There was a time when Light Heavyweights ruled the Octagon. The UFC built its empire on names like Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Then Jon “Bones” Jones came along and transcended them all, holding the title for almost five years before his lifestyle choices caught up to him. Things just haven’t been the same since.

It would help if the title got defended every once in a while. Daniel Cormier won the vacant strap in May 2015 when he made Anthony “Rumble” Johnson tap out to a rear-naked choke in the third round; thanks to a combination of injuries and the long-running Jones soap opera, Cormier has only put the belt on the line once since then. He’ll do it again at UFC 210 on April 8, when he gives Johnson another crack at the title in Buffalo. And it should be a hell of a fight with both men priced at –115 to win.

Choke on This

More was expected of Johnson (22-5 lifetime, 15-3 UFC) in their first encounter. He opened as the +135 underdog, but the betting public jumped on his back and made him the –130 favorite by fight night, impressed by Johnson’s fearsome presence and devastating knockout power. Cormier (18-1 lifetime, 7-1 UFC), on the other hand, was seen as vulnerable after suffering his first career loss against Jones at UFC 182.

Johnson had his moments. He may have won the first round after knocking Cormier down early, but the champion used his Olympic wrestling skills to take Johnson down in the second and deliver a nasty beating. Then Cormier sunk his hooks into Johnson during the third round, secured the choke, and won the title – along with Performance of the Night honours.


Young Man Rumble

Once again, the betting market is warming up to Johnson. He opened as a +110 underdog for the rematch; three straight knockouts over Jimi Manuwa (+415), Ryan Bader (+185) and Glover Teixeira (+160) have rehabilitated Johnson’s image in the eyes of his many supporters. Cormier has only fought twice in that span, beating Alexander Gustafsson (+155) by split decision, then outlasting Anderson Silva (+250) in a hastily-arranged non-title match at UFC 200 that was supposed to be a marquee main-event fight with Jones.

Maybe Johnson will get it right this time. Cormier just turned 38 on Monday, two weeks after Johnson celebrated his 33rd birthday. Johnson is also three inches taller at 6-foot-2 with a six-inch reach advantage. But if their second fight turns into a chess match, as often happens in these situations, the end result will probably stay the same.


*Odds as of March 24,2017