The main card for UFC 214 is without a doubt the best PPV portion of any card that has been put together by the UFC in 2017. Jon Jones vs Daniel Cormier is probably the biggest fight of the year to this point and then you also have Woodley vs Maia and the return of Cyborg as title fights, along with the barn burner that will be Donald Cerrone vs Robbie Lawler.
I will be giving my predictions for each of the five main card fights on UFC 214. Two of the picks are top bets, two of the picks are just leans, and one pick I will have a small bet on. Check them all out below.
Daniel Cormier vs Jon Jones
This is a fight that’s been two and a half years in the making, since Jones defeated Cormier by decision at UFC 182 in January of 2015. It was a close fight, but Jones won a clear 49-46 decision, especially taking the fight to DC in the championship rounds.
The question now becomes whether Jones will still have that same level heading into this second fight after only fighting once, a tune-up win over OSP last year, since his DC win due to the various legal and USADA troubles. If Jones is at his best I do believe he will once again get the job done.
I often like to take the fighter who lost the initial fight in a rematch, but I can’t bring myself to take DC here. Jones simply finds ways to win and his defensive fighting IQ and scrambling ability will make it very difficult for DC to land any real offense or keep Jones on the mat in this fight. I think it will go very similar to last fight where DC tries to impose his will, relatively unsuccessfully early on and then Jones takes over the fight late.
As much as I don’t like Jon Jones, I can’t question his ability and I find it very difficult to picture a DC win this Saturday.
Play: Jones -250
Tyron Woodley vs Demian Maia
Everyone is talking about how Maia is the perfect opponent for Woodley’s style. How Woodley has the takedown defense to keep Maia from taking him to the mat and also the power and quickness to land a big shot to finish the fight. While I agree with those thoughts in theory, it’s really much more complicated than that. Maia isn’t a traditional wrestler when getting guys to the mat, but instead uses great MMA chain wrestling that include submission attempts to threaten fighters and then capitalize on their reactions. He’s also a guy who likes to keep the pressure on his opponents in order to swarm them and capitalize on mistakes by either grabbing a leg or finding a way onto their back.
Woodley absolutely hates being pressured. Rory MacDonald stayed on him for an entire fight and absolutely picked him apart. In the two fights with Wonderboy, Thompson simply did not apply enough pressure to either overwhelm Woodley or gas him out. I believe that Maia is a smart enough fighter that he knows exactly what he needs to do against Woodley and if he’s able to close the distance and get into the clinch or grab a leg I do expect him to be able to work for and sink in a submission.
Woodley is a very overrated fighter in my opinion and he will be exposed on Saturday by Maia.
Play: Maia +170 *top play
Cyborg vs Tonya Evinger
Evinger is a solid fighter who, as a long standing Invicta champ definitely deserved her shot in the UFC. That said, she’s a 135 pound champ and she will be going up to 145 pounds to face the bigger, stronger, faster, more explosive Cyborg. I don’t give Evinger much of a chance in this situation.
I probably won’t be betting this fight myself because the return is simply not good enough, but I do fully expect Cyborg to win.
Play: Cyborg: -1100 (no bet for me)
Donald Cerrone vs Robbie Lawler
As I mentioned above, I feel like Woodley is overrated, and that partially stems from his only really solid win coming over Robbie Lawler, who I also think is extremely overrated. Lawler won the belt via a decision over Hendricks, which most agree that Hendricks won, and then defended it against Rory MacDonald, scoring a late TKO after being down 3-1 on the scorecards. He followed that up with another decision win robbery over Carlos Condit. What I’m getting at is he could have easily (and probably should have) lost each of his title wins/defenses. Even to get the title shot he only beat Ellenberger and Matt Brown, both fighters who are far past their prime and struggle to get any wins these days. My point is that Lawler is overrated significantly.
Cerrone, on the other hand, I find to be somewhat underrated. The guy takes fights every other day and is still 4-1 at welterweight even though he got caught with some big strikes from Masvidal in his last time out. He’s 12-2 in his last 14 and he’s not fighting chumps.
I believe Cerrone is better in every area of this fight and I also think he has more finishing ability than Lawler. Add in the fact that these guys are friendly and Cerrone should be in the right head space to get another big knockout on his record and send Lawler towards retirement.
Play: Cerrone +133 *top play
Volkan Oezdemir vs Jimi Manuwa
This is a really tough one to call because we still don’t really know how good Oezdemir is. He only has 2 UFC fights and although he looked good early in the OSP win, he did fade pulling out only a split decision victory. Then he was a big dog against Misha Cirkunov, but caught the Canadian with a short strike behind the ear that put him out early in their recent bout. Who knows how good this guy is.
That said, Manuwa is also still a question mark to me. Yes, he KO’d OSP and Anderson in his last couple fights, but OSP looked off in that bout and Anderson hasn’t beaten anyone good in the UFC either. Manuwa has KO losses to both Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson on his record and although those are nothing to be ashamed of it shows that his striking, which is his best ability, is not impenetrable.
Outside of OSP and Anderson he also doesn’t have great wins in the UFC, with two of his early wins coming from leg injuries from his opponents. He’s still a little unproven to me and I’m curious to see if Oezdemir can pressure him and make him work inside.
I’m leaning Oezdemir in this one, but I won’t be betting it.
Play: Oezdemir +150 (no bet for me)