By: Chris Clark
Finally after two and a half years of waiting we finally get the fight we’ve all been waiting for, a clash of probably the two greatest Light Heavyweights of all time, and the score will finally be settled in Anaheim on July 29th. This is the fifth time Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones have been scheduled to fight each other, so naturally there is some skepticism about whether the fight will happen, but let’s all hope that fifth time is the charm. Despite the debacle of UFC 200, where Jones was informed by USADA about a substance violation, there is still excitement and eagerness to see these bitter rivals throw down, and all that has happened since only adds to the uncertainty on the outcome of this fight. Jones has only fought once since their first meeting, defeating Ovince Saint Preux in April of 2016, which seems like eons ago. Despite the long layoff Jones still came out on top, winning every single round against a top ranked opponent in Saint Preux. Compare that to the streak Cormier has been on since January 2015, defeating Anthony Johnson twice, the widely considered greatest of all time Anderson Silva, and also the possibly newly emerged number one contender Alexander Gustafsson. Some say ring rust is a myth, and Jones will be looking to prove that right by doing a Dominick Cruz and regaining his spot at the top of the heap.
The first fight was a tale of two halves; closely contested in the first three rounds, followed by Cormier fading and Jones taking over in the championship rounds. The first round began very quickly, Cormier was persistent, charging forward and putting pressure on Jones whenever he could. Despite the pressure Jones was able to take Cormier down for the first time in his MMA career, and seemed to have the advantage after round one. Cormier caught Jones with some solid punches and uppercuts in round two, but any time he appeared to be taking over, Jones would clinch and hit him with hard elbow strikes, and the infamous oblique kicks were also there. Jones continued his creative striking in round three, while Cormier continued to charge forward, looking for blood from Jones. Cormier hunted for the takedown, but Jones’s balance was just too good, and he simply wouldn’t allow Cormier to get him down. As the third round ended and both men sat and spoke to their corners, you could see just how exhausted Cormier was, while a calm Jones breathed somewhat comfortably in his corner. The fourth was really where the tide changed, Cormier being dumped to the ground twice in quick succession by Jones. Cormier didn’t have an answer and offered virtually nothing to threaten Jones unlike he did in previous rounds. Cormier came into the fifth round needing a finish, but he didn’t get it, Jones continuing to show his championship experience, and closing out the fight, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that he won.
How does Daniel Cormier win? Cormier needs to maintain what he did in the first three rounds of their first fight; forward pressure, clinch work, dirty boxing, and overall just making it an ugly fight. Cormier has to get the better of Jones in the wrestling department, which is easier said than done against someone with such masterful takedown defense, but Cormier’s most dominant fights have involved him dominating through his wrestling. Finally, Cormier’s persistence in closing down Jones’s reach advantage were his best moments in their first fight, so if he does that I think he has a massive chance of beating his nemesis.
How does Jon Jones win? Jones simply simply needs to do what he always does, be unpredictable, and outwork his opponent. The only mystery here is what has the layoff done for Jones, has he deteriorated after now entering his 30s? Or has he learned something new during his time off? And for me the latter is true. Jones landed some beautiful, strong knees during their first fight, and of course the elbows Jones is known for were there. Probably the biggest discrepancy between the two is Jones’s reach advantage, being 12 inches, an incredible difference in the favor of the challenger, and an advantage he tends to use very well.
My opinion: This one is tough, for Cormier everything is on the line, and I just can’t see him dropping the ball like he did towards the end of the first fight. On the other hand, Jones is the greatest MMA fighter I’ve ever witnessed, so it’s tough to see him losing until I actually see it. I don’t see either man getting finished, so ultimately I see it going the way the first fight went, except Cormier will last the entire five rounds, and get a win in a closely fought decision victory. The story between these two greats doesn’t end just yet. Cormier wins via split decision.
Another Key Clash in the Light Heavyweight Division Title Picture
Despite the fight we’ve all been waiting a long time for finally happening, let’s not forget about another key matchup in the Light Heavyweight division, as number three Jimi Manuwa meets number five Volkan Oezdemir. Manuwa has scored two impressive knockout victories in his last two fights, putting him at the top with Alexander Gustafsson as the likely next in line for a title shot. Dana White has even stated that Manuwa is a contingency plan in case Cormier or Jones were to pull out last minute from the main event, making it clear the UFC has big plans for him. Looking to spoil Manuwa’s rise to the top is the surprising Oezdemir, who continues to gain notoriety after an impressive first round finish over the highly touted prospect Misha Cirkunov. The matchup style certainly favors the heavy handed boxing style of Manuwa, but we’ve seen that Oezdemir can certainly hold his own on the feet. The question is can Oezdemir take another step in his sudden ascension to the top, as a confident Manuwa is certainly his toughest test to date. We know a lot about Manuwa, but there’s still that mystery with Oezdemir after such a quick win over Cirkunov. This fight will solve that mystery.