The UFC anchors its summer schedule annually with what is supposed to be an excellent card on the July 4 weekend. That was UFC 213, but that card doesn’t come close to what Saturday night’s UFC 214 offers with three title bouts. The five-fight main card from the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., is expected to begin at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view. Here’s a look at those bouts and their Sports Interaction MMA odds.
Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier
Records: Jones (22-1), Cormier (19-1)
Division: Light heavyweight
UFC Odds: Jones -250, Cormier +185
Prediction: Jones by decision
It’s a rematch between these two for Cormier’s light heavyweight belt. Some believe that Jones is the most gifted MMA fighter in history. When he’s inside the Octagon, it’s something to see. The American won the light heavyweight title in 2011 at the age of 23, then the youngest champ in UFC history. “Bones” still hasn’t lost since – that lone defeat was to Matt Hamill in December 2009 in the finale of the “Ultimate Fighter 10” – but just getting into the Octagon has been a problem. Jones’ last title defense was a unanimous decision win over Cormier in January 2015. However, Jones got into some legal trouble due to a hit-and-run and was stripped of that belt later that year.
Jones and Cormier were to then fight in April 2016, but Cormier pulled out injured — Jones beat fill-in Ovince St. Preux by unanimous decision. Jones-Cormier II was then set for UFC 200 last July, but Jones tested positive for PEDs; he also has a positive cocaine possession in his past. Many in the sport are angry that Jones is being given another title shot so quickly after serving his one-year suspension and following so many transgressions. Cormier, 38, won the interim title later in 2015 and has four victories in a row overall since that loss. He was last in the Octagon in April and took out Anthony Johnson by second-round submission.
Demian Maia vs. Tyron Woodley
Records: Maia (25-6), Woodley (17-3-1)
UFC Odds: Woodley -215, Maia +160
Prediction: Woodley by submission
Woodley puts his welterweight title on the line against the division’s No. 1 contender Maia. Woodley, a 35-year-old American, won the belt with a first-round knockout of Robbie Lawler last July at UFC 201. Woodley has since fought Stephen Thompson twice, to a majority draw last November in a bruising battle and then winning by majority decision in March in a snoozer. Woodley’s last loss? To Canadian Rory MacDonald in June 2014. This is probably the last shot at the title for the Brazilian Maia at age 39. His last loss? To MacDonald in February 2014. Maia has won seven in a row since. Only three of his 25 victories are by KO or TKO.
Tonya Evinger vs. Cris Justino
Records: Evinger (19-5), Justino (17-1)
Division: Women’s featherweight
UFC Odds: Justino -905, Evinger +585
Prediction: Justino by KO/TKO
Now that Ronda Rousey is presumably retired, the most feared female fighter on the planet is “Cyborg” Justino as the Brazilian takes on Evinger for the interim women’s featherweight title. The champion of that division had been Germaine de Randamie, but she refused to defend it against Justino (who has tested positive for PEDs previously) and was stripped of the belt.
Essentially, the UFC created this 145-pound division specifically for “Cyborg,” the former Invicta FC champion who has 15 victories by KO/TKO. The organization hoped that Justino one day would fight Rousey. Evinger, from the USA, makes her UFC debut and is the reigning Invicta FC champion of the 135-pound division. She is taking the place of Megan Anderson, who pulled out for personal reasons.
Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone
Records: Lawler (27-11), Cerrone (32-8)
UFC Odds: Lawler -165, Cerrone +130
Prediction: Lawler by KO/TKO
Third time’s the charm for these U.S. fighters? These two were originally scheduled to fight at UFC 205 but Lawler withdrew. Then it was set for UFC 213, but Cerrone pulled out with an infection. Lawler, ranked third in the division, was part of one of the best UFC fights in the past few years when he beat MacDonald by fifth-round TKO in July 2015. Lawler then got a title shot against Woodley last July but lost by first-round knockout. Lawler hasn’t fought since. Seventh-ranked Cerrone had a four-fight winning streak snapped in January via second-round TKO vs. Jorge Masvidal.
Jimi Manuwa vs. Volkan Oezdemir
Records: Manuwa (17-2), Oezdemir (14-1)
Division: Light heavyweight
UFC Odds: Manuwa -195, Oezdemir +155
Prediction: Oezdemir by KO/TKO
I’m not going to spend much time on this fight because it might not even happen. UFC president Dana White booked Manuwa on this card simply as insurance in case Jones does something silly and can’t fight Cormier. Then Manuwa would move into Jones’ spot. “I’ve said it a million times,” White said back in May. “I’m always worried about Jones. I’m gonna put Manuwa on this card to make sure that in Anaheim we have a fight.”
Manuwa, from England, is ranked third in the division and comes off a first-round knockout win over Corey Anderson in March. Oezdemir, from Switzerland, is 2-0 in the UFC with a first-round KO of highly-regarded Misha Cirkunov in May and a split-decision victory over Ovince St. Preux in February.