Daniel Cormier (C) vs Jon Jones – Light Heavyweight
This is arguably the most exciting rivalry since Liddell and Ortiz’s rivalry way back in the mid 2000s. The first bout between Liddell and Ortiz took place in April 2004 and their rematch didn’t take place until December 2006, 32 months apart. Similar to that it’s been 30 months since Jones and Cormier’s last fight took place. Much like Ortiz back in ’06, most people are writing off Daniel Cormier’s chances of retaining his title, and personally I think they’re right to.
Jon Jones is the youngest champion in UFC history, and that’s for a reason. The reason being he’s extremely good, he’s is widely regarded as the 5th or 6th best UFC fighter of all time, I guess it depends on whether you’re a Randy Couture fan or not. Though he’s thought of as a knockout artist, because of his well placed punches and devastating elbows, only 1 of Jon’s last 9 fights have been stopped for TKO/KO. He’s had 3 stoppages by way of submission (RNC, Standing Guillotine, and Americana), the other 5 have gone the distance and been a unanimous decision in Jones’ favour every time.
Daniel Cormier is probably one of the most hated fighters in the UFC at the moment, when he beat Anthony Johnson he was booed, when he beat Anderson Silva he was booed, even when he and Alexander Gustafsson met in an all-time classic matchup in 2015 the crowd was mixed between boos and cheers when DC’s hand was raised. There’s a few reasons why DC is not in the favour of the public, some people don’t like him because they don’t think he’s the real champion, because he’s never beat Jon Jones. Some don’t like him because of the ‘towel incident’ at UFC 210, in April of this year, DC stood on the scales and was 1.2 pounds over the 205 pound limit for a light heavyweight championship fight, he was allowed to take his clothes off and stand behind a towel in an attempt to shed as much excess weight as he could, when he got back on the scale Cormier’s hands were clearly on the towel in an attempt to displace his weight and make himself lighter.
To say Jones and Cormier have history would be an understatement, here’s a quick recap of their meetings, and scheduled meetings.
- They both threw punches in the lobby of the MGM before their scheduled bout at UFC 178.
- Jones was expected to fight Cormier at UFC 178 on August 12th 2014, Jones suffered a leg injury and couldn’t compete.
- The bout took place on January 3rd 2015 at UFC 182. Jones won the fight by UD. It was later revealed that Jones tested positive for cocaine in the December of 2014.
- Jones was supposed to defend the LHW title against Anthony Johnson on May 23rd 2015, at UFC 187. On April 28th 2015 he was stripped of the belt and suspended from the UFC indefinitely in connection with a hit-and-run incident that he was involved in.
- Cormier stepped in for the bout and beat Anthony Johnson to become the new UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.
- On October 23rd 2015 the UFC announced that Jones was back on the active fighter roster, 6 months after being suspended.
- The grudge match between the two was supposed to take place on April 23rd 2016, at UFC 197 but Cormier pulled out of the fight a month before the event with a injured foot.
- The rematch with Cormier was set for UFC 200 on July 9th but on July 6th Jones was pulled from the event after an ‘out of competition anti-doping policy violation’.
- On November 7th 2016, it was announced that Jones had been suspended one year by USADA, retroactive to July 7th. It was soon reported that Jones had been stripped of his interim title, making him the first fighter in UFC history to be stripped of a title twice.
Cormier has a pro record of 19-1 record, his only loss coming against Jones in their first matchup. Jones is 22-1, his sole loss coming by way of disqualification for illegal elbows against Matt Hamill in 2009. Jon has the advantage in almost every statistical category, he has a 5″ height advantage, a 12″ reach advantage, and a 4″ leg reach advantage. He lands more significant punches per minute, 4.25, compared to Daniel’s 3.78. Jones’ accuracy is 55.61% compared to Daniel’s 49.72%, Jon absorbs 2 significant punches per minute, whereas Daniel absorbs 2.07. Jon’s significant strike defence is also better than DC’s, Jon defends 65.98% of significant strikes, whereas Daniel defends 60.79%.
You’d think DC would have the large advantage at the grappling aspect given his extensive wrestling background. As an amateur wrester he won the JUCO National Championships in ’98 and ’99, before transferring to OK State University and being the Division I Collegiate National Championship Runner-up in ’01. He was also USA Senior Freestyle National Championship 6 years in a row, from 2003 to 2008. If you take all of that into account, and then look at the grappling stats, Jones attempts more takedowns, 2.25 compared to Cormier’s 1.92, he’s also more accurate with them connecting on 52.17% of his attempts as opposed to 42.86%. from Daniel.
