The first quarter of the year is in the books for the UFC, and to say the big fights have been underwhelming so far in 2017 would be an understatement. After Khabib Nurmagomedov’s interim lightweight title fight versus Tony Ferguson was cancelled at UFC 209 due to his hospitalization in attempting an extreme weight cut, and the welterweight championship rematch between Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson was a dud on the same card, MMA fans were left extremely disappointed and craving some real excitement. This after inaugural women’s featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie was crowned at UFC 208 following a controversial unanimous-decision win over Holly Holm. Now we are all looking forward to the organization’s next two Pay-Per-View events — UFC 210 in Buffalo on April 8th and UFC 211 in Dallas on May 13th — hoping that they can live up to the hype. The promotion’s light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions will take center stage on those two cards, with the title matchups still intriguing even though the top two challengers for the belts (former champs Jon “Bones” Jones and Cain Velasquez) remain sidelined. First, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson will have another great opportunity to rise to the occasion when he takes on light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier for the second time at UFC 210 (click here for opening odds). Johnson has been nothing short of dominant against everyone but Cormier over the past five years, going 12-1 with nine wins via T/KO during that stretch. The lone loss came to Cormier by third-round rear-naked choke submission at UFC 187 nearly two years ago. Cormier was expected to face Jones in the main event at UFC 200 last July 9th but had to settle for a non-title bout against Anderson Silva. At the time, a positive drug test banned Jones from competing at UFC 200 and led to a one-year suspension, although he hopes to return later this year. Until then, the UFC desperately needs Johnson to defeat Cormier and set up a trilogy between the two, so that we will have something more to look forward to. The biggest stars of the UFC recently have been Jones, Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor. None of the three will be fighting in the first half of the year, and there is no guarantee that we will see any of them at all in 2017. It is no coincidence that Georges St-Pierre came out of “retirement” last month, and he looks to be the biggest draw in their place. While it will be good to see GSP back in the Octagon, that move seems to have been made more in mutual desperation than anything else. Hopefully, Johnson will perform like a desperate fighter who toiled away in the World Series of Fighting to rebuild his career and take the belt away from Cormier. Since Jones cannot be counted on for anything, a championship trilogy between Johnson and Cormier is exactly what the UFC needs right now. Make it happen, Rumble.
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