UFC 187 Preview & Picks
May 22, 2015
By Brian Edwards
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Jon 'Bones' Jones was stripped of his light-heavyweight belt after Albuquerque authorities arrested him for a felony hit-and-run charge last month. Jones, who became the youngest UFC champ ever when he won the belt at the age of 23 in 2011, was allegedly the driver of a rented SUV that ran a red light and hit a car driven by a pregnant woman.
According to the police report, Jones instantly fled the scene, only to return and grab "a large handful of cash" before bolting again. An off-duty police officer witnessed the accident and identified the UFC star.
The pregnant woman was hospitalized and suffered a broken arm. A pipe loaded with marijuana was found in the SUV along with papers showing the vehicle was rented by Jones, who didn't turn himself in for 36 hours.
Dana White and the UFC brass flew to Albuquerque to hear Jones's side of the story before announcing his indefinite suspension. Daniel Cormier was immediately slotted into Jones's place for Saturday's main event against Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson.
Cormier (15-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) and Johnson will headline the UFC 187 show at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. They'll be fighting for the vacant 205-pound belt (rather than the interim strap), while White has told the media this week that Jones will get an immediate title shot when he returns after working out his legal issues.
Cormier is coming off his first career loss in mixed martial arts, dropping a five-round unanimous decision to Jones at UFC 182 on Jan. 3. He is the former Strikeforce heavyweight champ who is fighting at light heavyweight for the third time. The former Olympic wrestler has wins over Patrick Cummins and Dan Henderson at 205.
Cormier was scheduled to fight Ryan Bader in the main event of UFC Fight Night in New Orleans on June 5, so he was already in camp when he got the news. Some MMA experts think Cormier is at a disadvantage with his fight being pushed up two weeks, while others (like Kenny Florian) feel like a shorter camp could work to his advantage.
Cormier has embraced the opportunity and says this has been a much better camp than the one he had in preparation for Jones. That's because he's been able to train with heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez, who was injured and couldn't work with Cormier leading into his bout against 'Bones.'
Johnson (19-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC) has looked incredible since returning to the promotion at light heavyweight. He has dominated all three opponents, including back-to-back first-round knockouts of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Alexander Gustafsson.
'Rumble' has won nine consecutive fights since losing to Vitor Belfort at UFC 142 in January of 2012. Johnson missed weight by 11 pounds and was subsequently cut by the UFC. Since then, Johnson has abandoned cutting weight (he fought at welterweight before facing Belfort) and has settled into the 205-pound loop in style.
Johnson even fought once at heavyweight and won a UD over Andrei Arlovski under the World Series of Fighting banner. In his first trip back into the Octagon at UFC 172, he gave Phil Davis a beating like 'Mr. Wonderful' had never previously tasted.
Johnson is the biggest power puncher at light heavyweight and also has brutal kicks in his arsenal. Perhaps most important in this matchup, Johnson has excellent takedown defense.
Cormier is strong in all areas but wrestling is his strength. He is comfortable standing and banging with Johnson, but he'll be looking for takedowns early and often.
As of late Friday afternoon just before the weigh-ins, most books had Cormier listed as a -115 favorite. He opened at -130 and was at -135 early Thursday. The total was 2.5 rounds ('over' -140, 'under' +120).
Prediction: This is an extremely difficult call on the side and the total. If you like Cormier, you probably like the 'over.' If you think 'Rumble' is going to win, you're probably thinking by KO in the first two rounds (and 'under'). I'm thinking I have no clue what's going to happen in this fight. Therefore, I don't have a wager I'm endorsing. With that said, I won't be a fence sitter. I'll pick the fight, albeit with minimal confidence. I'll go with Johnson by some sort of sick KO in the second or third round. After seeing what he did to Gustafsson, I'm sold on the 2015 version of Johnson.
The co-main event features another title fight with Chris Weidman facing Vitor Belfort.
Weidman (12-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) will be defending his 185-pound strap for the third time. He captured a second win over Anderson Silva at UFC 168 when he checked a leg kick that shattered the former's champ's shin. Then at UFC 175 last July 5, 'The All-American' earned a hard-fought unanimous-decision triumph over Lyoto Machida. Weidman initially won the belt by knocking out Silva in stunning fashion in Round 2 of their bout at UFC 162.
Belfort (24-10 UFC, 13-6 MMA) is fighting for the first time since Nov. 9 of 2013. Perhaps most important, he's fighting without a TRT exemption for the first time in years.