Jones’ defence ability is excellent, he defends 94.59% of takedowns opponents attempt on him, compared to Daniel’s 78.57%. One of the factors to take into account with Cormier’s takedown defence being ‘only’ 78% is because rarely will a fighter attempt to take him down, in fact Jon Jones is the only fighter who’s been able to do it, managing it 3 times in their first meeting.
I think Daniel will lose this fight because he’ll be too emotional, and this will lead to him making mistakes. This is his nemesis, his arch-rival, when his career is over DC knows he’s going to be judged on whether he could beat Jon Jones or not, and it’s important for him to get that victory. I expect Jones to be relaxed, I suspect no ring rust, his energy will be high, his cardio is always excellent. I’m looking for Jones to chop him down, a lot of low kicks to set up the jab, land the jab and avoid the clinch.
For me Cormier’s biggest chance is being able to take Jones to the mat and landing some heavy punches and elbows in a ground and pound situation, while avoiding the submission skills of Jones.
Tyron Woodley (C) vs Demian Maia – Welterweight
This will be the third title defence for Woodley, his first two defences came against Stephen Thompson. Tonight Woodley is set to face Demian Maia. Big contrasts in style make this an exciting fight, Woodley comes from a boxing and wrestling background whereas Maia comes from a Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo background.
Coming off of a 7 fight win streak this is a very deserved title opportunity for Demian. I’m a big Demian Maia fan, personally I’d take a high level Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner over most MMA fighters. Maia is a 4th degree black belt in BJJ and one of the few ‘specialists’ in the UFC. Maia takes the back of his opponents exceptionally well, with 7 of his 12 submissions coming by rear-naked choke. He’s great on the mat and has the ability to lock in a submission out of absolutely nowhere, though it’ll be a challenge to take down Woodley, who has a 91% takedown defence, Maia attempts over 3 takedowns per round, the constant pressure may prove to be too much for Tyron.
Though I’m siding with Maia, Woodley’s ability in the octagon is unquestionable, he has a great motor with 3 of his last 4 bouts going the scheduled distance. He also has great knock out power with 41% of his victories coming by way of KO/TKO. If he can subdue Maia’s constant takedown attempts his hand will be raised at the end of the night. I think if the fight stays stood up Tyron will outwork Demian, and pick him apart with his boxing skills.
Though Maia has a 4″ height advantage Woodley has a 2″ reach advantage, this translates in favour of Woodley if the fight stays stood up, he can land punches and be able to avoid counter strikes. Tyron strikes well connecting on 2.5 per minute, while Demian lands only 1.81 p/m. Neither fighter is alarmingly accurate with their striking Maia landing 45% of his attempts and Woodley landing 48%. A side note to this fight is that both of these fighters have lost to the same 3 fighters, in the exact same manner. Both lost to Rory Macdonald by decision, Jake Shields by split decision, and Nate Marquardt by KO. Weird, right?!
Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Justino vs Tonya Evinger – Women’s Featherweight
This is another great matchup on possibly one of the best cards ever. In the Women’s Strawweight division there’s 41 fighters, in Women’s Bantamweight there’s 29, but in the Women’s Featherweight there’s merely 4 fighters. 1 being Justino, another being the former champion Germaine de Randamie who has been forced to relinquish the belt because of her unwillingness to fight Cyborg, who was next in line for a title shot. Megan Anderson was supposed to step in for this fight and have the chance to win the vacated UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship, but she then had to pull out due to ‘personal issues’. The last fighter in this Featherweight divison was signed the day Anderson pulled out, June 27th, she’s none other than Invicta Fighting Championship Bantamweight champion, Tonya Evinger.
A lot of people are writing off Evinger’s chances and it’s not because of her ability, she’s a well rounded pro, a 25 fight veteran. She’s good on her feet, boasting a 42% KO/TKO record, not only that she’s got a good submission game too, winning by way of submission in 7 of her 19 victories. With all that being said, the reason they’re doubting her is because of who her opponent is.
