Breakthrough Stars and Performances from UFC 187

The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s Memorial Day weekend card was one for the ages. UFC 187 was undoubtedly one of the best pay-per-view cards in recent memory. There were a few upsets, a new champion being crowned, a current champion cementing his reign, and the potential round of the year at the MGM Grand Arena on Saturday. There were a lot of big names on the 187 card, some spectacular performances and despite the name recognition, a few name-making efforts. So with the dust settled, let’s take a look who stood head and shoulders above the rest at UFC 187.

Breakthrough Stars and Performances from UFC 187

BREAKTHROUGH

ANDREI ARLOVSKI

There is no ifs or buts about it, former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski put on the best performances of his career, and easily shined the brightest out of any athlete that fought on Saturday. If you didn’t see or hear about what happened on Saturday, I know what you’re thinking, “Andrei Arlovski? The guy who had been knocked out countless times over the past few years? The same Andrei Arlovski who probably should’ve lost to Brendan Schaub last year? That Andrei Arlovski?!” Yes, that Andrei Arlovski. He had Travis Browne’s number from the get go.

Browne seemed to want to be technical and utilize his reach against Arlovski, but he was having none of it. Arlovski consistently beat Browne to the punch and less than 90 seconds into the bout Arlovski had already staggered Browne. Arlovski was relentless, he never let Browne off the hook, and even after getting dropped by a wild right hand from Browne, he got right back up and attacked until the referee halted the action with a few seconds left in the first round.

It is the year 2015, and it’s very possible that 36 year old Andrei Arlovski is one fight away from a title shot. The ridiculous and tumultuous nature of the heavyweight division is ever present. In the absence of heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, the division has really been panning out lately. Arlovski now has three wins in a row inside the UFC, with his last two wins by first round knockout. Arlovski and Browne composed the almost certain shoe-in, for round of the year, and probably one of the most entertaining rounds in heavyweight MMA history.

A future pairing between Andrei Arlovski and Stipe Miocic seems perfect. Arlovski has reestablished his aggression and formidable striking, while Miocic’s boxing, wrestling and cardio seems like an ever-growing problem for any heavyweight on the roster. There’s no clearer number one contender’s match in the UFC right now, and with Cain Velasquez scheduled to defend his belt in a few weeks against Fabricio Werdum, the time seems better than ever to match up these two top contenders.

 

STARS

DANIEL CORMIER

Daniel Cormier achieved redemption Saturday night. The utter shame and disappointment that Cormier expressed after his losing effort to then champion Jon Jones was painful to watch. Seeing Anthony Johnson place the belt on Cormier’s waist, even after being submitted by him, was a great moment to behold. The heart and grit that Cormier displayed was outstanding, he truly had to earn that title. Taking a full power overhand right and head kicks by, possibly the biggest power hitter in the game, is not a task anyone is lining up for. Yet, Cormier took his shots and still managed to impose his gameplan over three rounds to finish the dangerous Blackzilian.

Cormier doesn’t seem to be bothered by the spotlight, which is a good thing, given the slightly diminished interest the light heavyweight division will undoubtedly suffer in Jon Jones absence. All signs are looking to point that Cormier can hold onto the strap for some time, and although some of his recent altercations with fellow fighters (see my recent article regarding DC & Bader HERE) are giving some fans some rounds of ammunition to criticize the new champion, it is important that he keeps the attention and keeps winning in order to keep that rematch with Jones all the more engaging and feasible.

 

DONALD CERRONE

It is unfortunate that Khabib Nurmagomedov wasn’t able to fight Donald Cerrone last Saturday, because aside from serious title implications, it was a super interesting stylistic matchup. Nevertheless, Cerrone soldiered on and fought another opponent just as he always does.

John Makdessi stepped up on a few weeks notice to face one of the deadliest sharks in the 155 pound fish tank, and as many predicted, the outcome didn’t play out in his favor. Makdessi hung tough and even landed a few good shots of his own, but Cowboy’s elite Muay Thai was simply too much for the smaller and outmatched Canadian. Cowboy’s striking arsenal was on full display Saturday night, all eight limbs were used with ferocious proficiency, never did Cerrone let Makdessi get in any sort of comfortable rhythm, and after a dominant round and a half, Cerrone threw a brutal and accurate left high kick that broke Makdessi’s jaw, giving Donald the win by TKO.

So now, what should Cowboy do? Wait. Yes, for once, Cowboy needs to wait. Lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos is on the mend after his last fight, but it seems he might return in a timely fashion. There are no clear cut challengers for the title at this moment outside of Cowboy, so let the man get a little rest after winning eight straight in the Octagon, and fight Dos Anjos for the title later on this year.

 

PERFORMANCES

DONG HYUN KIM

Dong Hyun Kim was in a strange position Saturday night. In his last three fights, he was putting on wild entertaining fights and knocking people senseless, but in his last fight he paid dearly for his wreckless approach when Tyron Woodley capitalized and TKO’d him in embarrassing fashion. Kim had a lot to prove and came through against Josh Burkman.

Burkman is a notoriously tough, well-rounded veteran and he gave Kim a lot of trouble in the beginning portions of the rounds, but Kim got the tap in the third round with an arm triangle choke. Kim got a much needed win and can be back in the mix with a few more victories down the road. A fight with the winner of Jake Ellenberger/Stephen Thompson could be a great matchup for the Seoul card later this year.

 

ISLAM MAKHACHEV

Those boys from the Caucasus mountains sure know how to throw grown men around a cage don’t they? Islam Makhachev made his promotional debut Saturday and he put on a solid performance against Leo Kuntz. Makhachev had some buzz as a prospect going into UFC 187 and he delivered.

Makhachev’s grappling is of the upper echelon, which doesn’t come as a surprise when you train alongside Khabib Nurmagomedov. Makhachev had his way with Kuntz, never once was he in trouble, and he asserted his dominance in the second round by securing a picture perfect rear naked choke and improving his record to 12-0. If you didn’t catch the early prelims or the replay after the main event, go on UFC Fight Pass and watch it, Islam Makhachev is a lightweight to watch out for.

 

Main Photo:┬áLAS VEGAS, NV – MAY 23: (R-L) Andrei Arlovski punches Travis Browne in their heavyweight bout during the UFC 187 event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 23, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)


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