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UFC 182 complete fighter breakdown, Daniel Cormier edition resident fighter analyst Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC 182 headliner Daniel Cormier, who will look to overcome light heavyweight kingpin Jon Jones this Saturday (Jan. 3, 2015) inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Former Olympic wrestler, Daniel Cormier, is set to challenge his nemesis and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight kingpin, Jon Jones, this Saturday (Jan. 3, 2015) night at UFC 182 inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Though he's been a professional fighter for less than five years, Cormier has torn through a number of top fighters in two separate divisions. Before getting into the UFC, Cormier ran roughshod through the Strikeforce heavyweight division, a streak which culminated in wins over Antonio Silva and Josh Barnett.

Since then, Cormier joined the ranks of the world's premiere mixed martial arts (MMA) organization. His level of competition actually dropped a bit, but Cormier won a pair of bouts at both heavyweight and light heavyweight, successfully dropping a division.

Now, he looks to make all the dieting worth it by taking out "Bones" Jones.

Let's take a closer look at the challenger's skill set.


For a relatively inexperienced striker, Cormier is quite effective, if occasionally awkward, on his feet. At the end of the day, Cormier's punches primarily serve the purpose of setting up his takedowns and do an admirable job of it.

Cormier usually begins the fight by gauging the distance with his jab. Cormier kind of leans off to the side and really extends the punch, reaching for his opponent. Though reaching for his opponent like this is generally a bad thing from a pure striking standpoint, Cormier uses the forward momentum to shift his weight into takedowns.

Once Cormier settles into the bout, he'll often go straight into the single leg takedown. If he doesn't, then he will begin to open up with his punches. Namely, Cormier relies pretty heavily on the 1-2 and left hook-cross combinations.

With both of these combinations, Cormier leaves himself plenty of options. As he closes the distance, he can react to how his opponent defends. Should his foe cover up and stand his ground, Cormier can level change into a takedown. If his opponent backs away, Cormier can either shift with the right hand -- meaning he steps into southpaw as he throws -- and look for a takedown, or simply extend his combination.

In short, Cormier's striking relies quite a bit on his wrestling, offensively and defensively. For one, the way Cormier shifts his body weight as he punches would put a non-Olympian off-balance and easy to takedown. For Cormier, that's less of an issue, at least thus far.

Offensively, Cormier is very good at incorporating level changes into his offensive. Obviously, anyone fighting Cormier is extremely wary of being taken down, and Cormier plays off that very well.

In fact, much of Cormier's head movement -- whether he's punching or not -- involves him ducking down a bit. Even if it's not exactly a level change feint, a small duck is enough too make his opponent hesitate. When that happens, Cormier is often free to explode up from his lowered stance with a dangerous uppercut.

In addition, Cormier will also jump out of his duck down with a long left hook. After successfully level changing into a strike, Cormier will often sink back down and actually look for a takedown.

Cormier also blends his wrestling and striking together well in the clinch. After pushing his opponent into the fence, he is very good at working him over with punches. At first, he'll just hammer away at his opponent's ribs and the side of his head with smaller shots, which is fairly miserable.

When his opponent attempts to push Cormier back, his aggression really steps up. He'll either get a firm grip on the wrist and fire off uppercuts with his free hand or look to secure a double-collar tie. From there, Cormier picks his shots well, landing hard knees to the mid-section.

Last but not least, Cormier has a decent kicking game. His round kicks are fairly powerful, and he often punctuates his combinations with a low kick. Recently, Cormier has incorporated front kicks into his game, which help stand his opponent up taller and make takedowns come easier.

Defensively, no one has been able to capitalize on Cormier's flaws just yet. However, that doesn't mean they do not exist. Most obviously, Cormier's hands drop as he exchanges, which makes it easier to counter the former Olympian. Additionally, Cormier's occasional shift punches and generally throwing strikes while off-balance can leave him in poor position to absorb blows.

