UFC 214: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

Scott Harris@ScottHarrisMMAMMA Lead WriterJuly 28, 2017

UFC 214: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

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    Daniel Cormier (left) and Jon Jones (right)
    Daniel Cormier (left) and Jon Jones (right)Kevork Djansezian/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    The greatest fighter in MMA history finally returns to the cage Saturday at UFC 214. 

    Jon Jones isn't playing around, either. The animosity between him and current UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier has always seemed real, but Jones is done trying to laugh it off. There's no better way for the GOAT to return than against his bitterest rival, who happens never to have lost to anyone but Jones.

    The main event is a blockbuster, but so is the rest of the main card. There are three—count 'em—three title fights on the slate Saturday in Anaheim, California. And that's to say nothing of Donald Cerrone vs. Robbie Lawler.

    So let's now take a look at the pay-per-view portion of UFC 214 and make some picks with the Bleacher Report MMA staff predictions team: Nathan McCarter, Steven Rondina, Craig "Cookie" Amos and myself. Let's get it on. 

Jimi Manuwa vs. Volkan Oezdemir

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    Jimi Manuwa
    Jimi ManuwaJosh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Nathan McCarter

    Volkan Oezdemir has come from obscurity to be one of the Top Five light heavyweights in the world in just under a year. That's impressive. His uprising likely ends on Saturday. Jimi Manuwa will take him out with crisp striking and lay claim to the next title shot.

    Manuwa, TKO, Rd. 1


    Craig Amos

    Oezdemir has earned the opportunity to make a splash, so it's good to see him in this fight. But deserving the opportunity and cashing in on it are two different things. Despite the good results, I haven't been blown away by Oezdemir and feel that he's a bit in over his head against Manuwa. Consequently, I'm not expecting the bout to last long or be very competitive. 

    Manuwa, KO, Rd. 1


    Steven Rondina

    I'm right there with the rest of you. There's clearly something there with Oezdemir, but Manuwa has been good enough for long enough that I'm not going to pick him to lose to a guy with just two UFC fights on his record.

    Manuwa, TKO, Rd. 3


    Scott Harris

    It's a clean sweep. This will be a kickboxing match under MMA rules, and Oezdemir and his kicks won't be able to stop the hard-punching Manuwa from having his way. 

    Manuwa, TKO, Rd. 2

Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone

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    Robbie Lawler (left) and Donald Cerrone
    Robbie Lawler (left) and Donald CerroneJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images


    It seems as if everyone is extremely excited for this fight, but I'm coming up short—in part because of the stylistic matchup. We have seen Cerrone struggle in these kinds of fights. We don't have to go back too far to review that information either. The pressure and overall power striking of Lawler would seem to give Cerrone a lot of problems.

    But I'm still not completely sold on Lawler in 2017. He hasn't fought since losing the title in July 2016, and he has been in a lot of wars over the years. What's left in the tank? Ultimately, I think enough to rip Cerrone's body and maul him against the cage with a fight-ending flurry.

    Lawler, TKO, Rd. 1    



    Lawler has been in so many wars over the past several years that after he was finally knocked out, one has to wonder whether it'll kick off a trend. Cerrone is also coming off a loss, but that's only because he was getting close to a title shot, and that's sort of his thing. The pick here is that Cerrone either completes a takedown or a knockdown and pounces on the former champion to secure the finish.

    Cerrone, submission, Rd. 2



    As Nathan mentioned, Cerrone is a tailor-made opponent for the former champion. Unless Lawler has physically broken down in a big way since his fight with [Carlos] Condit, this is his to lose. Granted, there's a strong chance that has happened...but I'm hoping for the best.

    Lawler, unanimous decision



    This is a battle of range. Cerrone will want to keep it on the perimeter; Lawler will try to get inside. I think the former champion will have his way, particularly since he has the better track record in big fights like this one.

    Lawler, TKO, Rd. 3

Cyborg Justino vs. Tonya Evinger

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    Cyborg Justino
    Cyborg JustinoJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images


    Evinger is as tough and game as anyone in the sport. Too bad she's a bantamweight without big power. Cyborg will maul her like every other bantamweight she has faced at featherweight. This isn't a real division. It's Cyborg and a bunch of people the UFC will throw at her because she's fun to watch. Let's get this sideshow over so we can watch Evinger back at 135 in the UFC later this year.

