UFC 187 is perhaps the most stacked lineup of fights we've seen thus far in 2015, even with the loss of Jon Jones and Khabib Nurmagomedov from the card. In the main event is a light heavyweight title fight between Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson for the belt since stripped from Jones, and the co-main features middleweight champion Chris Weidman against Vitor Belfort. Rounding out the main card are lightweights Donald Cerrone/John Makdessi, heavyweights Andrei Arlovski/Travis Browne, and flyweights Joseph Benavidez/John Moraga.
Before we get to the main card, let's look at the seven-fight preliminary card, where a big flyweight fight could decide the next title contender to fight Demetrious Johnson. The UFC 187 preliminary card is televised live at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT on Fox Sports 1, with Fight Pass prelims airing at 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT.
It's been nearly a full year since Dodson last competed, with a devastating knee injury forcing him out of action following a TKO over John Moraga last June. Dodson is one of the hardest punchers in all of MMA and certainly the most powerful at flyweight. He knocked Demetrious Johnson down twice in their title fight (but went on to lose a decision), and also holds a bantamweight finish over current champion T.J. Dillashaw. A win likely gets him a rematch vs. Mighty Mouse.
"Fun Size" went straight to the UFC via capturing the RFA flyweight title, and he wasted no time picking up impressive decisions over Scott Jorgensen and Josh Sampo. Makovsky was then booked against BJJ wizard Jussier Formiga, but couldn't get the victory. Back to the drawing board after a streak-busting loss, Makovsky soundly outgrappled Tim Elliott to get back on track.
"Stun Gun" has had a major shift in style in recent years. Once big on using his judo and powerful top control, the South Korean still uses those skills but is also content with getting into reckless striking battles. His biggest highlights are a KO over Erick Silva and a spinning elbow flattening of John Hathaway. With title contention in Kim's sights, his ill-fated spinning attack on Tyron Woodley instead resulted in a quick TKO loss.
Burkman was cut from the UFC in 2008, but he made big waves in World Series of Fighting after he beat Gerald Harris, Aaron Simpson, and most famously Jon Fitch. While Burkman lost the WSOF welterweight title to Steve Carl, he rebounded with a KO over veteran Tyler Stinson before re-signing with the UFC in late 2014. He made his return at UFC 182 vs. Hector Lombard and lost a decision, but the result was overturned to a no contest when Lombard failed his drug test.
Hall was the heavily hyped product out of TUF 17, particularly with his flashy style and bone-crushing, life-altering knockouts. This came to a massive halt when Kelvin Gastelum beat him in the finale, and then John Howard also won a split decision over him. Uriah has responded with three wins in a row, including retiring Chris Leben, beating Thiago Santos, and stopping Ron Stallings.
Brazil's Natal has had a series of ups and downs throughout his UFC tenure. He's currently on one of his ups through a controversial decision over Chris Camozzi and then a unanimous decision against England's Tom Watson. The Watson performance was one of Natal's finer showings, but he nevertheless enters this match against Hall as the underdog.
Namajunas gained fans on TUF 20 by tearing through her competition on the show and submitting all three of her opponents en route to a title fight with Carla Esparza. Her exciting style and finishing abilities actually made her the betting favorite over the more experienced Esparza, who soundly defeated her and choked her out in the 3rd round of the inaugural UFC SW championship bout. The 22-year-old is looking for her first win inside the Octagon and an end to her two-fight pro losing streak.
Ansaroff was signed by the UFC last year independent of their roster building through TUF. The 29-year-old Floridian had a singular appearance in Invicta in December 2013. Nina made her UFC debut vs. Julianna Lima at UFC Uberlandia in Brazil last November, but underwhelmed and lost a decision. She now finds herself in a must-win against a talented prospect, and she's not helped matters by missing weight.
Pyle is known to play spoiler against prospects and general betting favorites, although this wasn't the case in his last fight against Jordan Mein. The Canadian ripped Pyle to shreds and forced a quick KO. All things considered, the 39-year-old is 5-2 in his last 7, and has generally only lost to established top-tier talents. He's even got a win over Rick Story and after a long career mostly winning by submission, Pyle has recorded a KO/TKO in 4 of his last 5 victories.
Covington is replacing the injured Sean Spencer on short notice, but even with the rushed nature of this fight he's still the odds-on favorite to win. The undefeated prospect has stoppage wins over Anying Wang and Wagner Silva inside the Octagon but Pyle is a major step up in competition. Colby was a standout wrestler in college and it's translated well in his MMA career, and a win over Pyle would legitimize him as one to watch in the near future.
Islam Makhachev (11-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Leo Kuntz (17-1-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) - Welterweights
Makhachev is another Dagestani talent trying to make big waves on American shores. The 23-year-old is unbeaten in his professional career with 5 of his wins coming by submission. Makhachev is a keen grappler with well-rounded skills and is trained by the father of UFC lightweight stalwart Khabib Nurmagomedov. He is certainly worth your time tonight.
Kuntz's sole UFC "appearance" was the ill-fated TUF 16 season, where he was knocked out in the entry round in just 47 seconds by Sam Alvey. Since then, Kuntz has fought three times and has won all of them, but injuries have prevented him from making his official UFC debut for more than a year.
Justin Scoggins (9-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC) vs. Josh Sampo (11-4 MMA, 1-2 UFC) - Flyweights
Scoggins raised eyebrows right away with his 1st round TKO over Richie Vaculik in Australia. "Tank" followed up the stoppage with a decision win over veteran Will Campuzano, and was given a boost in opponent in Dustin Ortiz last July. It was an entertaining fight but ultimately Scoggins could not get the decision on the scorecards. He kept his active schedule going and faced former title challenger John Moraga, and after early success he wound up losing via 2nd round guillotine.
Sampo has been deeply disappointing in his last two UFC fights. After scoring a submission win in his debut, Sampo was outwrestled and outgrappled by Zach Makovsky, and then dropped and submitted by Patrick Holohan in a moderate upset at UFC Dublin last July. This is no doubt a must-win for the 30-year-old Vegas native, who has a tough test ahead of him in "Tank" Scoggins.