UFC 214 is a mega-card by any measurable standard one might use to rate a Pay-Per-View (PPV) card. There is no question this is the ‘card of the year’ so far in 2017. Besides the obvious three championship belts on the line and the settling of the Jon Jones & Daniel Cormier blood feud fans are in for tremendous night of fights. In addition to the title fights, there are three more top 5 challengers squaring off with possible title shots on the line. I’’ll do my best to breakdown the most interesting fights on this stacked card and offer some fight predictions to hopefully help your bank accounts. Let’s get to the fights:
Notable Main Card Fights:
Robbie “Ruthless” Lawler (3rd) vs Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (7th) (Welterweight)
Preview: This has ‘fight of night’ potential written all over and is a long time in the making as the former welterweight champion Robbie “Ruthless” Lawler takes on Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, with a possible future title shot looming for the winner. For years, these two have circled one another and after a recent delay to their fight moving them to this card it seems this action fight fan dream fight is finally happening. Coincidentally both men are coming off devastating knockout losses heading into this matchup. The likelihood of the loser of this fight getting another title shot is very slim, which will only add to the pressure for both men looking at a number one contender spot in line for the Welterweight championship winner of Woodley vs Maia on this same card. Prior to his last loss Donald Cerrone looked like a new man at a 170lbs, looking fluid and devastating with his advanced arsenal of attacks in his repertoire. Many blamed his last loss on Cerrone fighting too many times in such a short period, leading fans to wonder if this time off will help reenergize and allow Cowboy the health he’ll need to survive a likely war with Lawler. Cerrone knows it’s nearly impossible to take Lawler down so I don’t anticipate any attempted takedowns by the Cowboy unless he’s really hurt or he hurts Lawler. l expect all his energy will get channeled into staying light on his feet using multiple angles to Lawler in hopes avoid a huge bomb from Lawler. Fans are expecting a war but I think a slugfest is not the type of fight Cerrone wants with a guy who may just hit harder than him, so look for Cerrone to set a very tactical striking game plan in the 1st round. Robbie Lawler knows he has the size and strength advantage over Cerrone, and he likely thinks he also has the speed advantage too. I think Lawler wants to bounce back after his last loss in impressive fashion which will lead him to attempt to get Cerrone out of there quickly. If he truly believes he is the faster and more devastating striker, than he will have no problems pushing the pace early to see if Cerrone can truly compete against the top echelon of the Welterweight division. Lawler is veteran when it comes to fighting five round fights having had his last seven bouts scheduled to go five rounds. Lawler likely knows Cerrone’s plan is make this a tactical fight where Cerrone can attack him in spurts while ensuring he’s always ready to defend counter-shots. I think Lawler will take a shot to deliver a bomb in hopes of turning this into a war right from the opening bell.
Odds: Lawler (-153) vs Cerrone (+133)
Prediction: The odds makers I think have this one properly scouted as I’d give Lawler a slight edge against the ever dangerous Cowboy. There is an unknowable variable for both these men coming off knockout losses and that until they get hit flush again in a real fight, we won’t know if their able to take a shot and survive against a top-level opponent. In the absence of that knowledge I have to lean on the guy whose fought and beat the best at 170 lbs, and that is Robbie Lawler. I see a way for Cerrone to win a very competitive back and forth decision, but I see a lot more ways for Lawler to get a stoppage against a slightly smaller fighter who might not have the power to stop his opponent with a single shot. Whoever wins I think the fans are in for a treat in this fight, but I’ll put my money on Robbie Lawler to stop the Cowboy on his first stop on his journey to get his title back
(Lawler via KO (-153) / Bonus Play: Under 2.5 rounds (-125))
Women’s Featherweight Championship:
Cris Cyborg vs Tonya “Triple Threat” Avenger (Women’s Featherweight Championship 145lbs)
Preview: Finally Cris Cyborg is getting her long overdue title shot and exposure on a UFC pay-per-view stage. After months of the UFC screwing around with arguably the best women’s mixed martial artist walking the Earth, the UFC got Cyborg her title shot. Unfortunately, the former champ Germaine de Randamie vacated her title instead of face Cyborg and top contender Megan Anderson could not sort through some of her own personal issues to take the fight against Cyborg. This led to the UFC making a fight with a good but not great challenger in Tonya Evinger. This is not meant as a slight against Evinger, she’s done well in her career outside of the UFC but she is not in the same league as Cyborg when it comes to skillsets. She deserves props for having the courage to take afight many veteran women UFC & MMA fighters have passed on. Evinger last fought under the UFC banner on the Ultimate Fighter where she lost to Sara McMann in 2011. She possesses a solid wrestling background with decent striking with her hands. The problem with fighting Cyborg is that she has elite skills both on the ground and standing, so if you do not have at least one of those disciplines at an elite level its an extremely difficult path to get a win, let alone survive against her. Cyborg can likely dictate where this fight goes form the opening bell as she’s the longer, stronger, and talented fighter between the two. I think Cyborg’s camp knows she needs a highlight-reel victory to announce to the UFC they can no longer ignore her once she captures the featherweight championship, so I expect her to come out like a woman on fire in the 1st round. Evinger must prepare for the initial tsunami that will come after in that first round, and I think prepare to survive instead of look to score early. The one question mark that could play into Evinger’s hands is that Cyborg is not used to going to decisions because she is so devastating. This is for a championship so its scheduled to go five rounds. I think Evinger’s only conceivable path to victory is to withstand the early onslaught and tire Cyborg and look to use her wrestling to score and maybe even stop the fight in rounds 3, 4, and 5 if Cyborg were tire.
