The UFC sets up shop in Buffalo for the second time in company history with UFC 210 on April 8. The main event will feature Daniel Cormier and Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson meeting for the second time with the UFC light heavyweight title on the line.
The co-main event is equally exciting with New Yorker Chris Weidman looking to get his mojo back against a hungry Gegard Mousasi. The remainder of the main card doesn’t feature a lot of big-name fighters, but there is exciting potential in the bouts.
Daniel Cormier vs Anthony Johnson II
Daniel Cormier has a legitimate claim to being the best technical wrestler to ever grace the Octagon. The former Olympian is all about controlling his opponent and grinding out victories in the most vicious way possible. If you ever think wrestling can be boring, just watch DC work and you’ll see that it is not. Cormier is a chain-wrestling expert who works his best when he gets his opponent on the cage and can just chip away. From the clinch, he can either work his strikes or use a multitude of takedowns to get on top of his opponent. And when DC is on top, he clamps down on his opponent quickly, fluidly transitions and absolutely suffocates them. He can do this comfortably for entire fights and relishes draining opponents and making them quit mentally.
The striking game is still very meat-and-potatoes for Cormier, but it is effective. He moves forward behind his jab and leg kicks, which he uses very well to fight bigger than his small-for-the-division frame. He doesn’t exactly sport amazing knockout ability in his hands but his growing striking game is built to feed into his grappling.
There are not really any holes in DC’s game. He is good at all three levels and is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in MMA. The one thing that could be an issue is his tentativeness on the feet. In the first fight with Rumble, you could tell Cormier was wary of Johnson’s power that made him not commit to his punches. Without this threat, Rumble comfortably countered and put Cormier on his ass in the first bout.
MMA is a sport of hyperbole. That being said, Rumble may be the hardest-hitting human being in the UFC. Johnson has 16 career victories via knockout with 12 of those coming in the first round. He can knock out anyone with nearly every limb but it’s his massive right hand that opponents need to be terrified of. Rumble moves forward behind kicks and jabs but generally holds his powerful right for counterpunching, which is some of the smoothest in the light heavyweight division. If Rumble gets his opponent rattled, he will aggressively pursue the finish and throw multiple right hands in succession looking for the KO.
With his phenomenal power, many overlook Rumble’s grappling. Clinching with Johnson is a dangerous proposition, as he is strong and it offers a perfect avenue for his uppercuts and knees. Rumble won’t often use his wrestling offensively – preferring to keep a fight standing – but if he does and he gets top control, Johnson has brutal ground and pound.
Rumble has one major flaw, one that Cormier exposed in their first meeting, and it’s his cardio. Johnson is aggressive, powerful and dangerous but his aggressive style means he gasses out very quickly. He is a flash KO specialist and he has shown no evidence that he can make it in the championship rounds.
Rumble can win any fight he is in. One strike and he walks out of UFC 210 with the gold. However, Cormier survived once and he can do it again. DC will grind his way through the first couple of rounds until Rumble gasses and he will likely find a sub. Basically, I expect this to play out the same as the first fight.
Prediction: Daniel Cormier (EVEN)
Chris Weidman vs Gegard Mousasi
The former UFC middleweight champion is in need of a win in this bout to prove he belongs among the division’s elite, as Chris Weidman has lost his past two fights by stoppage. ‘The All-American’ is a pressure-based fighter in the striking game who will push forward behind a steady, if sometimes loose, jab. Weidman likes to throw kicks and he will do so at all three levels with a preference toward the midsection. He throws these kicks without any concern due to his wrestling proficiency.
This pressure and Weidman’s footwork help him push his opponent to the cage where he can start to work his grappling game. He will throw varied attacks in the clinch and this helps open up his wrestling. A former D1 wrestler, Weidman’s takedown technique is smooth and he uses it both defensively and offensively. Once he is on the mat, you can really see Weidman shines with his mix of wrestling ability and his black belt in BJJ.
Gegard Mousasi has taken his game to another level recently and we are starting to see the more aggressive fighter we saw during his days in Strikeforce. His first focus is being unhittable, with Mousasi putting an emphasis on footwork and head movement. That being said, the Dutchman has a grinding way about his striking and will slowly chip away at his opponent until he finds his moment to burst. He is crisp, technical and good at controlling space.
Though we have seen Mousasi land some nice knockouts recently due to his renewed aggression, his grappling may be the most impressive part of his skill set. He moves seamlessly in transition and has a great ability to take the back. He is always searching for submissions but will also posture up and drop bombs. He can struggle to avoid takedowns if he gets pushed against the fence but he’s so adept on the ground that this is rarely an issue.
Mousasi has the advantage on the feet and should be able to evade Weidman’s forward-moving approach. Expect plenty of counters from ‘The Dreamcatcher’ if the bout stays standing. The ground game could be a closer battle but I think Mousasi has the patience and versatility to at least hold his own there. I believe Mousasi is too motivated and too well rounded for Weidman.
Prediction: Gegard Mousasi (-125)
Cynthia Calvillo vs Pearl Gonzalez
Cynthia Calvillo is making her presence in MMA known, as she has only been a pro since August and has already racked up a 4-0 record with one of those coming in the UFC. Calvillo trains out of Team Alpha Male and sports much of what you would expect from a prospect out of that camp, as she is a strong offensive wrestler who works well in the scramble.
