The UFC finally returns to Buffalo with a highly anticipated rematch between current light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and arguably the most fearsome knockout striker in the history of the sport, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson.
They first met in 2015, with Cormier submitting Johnson with a third-round rear naked choke, but that came after a very scary opening round when the two-time Olympian tasted his opponent's power and was sent to the canvas early in the fight. Obviously, Cormier recovered and was able to get the win, but Johnson has been seething for the opportunity to get another shot at him ever since.
Mousasi has looked better than ever in his most recent fights, but Weidman will undoubtedly be the toughest opponent he's faced during his current run through the 185-pound division.
In today's fantasy preview, we'll examine these fights and several more to see who has the edge and who might be primed for an upset at UFC 210: Cormier vs. Johnson 2.
These are the fights that are just too close to call, but a few minor differences between favorite and underdog could lead one fighter to victory and the other to defeat.
Daniel Cormier (-110 even) vs. Anthony "Rumble" Johnson (-110 even)
The main event at UFC 210 features the top two light heavyweights in the division, with champion and challenger both coming off big wins in recent fights. For Johnson, this rematch serves as redemption for his only loss since returning to the UFC.
Johnson has put together one of the most impressive highlight reels in the sport, with his jaw crushing knockouts including wins over Glover Teixeira, Jimi Manuwa and Ryan Bader. Johnson has only been past the first round once in his past three fights due to the vicious power he's unleashed against his opposition. While he's best known for his first round knockouts, Johnson has gone much deeper into past fights, including a 15-minute battle with Phil Davis when he first returned to the UFC.
Of course, Johnson has to know his best path towards victory is lighting up Cormier on the feet during those early exchanges and looking for another knockout in the first two rounds. While Johnson has to be ready for a five-round fight, he can't suddenly look conservative to save energy if he plans on walking out of Buffalo with the light heavyweight title. Johnson has to go after Cormier from the opening bell by letting his hands go and putting together those quick combinations that typically end with his opponent staring up at the lights or face down on the canvas.
For Cormier, surviving those early flurries will be the key to his survival. The current champion felt Johnson's power in the first fight but somehow managed to fight back, but he may not get that opportunity the second time around. Cormier's best strategy will likely involve a punishing clinch game against the cage to negate Johnson's ferocious power from the outside before taking the fight back down to the ground. Cormier is at his best when he's able to put his opponents on the mat and control them there. He can't get into a striking battle with Johnson because he might land a punch that will win him the fight, but he's just as likely to get a stick of dynamite blown up in his face from his heavy-hitting challenger.
While Johnson certainly possesses the jaw dropping power to finish anybody in the division, Cormier's wrestling and durability should carry him past that opening round, and with each minute that ticks away into the second and third, the current light heavyweight champion should begin to take over. Once Cormier puts Johnson into deeper waters in the championship rounds, he'll look to drown him and walk out with the title still around his waist.
Prediction: Daniel Cormier by TKO, Round 4
Two of the top strikers in the welterweight division will square off when Patrick Cote meets Thiago Alves at UFC 210. Alves recently attempted a move down to 155 pounds, but after a disastrous weight cut backfired on him, the former title contender decided to move back up to a more comfortable 170 pounds for this fight. As for Cote, he's looking to get back in the win column after suffering a tough loss to Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone in his last bout.
In terms of style, this fight will feature a classic Muay Thai kickboxer in Alves against a power-punching boxer in Cote. During his run towards the title, Alves put together a very impressive win streak decorated by a series of blistering performances that were typically highlighted by him absolutely battering his opponents with leg kicks. Alves would do well to remember that strategy against Cote as well, because the Canadian slugger typically sits heavy on his lead leg while trying to land his potent punches. If Alves can damage that leg early, it could slow Cote down while also take away some of his power.
As for Cote, his boxing had looked outstanding prior to his bout with Cerrone, but there's no shame in losing to one of the best welterweights in the sport right now. Cote had as always displayed good boxing, but now he's also working in some takedowns and ground skills to compliment his overall mixed martial arts game. While Cote could certainly stand toe-to-toe with Alves, throwing in a takedown early in the fight could give him a huge advantage. Not only would it give Cote the chance to show off his ground acumen, but he may take away Alves' leg kick attack if the Brazilian starts to get worried about the takedown.
Cote just has to be careful not to stand on the outside and allow Alves to start picking his shots. That's a dangerous game to play and one the Canadian might very well lose. Still, if Cote can work his wrestling and boxing together to keep Alves guessing it should earn him a win by the end of the night.
Prediction: Patrick Cote by unanimous decision
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The fight that will kick off the Pay-Per-View features lightweight challenger Will Brooks taking on former featherweight Charles Oliveira, who is moving up to 155 pounds for this matchup.
While Oliveira has put on some uneven performances lately, he's still a very crafty and dangerous fighter, especially if he's able to control the pace on Brooks during this fight. Oliveira is a very high-level submission specialist who also displays some flashy knockout skills as well. Despite moving up a division for this fight, Oliveira will actually have a two-inch reach advantage over Brooks, so he'll be smart to use that to establish a jab early to keep Brooks at the end of his punches before exploding forward with a big knee or potentially a takedown.
As for Brooks, he's a very well rounded fighter, but he'll be best served working close against Oliviera in this matchup. Brooks is a strong wrestler who averages just under two takedowns per fight thus far in his early UFC career while also landing over four significant strikes per minute on the feet. Brooks has a very punishing clinch game, and if he can press Oliveira against the cage while bullying him with punches and elbows on the inside, he could make this a very uncomfortable night for the Brazilian. Brooks will have to be careful not to leave an opening for Oliveira to grab onto his neck for a guillotine choke, but if he can avoid that while battering him with punches and elbows against the cage, he should be able to do enough to get the job done over three rounds.
