The first two Pay-Per-View events of 2017, headlined by Holly Holm vs. Germaine de Randamie (UFC 208), and Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson (UFC 209), were somewhat disappointing.
UFC 208 saw just 1 finish in 10 largely forgetful fights, whilst UFC 209 was severely hamstrung by the last-minute scrapping of the Khabib Nurmagomedov-Tony Ferguson fight. UFC 210 looks to get things back on track this Saturday.
In the main event, Daniel Cormier puts his UFC light-heavyweight title on the line against Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson, in a rematch of a May 2015 bout that saw Cormier win by second-round submission, despite being knocked to the canvas by a huge right hook from Johnson just 20 seconds into the fight.
Johnson has seen his career rejuvenated at 205 lbs, after repeated problems making weight at 170 lbs (as well as his lone attempt at 185 lbs), saw him cut from the promotion in 2012. Since his return to the UFC, ‘Rumble’ is 6-1 with 5 TKO/KO stoppages, his sole defeat being the aforementioned submission loss to Cormier.
Daniel Cormier is 18-1 in his career, with his lone loss coming to former champion (and arguably the greatest fighter of all time), Jon Jones. Cormier holds career victories over Antônio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, Josh Barnett, Frank Mir, Dan Henderson, Anthony Johnson, Alexander Gustafsson, and Anderson Silva, across the heavyweight and light-heavyweight divisions.
Let’s take a look at how each man has fared since that first bout at UFC 187:
A combination of injuries and opponent-withdrawals has seen Cormier (left) fight just twice since their first meeting almost two years ago, with planned title fights at UFC 197, UFC 200 and UFC 206 all falling through. Saturday’s fight will see the 205 lbs belt contested for the first time since October 2015.
In the fights that did go ahead, Cormier came out victorious in a thrilling fight-of-the-night winning performance against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 192, followed by a grinding victory over Anderson Silva at UFC 200 in a fight that was put together at under 48 hours’ notice.
Johnson (right) has competed three times since UFC 187, and things couldn’t really have gone any better for him. He’s defeated the three men who currently occupy the 3rd, 4th, and 5th spots (behind Johnson and Gustafsson) in most light-heavyweight rankings, winning all three fights by KO. Only Jimi Manuwa made it out of the first-round, and even that fight ended just 28 seconds into the second.
Cormier and Johnson share just one common opponent (see right) throughout their careers; Alexander Gustafsson. It’s not surprising to discover they don’t have more shared opponents when you consider Cormier fought at heavyweight for some time whilst Johnson started out as a welterweight.
Both men recorded victories over Gustafsson across the span of 9 months, Cormier winning by split-decision, and Johnson winning by first-round TKO. Only Vitor Belfort has more TKO/KO victories than Johnson in UFC history (Belfort has 12 from 24 fights whilst ‘Rumble’ has 11 from 18 fights).
In the co-main event, Gegard Mousasi, who went 4-0 in 2016 with 3 TKO/KO stoppages, takes on former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, who is looking to rebound after back-to-back TKO/KO defeats to Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero.
This fight will mark the 50th professional MMA bout of Mousasi’s career. It’s somewhat surprising to realize that Mousasi, who has been competing since 2003 for M-1, Rings, Cage Warriors, Deep, PRIDE, Strikeforce, and the UFC (amongst many others), is still just 31 years old. Mousasi has an 8-3 record in UFC competition, whilst Weidman’s record with the promotion stands at 9-2
Just 2 fights ago, Weidman was the undefeated 13-0 champion and many believed he would hold that title for a long time. Today, Weidman is looking down the barrel of a third consecutive defeat following two emphatic stoppage losses. Can Weidman turn back the clock on Saturday?
The Dwyer Score
Each event I calculate a ‘Dwyer Score’ for the card. It’s a simple way of giving a numeric value to the momentum of any one event. I do this by assigning a figure to each fighter’s current streak; a fighter on a five-fight winning streak contributes +5 to an event’s score, whilst a fighter on a two-fight losing streak contributes -2 to the score. No Contests, Draws, or bouts with other promotions set your streak to 0. When you tally up the scores for every fighter on a card (only counting UFC fights), you get a total which gives you an idea of the combined momentum of fighters heading into a specific event. To the right, you’ll see a list of some of the highest-scoring events of all time to help give some context to these scores.
UFC 210 posts a Dwyer Score of +9. This ranks 28th of the 42 events in the last year, and joint 12th of the 14 PPV events in that period.
It’s the same score that UFC 208: Holly Holm vs. Germaine de Randamie gave back in February, and the only PPV card with a lower score in the last 12 months was UFC 203: Stipe Miocic vs. Alistair Overeem (+3).
I think this score is reflective of the top-heavy nature of this card. Whilst there’s no denying the top two fights are excellent, it’s not a UFC 205 or UFC 211 style blockbuster. As a side note, the upcoming UFC 211 event in May has a Dwyer Score of +48 at the time of writing (the second-highest score in UFC’s 23-year history).
The graph below shows exactly how this score compares to average Dwyer Scores over the last 12 months:
As you can see, the score falls some way short of the average for PPV events.
Let’s take a look at exactly how this score breaks down:
Gegard Mousasi and Kamaru Usman (both +4) are the highest individual contributors to this week’s score, whilst Chris Weidman, Thiago Alves, Charles Oliveira, Myles Jury and Patrick Cummins (all -2) are the lowest contributors.
The individual fight on the card containing the two fighters with the greatest combined momentum is actually Kamaru Usman (+4) vs. Sean Strickland (+3). Usman (9-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) followed a submission victory over Hayder Hassan with decision wins over Leon Edwards, Alexander Yakovlev, and Warlley Alves, whilst Strickland (18-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) sandwiched a TKO of Alex Garcia in between decision victories over Igor Araújo and Tom Breese.
Cynthia Calvillo will become the first fighter to compete twice for the UFC in 2017 in her bout with Pearl Gonzalez, following a submission victory over Amanda Cooper last month. Calvillo (4-0), Magomed Bibulatov (13-0), Josh Emmett (11-0), Gregor Gillespie (8-0), and Shane Burgos (8-0) are all looking to extend undefeated records this weekend.
On paper, it may not quite reach the absolute elite standard of PPV events, but there’s still a lot to like on Saturday’s card. Enjoy the fights!