Her striking is still well behind her grappling, as she is rigged when throwing and leaves herself wide open to counters. I would like to see her throw her leg kicks a bit more, something she found some success with against Amanda Cooper, but she will live and die by her offensive wrestling.
Pearl Gonzalez makes her UFC debut after winning her past six bouts, five by stoppage, on the regional scene. Her most notable skill set is her submission game with Gonzalez picking up four career wins via tapout – including a victory over UFC fighter Cortney Casey. Calvillo will want to watch her arms because each of Gonzalez’ submission victories has come via armbar.
Gonzalez isn’t completely lost in the striking game, as she has dabbled in boxing. She displays some decent head and foot movement but her actual strikes seem a little sluggish. As a fight wears on, her technique seems to deteriorate in the standup game.
Let’s face it: there is not much to go on in this bout. Both girls don’t have much tape and it has been against low-level competition. Calvillo trains at TAM and is used to rolling, I can’t see her being caught in an armbar and I give her the edge in the wrestling department. That being said, this fight is the most likely upset on the main card, so I wouldn’t fault you for taking a punt on Gonzalez.
Prediction: Cynthia Calvillo (-270)
Thiago Alves vs Patrick Cote
After being away from the Octagon for 17 months, moving down in weight and missing the lightweight limit by over six pounds, Thiago Alves is back in the welterweight division. ‘Pitbull’ looked very sluggish and slow in his return at UFC 205 and the weight cut was clearly an issue. Moving back to 170 was the right decision. Alves still has incredible knockout power but has become more of a patient fighter at this point of his career. There is no doubt that Alves has vicious kicks and using these will be key at welterweight, as he will almost always be the smaller fighter.
In terms of grappling, Alves is based on strength and athleticism more than anything else. At one point he was one of the best defensive wrestlers around but that simply isn’t the case anymore. Not to say Alves is bad in the grappling department, but he is aging and he has a lot of wear and tear on his body.
Patrick Cote is one of the most well-rounded, consistent veteran fighters around. The Canadian is still primarily a striker and he has knockout power in his right hand. He has developed a slightly more diverse repertoire with a decent jab and leg kick but it’s all about the booming overhand right. Cote has an iron chin and has no problem getting into a firefight, though he can be tentative and inactive in the Octagon.
Cote has done a decent job rounding out his grappling skills and he is more active in close. He can still land a big takedown out of the clinch due to his strength and has no problem throwing bombs if he has top control.
The biggest X factor in this fight is size. Alves is small for welterweight while Cote once regularly competed at middleweight. Cote is smart and knows how to use his size, so I imagine he grinds out a victory over a shopworn Alves.
Prediction: Patrick Cote (-170)
Will Brooks vs Charles Oliveira
Hopes were high for former Bellator lightweight champion Will Brooks when he entered the UFC. Those hopes have been quickly dashed after a far too difficult victory over Ross Pearson and a loss to Alex Oliveira. Brooks is an excellent fighter in every aspect of the game, the type of guy who can competently fight in all three areas and beat most opponents. He can work at range on the feet but does his greatest damage in tighter space. Brooks is good when moving in on an opponent where he has a knack for landing quick shots or in the clinch when he can land big strikes.
When in the clinch, Brooks’ strikes open up opportunities for offensive wrestling that he tends to capitalize on. In top control, he is smooth and can lay huge ground and pound. His defensive wrestling is solid and he can offer some offense from his back if need be.
Charles Oliveira was on the cusp of joining the elite in the featherweight division and then weight-cutting issues and some losses have forced him up to 155 lbs. ‘Do Bronx’ is an aggressive, all-out fighter who can easily overwhelm his opponents. His striking is based in Muay Thai which means that Oliveira’s offense works best when in the clinch, though he is plenty capable of hurting an opponent at distance. Oliveira is one of the best submission grapplers in the UFC – 13 career victories via sub – and his aggression is just as relevant on the ground.
That all sounds great, but Oliveira is a kill-or-be-killed type of fighter. He doesn’t have a great gas tank, which he diminishes quickly due to his aggressive style, and isn’t especially durable. ‘Do Bronx’ is at his best when he can meld his aggressive striking and scrambles together to finish an opponent quickly, but he gets less and less effective as a fight wears on.
Both of these guys need a win, badly. I’m not saying either will be cut with a loss but you can quickly fade from relevance in the loaded 155 lbs division. Alex Oliveira gave Brooks plenty of fits but ‘Cowboy’ also missed weight and came in much bigger than his opponent. That seems to be the strategy for beating Brooks – suffocating him – but Charles Oliveira does not have the cardio or size to grind this out.
Prediction: Will Brooks (-275)
UFC 210 Betting Odds
Odds as of April 5 at Bovada
- Daniel Cormier EVEN
- Anthony Johnson -130
- Gegard Mousasi -125
- Chris Weidman -105
- Cynthia Calvillo -270
- Pearl Gonzalez +210
- Will Brooks -275
- Charles Oliveira +215
- Patrick Cote -170
- Thiago Alves +140
- Myles Jury -450
- Mike De La Torre +325
- Magomed Bibulatov -450
- Jenel Lausa +325
- Kamaru Usman -340
- Sean Strickland +260
- Shane Burgos -210
- Charles Rosa +170
- Jan Blachowicz -135
- Patrick Cummins +105
- Andrew Holbrook +175
- Gregor Gillespie -225
- Josh Emmett -235
- Desmond Green +185
- Irene Aldana +145
- Katlyn Chookagian -175