Date: Sunday 30th July, 3am (BST)
Location: Anaheim, California, USA
Venue: Honda Center
Daniel Cormier vs Jon Jones
This blockbuster card is fittingly headlined by one of the most heated grudge matches of all time. Filled with controversy which has prevented any kind of settlement until now, this is a rematch which stems from a personal and bitter feud that extends beyond the cameras. Injuries, brawls and a string of offences committed by Jones have kept the bad blood simmering and now that Jones has served the time of his most recent ban, they get to settle the score and claim the throne of the light heavyweight division.
In their first meeting back in 2015 at UFC 182, Jones went into the bout at 20-1, the youngest champion in UFC history and in need of a worthy challenger. Up steps Cormier – the Olympic wrestler – unbeaten in MMA for his third fight as a light heavyweight dropping down from heavyweight.
Many picked Cormier to be the man to finally topple Jones, presenting a tough style match-up for the champion. The Olympian had never been taken down due to his ability to keep the fight at close range, and it was believed he had the gas tank to grind Jones down. However, if it was possible, Jones managed to surprise fans further with his talent. He controlled the fight, dictated the distance, inflicted more damage on the feet and most surprisingly, out-wrestled Cormier. His incredible balance negated the majority of Cormier’s takedowns and he even implemented his own. Cormier was beginning to fatigue at this point but it was still the most emphatic statement thus far in their rivalry.
UFC 182: Jones taking down Cormier
Since this contest, Jones has only fought once, against Ovince Saint Preux, a hard-fought win yet a mediocre performance by his standards, and his array of misdemeanours led to him being stripped of his title twice. Cormier, on the other hand, claimed the vacant title with a win over Anthony Johnson, impressively defending it against Alexander Gustafsson and Johnson again along with a win over Anderson Silva.
So going into this fight, we know Cormier has improved, gaining valuable experience from his loss. For this camp, he has enlisted the help of Kickboxer Frank Munoz and Wrestler Jacob Casper to emulate the skills of Jones. He has even got a nutritionist on board to prevent another 'towel-gate'.
Although Cormier filled Jones’ vacuum, he has still kept the belt in a very tough division and is a deserving champion. However, his stamina will have to improve to enforce his strengths and keep a grip on Jones in the exchanges. Cormier has overwhelmed elite fighters with his power and grappling and will have to keep this fight in a phone booth to do the same.
Even with inactivity and off-field distractions, we can only expect the very best Jones on the night. Before his indiscretions, he was a strong contender for the greatest fighter of all time and possesses skills unmatched by any fighter in his division. He has the most strikes landed (1273), the most significant strikes landed (1021), the highest significant strike defence (65.98%), the best takedown defence (94.60%) and the most submission attempts (10).
These impressive stats are aided by his physical attributes. He has an extraordinary reach of 84.5 inches; the only UFC fighter with a greater reach is 7-feet-tall heavyweight, Stefan Struve. Jones utilises this better than anyone with unorthodox techniques, decapitating from range and slicing with elbows as if his limbs were maces. His immense skill has enabled him to overwhelm opponents and dominate legends in their prime.
Both fighters are capable of great things, and the winner will solidify themselves as the very best light heavyweight and despite the bitter rivalry, this is the biggest night of their life. The implications will impact their legacy and the rest of their lives, whilst the fans will witness the two best light heavyweights of all time...that is if they both make it to the octagon!
See below for a statistical breakdown:
Tyron Woodley vs Demian Maia
The co-main event and second title fight of the evening includes another intensely anticipated bout between welterweights Tyron Woodley and Demian Maia. Announced only a month prior, Maia finally gets his wish to fight for the belt after waiting at the front of the line of contenders, strangling anyone that pushed in.
The decorated Jiu-Jitsu champion has been rather hard done by not to get a title shot sooner and in contrast to Woodley, he remained active and is riding a seven-fight winning streak before his shot. Woodley had two wins in a row and waited for a year and a half before meeting Robbie Lawler, but dispatching him into next week confirmed his decision to wait for his turn.
Their paths are not the only contrasting factor in this fight. Maia is a Boa Constrictor, solely interested in clamping his opponents down to slowly manipulate their body, grind down and suffocate them with masterful Jiu-Jitsu techniques. Woodley, on the other hand, is a bull; he utilises scary power and speed in his striking and wrestling, exploding in short bursts of energy. Whether he sprints into punching combinations or uses his lightning leg kicks to sweep opponents off their feet, he uses his physical attributes to surprise and smoke his victims.
This creates a truly compelling match-up, especially as they are smart fighters who will be working on a strategy. Woodley has demonstrated his fight IQ in his last two fights against Stephen Thompson. He didn’t win over many fans with his output but he did exactly what he needed to do against the most talented striker in the division.
After Maia struggled as a middleweight, putting all his effort into being a more well-rounded fighter or mainly a fighter that could strike, he dropped down to welterweight and focused on his grappling strengths as a larger and stronger contender. Almost a throw-back fighter where opponents already know his game plan going into a fight, his world class skills are just on a different level, luring his opponents into his domain. Although his takedown accuracy is low, it doesn’t mean he is unsuccessful; he is relentless in his attempts.
