley, Amanda Nunes and Eddie Alavarez to name but a few of the championship bouts that have swung in favour of the underdog. But one of the biggest of the year was undoubtedly the fall of Conor McGregor. After the rematch was shelved from the UFC 200 main event it was pushed to UFC 202 and goes down this weekend.

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