After more than two years and an avalanche of bad blood and trash talking, fight fans will finally get a change to see the most anticipated rematch in recent UFC history.
Former light heavyweight champion and pound-for-pound king Jon Jones returns to the octagon after serving a one-year suspension for failing a drug test just days before he was scheduled to main event the landmark UFC 200 event against Daniel Cormier. Now he’s back and (supposedly) clean, ready to reclaim the title that he never actually lost.
In Jones’ absence, Cormier has risen to the top of the 205-pound division. However, Jones is still the one and only man who has beaten Cormier. Jones is literally the “one” in Cormier’s 19-1 record, a decision victory back January 2015.
UFC 214 also features two other juicy title fights, making it one of the best events of the year (on paper, at least). Along with the legit PPV stars in the main event, the card also has Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia for the welterweight championship and Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino vs. Tonya Evinger for the vacant women’s featherweight strap.
There’s lots to talk about, so we’re skipping the prelims entirely this time. Let’s jump right into our predictions for the main card, which airs live on PPV at 10:00 P.M. (Eastern) on Saturday night!
(For those unfamiliar with moneyline betting, fighters listed with a minus number are the betting favorites. All odds courtesy of Bodog.ca)
Robbie Lawler (-160) vs. Donald Cerrone (+130)
The three huge champion fights may be getting all the headlines, but this welterweight battle between Robbie Lawler and Donald Cerrone could easily end up the best fight of the night. Lawler is a former champion who just lost the welterweight title in his last fight, although it was over a year ago. He was on a five-fight win streak before that.
Cerrone is always a joy to watch and has won many performance bonuses for incredible knocks outs, submissions, and exciting fights. But he’s never won a UFC title, losing to Rafeal dos Anjos in his only attempt in December 2015. But he’s won 12 of his last 14 fights, dating back to 2013. He’s one of the toughest dudes in the UFC, and he’s never lost back-to-back fights in his entire career.
Prediction: Cerrone via Submission.
Jimi Manuwa (-185) vs. Volkan Oezdemir (+135)
Like the Lawler vs. Cerrone fight, this light heavyweight contest also features two guys ranked in the Top 10 of their division — Manuwa is No. 3 and Oezdemir is No. 5. That should make for a close contest, and the betting odds definitely reflect that, with Manuwa just a slight favorite.
Manuwa, now 37-years-old, was in the conversation for a title shot before Jon Jones was reinstated and booked against Cormier in the main event. The winner of this fight may get the next crack at the belt, so he’ll definitely be looking to pick up his third straight win.
However, Oezdemir is on a four fight win streak of his own and is a full ten years younger than Manuwa. Both fighters have incredible knockout power, as 25 of their combined 31 wins have come via KO or TKO. We doubt this fight will go the distance.
Prediction: Oezdemir via Knockout
Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (-1200) vs. Tonya Evinger (+700)
This fight was originally planned as Cyborg versus former champion Germaine de Randamie. However, de Randamie was reluctant to take the fight due to Cyborg’s previous drug test failures. As a result, the UFC stripped her of the title and make Cyborg vs. Evinger. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty big mismatch.
Cyborg is one of the meanest and nastiest fighters in the UFC, regardless of gender. She doesn’t have a professional loss since she was defeated in her pro debut, and that was back in 2005. The UFC was reluctant to sign her for a long time, since she likely can’t make the 135-pound weight limit for the bantamweight division, where the likes of Ronda Rousey, Amanda Nunes, and Holly Holm were all top competitors. Instead, the UFC created the women’s featherweight division almost exclusively for Cyborg, and it’s a pretty thin weight class.
Evinger is an experienced fighter, with 25 fights to her name. She’s even the current Invicta FC bantamweight champion, plucked up by the UFC especially for this fight. Despite that, bookies don’t like her chances. Frankly, neither do we. Cyborg is a different kind of animal when it comes to female MMA fighters. As long as she makes weight and doesn’t fail any drug tests (both fairly big ifs, actually), Cyborg should win easily.
Prediction: Cyborg via Decision.
Tyron Woodley (-210) vs. Demian Maia (+170)
Tyron Woodley is the best welterweight wrestler since George St-Pierre. Demian Maia, on the other hand, is the best submission artist currently in the UFC, and perhaps the best BJJ practitioner that MMA has seen since Royce Gracie was making people look foolish two decades ago.
This fight gained additional prestige this week, when it was revealed that the winner will likely get a returning GSP for a big money title fight, now that the St-Pierre/Bisping ship seems to have sailed. Woodley is coming off a pair of ultra close fights against Stephen Thompson (a draw and a majority decision victory). Maia is on a seven-fight win streak and has looked incredible since his last loss — to Rory McDonald back in February 2014.
Maia has had one championship opportunity before, getting a crack at Anderson Silva’s middleweight title back in 2010. With all due to respect to Woodley, this is an easier task for Maia than an in-his-prime Silva. The Brazilian Maia may be almost 40-years-old, but he could finally capture UFC gold on Saturday night.
Woodley has plenty of power to go with his elite wrestling skills, but Maia is no slouch on his feet and is absolutely deadly on the ground. We wouldn’t be surprised at all if Woodley wins on Saturday, but it’s boring to always pick the favorite.
Prediction: Maia via Submission.
Jon Jones (-270) vs. Daniel Cormier (+210)
At long last, the most legitimately hate-filled feud in the UFC will get its second chapter. Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier absolutely despise each other, spewing nasty, personal insults at each other in every interview they do, press conference appearance, or social media post they make. Aside from all of that stuff, they are also both of the two most talented fighters in the UFC.
Cormier is a legit world champion wrestler who has competed at heavyweight before. His only professional loss is a decision defeat back in 2015, to Jones himself. Cormier had very little success wrestling with Jones in that first matchup, so hopefully he comes in to UFC 214 with a slightly different gameplan.
Jones is a legit candidate for the title of greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC. Perhaps in UFC history. However, a number of self-inflicted career derailments in the last few years have weakened the argument. There was the DUI, the constant eye-poking during fights, the homophobic slurs on Instagram (surprise! — he claims he was hacked), the positive cocaine test, the hit-and-run incident, and the failed PED test that blew up the UFC 200 main event. Now he’s back, fully committed to being the villain.
This fight should be satisfying regardless of the outcome. But as much as we’d like the “good guy” to win and even the score at 1-1, Jones is undefeated for a reason (no, don’t come at me with that Matt Hamill bulls**t — Jones beat the hell out of him). The King will regain his crown.
Prediction: Jones via decision.