Two of the best fighters in the world will share the octagon with one another for a second time in what is arguably one of the best looking UFC cards on paper so far in 2017.
The first fight which took place at UFC 182 a little over 2 years ago might not have been the most memorable but there’s no questioning these two light heavyweights abilities inside the cage.
Jones has certainly been through some rough places in the last through years, at 23 years of age he won UFC gold and became a millionaire. His lifestyle outside of fighting has always raised questions and I could go on for paragraphs about it, but I won’t, there’s no need.
This fight is what matters, heading into this grudge match with Cormier it now seems that Jones is fully focused on dominating this fight and claiming what is rightfully his, what he never lost in competition, the light heavyweight Championship.
Cormier was undefeated and unchallenged until his defeat to Jones back in 2015. Since that fight he has beaten 3 opponents and won 4 fights, Gustafsson was his biggest test and Johnson certainly rattled Cormier around in their first meeting.
It’s been said so many times now but Cormier needs this fight with Jones. He’s achieved it all in his MMA career, he’s even won the UFC Championship and successfully defended it.
The only thing left for him to do is beat Jones, his scalp is probably more meaningful than any belt in this sport and he will get his opportunity this saturday night.
As mentioned in the opening sentence, this card is stacked from top to bottom; the co-main event sees Tyron Woodley defend his belt to UFC veteran and potentially the best pure grappler to ever compete in the sport in Demian Maia.
There’s a third title fight on the PPV main card as Cris Cyborg finally gets to fight for UFC gold as she takes on short notice opponent and Invicta bantamweight Champion Tonya Evinger.
Rounding off the main card there is a fight that has “Most Violent Fight of the Year” written all over it as Robbie Lawler returns from a year layoff to fight Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and there is also a important match up between Jimi Manuwa and Volkan Oezdemir which likely produces the next opponent for the night’s main event winner.
The action isn’t all saved for the PPV card as the Prelims showcase a mini featherweight Grand Prix with highlights such as former title challenger Ricardo Lamas versus rising contender Jason Knight and former bantamweight Champion Renan Barao takes on young prospect Aljamain Sterling.
A pair of undefeated featherweights also features on the Prelim segment as Renato Moicano looks to keep his perfect record intact against the very entertaining Brian Ortega who has finished all of his UFC fights in exciting fashion.
Daniel Cormier x Jon Jones 2
We’ve only seen Jones fight twice in the last 3 years; a victory over Cormier and a routine win over Ovince Saint Preux. At 30 years of age we could still be yet to witness Jones in his prime and as Dan Hardy noted in the most recent Inside the Octagon there are still so many things Jones has to offer to the sport.
Cormier on the other hand is almost 39, has had no easy fights in waiting for his rematch with Jones and in his most recent title fight against Anthony Johnson seemed to have a tough weight cut.
Given both fighters skill sets it would not be surprising if this fight played out similar to the first, however given the time off Jones has had we could be in for something truly spectacular reminiscent of his early title defences back in 2011/2012.
Expect to see more diverse striking on display by Jones; elbows and nasty kicks mixed in with straight punches and the occasional uppercut will be his best weapons in this fight. Jones is good everywhere, an area he may find himself in often in this fight will be in the clinch so expect more elbows and even some trips.
Cormier’s stockier build and reach disadvantage suggest that he will be required to keep a frantic pace and have a high output in feints and lunging strikes in an attempt to close the distance.
There were moments in the first fight that Cormier had some success in the dirty boxing exchanges and although Jones was able to adapt in those situations in the first fight I still think it is one of the more advantageous routes to victory for Cormier.
At distance though, this fight is a terrible mismatch for Cormier. Jones should easily pick him apart with his jab and leg kicks, given the shots Cormier has absorbed in recent fights with Gustafsson and Rumble I wouldn’t be too surprised if Jones was able to tag Cormier and have him wobbled 2 or 3 times before setting up a finish.
Similar to the first fight I don’t think grappling will have too much of a part to play in this fight. Either fighter is capable of getting the takedown but I don’t think they will be able to control for long periods of times, expect some brief scrambles and the action to return to stand up.
Ultimately, although this is the best possible match up in this division right now and because of timings, probably the most relevant and deserving of recent title fights in 2017 – I still think Jones is going to get the job done, simply put, he’s the best fighter this weight class has seen.
