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