UFC 187 on May 23rd during Memorial Day Weekend is set to be one of the biggest events of the year with two major title fights announced for the main card on pay-per-view.
Headlining the show will be light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones next title defense against Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson, while middleweight champ Chris Weidman finally takes on Vitor Belfort in the co-main event.
Jones is coming off a big win against his bitter rival Daniel Cormier at UFC 182 at the star of the year. His victory celebrations quickly turned sour however when it emerged that ‘Bones’ had tested positive for cocaine during an out-of-competition drug test just weeks before the fight.
The drug wasn’t on the banned list for out-of-competition testing however and so Jones keeps his victory and retains his unblemished record of wins as champion, though his reputation has certainly taken a beating as a result of this situation.
In Johnson he faces one of the heaviest hitters in the sport who surprisingly easily brushed aside Alexander Gustafsson in a no.1 contender fight in front of 27,000 fans in Sweden last month by way of first round TKO to earn his title shot.
It’s all the more remarkable due to the fact that just a few years ago ‘Rumble’ was fighting in the UFC at 170lbs without ever really appearing in the title picture. His struggles to make weight at welterweight eventually led to him being cut from the promotion, but after reinventing himself two weight classes above that – somehow managing to retain every bit of his knockout power along the way – he’s now become a genuine threat to Jones title.
Chris Weidman’s fight with Vitor Belfort has been an on-again, off-again affair, with the bout originally set as the headliner for UFC 173 on Memorial Day weekend last year, but it was scrapped due to a ban on Testosterone Replacement Therapy usage by the Nevada State Athletic Commission which led to Belfort pulling out.
The fight was eventually rescheduled for UFC 181 in December, but this time it was Weidman who called the fight off due to a broken hand. Again the fight was pushed back to UFC 184 in February, and again it was cancelled due to Weidman suffering another injury.
Hopefully it goes ahead without another hitch this time, but at least the UFC have the security of having another major fight on the card if it does happen to fall through for a fourth time.
Prior to his injury setbacks Weidman had been in impressive form, defeating Anderson Silva twice and then earning a unanimous decision victory against Lyoto Machida in July of last year which has helped him reach No.4 in the UFC’s official pound-for-pound rankings at this moment in time.
Belfort has also made a big statement in the division leaving a trail of destruction in his path during a three-fight winning streak in which he took out big name opponents in Dan Henderson, Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold via head kicks.
However, his use of TRT during that remarkable run has taken some of the sheen off those wins in some people’s eyes, and since he’s no longer able to use that and will have been out of action for 18 months and turned 38 years of age by the time his fight with Weidman eventually happens, there’s big questions about how he’ll perform on the night.