Not only should Jones win this fight, but given the shape he is in and his mentality leading up to the fight, we’ve seen different versions of Jones in the past but this could well be the most aggressive and dangerous one.
Cormier is a great fighter. The real problem for Cormier is, Jones is greater. His creativity and freakish athleticism combined with his speed and varied arsenal are unmatched at this level of the sport.
Cormier has been wobbled more in his last 4 fights than his entire career prior to his fight against Jones at UFC 182, even whilst competing at heavyweight. Jones will never be a one punch knockout artist like Rumble or Manuwa but if he clips Cormier with an elbow or two I think we will get to see a devastating finish to end a great night of fights.
It’s a bit of a gamble but I think a early TKO is on the cards and whilst it makes a huge statement to any future challenges it also solidifies Jones place as the best fighter to ever compete in the UFC at 205lbs, maybe ever?
A Championship round submission would also be a good shout as I think Cormier will slow down after a quick paced opening rounds. Either way, I think the judges will be having a quiet evening with regards to the Title fights.
Jon Jones via TKO Round 2 (Elbows & Punches)
Tyron Woodley x Demian Maia
This is an intriguing fight as although Woodley has many variables in his favour heading in, Maia simply needs to get ahold of Woodley for all of those variables to become irrelevant.
Woodley is definitely one of the most explosive fighters in this division, he will have a clear speed and power advantage over Maia – more dangerous striking which includes a seriously underrated leg kick attack.
Maia on the other hand is a grappling specialist. He’s shown glimpses of striking improvements, but his bread and butter is quite simply to maul his opponent to the mat and choke them out.
Whilst the grappling chess match certainly being the big question mark hovering over this fight on paper, Woodley’s solid takedown defence and footwork will likely result in the best part of this fight taking place on the feet.
If that is the case, I can’t see Maia lasting too long against an explosive power puncher like Woodley. Sure, Maia has only been knocked out once and even went the distance with Anderson Silva but even in his impressive 7-fight win streak at 170lbs not one opponent could be directly compared with Woodley’s fight ending power.
I confess that there could be an argument made for Carlos Condit, as a finisher certainly, he showcased it against Dan Hardy and Martin Kampmann. Unfortunately for Condit he has been taken down far too often throughout his career (likely because of how comfortable he is from working on his back) and in his fight with Maia he was unable to mount anything as soon as his hands hit the floor.
Woodley possesses fight ending power in both fists and if he stuffs an early takedown and then throws caution to the wind like he did in his fight ending sequence against Josh Koscheck, one would safely assume Maia is going to slump onto his back motionless.
The winner of this fight has been promised a fight against Georges St Pierre. Woodley would be the more appealing opponent in my mind, I’m sure Tyron is thinking the same and he definitely won’t want to pass up on that potential ‘superfight’ with GSP later this year.
Whether he plays it safe or counters in one of the early scrambles – Woodley certainly has the right tools to fend off Maia’s one dimensional approach and I see him getting the job done.
Tyron Woodley via TKO Round 1
Cris Cyborg x Tonya Evinger
The media and fans are constantly proclaiming Cyborg as the best woman fighter in the world and given what she has achieved so far in her career, rightfully so. But unlike Champions in other weight classes, Cyborg hasn’t had that one opponent who might be able to provide her with a true test.
Physically, few women come close to her and fewer have the power she possesses. One fight that would interest me would be a showdown with Megan Anderson – a fight which was originally scheduled for this card, until Megan was forced to pull out.
For now, as with her recent fights, we have to put up with an opponent moving up a weight class in order to provide Cyborg with an actual opponent. Tonya Evinger is definitely more of an interesting household name in MMA as opposed to past opponents Lina Lansberg and Daria Ibragimova but I think many will struggle to find what she has to offer Cyborg in terms of a competitive fight.
Other than Evinger clipping Cyborg in a brief exchange and somehow finding herself in a dominant position following a scramble, it’s unlikely we will see much of a contest here.
Expect Cyborg to walk forward, throw some leather and get the early finish – I’m hoping we get to see her fight Anderson later this year or early 2018, aside from that fight it’s a shame there’s little else to get excited about the women’s featherweight division.
