After completing a two-week trip in the Pacific, the Octagon will return to the familiar grounds of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for one of the most newsworthy cards of the year. Despite former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones being stripped of his title and suspended, two belts will still be on the line at UFC 187. Jones’ last challenger, Daniel Cormier gets another shot at the 205lb belt as he takes on #1 contender Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson in a main event that may be even more intriguing than the originally scheduled bout. Cormier brings a wrestling game that has thus far only been matched by Jones, while Johnson sports sublime power which has put some of the best fighters in the world into various states of consciousness. While the winner of this bout can hardly be called the best light heavyweight in the world, that doesn’t change the fact that it is an excellent bout. The second title bout — which in my estimation should be the title fight now — features Chris Weidman making the third defense of his middleweight title against his third consecutive Brazilian legend. This time, his foe will be former light heavyweight champion and heavyweight tournament winner Vitor Belfort. We may see a very different Belfort physically, as he looks to capture a championship in his third different decade, something unprecedented in MMA. The main card also features Donald Cerrone taking on late replacement John Makdessi, Travis Browne facing the suddenly resurgent Andrei Arlovski, and a pair of top flyweights in Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga. The lines for those fights have already been opened at 5Dimes Sportsbook however. Today, MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas added the odds for the UFC 187 preliminary bouts, which are headlined by former flyweight challenger John Dodson taking on Zach Makovsky, with appearances from Dong Hyun Kim and Uriah Hall as well. Take a look: ——————– MAIN CARD (PPV, 10pm ET) UFC Light Heavyweight Title Daniel Cormier -140 Anthony Johnson +110 UFC Middleweight Title Chris Weidman -475 Vitor Belfort +325 Donald Cerrone -305 John Makdessi +225 Travis Browne -405 Andrei Arlovski +285 Joseph Benavidez -505 John Moraga +335 ——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (Fox Sports 1, 8pm ET) John Dodson -400 Zach Makovsky +280 Dong Hyun Kim -270 Josh Burkman +190 Uriah Hall -210 Rafael Natal +160 Rose Namajunas -280 Nina Ansaroff +200 ——————– PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 6:30pm ET) Colby Covington -170 Mike Pyle +130 Islam Makhachev -300 Leo Kuntz +220 Justin Scoggins -305 Josh Sampo +225 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: Outside of Demetrious Johnson, there is no worse matchup for Zach Makovsky than John Dodson. Dodson is nearly impossible to take and hold down, and he’s probably the biggest hitter at 125. This fight is going to be on the feet, and while Makovsky has improved his striking greatly, he’s going to be far slower and less powerful than Dodson. His one saving grace is that Dodson has periods of inactivity for no good reason, and that may allow Makovsky to stay in the fight or even steal a round. I just can’t see him winning this fight though, especially when Dodson knows a victory will earn him a title shot. Dong Hyun Kim’s new style makes a fight like this somewhat difficult to predict. If he was his old self, I’d have absolutely zero issues picking him and probably throwing him in a parlay. His recklessness could lead to him getting caught however, and we’ve seen that Burkman has the power and finishing instincts to put durable opponents away. I still favor Kim, but may not end up betting him. Speaking of fighters whose styles make bouts difficult to predict, I’m not exactly sure how you go about breaking down a fight that could be a 15-minute staring contest. Rafael Natal has shown a better level of activity lately, but with the one-strike threat that Hall possesses I wonder if that will be the case here. Hall’s mercurialism (not a word in the sense that I’m using it, but whatever) has been well-documented, as he mixes flashy, devastating strikes with absolutely nothing. I have a hard time picking a side in this fight, as I expect Natal to be a bit more consistent with his output, but Hall obviously has more fight-ending potential. Despite Hall being able to finish, I think I prefer the over to either side. Rose Namajunas doesn’t yet have the wrestling to compete with the top of the women’s 115lb division, but this is a very good rebound fight for her. She will be more effective on the feet, should be able to score takedowns if necessary, and even if Ansaroff gets this to the ground I can definitely see Rose scoring a submission from her back. There really isn’t an avenue where I can see Ansaroff getting her hand raised here. At the same time, we’ve seen that these 115lb fights can be quite unpredictable. Covington/Pyle is the perfect litmus test for the young fighter. Have the other parts of his game developed to the point that he can beat Pyle? Or is his wrestling dominant enough that even against a very solid wrestler with other tools, he can still ride it to victory? The line is rightfully close here, and unless we see some big movement either way I can’t see myself playing it. As for a pick, I think Pyle has to start showing his age at some point, and Covington is the type of fighter with the type of style to make that happen. It’s not confident because of Pyle’s well-rounded game, but it’s hard to be confident in this one. I haven’t seen a ton of Leo Kuntz, but his record seems like the typically inflated Midwestern records we see (think Jason Reinhardt, but probably not that bad). Islam Makhachev on the other hand has actually faced some good competition and defeated them with his solid grappling game. Makhachev holding a win over Mansour Barnaoui is particularly impressive, and I think he makes good on his UFC debut as well. Justin Scoggins was some poor fight IQ away from beating a borderline top 5 flyweight, and now he’s facing a lesser version of that fighter and has hopefully learned from his previous mistakes. This is the same breakdown as most Scoggins fights. He’s the better striker, but will probably choose to wrestle, as he is also the better wrestler. His only danger here is if the same thing happens as in his Moraga fight, and he sticks his head into a guillotine. I have to think that won’t happen here.
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