Five Fights To Get You Excited For UFC 187

This column highlights five past bouts from fighters competing on this weekend’s UFC 186. These fights represent some of the highest moments in the careers of their respective participants, and should serve to pique your interest heading into the event. 1. Anthony Johnson vs. Alexander Gustafsson – UFC on Fox 14 Upcoming Bout: Anthony Johnson vs. Daniel Cormier With all of the free fights that the UFC posted on YouTube prior to UFC 187 (Johnson/Nogueira, Cormier vs. Henderson/Cummins, Weidman/Silva 1, Belfort/Henderson 2), it would be easy to fill this article with just bouts relating to the two title fights. I’ve tried to avoid that for a couple of reasons: 1) Daniel Cormier has faced such a strange level of competition in his MMA tenure that I still find it hard to get a grasp on where he’s truly at once he faces a top fighter that isn’t Jon Jones. 2) The public generally takes the wrong things away from both Weidman/Silva fights. Weidman’s success during the first round of both bouts is ignored, and instead the focus falls on the circumstances surrounding the finishes. 3) Vitor Belfort is a completely different human being from the last time he fought. That said, Anthony Johnson knocking out Alexander Gustafsson was as legitimate a win as you can get without having a belt strapped around your waist. Johnson held even in the striking in the early portion of the bout (if not holding a slight edge). Then Gustafsson poked him in the eye, which inevitably unleashes a violent finish from ‘Rumble.’ If Johnson was able to pick his spot and close the distance with such power and accuracy against a much more skilled and rangier striker in Gustafsson, would it not make sense that he can do the same to the shorter Cormier? 2. Josh Burkman vs. Jon Fitch – WSOF 3 Upcoming Bout: Josh Burkman vs. Dong Hyun Kim This has been a recurring theme for Josh Burkman. Facing Jon Fitch, he was once again supposed to be at a disadvantage in the wrestling, but was able to get his offense going before Fitch could implement his gameplan. Depending on the approach Dong Hyun Kim chooses to employ here (and that is the biggest question in this bout), Burkman is quite capable of doing the same here. While Kim scored arguably the knockout of 2014 against John Hathaway, he’s still not as dangerous a striker as Burkman, and certainly not as durable. 3. Uriah Hall vs. Daniel Akinyemi – Ring of Combat Upcoming Bout: Uriah Hall vs. Rafael Natal Uriah Hall can be maddening to watch, and this is one of many perfect examples. There is no question that Hall is a more talented fighter than Daniel Akinyemi, and yet he let himself lose much of the first round before slapping on a heel hook. Now, I don’t expect Hall to pull a submission out of nowhere against Rafael Natal, but if he ends up in a competitive striking battle before pulling off a shocking knockout (or not), don’t be surprised, even if he is the obviously more talented fighter heading in. 4. Islam Makhachev vs. Yuri Ivlev – M1 Upcoming Bout: Islam Makhachev vs. Leo Kuntz There is some hype behind Islam Makhachev’s UFC debut, and for good reason. His win over Yuri Ivlev is probably the second best thus far in his career (behind only his defeat of Mansour Barnaoui). He has good wrestling and submission games and that has been enough to get him through his early career, much like his training partner Khabib Nurmagomedov. He’ll need to develop his striking if he hopes to make a run in the featherweight division, but those talks are still a ways off. 5. Justin Scoggins vs. Jacob Hebeisen Upcoming Bout: Justin Scoggins vs. Josh Sampo So far in the UFC we’ve seen several doses of Justin Scoggins’ wrestling, and I keep waiting for him to show off the striking he displayed on the regional scene. Perhaps the best example of that striking was in his bout against Jacob Hebeisen, where he scored a head kick finish in the fifth round after peppering Hebeisen with kicks throughout the fight. Against Josh Sampo, who doesn’t offer much outside of his grappling game, Scoggins would seem to have a great opportunity to put his striking to use. The timing would be great, as the hype on Scoggins has slowed significantly since he’s gone just 2-2 in the Octagon.

Written by Brad Taschuk

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