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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC 210’s Daniel Cormier resident fighter analyst -- and aspiring professional fighter -- Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC 210’s Daniel Cormier, who will look to defend his title once more this Saturday (April 8, 2017) inside KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight kingpin, Daniel Cormier, will rematch ferocious knockout artist, Anthony Johnson, this Saturday (April 8, 2017) at UFC 210 inside KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York.

It’s been 19 months since Daniel Cormier last defended his title.

Now, that’s not entirely Cormier’s fault. Last July, “DC” was primed and ready to rematch nemesis Jon Jones, but the inability of “Bones” to get his shit together came back to bite him once again. Instead, Cormier fought Anderson Silva on short-notice, earning a feather in his cap, but no title defense.

Since then, injuries have kept Cormier out of the cage. To maintain his tight grip on the divisional throne, Cormier will have to make a successful return here.

Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:


Cormier’s style of kickboxing may be a bit awkward, but the man has stood toe-to-toe for extended periods of time with some of the division’s best and come out on top more often than not. Cormier throws heat and is tough in exchanges, refusing to give ground and setting up his wrestling in the process.

Whenever Cormier throws punches, he leans forward at least a little. If this were a boxing match, that would be an issue, but Cormier's Olympic wrestling background allows him certain liberties. Leaning into punches helps Cormier transition into a takedown attempt quickly, and the threat of that takedown makes countering Cormier a risky proposition. This style of punching really relies on Cormier's ability to read his opponent. If his hands are up high and ready to defend, Cormier will duck down and shoot (GIF). Should his opponent still seem ready to defend the shot, Cormier will extend his combination further.

While on his feet, Cormier works with a high volume of jabs and crosses, mixing in shots to the body as well. Cormier doesn't often throw extended combinations, sticking mostly to the one-two combination and cross-hook. While Cormier punches, he does a nice job of getting his head off the center line.

Cormier really blends the threat of wrestling into his movement well. He incorporates plenty of level change feints to muddy the waters, and his dip off the jab can easily be confused as the start of a takedown attempt. These dual threat movements are the reason Cormier sometimes looks awkward with his punches, but they're also a big part of his success. Cormier builds off these movements with actual punches often. For example. he came directly out of a level change with a powerful uppercut to floor Patrick Cummins (GIF). In addition, Cormier likes to explode from his lowered stance into a lengthy left hook, perfect to catch any opponent trying to back away.

After successfully landing a punch or combination after dipping low, Cormier will often follow up with an actual shot. This style of threatening low-high-low is extremely effective, and there are multiple variations of it. Unless a fighter is extremely confident in his takedown defense or has particularly fast reflexes, there's no simple answer to this strategy.

Perhaps the best part of Cormier’s striking is his clinch work. The clinch in wrestling may be a bit of a different position, but Cormier’s expertise on posture control definitely carries into the cage. It’s difficult to describe without actually having experience opposite a truly great wrestler, but there’s a different level to their push and pull at close distances.

In Cormier’s case, this results in a wickedly effective uppercut. Particularly in his fights with Jones and Alexander Gustafsson, Cormier would hang on the neck of his opponent with a single collar-tie. It’s a horrible wearing technique that breaks posture and saps energy, but Cormier will also be bloodying his opponent with the other hand using uppercuts (GIF). If his foe really yanks away to break free, Cormier can easily transition into his single leg takedown.

Alternatively, Cormier can look to grab the double-collar tie and land knees. He’s also aggressive on the break, looking to leap forward with a heavy left hook and catch his foe being lazy. Though Cormier largely relies on his hands, he's a capable kicker as well. His roundhouse kicks are fairly powerful, and they often punctuate his combinations nicely. In the last year or two, Cormier has worked more with the front kick, which can help force his opponent to stand up straighter.

Defensively, there are definitely holes in Cormier's game. His hands often begin to dip when he throws in combination, which leaves him vulnerable to counter punches, particularly since he's often leaning into his punches. In addition, Cormier has shown a weakness to body shots. A single body kick won't cause him to crumble to the floor, but it does affect and slow him down.

Opposite lanky men like Jones and Gustafsson, Cormier has proven too willing to walk through shots. Both of those fighters repeatedly dug kicks or knees to his body as Cormier attempted to close the distance. Cormier may have pushed through, but that’s because he’s tough as hell, as those fights definitely landed hard and had an effect.


Cormier has a strong argument as UFC’s best wrestler. The Olympian is masterful in all parts of the takedown, setting up his shots well, transitioning with ease, and usually finishing with a hard slam. Cormier’s high-crotch takedown is his best weapon. “DC” is an expert from that position and probably knows a dozen potential finishes once in on the shot. In this week’s technique highlight, I did my best to show some of his most frequent maneuvers.

Aside from the single-leg, Cormier will often work from the clinch. He's very physically strong from that position, as he’s happy to work punches, jam his foe into the fence, or look for the takedown. When in tight, Cormier uses a wide variety of takedowns. For example, he’s a big fan of the inside trip, driving his opponent backward before hook the leg. Alternatively, Cormier will react with a slick lateral drop is his foe pushes back into him.

Cormier’s defense wrestling is outstanding. More often than not, takedowns simply bounce off him. Against other elite Light Heavyweights in Jones and Gustafsson, Cormier may have momentarily been brought to the mat on a couple of occasions, but he was nevertheless able to stand quickly without much difficulty.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)

Cormier is a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, but like a lot of other American Kickboxing Academy (AKA)-trained fighters, Cormier usually prefers to maintain top position and deliver ground strikes rather than hunt for submissions.

To his credit, Cormier was more active than usual in trying to submit Anthony Johnson last time around. He tried to kimura and straight arm bar "Rumble" from within the half guard, which can be difficult to finish. Still, it can be done, and both moves are low risk attacks that are a solid part of Cormier's top game.

Cormier will also hunt for the rear naked choke, which accounts for each of his three submission wins. There's not a ton to it; Cormier breaks his opponent down from top position until it's easy to latch onto the neck and squeeze. His style of top control and pace is brutal, opening up opportunities for the choke simply via pressure.

Defensively, Cormier hasn't been threatened all that often. When he did go to the ground with Josh Barnett, Cormier did a nice job staying safe within the guard and landing nasty elbows. Once Barnett opened up and began attacking, Cormier would simply pull away and let him back up. Similarly, Cormier has had little difficulty on the mat with black belts like Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, and Anderson Silva.


Cormier will always be in part remembered for his ongoing rivalry with Jones, but he’s proven to be a great champion as well. If he can add another title defense to his record — and continue his streak as the only Light Heavyweight to survive and defeat “Rumble” — it will go a long way in cementing his legacy as a 205-pound great.


Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an undefeated amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.

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