Odds: Cyborg (-1100) vs Evinger (+775)
Prediction: This is the Cyborg show for the fans who have not gotten to seen the best woman fighting in MMA today; with all due respect to Joanna ‘Champion’. Even if Evinger creates the perfect gameplay and executes it, I think it just delays the inevitable of a devastating and punishing Cyborg finish. Cyborg’s camp has shown videos of her on social media working on her boxing so I think we might see a rare knockout via her hands, which is not seen very often in Women’s MMA. There’s no real angle to bet on here unless you think Evinger can withstand an early onslaught and make it to round 3 somehow. I don’t like the price for over 1.5 rounds and Cyborg at -1100 offers no real value so this is just a pass for me, with my prediction being a brutal early KO by the rightful new women’s champion Cris Cyborg. As I’ve previously on this site; it’s time to Celebrate Cyborg.
(Cyborg via KO (-1100))
Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley (Champion) vs Demian Maia (#1 Contender) (Welterweight 170lbs)
Preview: The second of three title fights of the evening will see another Brazilian fighter finally getting his long overdue title shot. Demian Maia finally got the title shot that was rightfully his coming on the heels of his 7 fight win streak entering this fight. After Maia’s incredible run, he gets rewarded with a brutally tough and powerful welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. After knocking out the unbreakable Robbie Lawler to win the welterweight championship this time last year, Woodley has had a rough go of it in his two title defenses since claiming the belt. Woodley kept his belt but was in two straight stinker fights against ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, that led fans and even Dana White to criticize the current champions performance. Woodley has done a lot of talking outside the ring how he can and is a draw for fight fans who can appreciate his tremendous skills. This fight is tailor-made for him to finally display those skills against a very one-dimensional opponent. The problem Maia’s one skill appears like it is from another dimension with how overwhelming it is against some of the best fighters in the world. Maia’s entire gameplay is simple, use his size, weight, and superior Brazilian jiu-jitsu to wear the champion out and submit him. Every single person watching this fight knows this is Maia’s strategy, so it will just come down to can Woodley stop it. If he can, he retains his belt easily, if he can’t he could wake up to see his belt taken away from him. The good news for Woodley is he can win this fight in a variety of ways. He is the superior wrestler and the comparisons between his striking and Maia’s are laughable at best as Maia is not here to win fights with his striking. Arguably if Woodley can defend the takedown and just force Maia to keep this fight standing it should end in a Woodley knockout or a wide decision victory for the champion. The problem is Maia only needs a single opening or one successful takedown to change the course of this fight. Woodley’s camp obviously knows this, so I think we could see a very cautious and controlled Woodley in the early parts of this fight, which will not win him any favors with Dana White or the fans who want to see more action from the champ. However, Woodley is not there to win praise, he’s there to keep his belt so I think the first couple of rounds of this fight could start very slow. I hope I am wrong for everyone’s sake but Maia will be in no rush either to walk into one of Woodley’s huge punches so we could see a pacing grapple match for these first few rounds. The biggest X factor in this fight is the size advantage Maia will have against the champion. Maia is a massive welterweight who goes through extreme weight cutting to make his fights but give himself huge size advantages versus his opponents on fight night. If Maia’s weight cut is good and not drastic, and he has the size to bother Woodley when the two clinch it could make this fight a very interesting affair where Woodley abandons his wrestling and just looks to stick and move against the larger man. Keep a very close eye in the 1st round when these two men get into the clinch or grapple along the cage. If Woodley can easily escape or dictate his positioning without much effort he will likely dominate this fight, but if he has to use a lot of energy to keep Maia off of him or cannot avoid getting taken down it could turn into a very interesting fight which Maia could pull of the upset.
Odds: Woodley (-200) vs Maia (+170)
Prediction: Woodley is the champ for a reason, he’s dominant force at 170lbs and he can change any fight with the bombs in both of his hands. I suspected the odds makers would make him a slight favorite giving sharp bettors a chance to get the champ at a discount price However, Vegas per usual is dead on with their assessment making the Champ a 2-1 favorite. Who you pick in this fight comes down to a very simple question, do you believe Maia can take Woodley down? If the answer is yes, than I think you have to bet Maia via submission at decent + odds. However, if the answer is no, than I think the answer becomes very easy to take Woodley because if Maia cannot take Woodley down his other-world jiu-jitsu skills are effectively useless against Woodley standing up. Any other top 170lbs fighter and I think Maia is a real threat to take them down and submit them, but I just think Woodley’s takedown defense is too good against a guy he knows can’t hurt him standing up. This will allow Woodley to constantly stay in proper defensive position to snuff out all of Maia’s takedowns. Unless Woodley gets careless I have a hard time seeing him on his back on this fight. I’ll be rooting for Maia because he’s a great story and by all accounts a really great guy to everyone who covers or meets him. However, I have to back the champ because he’s just the better all-around fighter and Maia’s top skill isn’t a good style that gives Woodley problems.
