UFC 210 PREVIEW: Grocke’s Preview & Odds & Predictions including “Rumble” Johnson vs. Cormier Weidman vs. Mousasi

By Michael Grocke, MMATorch contributor

The UFC makes its way to the Keybank Center in Buffalo, New York for UFC 210 on Saturday night. Two of the three best fighters in the light heavyweight division meet for the second time when Anthony “Rumble” Johnson challenges Daniel Cormier for the title. The two first met at UFC 187 where they fought for the then vacant light heavyweight title. In that fight we saw Daniel Cormier submit Johnson with a rear naked choke in the third round and win UFC gold. The co-main event pits former Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman, who is in desperate need of a win against Gegard Mousasi who has been on tear as of late.

The five fight main card rounds out with Cynthia Calvillo taking on Pearl Gonzalez in the women’s strawweight division, back to the men’s side we go to the welterweight division for a match-up between MMA veterans Thiago Alves and Patrick Cote, and finally in the lightweight division Charles Oliveira takes on former Bellator champion Will Brooks.

The early prelims will air on Fight Pass starting at 5:15 PM CT, with Fox Sports 1 taking over at 7 p.m. CT for the prelims. The main card airs on PPV beginning at 9 p.m. CT.

Main Card 

Anthony Johnson (22-5) vs. Daniel Cormier (18-1) – Light Heavyweight – 205 lbs.

Current Odds: Cormier -115; Johnson -115

Since beating Johnson, Daniel Cormier has successfully defended the light heavyweight title twice. He beat Alexander Gustafsson by split decision at UFC 192, and then at UFC 200 he decisioned late replacement Anderson Silva.

After his loss to Cormier, Rumble has rattled off three straight wins. He made quick work of some of the best fighters in the division. At UFC 191 he stopped Jimi Manuwa in the second round, at UFC on FOX 18 he finished Ryan Bader in the first round, and finally at UFC 202 he needed only 13 seconds to end Glover Teixeira’s night. Of Johnson’s 22 career wins, 16 are by KO/TKO.

Daniel Cormier remains one of the best grapplers in MMA, but at 38 years and a long career of taking damage, will we see him start to fade? Clearly DC’s game plan will be to use his wrestling to get Johnson to the ground where he can land his vicious ground and pound. But, that’s easier said than done against Rumble. Johnson’s size and strength makes him difficult to not only take down, but keep down. It took Cormier two rounds to finally start getting take downs, but once he did he was able to keep Johnson down and the constant pressure eventually broke Rumble.

Anthony Johnson knows his path to victory is to keep the fight on the feet where he can take advantage of his tremendous punching power. Rumble had success landing against Cormier in the first two rounds and even put him down twice. The question is, can he finish DC? He tried to when he knocked Cormier down, but he was reckless which allowed DC to recover and even reverse Johnson. Cormier’s toughness is second to none so it would be wise of Johnson be more disciplined and under control if he were to hurt Cormier in this fight. Although, I can understand Johnson wanting to stay aggressive and try to end the fight early as opposed to Cormier taking him into deep waters where DC will clearly gain the advantage.

This fight will go one of two ways; Rumble connects early in the fight, hurts DC and finishes him, or Cormier will be able to once again withstand the early onslaught, take Johnson into deep waters and either submit him or outpoint him.

The smart money is on Cormier grinding Johnson down and finishing him late in the fight, and while this may very well be what happens, I’m going with my gut and predicting we will have a new light heavyweight champion crowned. As far as a monetary investment, this fight is a pass for me.

Pick: Johnson by TKO

Chris Weidman (13-2) vs. Gegard Mousasi (41-6-2) – Middleweight 185 lbs. 

Current Odds: Mousasi -120; Weidman -110

Chris Weidman looked like a world beater after his back-to-back wins over Anderson Silva in 2013. He continued his undefeated streak by beating Lyoto Machida by decision at UFC 175 and finishing Vitor Belfort at UFC 187. It was then at UFC 194 where things took a turn for Weidman. He was finished by Luke Rockhold in the fourth round, thus losing his middleweight title. He followed up that loss by getting finished again, this time by Yoel Romero at UFC 205. To say that this fight is a must win for Weidman would be an understatement.

He takes on MMA veteran Gegard Mousasi who comes into the fight riding a four fight winning streak with the last three all coming via stoppage. Mousasi is clearly coming into this fight with a ton of confidence. He alluded to his confidence on the UFC 210 conference call when he said, “I know how Chris Weidman’s going to fight. He’s going to come forward, he’s going to try to put the pressure on me, work on the cardio, do some wrestling, do some striking. But at the end of the day I’m prepared, I know exactly what he’s going to do, so I’m more than prepared. I got my skills, and I’m going to show it the 8th of April. I’m very confident, that’s all I can say.”

Weidman needs to come into this fight with confidence, which I’m not so sure he has right now. His chin has become a question mark as well after getting stopped in his two previous fights. Weidman likes to pressure his opponents and dictate distance. The former champion seems to struggle though when the roles are reversed, so it will be interesting to see if Mousasi tries to apply pressure in an effort to keep Weidman on defense. Mousasi has always been a dangerous fighter on the ground, but he shown excellent striking of late.

