UFC 192 MATCHUPS
A breakdown of the fights on the main card of UFC 192 today in Houston:
Daniel Cormier (15-1) vs. Alexander Gustafsson (16-3)
* CLASS: For Cormier’s light heavyweight title
* LINE: Cormier minus-300
* STORYLINE: Cormier rarely has been tested in his career outside of his loss to former champion Jon Jones. Gustafsson gave Jones his stiffest challenge, but Cormier has mocked Gustafsson that he is most well-known for that fight, which he lost. While Gustafsson has had some great moments in the cage, it has largely come against inferior competition. Cormier is far from that. The two-time Olympic wrestler bounced back from the loss to Jones to overpower Anthony Johnson in May to take the title Jones vacated when he was suspended indefinitely from the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The marketing for the fight has highlighted Gustafsson’s 7-inch reach advantage. That could favor him in the standup. Cormier isn’t likely to let the fight take place at distance for long, though. He will look to close the gap and push Gustafsson against the cage and down to the mat. It will not be a fun fight for Gustafsson if the action takes place where Cormier wants. Watch for the champion to take him down and finish with ground-and-pound.
* PICK: Cormier by third-round knockout
Ryan Bader (20-4) vs. Rashad Evans (24-3-1)
* CLASS: Light heavyweight
* LINE: Evans minus-140
* STORYLINE: Evans has been out of action for almost two years after undergoing two knee surgeries. The 36-year-old former champion admits questioning his future as he tried to work his way back to health. He also has been emotional about his comeback. That could be a bad sign for how he will perform once the bell rings tonight. But the line is quite low for someone who has accomplished as much as Evans has in the sport. While Bader has shown significant improvement in winning his past four fights, Evans is just better.
* PICK: Evans by decision
Shawn Jordan (18-6) vs. Ruslan Magomedov (13-1)
* CLASS: Heavyweight
* LINE: Magomedov minus-190
* STORYLINE: Jordan is far more athletic than his appearance would suggest. A former football player at Louisiana State, he can pull off spectacular maneuvers inside the octagon from seemingly out of nowhere. The problem lies in his preference for getting into slugfests. Jordan has had trouble dealing with more fundamentally sound opponents. Magomedov fits that description. He will look to stay within himself and keep the fight at his preferred pace. The one question about Magomedov will be how he deals with a step up in competition. He has looked solid against inferior opponents, but Jordan has talent. This is a good test for just how good the Dagestani heavyweight can be in the UFC.
* PICK: Magomedov by decision
Jessica Eye (11-3, 1 No Contest) vs. Julianna Pena (7-2)
* CLASS: Women’s bantamweight
* LINE: Pena minus-250
* STORYLINE: Pena is probably the most exciting prospect in the 135-pound women’s division. After a terrific run through “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show, Pena suffered a severe leg injury that was feared to be career-threatening. She missed 18 months, then answered any questions with a dominant win over Milana Dudieva in April. Pena is aggressive, strong and fast. Eye is a talented striker, but Pena should be able to physically overwhelm her. She is not ready for a Ronda Rousey matchup, but Pena will make a statement tonight.
* PICK: Pena by second-round submission
Joseph Benavidez (22-4) vs. Ali Bagautinov (13-3)
• CLASS: Flyweight
• LINE: Benavidez minus-340
• STORYLINE: This fight was supposed to headline the preliminary card but was moved to the pay-per-view broadcast when a welterweight fight between Johny Hendricks and Tyron Woodley was canceled Friday because of weight-cutting issues that landed Hendricks in the hospital. There is a reason this fight was originally slated to serve as the lead-in to the pay per view. It should be a fun fight that could have attracted last-minute buyers. Benavidez has been dominant against everyone in the division not named Demetrious Johnson. He has gone 10-2 in his past 12 fights, with both losses coming to Johnson, the UFC flyweight champion. Bagautinov had his own 11-fight winning streak snapped by Johnson in June. Tonight marks his return from a doping suspension for EPO after that loss. This line probably should be closer, and there is some value on Bagautinov, but Benavidez usually finds a way to win.
• PICK: Benavidez by decision
ADAM HILL/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL