While not overflowing with star power, UFC 210, top to bottom, is one of the best-matched pay-per-views in recent memory.
Throughout the preliminary and main cards, exciting prospects have been booked opposite appropriate, stiff competition, while several veteran elites will partake in pivotal swing bouts, which could drastically alter the courses of their careers, to say nothing of the incredible light heavyweight championship bout which sits atop it all.
With so many great bouts to cover, let's dive right into the main card:
Will Brooks vs. Charles Oliveira
Oliveira is a dangerous opponent for a fighter like #WillBrooks. Brooks’ style is defined by his consistency, his ability to win the second-by-second exchanges in any given phase, and his superb athleticism.
Opponents who rely on dynamism over consistency have given him problems in the past; his first loss, a KO to Saad Awad at #Bellator 91, came by way of an opportunistic early blitz on a then-green Brooks, while his second seemed attributable to some combination of size, dynamism, and an untimely injury. This second loss, to Alex Oliveira in his most recent showing, was troubling, but perhaps says little of #CharlesOliveira's chances.
The Brazilian #BJJ specialist is athletic, quick, explosive, and highly opportunistic. However, even against “Cowboy” Oliveira, Brooks’ process was able to, for extended periods, neutralize the size and strength advantages of “Cowboy”, who is an athlete so gifted that he made Gilbert Burns look completely average.
With that in mind, it’s difficult to envision many scenarios where “Do Bronx” can force Brooks into fight-altering situations. On the feet, Oliveira’s knees and trips from the clinch are troubling, but Brooks simply has more options, and too many ways to avoid Oliveira’s opportunism, whether it be through ranged striking, clinch grappling or even top control.
Against Marcin Held, a similarly dynamic submission threat, Brooks was able to largely neutralize the Pole’s vaunted guard . While some phases are more dangerous for him than others, he will likely win in whatever phase he chooses to engage Oliveira.
Thiago Alves vs. Patrick Cote
Alves, perhaps the sharper of the two, possesses punishing low kicks and rock-solid Muay Thai fundamentals, along with a veteran’s sense for defense and combinations.
Cote, meanwhile, has historically been one of the most iron-chinned fighters in the promotion’s history, a quality he has come to rely on less and less as his durability diminishes. In recent years, Cote has shown an increased willingness to lean on his understated wrestling game, along with a more safety-first counter punching style which allows him to capitalize on his wealth of knowledge and experience in the pocket, without necessarily absorbing the quantities of damage which he has been prone to in the past.
This fight is one of the most difficult to predict on the main card, but gut feeling says that Cote wins through pace and tactical superiority.
Cynthia Calvillo vs. Pearl Gonzalez
Team Alpha Male’s #CynthiaCalvillo is one of the most highly touted strawweight prospects in the sport today. Despite a short professional career beginning in August of 2016, she had a successful amateur career, even notching a notable win over the also-highly regarded Aspen Ladd.
After just three professional fights, she was signed to the UFC, and finished Amanda Cooper in the first round in her debut. Her grappling game is suffocating, aggressive, and fearless. She fights with the mean streak typical of an Alpha Male product, and possesses the grappling chops to trouble a large portion of the strawweight roster.
Pearl Gonzalez is a talented striker with good footwork who has a knack for choosing favorable opportunities to engage, especially behind her jab. 6-1 in her pro career, she too is a developing fighter, though her amateur career spans even further back, all the way to 2008. At 30, she reaps the benefits of extended amateur experience, and enters her UFC debut with far more technical refinement than the average debutant with seven pro fights.
How Gonzalez handles suffocating grapplers is unknown, but there’s little reason to think that she can keep the fight standing, or that she will be able to find any success with her guard game.
*Editors Note: At time of publication, the bout between Cynthia Calvillo and Pearl Gonzalez remains in limbo. Initially cancelled due to a NYSAC bylaw regarding Gonzalez breast augmentation, it remains unclear if this strawweight bout will be sanctioned for UFC 210.
Chris Weidman vs. Gegard Mousasi
#GegardMousasi is technically sharper in several areas, especially on the feet, and grapples with immense finesse. While his wrestling is incomparable to Weidman’s, his remarkably slick range-finding jab and penchant for lulling opponents into inactivity have carried him to great success against takedown specialists in the past.
Inactivity is Mousasi’s bane, however, and #ChrisWeidman has made a career out of beating elite opposition through sheer pressure and work rate.
“The All-American” is fearless in the pocket, overwhelming on the mat, and relentless in both. While a kickboxing match between the two would likely result in a clinical performance for Mousasi, few fighters in MMA history leverage the threat of their grappling into striking success as well as Weidman does.
His work on the mat is prodigious, and any prolonged grappling exchange is likely to favor him greatly.
Relative passivity in the Romero fight notwithstanding, there are few reasons to pick against him. Weidman’s victory in a gritty, tactical fight seems to be the most likely outcome.
Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson
The betting line for this fight is pretty much identical to the closing line of their first bout, with #AnthonyJohnson once again being marginally favored to dethrone the light heavyweight champion.
This, on some level, makes sense; #DanielCormier didn’t really neutralize Johnson’s explosive power striking, he merely survived it, and came perilously close to succumbing to it all the same.
The champion’s process is undoubtedly more solid, and he should find success winning individual rounds down the stretch, assuming he can survive the early barrage.
In a KO-or-bust fight, it can be tempting to sum up the challenger’s prospects as a “puncher’s chance,” but this is quite a weighted term. A “puncher’s chance” can sound like an outside possibility, whereas the idea of any given opponent falling early to Johnson’s Herculean power is almost always the most likely outcome, and could be here.
Intangibles seem to be on Johnson’s side; age and wear are concerns for the champion, and even a slight dip in athletic ability would drastically affect his chances of victory. However, both men are, relative to two years ago, very similar. Each has added nuance and detail to their games with time, but neither is markedly different.
With that in mind, it feels likely that the Cormier we know survives the early barrage and beats Johnson down the stretch, once again.
UFC 210 Fight Card:
- Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson
- Chris Weidman vs. Gegard Mousasi
- Cynthia Calvillo vs. Pearl Gonzalez*
- Patrick Cote vs. Thiago Alves
- Will Brooks vs. Charles Oliveira
- Myles Jury vs. Mike de la Torre
- Kamaru Usman vs. Sean Strickland
- Shane Burgos vs. Charles Rosa
- Patrick Cummins vs. Jan Blachowicz
- Gregor Gillespie vs. Andrew Holbrook
- Josh Emmett vs. Desmond Green
- Katlyn Chookagian vs. Irene Aldana
- Jenel Lausa vs. Magomed Bibulatov