Finally, Cormier may have a serious dislike of absorbing body strikes. It's not definitive just yet, but both Barnett and Mir had their best success with strikes to the body, which caused Cormier to back away and recover.

Jones may not give him that option.


Breaking down the wrestling skills of an Olympian is a monumental task. While it's possible to identify Cormier's preferred positions and habits, keep in mind that every minute detail -- such as hip pressure, posture, and head position -- is executed perfectly. Additionally, Cormier's other takedowns that are rarely seen are likely at a fairly high level.

For the most part, Cormier relies on his head-outside single leg takedown. To get in on his opponent's hips, Cormier drives into his opponent after rolling his head during a combination. Alternatively, he will wait for his opponent to advance towards him and simply change his level with shocking quickness.

From there, Cormier is an expert at finishing the takedown. However his opponent looks to defend, Cormier has an answer. After looking to run the pipe -- which Cormier finishes fairly often -- Cormier will react to his opponent's movements with a finish or initiate his own finish.

For example, Barnett was off-balance by Cormier's initial shot but stayed standing. Since Cormer was already low and had strong posture, which allowed him to lift Barnett into the air from the high crotch. Then, he brought "Warmaster" down hard.

Cormier will also finish his single leg with a trip. Against Roy Nelson, he first attempted to step inside and trip "Big Country." As Nelson defended, Cormier moved a bit more to the side, allowing him to drive forward and land an outside trip on Nelson's remaining leg.

In addition to his single leg, Cormier is a beast in the clinch. He's capable of inside and outside trips, lateral drops, and transitioning into the single from the clinch.

Cormier's ability to throw his opponent to the mat is excellent. Again, he simply takes whatever his opponent gives him. If his opponent tries to fight hands, Cormier usually just lifts and returns. Should Cormier's foe attempt to flee his grasp, Cormier will look to land a slick foot sweep.

Finally, if Cormier's opponent manages to turn back into him, "DC" will change levels into his single leg during the turn.

Thus far, Cormier's takedown defense has been perfect. He's essentially brick-walled all of his opponent's attempts to take him down, meaning they cannot move his hips.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

Though he holds a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, Cormier does not really search for submissions inside the cage. In general, he chooses to abuse his opponent with ground strikes rather than secure a tap out.

The exception to this is the rear naked choke. Since Cormier usually prefers to control his opponent from the turtle position -- which is quite similar to wrestling's referee's position -- his control from the back mount is not the best, as he's slid off the top a number of times. Still, Cormier is capable of hopping onto the choke if his opponent's neck sticks up, with or without hooks.

Defensively, Cormier showed good awareness when he engaged Josh Barnett on the mat. Whenever Barnett managed to get an angle on the mat or began to start rolling into a threatening position, Cormier would simply disengage. Since he could take Barnett down at will, that was a sound strategy to avoid submissions.

It's not a weakness exactly, but I've noticed that Cormier has let his opponents hold onto a guillotine as he pushes them into the fence. That may not matter against Roy Nelson, but Jones' long arms allow him to put on tight squeezes from odd positions that are difficult to get out of.

It's definitely something Cormier should be aware of, as Jones' team will certainly notice.

Best chance for success

As with all of Jones' opponents, Cormier has a difficult task ahead of him. His opponent has a full foot of reach over him, making it imperative that Cormier close the distance.

In order to do that, Cormier needs to utilize his level chance feints. If he can keep Jones guess as to whether he intends to explode into a shot or up into a punch, he may be able to catch Jones off guard with a punch. When Jones is surprised by a strike, he tends to shuffle backwards and lose a bit of his balance.

If Cormier is going to land a takedown, that's the perfect time.

I also don't think Cormier should chase the clinch unless he's behind Jones. If he looks to force the clinch and push Jones into the fence, he's more likely to wind up with a sore shoulder from a crank and bloody mug from elbows than on top in good position.

Can Daniel Cormier upset the longtime champion, or will Jon Jones defend his title once again?

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