This fight, just like the main event is tough to predict. Until Chris Weidman can show he has righted the ship, the pick here is Mousasi.

Because I don’t have a strong feeling one way or the other, I will be passing on this fight.

Pick: Mousasi by decision

Cynthia Calvillo (4-0) vs. Pearl Gonzalez (6-1) – Strawweight 115 lbs.

Current Odds: Cavillo -280; Gonzalez +220

After going 5-1 as an amateur, Cynthia Calvillo is now 4-0 as a professional. Three out of her four wins ended inside the distance. She is 1-0 under the UFC banner after submitting Amanda Cooper with a rear naked choke at UFC 209.

After losing her professional debut, Pearl Gonzalez has rattled off six straight wins. Four of the six wins came via submission with one KO/TKO. Her most recent victory came against Katie Klimansky-Casimir at Hoosier Fight Club 28. On Saturday night she makes her UFC debut as she looks for her seventh straight win.

This should be a fun fight. Calvillo’s striking isn’t where it needs to be yet so I expect her to try and take the fight to the ground. If Calvillo does have success taking Gonzalez down she does possess solid ground and pound, which ultimately can lead to a submission.

Pearl Gonzalez has the advantage on the feet. Her striking is more precise and carries more power. While I give Calvillo the edge on the ground, Pearl isn’t afraid to take the fight to the ground either. She does have four submission wins in six fights. The problem is, Gonzalez can get sloppy and give up position rather easily. If this happens against Carvillo, she’ll surely suffer her second defeat as a pro.

Pick: Calvillo by decision

Thiago Alves (26-12) vs. Patrick Cote (24-10) – Welterweight 170 lbs.

Current Odds: Cote -155; Alves +125

Patrick Cote was on a three fight win streak until he was stopped by Donald Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 89. The 37 year old veteran will look to get back in the win column when he goes up against fellow vet Thiago Alves.

Alves has been up and down, but mostly down going 2-3 over his last five fights. He comes into his fight against Cote on a two fight skid. First, losing to Carlos Condit by TKO at UFC Fight Night 67 and then to Jim Miller at UFC 205.

Alves returns to welterweight after he missed weight at 155 against Miller. Although injuries and age have slowed Alves down, he is still a very dangerous fighter. He still has excellent striking with knockout power and his always dangerous kicks.

Patrick Cote also has very good striking so this one could turn out to be the Fight of the Night. Cote prefers to throw from distance while mixing in kicks in an effort to keep his opponents off balance. Cote does have the advantage in wrestling in this fight. There is a much greater chance we see Cote shoot in for take downs than Alves.

This should be a good fight. If Alves has success defending the take down, which is a big if, then it forces Cote to stand and trade. Cote may welcome that scenario regardless which will make this fight that much more exciting. I would consider backing the slight underdog here.

Pick: Alves by decision

Will Brooks (18-2) vs. Charles Oliveira (21-7, 1 NC) – Lightweight 155 lbs. 

Current Odds: Brooks -240; Oliveira+190

Will Brooks went 10-1 in Bellator and held the promotion’s lightweight title. Since coming to UFC he is 1-1. After beating Ross Pearson by decision at The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale, he was finished by Alex Oliveira at UFC Fight Night 96. He’ll look to get back on track when he takes on Charles Oliveira.

UFC veteran Oliveira has fought every big name there is in the featherweight division. After tapping Myles Jury at UFC on FOX 17, Oliveira has lost two straight. He lost both fights by submission, first to Anthony Pettis at UFC on FOX 21 and then Ricardo Lamas at UFC Fight Night 98.

Charles Oliveira returns to the lightweight division after struggling to make weight at 145. Oliveira has an exciting way of fighting. He likes to move forward, apply pressure and is dangerous in the clinch. He is also dangerous on the ground as his 13 submissions prove.

Will Brooks matches up better with Charles than he did with Alex Oliveira in both height and weight. I expect Brooks to use his boxing to control distance and avoid the clinch. He is the superior wrestler so I see him having no troubles with Oliveira’s take down attempts. Only half of Brooks’ 18 wins were finishes so I expect this fight to go the distance.

Will Brooks entered the UFC with a lot of hype, so I hope he doesn’t let the pressure of putting on a good show get in the way of fighting a smart fight. I see Brooks controlling the pace of the fight and earning a workmanlike decision.

I would consider the rounds total over in this one.

Pick: Brooks by TKO

Prelims Quick Look

Jury -450 over De La Torre +340

Usman -350 over Strickland +270

Burgos -240 over Rosa +190

Cummins -105 over Blachowicz -125

Early Prelims Quick Look

Gillespie -245 over Holbrook +195

Emmett -210 over Green +165

Chookagian -155 over Aldana +125

Bibulatov -450 over Lausa +340

Enjoy the fights!

NOW CHECK OUT THIS ALTERNATIVE PREVIEW OF UFC 210: UFC 210 PRIMER: Ecochard’s preview of Saturday’s event including Johnson vs. Cormier, Mousasi vs. Weidman, plus all prelims

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