With that said, the 38-year-old former light-heavyweight champ has won three consecutive fights, garnering KO of the Night honors in each bout. Furthermore, Belfort hasn't lost to an opponent not named Jon Jones or Anderson Silva since falling to Dan Henderson nearly nine years ago.
'The Phenom's' last three victims have gone down in highlight-reel fashion. Belfort finished Michael Bisping with a headkick in Round 2. The Brazilian striker destroyed Luke Rockhold (spinning heel kick) and Dan Henderson (headkick) by first-round KOs.
As of Friday afternoon, most spots had Weidman as a -500 'chalk,' with Belfort at +435 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $435). The total is 2.5 rounds ('under' -140, 'over' +120).
For those bullish on Weidman but (understandably!) unwilling to lay the chalk-eater price, there are other options. [...] has prop bets where you can take Weidman to win by submission (+220) or TKO/KO (+150). Another option (that's still way too expensive) that's cheaper than the straight price is Weidman to win inside the distance (-275).
Prediction: If this fight was a year ago and Belfort was still on TRT, the bet would be Belfort at these generous underdog odds. But it's 2015 and Belfort clearly doesn't look like the shredded monster that walked into the Octagon to face 'Hendo.' Belfort will be game and dangerous in the early going, and I don't blame anyone for taking a small flyer on a fighter of his ilk at these odds. However, I'm not going that route. I like Weidman to win, so I'll suggest one unit on 'The All-American' to win by TKO/KO for a +150 return.
In a lightweight showdown, Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone (27-6 MMA, 14-3 UFC) will be gunning for his eighth straight win and a likely title shot when he takes on John Makdessi, who is stepping in on short notice for the injured Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Most books have Cerrone installed as an enormous -550 favorite, while Makdessi is +425 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $425). The total is 2.5 rounds ('over' -135, 'under' +115).
Cerrone has been on an absolute tear, collecting four fight-night bonuses during his seven-fight winning streak. His victims have included former lightweight kingpin Benson Henderson, Jim Miller, Edson Barboza and Eddie Alvarez, among others. Although his last three victories have gone to a decision, his four previous triumphs came by finish (two in the first round and two in the second stanza).
Makdessi (13-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) has a huge opportunity to bolster his resume in this spot, but the 30-year-old Canadian is taking a big step up in class. The most notable wins of his career have come over Sam Stout and Daron Cruickshank, while he has tasted defeat vs. the likes of unranked 155ers like Alan Patrick, Dennis Hallman and Anthony Njokuani.
Prediction: Cerrone is too expensive to bet on the straight price, but there are three ways to profit off of supporting 'Cowboy.' [...] has two prop bets on Cerrone to win by submission (+220) or by TKO/KO (+400). I believe submission is the more likely of the two, but I'll go the safer route (albeit for a smaller payout) with a four-unit 'under' play for a +115 return. The thinking being Cerrone gets the victory before the halfway mark of the third and final round.
In the heavyweight loop, third-ranked Travis 'Hapa' Browne and eighth-ranked Andrei 'The Pit Bull' Arlovski will collide in the second bout of the pay-per-view portion of the card. Most spots have Browne as a -450 'chalk' over Arlovski, a +360 underdog. The total is 1.5 rounds ('under' -125, 'over' +105).
Browne (17-2-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC) bounced back from a unanimous-decision loss to Fabricio Werdum by scoring a first-round KO over Brendan Schaub this past December at UFC 181. Browne owns career scalps over a slew of big names such as Josh Barnett, Alistair Overeem, Gabriel Gonzaga and Stefan Struve.
Arlovski, the former UFC heavyweight champ who is making his third Octagon appearance in his second tour of duty with the promotion, has won three fights in a row and hasn't lost to anyone not named 'Rumble' in more than four years.
Arlovski (23-10 MMA, 12-4 UFC) is coming off a first-round KO win over Antonio 'Bigfoot' Silva. He beat Brendan Schaub by way of a controversial split decision at UFC 174.
Prediction: Seven of Browne's eight career wins have come via first-round finishes. I'll call for another here by KO over Arlovski late in the opening stanza. Take 'under' 1.5 rounds at the -125 price for 2.5 units.
In the pay-per-view opener, Joseph Benavidez will collide with John Moraga in a flyweight scrap. Benavidez (21-4 MMA, 8-2 UFC) is a -650 favorite, while Moraga is the +500 underdog.