Saturday 24 February 2018

Five reasons to watch UFC 187

UFC star Jon Jones
UFC star Jon Jones
Fergus Ryan

Fergus Ryan

This week’s MMA column focuses on the story lines behind some of the main card fighters at UFC 187 this weekend.

The light-heavy title fight is legit

Many people are saying there will be a shadow over the new light-heavy title champion because Jon Jones hasn’t lost the belt, he was stripped.

Technically, this is correct, but sportsmen and sportswomen are still just men and women who need to play by the same rules as us regular men and women. If Jon Jones is going to behave like an idiot by drink-driving, leaving the scene of car accidents he caused, allegedly using hard drugs like cocaine and recreational drugs like marijuana, then he needs to face the consequences like you or I.

If Johnny Deskjob does what the UFC champ did, he would appear in court and potentially face jail time. There’s also a high probability Johnny would be fired.

Jon Jones is the greatest mixed martial artist of our time and maybe ever. His extra-curricular activities have meant he can’t compete at the moment. Whether he lost or was stripped, he’s not the champion anymore nor is he fit to be a ‘champion’ for the foreseeable future.

Whoever gets their hand raised, whether its Daniel Cormier or Anthony Johnson, will be the legitimate champion on Saturday night.

Whether they get to test themselves against Jon Jones in the future remains to be seen.

The to wait to find the right weight

A few years ago if you said to an MMA fan that Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson would be the main event a UFC card at light-heavyweight they would have told you you’re dreaming.

In 2012 Johnson left the UFC after a series of missed weights. Having masqueraded as a welterweight and failing to weigh-in twice, ‘Rumble’ moved to middleweight to lessen the arduous weight cut. After spectacularly missing weight again against Vitor Belfort he was cut from the UFC and took fights on lesser promotions as a heavyweight before settling at light-heavyweight.

Around the same time Daniel Cormier was an undefeated heavyweight on his way to winning the Strikeforce heavyweight Gran Prix after beating the likes of Jeff Monson, Antonio Silva and Josh Barnett.

Since the beginning of 2014 both men have settled at light-heavyweight.

Tough times

While Jon Jones has been side-lined due to personal issues, both Johnson and Cormier are no strangers to personal struggles themselves.

When Cormier was seven, his father was shot and killed on Thanksgiving Day in 1986. In 2003 his three-month-old daughter, Kaedyn, was killed when the car she was travelling in was hit from behind by an 18-wheeler truck.

She died instantly. Cormier still thinks about her all the time and keeps her pictures around his training facilities and home.

In a sporting context, having placed fourth at the 2004 Olympics, Daniel vowed to take gold at the 2008 games. After making the wrestling team and being named team captain he did not compete due to kidney failure, brought on by weight cutting.

Anthony Johnson was raised by his grandparents from the age of two. He doesn’t talk about the circumstances which led to his separation from his parents.

Having struggled with making weight and being cut by the UFC, Johnson finally settled on light-heavyweight, over 20kgs / 35lbs north of what he used to have to weigh-in at.

On September 19th, 2014 news reports circulated that Johnson was accused of domestic violence against the mother of his two children. The UFC released a statement that Johnson was being indefinitely suspended until the case was investigated fully.

On November 6th, 2014 the UFC lifted Johnson's suspension after the civil case was dismissed clearing him to fight.

The Rise of the Blackzillians

The Blackzillians gym is one of the newest and best known MMA gyms in the US. Founded in 2011, as the name suggests, the original team members were of Brazilian and African decent though the gym is open to all.

Notable team members include Rashad Evans, Eddie Alvarez , Matt Mitrione, and Michael Johnson.

Despite a disappointing run of luck in the early years, the Blackzillians are now one of the most prominent MMA gyms competing in the UFC.

The Ultimate Fighter reality series currently features the Blackzillians versus American Top Team, the gym that the original members left to form Blackzillians.

At UFC 187 the middleweight and light-heavyweight titles will be contested by Blackzillian athletes - Anthony Johnson and Vitor Belfort.

Ironically, both men fought each other in the UFC in 2012.

The youngest old guy on the block

In the middleweight title fight Chris Weidman defends his belt against Vitor Belfort.

Though there is only eight years in age gap between the pair, there is 13 years difference in MMA experience.

38-year-old Vitor Belfort debuted on the US MMA circuit as a 19 year old in 1996. It's highly likely he had fought in unsanctioned vale tudo bouts in Brazil prior to this. Belfort is currently in his third and longest run in the UFC.

During his first run in the UFC he was a tournament winner in the early days back at UFC 12 in 1997.

In his second run he beat Randy Couture to capture the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 46 in 2004.

Since his return to the UFC in 2009 he has flip-flopped between the middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions and fought for the titles in both divisions. During his latest run Belfort was labelled the poster boy for the Testosterone Replacement Therapy that was ultimately banned by the State Athletic Commissions.

He tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone in 2014 after a string of head-kick knock outs in 2013. This title shot, his second at middleweight after losing to Anderson Silva in 2011, will be Belfort’s first since coming off TRT.

The UFC 187 early prelims will be shown on the UFC’s digital platform Fight Pass from 1130 on Saturday 23rd May. Coverage of the prelims is live on BT Sport 2 at 0100 and the main card from 0300 GMT.

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