Passing the Guard: The Sports Inquirer Thoughts on UFC 187


By E. Marcel Pourtout, Editor

Here are my thoughts on UFC 187 and other things in the world of mixed martial arts.

Music to listen to: Sartori in Tangier by King Crimson

-Cormier finds stride despite potential pitfall: Championships can be won and lost on one basket, one hit, one error, one punch. Daniel Cormier learned this lesson last Saturday night in his fight against Anthony Johnson for the UFC 187 light heavyweight title.

Cormier’s plan coming into the fight looked to be having a deliberate pace and control the tempo through superior wrestling from takedowns and ground control. That plan looked particularly useful against Johnson who has tremendous explosiveness but has stamina issues.

This plan looked exposed when Johnson hit Cormier with an overhand right that wobbled the future champ. Johnson landed several kicks as well but Cormier survived the first round and the plan was back in place.

Cormier’s eventual third-round submission of Johnson with a rear-naked choke  was the culminating moment of someone showing resiliancy in the face of adversity.

-Johnson may still be in the picture: We haven’t heard the last of Rumble in a deep light heavyweight division. His career resurection from an immature welterweight who missed weight so often the UFC cut him to one of the top five light heavyweights in the world and a model of consistency has been impressive. I can see potential matchups including a rematch with Alex Gustafsson, Ryan Bader and others that would be intriguing.

-Jon Jones vs. Cormier may be biggest-ever fight in MMA: Several factors in this. First, both of them have an extensive history after a close first contest. Rematches are easy to sell under the right circumstances and this is a juicy one. Jones is still the best fighter in the world despite the suspension which actually brought him more mainstream attention than ever before. Casual fans enjoy the sideshow more often than the actual fight. Intrigue would be high (no pun intended) to see if Jones still has it. Plus, if it happens in Madison Square Garden in New York City in late 2015 as rumors say may happen, you have potential for a special buildup.

-We might be in a dominant run in middleweight division for Chris Weidman: I don’t bet money on professional fighting (I would lose most of the time if you ever see my predictions) but I would have put my car and worldly possessions on Weidman beating Vitor Belfort on Saturday night based on several factors. I didn’t like the size difference in the pre-fight press conferences and weigh ins. Weidman being a big middleweight was a factor in that. Belfort not using testosterone replacement therapy was another factor. While the biggest fighter doesn’t always win the fight, I thought it would be a major issue in this contest.

Also, Weidman may be a healthy by MMA standards 30 years old who is entering his prime while Belfort is an older 38 year old who has been through a rugged career. That matters also.

In the end, Weidman’s first-round TKO victory confirmed what many of us thought going into the fight. Scariest part is that Weidman’s wrestling base was already strong and now his standup has come along to a world-championship level.

Do Luke Rockhold or Jacare Souza provide Weidman challenges? Absolutely. However, I don’t see either man defeating Weidman as we sit here in late May.

-Give Donald Cerrone his title shot now: Cerrone’s second-round TKO win over John Makdessi via head kick shows that The Cowboy is ready for that elusive lightweight title shot he’s been seeking. Cerrone is now on an eight-match winning streak and with the injury issues to Khabib Nurmagomedov, he should be the top contender to fight Rafael dos Anjos.

-Respect to Andrei Arlovski: The Pitbull’s first round TKO win over Travis Browne last Saturday gave him five victories in a row for one of the most unique reclamation projects we’ve seen in years. Two years ago, Arlovski was fighting in the World Series of Fighting and losing a decision against the same Johnson that faced Cormier. While that win prompted Johnson to a title shot, Arlovski looked to be lost in a career struggle. However, Arlovski has recovered and not lost since.

When I first started following MMA extensively around 2006, Arlovski was the UFC heavyweight champion and one of the most intimidating figures in the sport from the Eastern European background, fangs in the mouthpiece and aggressveness. That was nearly 10 years ago. We’re now in 2015 and Pitbull is back to being a top-five heavyweight.

-I’m still behind Browne: Championship hopes aren’t completely dashed for Browne but that was a rough moment for the Hawaiian. He’s an easy fighter to get behind but losses to Fabricio Werdum and Arlovski does set him behind the pecking order of the division. However, the UFC heavyweight division lacks depth compared to its counterparts. If Browne was a lightweight or welterweight, he probably wouldn’t sniff a title shot for the rest of his career. However, one or two impressive wins over the next calendar year may put Hapa back in the running.

Those are my thoughts, what are yours?

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