Cris Cyborg is one of the most feared names in women’s MMA, she’s competent at Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Wrestling. Achieving a Brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as well as being awarded a Black kruang in Muay Thai. She hasn’t lost in 12 years, 12, how ridiculous is that… Her lone loss came by way of submission (kneebar) in her first pro MMA fight at the tender age of 19, clearly it motivated her, winning her next 18 fights, she did have 1 of those victories overturned and made a no contest.
Both fighters are former Invicta FW champions, while Cyborg was also the Strikeforce FW champion too. We’ve seen Justino twice now in the UFC, at UFC 198 and then again at UFC Fight Night 95 in Brazil, both of those events taking place last year. Something noteworthy is the fact that both of those fights were fought at a catchweight of 140lbs, Cyborg has proved to be at her best when she fights at 145lbs, so if we thought we saw her perform well in those bouts, just wait for tonight.
Robbie Lawler vs Donald Cerrone – Welterweight
Everyone who’s seen either of these guys fight knows that they have the potential to steal the show tonight. #3 “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler vs #6 Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is going to make for one exciting fight.
Both of these fighters are fan favourites, Lawler for his willingness to stand and trade with absolutely anyone you put in front of him, and Cerrone because of his unrivalled technical striking. In the lead up to this fight I saw both guys be described as “two of the most violent fighters in the UFC” and it’s hard to disagree with that statement. Both guys inflict a lot of damage on their opponents, but at the same time they’re no strangers to taking a shot or two themselves.
Lawler was the Welterweight champion before he lost to Woodley on July 30th last year at UFC 201, getting knocked out by Woodley early in the first round. It’s the first time in 17 fights (7 years) that Lawler was beaten within the time limit (he lost by UD 3 times in that 17 fight span), that means throughout the last 7 years Lawler has been very durable, it’s going to be interesting to see whether his mentality is going to be changed after suffering that KO, the last time he was knocked out was in 2004 against Nick Diaz.
Cerrone is also coming off of a tough loss, he lost in January against Jorge Masvidal, just 49 days after he beat Matt Brown at UFC 206, no one was really sure why he wanted the fight but it’s reported that Dana White told Cerrone he had to take an extended absence from fighting because a lot of people attributed his poor showing against Masvidal to the fact he fought in the previous month and didn’t prepare properly.
Cowboy is a highly talented kickboxer, holding a personal record of 28 wins and 1 draw in his 29 bouts. He’s also a Black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Lawler has next to no submission skills that he’ll try and use, he’s only submitted one opponent in his long career, and that was back in 2005. So if the fight goes to the ground you’d have to assume the momentum would be on Cerrone’s side, considering he’s won by submission in 16 of his 32 victories.
It was hard to pick a winner in this fight, both fighters are likely to be hall of famers when they decide their careers are over. I think with where Cowboy is in his career he’s the favourite, I think he’ll be too agile, he has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal that Lawler can’t match. I don’t see the fight going the distance.
Jimi Manuwa vs Volkan Oezdemir – Light Heavyweight
For me, if Manuwa wins he should be the next fighter in line to get a shot at the Light Heavyweight championship. If Oezdemir wins, him and Alexander Gustafsson should fight to see who’s the next in line for a title shot.
Both fighters are clearly known for their knockout ability. I’d be very surprised if this fight went the distance. Manuwa has 17 wins in 19 bouts, 15 coming by way of knockout. Oezdemir has 14 wins in 15 bouts, 10 wins coming by way of knockout. It’s going to be interesting to see if the fighters come out reserved and try to avoid trading punches so they don’t get clipped cheaply.
Tactics and execution play an important role in a fight like this where the fighters are pretty evenly matched, physically and skill wise. Jimi has to avoid Volkan’s kickboxing ability, he’s 5-0 in kickboxing bouts. Likewise Volkan has to avoid Jimi in the clinch with his Muay Thai background. The only fighters Manuwa has lost to in the octagon are Alexander Gustafsson and Rumble Johnson, 2 of the best fighters to grace the Light Heavyweight division in the last few years. Volkan has lost once in his MMA career and that came by way of submission, that should be encouraging to Manuwa’s corner, knowing their fighter is a high level Purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
I think Jimi is going to dispatch Volkan late in the 1st round, he’s got the power, the length, the precision, the athleticism. Manuwa lands almost 60% of his significant strikes and Volkan absorbs 5.5 significant strikes per minute, that’s a bad combination if you’re a Oezdemir fan.
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