With UFC 190 just around the corner, let's take a look at some of the toughest champions in the Octagon and see which challengers would make the best UFC picks.
Thank you, Dana White, for filling up these long summer months with plenty of UFC action. This Saturday's UFC 190 card (10:00 p.m. ET) in Rio de Janeiro is just the latest in a long string of events, giving us the chance to see the promotion's top fighters in action. And while Ronda Rousey might be a “division killer” as the Women's Bantamweight champion, the other weight classes have proven to be very competitive indeed. Let's look at some potential upcoming fights that should give the champs all they can handle – and possibly more.
Light Heavyweight: Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones
This is an easy one. Jones (–170) defeated Cormier by unanimous decision back in January, only to be stripped of the title in April after a hit-and-run incident. Cormier fought well enough to go the distance with Jones and earn a performance bonus, but Jones was the better man, and we suspect it'll happen again – if Cormier can get past Alexander Gustafsson (+257) at UFC 192.
Middleweight: Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold
Weidman (12-0 lifetime) has put a stranglehold on the Middleweight division, ending Anderson Silva's reign and proving his doubters wrong with victories over Lyoto Machida (+146) and Vitor Belfort (+270). Rockhold (14-2 lifetime) is a former Strikeforce champion and is priced at +143 for a potential title challenge. We'd pay good money to see that fight.
Welterweight: Robbie Lawler vs. Johny Hendricks
Lawler and Hendricks have already beat each other for the (vacant) title; Hendricks (–362) did the honors first at UFC 171, while Lawler (+165) returned the favor at UFC 181. We'd probably add Hendricks to our UFC picks for the rubber match, but Lawler has been impressive in his recent rise to the top.
Lightweight: Rafael dos Anjos vs. Donald Cerrone
Others might prefer to see Anthony Pettis get his shot at redemption, but as far as we're concerned, it's been there, done that. Cerrone has mowed down eight straight opponents in just 18 months since losing a unanimous decision to dos Anjos (–115) that Cerrone may have won if it had gone five rounds. We think Cowboy deserves his rematch first.
Featherweight: Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo
Another easy one here. This was the fight we were supposed to see earlier this month at UFC 189, but Aldo came up with a badly bruised rib, and McGregor (–210) took down Chad Mendes for the Interim title instead. Aldo has been made a +158 underdog on the UFC odds board for this expected unification bout; he was a –117 favorite over McGregor just before the injury rumors hit the Interwebs. Assuming both fighters are healthy, it should be a great matchup, and we're hoping it'll be at Croke Park in Dublin in front of 80,000 people. Fingers crossed.