(Woodley via late TKO (-200)
Main Event: Light-Heavyweight Championship:
Daniel “DC” Cormier (Champion) vs Jon “Bones” Jones (#1 Contender) (Light-Heavyweight 205lbs)
Preview: The main event is for the UFC Light Heavyweight championship of the world but anyone following this sport knows it’s about more than that. This fight is a sequel to a blood-feud between two men who just plain do not like one another Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones. They’ve brawled at pre-fight press conferences, they’ve dissed one another over social media, to each others face, on cable sports networks after the microphones are turned off; it’s not an over statement to say they hate each other. Its long past personal between these two and a lot has changed since their first fight over 2 1/2 years ago. Jones has seen himself get suspended from fighting multiple times for arrests & flagged substances, one of which forced their last rematch fight about a year ago. Jones looked uninspired in his last time in the octagon against OSP, only to follow that up with another suspension and longer absence. The biggest question mark anyone has heading into this fight is; what version of Jon Jones will Cormier get in this fight. Jones is arguably the most talented fighter ever to fight MMA but fans have not seen that version of Jones since he last fought Cormier back in 2015. Jones has stated he’s finally in a good place once again and appears by all accounts in phenomenal shape for this fight. However, he looked in great shape before the OSP fight and turned in a relatively uneventful performance by Jones standards. Cormier has also changed since their last fight but it could also spell trouble for the champion. He’s defended “the belt” 3 times since he won it in the wake of Jones’s suspension but he arguably could have lost the fight against Alexander Gustaffson and he’s really struggled to make-weight in his last 3 fights. Cormier is about to turn 40 years old, and for a guy who even in his younger years had difficult weight cuts one has to wonder how many more time can he make 205 lbs without hindering his performance. Everyone is familiar with his ‘Towel gate’ incident that saw him use a towel to help him tip the scales so he could fight against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson which makes people wonder how much does DC really have left. Everyone knows he wants to beat Jones but he also needs his body to cooperate to beat possibly the greatest fighter in UFC history. Rumble was at an extreme disadvantage in their first fight with his height, reach, speed and surprisingly strength advantages all going in Jones’s favor. Approaching 40 years old tends to slow and degrade fighters strength, not increase it. It’s almost a certainty that Cormier will be a lesser version of Jones saw in their fight matchup, how much less is the key if Cormier hopes to win this fight. The good news for Cormier is Jones appeared to get hit easier in his last few fights, and he has not stopped a fighter since 2013. This should give Cormier some confidence that Jones can’t finish him and give him plenty of time to land a fight changing power shot that could hurt or stop Jones if he catches him clean. Jones’s game plan will depend on which Jones shows up to the fight on Saturday. If he is truly back to his old form but now just in better shape and more focused, it could be an extremely painful & embarrassing night for Cormier. Jones was able to take Cormier down at will during their last fight, and if Cormier struggles to make-weight again he could see himself tire late leading to a brutal stoppage. However, if the OSP fight Jones or even worse version of Jones shows up, I could see a very tentative fight plan for him as he won’t want to risk catching a big DC shot if he just wants to eek out rounds because he’s no longer the fighter we once knew. This entire fight hinges on which versions of these two incredible fighters show up on fight night.
Odds: Cormier (+210) vs Jones (-250)
Prediction: I know DC has the ‘belt’, but he doesn’t have the ‘real belt’ having never taken it from the real champ Jon Jones. It’s really tough not to root for Cormier, he so badly wants to beat Jones and wants fans to like him but for some reason he just has not resonated with the fans. I think that has everything to do with Jon Jones. Jones is the ultra talented ‘bad guy’ fight fans, particularly American fight fans gravitate towards. No one thinks Jones is a great role model with his DUI’s, drug use, and other issues outside the octagon but inside he is legend & fans love to see greatness. He’s the bad guy you root for in movies, and to borrow a line & metaphor from the HBO show ‘West World’: And then I realized, winning doesn’t mean anything unless someone else loses. Which means you’re here to be the loser.” Jon Jones is ‘The Man in Black’ and Daniel Cormier is Terry Flood; the good-hearted robot that is predestinated to lose to the ‘The Man in Black”, no matter how many times they meet one another. As long as Jon Jones hasn’t pulled a fast one on everyone and comes in unprepared, I think Jones at 85% of his prime is better than DC as he nears 40 and if Jones is truly 100% again this fight may get really ugly for Cormier. I’ll take Jones in the rematch and I think it’s a nasty late stoppage as ‘The Man in Black’ reclaims his throne.
(Jones via late TKO (-250)
Prediction Record since 2016 to Date (54-40-1) (+$835.50)
-Record & predictions based on Win vs Loss predictions only. Unless specified otherwise I use increments of $100 (for + odds predictions) & $110 (for – odds bets) as hypothetical wagers for each prediction.
-Predictions & Records are for entertainment value only