Ladies and gentlemen, it’s almost time! In just 20 minutes, the most anticipated main card of the year will finally get underway. As titanic as the headlining bout between current UFC Light Heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and former champion Jon Jones is, the rest of the main card is title fights, a top contender bout and a long-awaited dream fight! That’s the gist of it, and here are my predictions for the entire five-fight main card slate. Hopefully it lives up to the massive hype surrounding it.
UFC 214 main card (10/9c, PPV)
(3) Jimi Manuwa (17-2) vs. (5) Volkan Oezdemir (14-1)
The opening bout of the main card is a Light Heavyweight bout that may or may not be the division’s title eliminator bout. That all depends on whether the UFC wants to have the winner get the next shot, or would rather give it to Alexander Gustafsson. Regardless, this should be a banger. Fifteen of Manuwa’s 17 wins have come via knockout, and so have 10 of Oezdemir’s 14.
Both looked crazy impressive in their last outings, but it’s still fair to ask if this is all too much too soon for Oezdemir. After all, this is just his third UFC bout. As impressive as he looked in his quick upset win over Misha Cirkunov, his UFC debut was still a split decision over a then struggling Ovince Saint Preux. I like the guy, and I’d love to see him win for many reasons. However, Manuwa should, and likely will, wind up winning this bout. Head pick: Manuwa via tko, round 2. Heart pick: Oezdemir via tko.
(6) Donald Cerrone (32-8, 1 NC) vs. (3) Robbie Lawler (27-11, 1 NC)
Up next is nothing short of a dream fight. Donald Cerrone is a legend at this point, known for always fighting, doing so in epic bouts that tend to end via finish, and often doing so on FOX that fans can watch for free. Robbie Lawler is 364 days removed from being the phenomenally fun to watch UFC Welterweight champion, who’s title bouts against Rory MacDonald, Carlos Condit and Johny Hendricks were amongst the greatest title fights in UFC history. Both men are amazing finishers, in what many had penciled as a dream fight that likely would’ve never happened.
Now, it’s happening, and on a PPV undercard no less! Lawler hasn’t fought since losing the title to Tyron Woodley last July, and Cerrone hasn’t fought since getting technically knocked out by Jorge Masvidal in July, after winning his first four Welterweight bouts via finish. Both men are usually active, yet coming off what are long breaks for them.
Cerrone is still a double black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Gaidojutsu, in case anyone forgot. He’s finished 24 of his 32 wins, including 16 via submission. He’s the more well-rounded guy, and is 4-1 in the division. Lawler is a knockout artist through and through, winning 20 times in that fashion. His loss to Woodley was just his second knockout loss in 39 fights, but he was submitted five times before coming to the UFC.
This is a really tough fight to pick. Both men are insanely entertaining and put on epic foghts on a consistent basis. Both are also coming off what are lengthy breaks for them, and have a combined 80 foghts between the two. Are they over the hill? Will the fight be a disappointment? Who to pick here? I’ll go with Lawler, but only because it’s a gut feeling. At the end of the day, I just hope it’s a war, regardless of who wins. Prediction: Lawler via decision.
UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship: Cristiane Justino (17-1, 1 NC) vs. Tonya Evinger
Next up is the first of three title fights on the card. After Germaine de Randamie was stripped of the belt for what was essentially cowardice, Cristiane Justino, better known as “Cyborg,” finally got the UFC title shot that many had been clamoring for her to get for years, even though the weight class is new for the UFC! She was initially penciled in to fight Invicta champ Megan Anderson, who had to bow out of the fight for undisclosed reasons. Now, she’s facing Invicta Bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger, a fellow veteran of the sport.
While I admit that Evinger’s smothering style can possibly create some fits for Cyborg, I can’t possibly pick her. I appreciate her going 10-0 with a no contest since mid-2011, thereby fixing her career after being her own worst enemy for so many years now. However, I still think she’s getting pummeled tonight, by a woman who hasn’t lost since her pro debut in 2005, has knocked out 15 of her opponents, and has done so within the opening round ten times. Sometimes, a pick is obvious as can be, even if you want it to be a close fight. This is one of those times. Prediction: Justino via tko, round 1.
UFC Welterweight Championship: (c) Tyron Woodley (17-3-1) vs. Demian Maia (25-6)
In the co-main event of this historic evening, arguably the greatest grappler to set foot inside the octagon will finally get his well-deserved Welterweight title shot. He’s 19-6 in the UFC, and more importantly, is 10-2 as a UFC Welterweight, including seven straight wins. People can call him boring all they want to, but it won’t change the fact that the fourth degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt deserves the shot.
That said, I think this is Woodley’s fight to lose. He’s a terrific wrestler with big power, a combination that’s long been an achilles heel for Jiu Jitsu guys. Yes, even for Royce Gracie down the road. That said, Woodley knows this too, and he might be getting too confident here. All in all though, while I love that Maia is finally getting a title shot, and him winning would make me very happy, Woodley probably finishes him. It’s a bleak outlook for many, but it’s the most likely scenario. Head pick: Woodley via tko. Heart pick: Maia via submission.
UFC Light Heavyweight championship: (c) Daniel Cormier (19-1) vs. (1) Jon Jones (22-1)
In the main event of the evening, one of the most heated feuds in UFC history will finally come to a potential close, as Jon Jones will return to the UFC for just the second time since defeating Daniel Cormier in their first encounter in January 2015. The fight had been rumored, and even booked to take place a few times since then, but got postponed for different reasons each time. Most recently, it was set to take place at UFC 200 last July. However, Jones tested positive that week, and was suspended for a year as a result while Cormier took a short notice bout against Anderson Silva instead. Now, the fight is finally happening.
No need to go through all the history here. Everyone knows all that’s gone on between Jones and Cormier in the last three years. If I wrote about all of it, the article would never end! The bout is between two great wrestlers, one of whom is a lot more flashy and has been very inactive of late, while the other is more “ordinary,” and is the active champ during Jones’ absence. Maybe he’s only champion due to Jones’ transgressions, but who knows?
I’ll be honest, I have no idea what to expect here. Nor do I understand why so many people are so comfortable in picking a guy who has barely fought in the past few years, and has been through so much self-sabotage in that span and might still not be in proper mental shape? It really boggles my mind.
The main question is, which Jones will show up? Is he going to be rusty? Has USADA exposed him? Will we get the Jon Jones who won a dispiriting, lackluster decision over Ovince Saint Preux? Or, will it be the killer with insane skills and movesets that dazzled and wowed the masses, with unmatched athleticism and precision that led to a bevy of highlight reel knockouts and finishes from 2009 to 2014? If it’s the latter, I have to pick Jones. Even if it’s not, he still likely wins, especially if he’s not too rusty, USADA hasn’t exposed him, he really is in a good place and can execute a vintage game plan.
I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing Cormier win, even though I’m not exactly a fan of his occasional pettiness and childishness either, since he does seem like a nice guy outside of the business, and gets way too much hate in my opinion. That and the fact that Jones has only fought once since January 2015, hasn’t finished anybody since April 2013 against Chael Sonnen, and really might still be a broken man who doesn’t get the error of his ways. I don’t really care who wins to be honest. I just hope the fight is a good one. Gut pick: Jones via decision. Heart pick: Cormier, I guess.