Prediction: Will Brooks by unanimous decision
These are the fights that appear to be a little more one-sided, but remember that this is MMA, where anything can - and usually does - happen.
This is probably the toughest of all the "knockout" picks because Cynthia Calvillo could be the next big thing in the strawweight division, but Pearl Gonzalez could still surprise a few people with her performance in this matchup.
On UFC Unfiltered: Cynthia Calvillo talks about Pearl Gonzalez
Gonzalez is a tough as nails competitor from Chicago, who actually holds a win over current UFC competitor Cortney Casey while putting together an impressive 6-1 record as a professional. Gonzalez actually started her career as a Golden Gloves boxer, so she definitely has good hands while also developing a very slick ground game where she's finished three opponents by armbar.
That being said, Calvillo definitely appears to be the real deal and potentially a future top 10 fighter in the 115-pound division.
Training out of Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, Calvillo has an all-star cast and crew to get her ready for this fight and she looked outstanding in her debut against Amanda Cooper in March. Calvillo is a well-rounded fighter with good power behind her punches and a dangerous submission arsenal as well. Don’t discount that UFC experience either, because Calvillo shined in her first fight after she was bumped up to the main card on short notice while Gonzalez will be making her debut in Buffalo.
Of course, Calvillo has to be careful not to underestimate Gonzalez, but if she's able to put on a similar performance to her first fight in the UFC, she will send a strong message to all the up and comers in the strawweight division.
Prediction: Cynthia Calvillo by submission, Round 2
As the welterweight division continues to be one of the toughest in the sport, Kamaru Usman could be a future star if he continues on the path he's been on lately. The former Ultimate Fighter winner has looked stellar through his first few fights inside the Octagon and he'll have a chance to show off his skills once again at UFC 210.
Usman is a powerful grappler averaging over five takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon with nearly 57 percent success. Usman is a powerhouse on the ground, and once he gets the fight to the mat, it's virtually impossible to wiggle free from his grip. Usman isn't afraid to stand and trade on the feet either, where he's landing just under four significant strikes per minute with incredible 54 percent accuracy.
Now Usman will face a tough test from Sean Strickland, who is a very long, crafty striker on the feet. Strickland will enjoy a one-inch height advantage while also landing with more volume on the feet and also taking slightly less damage defensively than Usman. Strickland also showcases great takedown defense, but he's also never faced a wrestler with the tenacious takedowns Usman will unveil in this fight.
Strickland will absolutely be a game opponent, but Usman's grappling will give anybody fits and this will likely result in another lopsided win as this future welterweight contender continues his climb up the rankings.
Prediction: Kamaru Usman by unanimous decision
Newcomer Desmond Green will make his UFC debut in Buffalo against a very tough opponent in Team Alpha Male fighter Josh Emmett.
Green is an interesting addition to the featherweight division who comes from a collegiate wrestling background while also putting together an impressive run outside the UFC with a 19-5 record. Green has faced good opposition throughout his career, including wins over former WEC champion Miguel Torres, as well as former UFC fighter Steven Siler. Green can be a stifling fighter at times with good control, especially when he's able to dictate the pace against his opponents.
Unfortunately, Green got a very tough draw in his first fight with someone like Emmett.
Emmett is a gritty, hard-nosed competitor who doesn't do any one thing great but does everything pretty well. Through his first two fights in the UFC, Emmett is splitting his time very evenly between a solid striking attack and a very potent wrestling game. Emmett has been working with top-flight training partners such as Cody Garbrandt, Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes for years and that has definitely paid off. Now Emmett can get a little wild at times, so he has to curb those tendencies against Green or risk being put on the mat by a takedown from his opponent.
That being said, Emmett's Octagon experience coupled with his aggressive, never say die style should put together a very good offense while Green may be stuck playing defense for the majority of this fight.
Prediction: Josh Emmett by unanimous decision
Chris Weidman (+110 underdog) vs. Gegard Mousasi (-130 favorite)
The co-main event between Chris Weidman and Gegard Mousasi could end up as the Fight of the Night at UFC 210, but it's also one of the top matchups primed for an upset.
While Mousasi has looked better than ever while cruising to four straight wins, he hasn't faced an opponent quite like Weidman during his current streak. Mousasi has torn through fellow strikers Vitor Belfort, Uriah Hall and Thiago Santos, but this time he's going to face off with a knockout puncher who also happens to be a former All-American wrestler.
Weidman may have fallen on hard times of late with two consecutive losses, but make no mistake that the New York native is still one of the best fighters in a very tough middleweight division. Weidman was doing well in the early part of his fight against No. 1-ranked Yoel Romero last November until he made a critical error in the third round and got caught with a jumping knee strike that ultimately ended the fight.
Since that time, Weidman has worked tirelessly to correct those errors while also getting into the best shape of his life. Weidman has always suffered through a notoriously tough weight cut to get down to 185 pounds, but he's been stricter with his diet and training for this fight and looks to be in phenomenal shape. Add to that the fact Weidman knows that this is probably a make or break fight for him if he wants to get back into title contention, and while that kind of pressure will turn some fighters to dust, it's more likely to transform him into a diamond.
Weidman will look to use a solid boxing attack as his wrestling also has the potential to give Mousasi nightmares throughout this three-round co-main event. All said, Weidman just has more ways to win and definitely has more on the line as he looks to prove why he was the best middleweight in the world not that long ago.
Prediction: Chris Weidman by unanimous decision