    Justino, TKO, Rd. 1



    The UFC is having difficulty offering the Brazilian any legitimate challenge, and while Evinger represents an earnest effort on the company's part, it comes up well short. She might be able to tough her way through a round or two, but the end will eventually come, and the result will never really be in question.

    Justino, TKO, Rd. 2



    I was actually very tempted to choose Evinger here. She's a legitimate top-five bantamweight in my book, the toughest opponent of Cyborg's career by a country mile and the type to turn things up another notch now that she's in the UFC. Alas, then my head got the better of my heart. Cyborg is still Cyborg and should be the favorite over any opponent.

    Justino, TKO, Rd. 3



    Look at Rondina. "I was actually very tempted to choose Evinger here." LOL, no you weren't. She's going to get stomped. Good on her for stepping up to take the fight—in a way, she has already won just by making it here. Her toughness is her calling card, and that's what earned her this spot. But it's not going to stop the beatdown. Finally, finally, Cyborg is a UFC champion.

    Justino, TKO, Rd. 1

Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia

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    Tyron Woodley (left) and Demian Maia
    Tyron Woodley (left) and Demian MaiaKevork Djansezian/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images


    The streak of first-round finishes won't continue in the co-main event. It could. Tyron Woodley has that sort of power, but it's just not likely. Unfortunately for fans, there is a distinct possibility this fight gets very boring. Woodley gets cautious against grapplers. His fight with Jake Shields was terrible in terms of excitement. That could be replicated as he'll avoid Demian Maia's clinch game, and Maia has his own history of trepidation too.

    Any grappling we get will be fun to watch. I just don't think we'll see a lot of it. Woodley's too good of a wrestler to play that game, and as such, he'll use his striking advantage to land a few strikes here and there and win rounds. A five-round, low-output fight is on deck.

    Woodley, unanimous decision



    It warms my heart to see Maia finally getting a second crack at UFC gold. Of course, the matchup isn't exactly an ideal one for him. Woodley holds a massive edge on the feet and is also the better wrestler, even if Maia has found success latching onto and dragging down opponents of all grappling skill levels. Eventually, Maia's relentless pursuit of the takedown will wear on him and leave him vulnerable to Woodley's immense power.

    Woodley, KO, Rd. 3



    I think the general willingness to say that Maia has no chance isn't accurate, because Maia is crafty unlike anyone we've ever seen. Still, I'm not going to pretend that this is anything other than Woodley's fight to lose. 

    Woodley, unanimous decision



    Woodley won't want to take this to the ground because that would be handing his opponent his greatest advantage. Instead, he'll try to wall-and-stall along the fence. But guess what. Maia is a master of the back-take, and this time he'll do it vertically. Maia gets a backpack rear-naked choke and sets the crowd on fire.

    Maia, submission, Rd. 4

Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier

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    Jon Jones
    Jon JonesJeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images


    I love the story of this rivalry, but the actual matchup doesn't have me wavering between the two. It's Jon Jones. All day, every day. 

    Jones won the first encounter with relative ease. Has anything changed that much since then? No. Cormier is older and slower, while Jones is still in his athletic prime. That doesn't bode well for a back-and-forth epic. Expect Jones to dominate more than the first fight and reclaim the title he never lost.

    Jones, TKO, Rd. 2



    Cormier has a chance here. The last time Jones came off a lengthy layoff he was hesitant and cautious. If he spends a couple of rounds settling in against the current champion, he'll have little margin for error. But of course, Jones is perhaps the single greatest talent to ever set foot in the Octagon. This is his fight to lose, and my expectation is that he won't.

    Jones, unanimous decision



    I'm actually a little bit unnerved by Jones' mean streak entering this fight. At his best, Jones dispatched all comers with a casual indifference. Is this newfound grumpiness with Cormier (and MMA Fighting's Luke Thomas) adding some extra heat to his already amazing skill set? Or his trying to find a substitute for something that's gone after three rough years? We'll see, but there's only one right way to pick a Jones fight at the moment.

    Jones, unanimous decision



    Cormier's great strength is the clinch game, but that's not something Jones is afraid of. Expect hellacious knee strikes from Jones if they have extended clinch time. Cormier's real path to victory is probably to take Jones down and hold him on his back. But the next person to do that to Jones will be the first. Jones' reach and gas tank will carry the day.

    Jones, unanimous decision