However, Woodley has the best takedown defence in UFC welterweight history (91.89%). He is a NCAA Division 1 Wrestler who has never been submitted so will be his usual confident self even in the grappling exchanges. That is if he is not intent on keeping the fight standing; although Maia is significantly taller, he has a smaller reach which will only be exaggerated with Woodley’s speed. That said, the Boa Constrictor only needs one mistake to seize his opportunity.
See below for a statistical breakdown.
Cris Cyborg vs Tonya Evinger
Another title fight on this ridiculous card - the women’s featherweight title is up for grabs in the newest division in the UFC that is desperate to be populated with fighters, let alone talent. The UFC have shown their intent by matching up the most dominant female fighter ever with the current Invicta bantamweight champion.
This is the second fight for a vacant featherweight title. Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie fought back in February, with de Randamie earning a decision. The UFC then lined her up to face Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino but de Randamie refused to fight her, citing reasons for alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. The UFC then stripped her of the title and replaced her with Megan Anderson who also pulled out, paving the way for Evinger to step up to the plate.
It may come across that fighters are avoiding Cyborg mainly due to the fact she is just simply terrifying. Since losing her first fight way back in 2005 she has not been beaten, and has finished 15 out of her 17 opponents via knock-out with devastating power. Even at the highest level in women’s MMA, genuine knock-out power is hard to come by but Cyborg has it in abundance, allowing her to dominate her opponents.
Her striking is now in a different league under the tutelage of renowned striking coach Jason Parillo, who has made her more technical with a mix of Boxing and Muay Thai. She also trains with UFC legend Tito Ortiz to utilise her strength in the clinch and enforce fight-ending ground and pound.
An intimidating prospect for anyone, but not Evinger. She isn’t scared of any fighter and hasn’t lost since 2011. A beast in her own right, she has finished 15 of her 19 victories with KO’s and submissions. She is a fantastic wrestler who thrives on being on top of her opponents.
Evolving alongside the Diaz brothers, she has developed a nasty and aggressive style, unrelenting with forward pressure and thug-like attitude. These are the traits needed to test Cyborg and make her outing as uncomfortable as possible to outwork her into a dominant position. Whether this will be enough to prevent Cyborg from having her way in the fight and frankly bullying Evinger, we’ll have to see.
As this is Evinger’s debut in the UFC, we have broken down both fighters' finishing. See below for a statistical breakdown:
Robbie Lawler vs Donald Cerrone
If this card wasn’t exciting enough, we are treated to a clash between two of the biggest fan-favourites in the UFC. These veterans are born finishers with killer instinct. They are incredibly well-rounded with their stand up skills often stealing the show, but they are both coming off a loss after a great run of form.
After losing to Rafael Dos Anjos for the lightweight championship, Cerrone moved up to welterweight and looked phenomenal. He finished four tough opponents but was stopped himself by Jorge Masvidal in his last fight. He has never lost consecutive fights though, so we expect him to bounce back strongly.
Lawler also peaked before his most recent loss to Woodley. He strung five wins together, picking up the belt in the process, and was by far the best looking Lawler we had ever seen. He was in tremendous shape, excelling in the five-round fights and was absolutely lethal as he showcased his trademark aggressive striking.
However, these fights were wars, absorbing as much damage as he delivered. His battles with Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit in particular were brutal and consequently he has taken some time off to recover after one of Woodley’s bombs was just too much to take.
A year later he is back in the trenches against a man who we can only expect to go to war once again. This is such as exciting match-up as they are both ultra-aggressive with a constant output of powerful, clinical and destructive striking. Neither will back down regardless of the damage inflicted, which could be detrimental.
Lawler’s decision to reduce his sparring has helped his durability, but Cerrone is not somebody your body will appreciate after all of the damaging encounters in recent years, and although Cerrone thrives on being as active as possible, he has shown susceptibility with strikes to the body. Either way, this should be an incredible spectacle and has got ‘fight of the night’ written all over it.
See below for a statistical breakdown:
Jimi Manuwa vs Volkan Oezdemir
The main card will be ignited with an enthralling light heavyweight fight. Strategically placed on the same card as Cormier and Jones, Manuwa will step up as a replacement if either fighter pulls out but all of his attention has to be on his fellow hard hitter from Switzerland. This fight is destined to be a slobber knocker, unlikely to go the distance with only four decisions ending their combined 34 fights. They are ferocious strikers with heavyweight power and middleweight speed, and although they can both grapple, they make no effort to hide the fact they want every fight to stay on the feet, and as they both have the same intentions, we should fully expect fireworks to ensue in the cage.
They are both evenly matched but Manuwa has a significant advantage when it comes to experience. He has had eight UFC fights with wins against top contenders, and although he experienced his only two losses, they were against Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson who would rank in the top ten light heavyweights of all time, so he would have learned just as much in those losses as he did his wins.
Oezdemir on the other hand has only had two UFC fights but looked very impressive with a lightening quick KO over Misha Cirkunov and a decision over Ovince Saint Preux. Manuwa also boasts a win over Saint Preux with a KO that will be fixed on the highlight reel, but Oezdemir stepped up at late notice for a UFC debut which deserves a lot of credit.
These two men will slug it out and with an impressive performance, may even be in line for a shot at the winner of Cormier and Jones.
See below for a statistical breakdown:
Striking and grappling stats sourced via FightMetric.