While the main event of UFC 210 will see Daniel Cormier put his light heavyweight title on the line against Anthony Johnson, the co-main event of the evening between Chris Weidman and Gegard Mousasi could well be the most intriguing matchup on the card. On the back of two devastating defeats, the former middleweight champion will make his return to the Octagon against Mousasi, who is on a four-fight winning run that came in a sensational 2016. The stacked bill will be held in Buffalo, New York, on April 8.
Having been top of the MMA world as the middleweight champion in the middle of 2015, boasting a 13-0 record, including his memorable knockout win over Anderson Silva as well as title defenses against UFC legends Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort, it's been a tough 14 months or so for Weidman. Unbeaten in 13 fights and with a string of iconic names on his CV, there were some who thought "The All American" would be the middleweight champion for a long time.
That wasn't to be, though, and the New Yorker lost his belt in a very tough loss to Luke Rockhold at UFC 194, with the referee finally stepping in to stop the action in the fourth round after Weidman had sustained a comprehensive beating. It didn't get any better for the 32-year old when he returned to action 11 months later against Yoel Romero, suffering a stunning flying knee knockout defeat to the explosive Cuban. Desperately needing a win to stay in the title mix, Weidman couldn't really have asked for a tougher match-up, facing aGegard Mousasi with betting odds of around 4/5 of handing the American a third straight defeat.
A multiple-time champion in a host of organizations around the world, it is only now that Gegard Mousasi has managed to put himself on the verge of a title shot in the UFC. A perennial contender during his first three years under the sport's biggest banner, the Netherlands native has put himself right in the middleweight title picture on the back of a 2016 in which he reeled off four wins, his three most recent coming by way of knockout, including against former title contender Vitor Belfort.
The number-five ranked middleweight is certainly not the fighter Weidman would have chosen if he was looking for a tune-up before earning his way back to a title shot. Coming off two very tough losses, the American has taken what could well be the most difficult option currently available to him. While a win against a surging Mousasi would go some way to putting 2016 firmly behind him, a third straight defeat would cast a huge shadow over Weidman's future in the sport.
For Mousasi, though, after such a long and distinguished career, a win over a former champion would do his case for earning a title shot absolutely no harm at all. An impressive win could probably be enough, in the current climate, to even put him ahead of some of those fighters currently higher than him in the rankings.
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