Cris Cyborg via KO Round 1
Robbie Lawler x Donald Cerrone
I’m not quite sure what to make of this fight. Yes, its spectacular on paper and has the potential to steal the show but given recent performances I can’t help but feel a more tactful approach might be on the cards.
That’s not to say both fighters will shy away from the opportunity to engage with one another, I just think that Lawler has a lot more to lose in this fight than gain so we might see an approach similar to the one he took with Matt Brown.
Cerrone is almost always in a fun fight, win or lose. He’s currently 12-2 dating back to 2014 and whilst his two losses have come by way of knockout he’s finished all of his 4 wins at welterweight and has wins over Benson Henderson and Eddie Alvarez at lightweight.
Lawler has taken some time off since losing the title to Woodley last year but prior to that had won and defended the belt in a total of 3 fights and arguable has faced the higher level of competition in recent fights in comparison to Cerrone.
Whilst all the ingredients for a great fight are here, I think things will start off slowly heating up towards the end of the first round. From there on, who knows, Lawler can be wild and overly aggressive with his haymakers – any one of his significant strikes can quickly put an end to this fight.
On the other hand, Cerrone is becoming somewhat of a combination guru. His fight ending sequence against Rick Story looked like it was choreographed from a Hollywood movie.
You don’t necessarily consider Cerrone to have fight ending power in his punches but his high output and ability to precision land his strikes have helped him rack up multiple TKOs over the year. In particular is his ability to finish fights with a head kick, he has 5 head kick finishes in his 12-2 run and it’s becoming somewhat of a signature move in his skill set.
Still, I think Lawler is the more powerful of the two and Cerrone is not the best counter striker as he tends to be the aggressor himself so I think Lawler will look to stand his ground and go for home runs. It should be violent and I’m hoping it lasts long enough to be remembered in MMA folklore.
Robbie Lawler via TKO Round 3
Jimi Manuwa x Volkan Oezdemir
This fight definitely serves its purpose as a title eliminator but it was also put on this card in case either fighter in the main event came into some trouble leading up to the fight (Cormier missing weight or Jones being his former self).
Both fighters share a passion for striking. Both are known for knockout power and both are coming fresh off first round finishes. Manuwa appears to be the favourite and rightfully so given his overall UFC record although I think Volkan has a good chance to pull off the upset here.
Manuwa has lost just twice and whilst losses to Rumble Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson are certainly nothing to be ashamed of there’s little of interest to find in his wins.
He easily dispatched Corey Anderson this past March and prior to that finished Ovince Saint Preux. But Anderson appears somewhat overrated given he’s lost 3 of his 7 and his best win to date was a decision victory over Fabio Maldonado.
Then we have Saint Preux, currently 2-4 in recent fights dating back to August 2015. As much as you want to like Manuwa, his best wins in the UFC are against opponents who aren’t in the same league as Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones and on the two occasions Manuwa has stepped up to the plate he’s been finished convincingly by younger more explosive opposition.
Volkan is younger and his record suggests he has serious punching power so he has those tools on his side. It would be apparent that both fighters weaker skill sets are in the grappling departments, something we won’t have to witness much of in this fight so if this one stays standing it really could go either way.
In this particular occasion I’m going with the 27 year old and former heavyweight kickboxer over the 37 year old former weight lifter. If there’s going to be an upset anywhere on this card – it’s most likely to come in this fight.
Manuwa’s victories have come against well-rounded opposition or grappling specialists. His opponent this Saturday night is fellow striker, a kickboxer, with plenty of power, I think it will surprise Manuwa and we could have a brand new contender emerge from this card as a potential title challenger for early 2018.
Volkan Oezdemir via KO Round 1
Preliminary Card predictions
- Ricardo Lamas def. Jason Knight via Unanimous Decision
- Renan Barao def. Aljamain Sterling via Unanimous Decision
- Renato Moicano def. Brian Ortega via Unanimous Decision
- Andre Fili def. Calvin Kattar via TKO Round 2
- Kailin Curran def. Alexandra Albu via Unanimous Decision
- Jarred Brooks def. Eric Shelton via Unanimous Decision
- Drew Dober def. Joshua Burkman via TKO Round 2
Fight of the Night: Donald Cerrone x Robbie Lawler or Ricardo Lamas x Jason Knight
Performance of the Night: Jon Jones and Tyron Woodley
Jones, Woodley, Lawler, Lamas & Moicano