Top-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight rivals Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier will clash TONIGHT (July 9, 2016) at UFC 214 inside Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
It’s been two and a half years since the first time these men faced off, and they’ve both been through quite a bit. In Jones’ case, he was sent to rehab following a drug test directly from that bout, kept spiraling with a hit-and-run that cost him his title, returned to win an interim belt, then lost that due to another of those pesky drug tests! Meanwhile, Cormier won the vacant belt and defended it twice — taking some real damage in the process — and also added a win over Anderson Silva to his resume in a non-title bout.
There’s a real chance this second fight is between two very different fighters, so let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both men:
Key Wins: Daniel Cormier (UFC 182), (Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 165), Lyoto Machida (UFC 140), Rashad Evans (UFC 145)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Jones is perhaps the best ever, a fantastic athlete skilled in all areas. For the most part, Jones either picks his opponents apart at range, grinds them to dust in the clinch, or mauls his foes quickly after tossing them to the mat.
In their last bout, Jones surprised many people — "DC" likely included — by purposefully choosing to wrestle with the former Olympian. Despite opportunities to break away or negate the clinch, Jones willingly engage his opponent in that realm.
That said, Jones made Cormier suffer for his attempts to wrestle. As Cormier pushed inside, he absorbed lots of hard kicks to the legs and mid-section. Over time, this broke him down and allowed “Bones” to really take over later in the fight.
Both parts of Jones’ strategy were effective last time, so there’s no real need to change anything. That said, Jones would be smart to kick and circle a bit more. Cormier is going to force the clinch eventually, and Jones is fine with that, but each kick he eats on the way in makes Jones’ life easier.
Key Wins: Anthony Johnson (UFC 210, UFC 187), Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 192), Josh Barnett (Strikeforce: Barnett vs Cormier), Anderson Silva (UFC 200)
Key Losses: Jon Jones (UFC 182)
Keys to Victory: Cormier is a dominant wrestler and clinch fighter. He's also an incredibly tough athlete, willing to push hard long past when most fighters would give up.
Back at UFC 182, Cormier did find some success opposite Jones. He may not have been able to take his opponent down, but he did some fine work in the clinch, busting up his opponent's face with uppercuts and doing good body work.
While trading with Jones in the clinch is already a difficult proposition, Cormier certainly held his own in that area. However, on the outside, Cormier ran into a lot of shots that took their toll.
In this rematch, Cormier needs to use more lateral movement and try to slip past Jones' kicks into his own range. Additionally, I'd like to see him focus more on doing damage in the clinch rather than score takedowns. Jones is simply too hard to takedown, and shooting for failed takedowns is perhaps the most exhausting act in MMA.
Lastly, Cormier needs to return with kicks of his own. If Jones puts up a high guard and moves into range like last time, that’s Cormier’s chance to rip his opponent’s legs and body.
If both men are worn in the championship rounds, it’s a level playing field.
Bottom Line: It’s a grudge match between a pair of champions.
Jones already has a legacy as one of the best to ever do it. However, after a fairly mediocre win his last time out and long layoff, some question whether he’s still at that level. With a win here, Jones silences that talk and asserts himself back on top of the pound-for-pound listings.
On the other hand, Jones’ first legitimate loss would be pretty shocking to witness. He would definitely end up receiving an immediate trilogy match, but who knows how the loss would affect "Bones," who is far from the most stable individual around.
This is Cormier’s last chance to dethrone Jones. He’s a great fighter and deserved to be a champion, but his real mountain to climb has always been defeating Jon Jones. If he comes up short here, that goal is no longer possible.
However, ending Jones’ win streak and avenging his only loss would make Cormier an instant legend.
TONIGHT at UFC 214, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier will go to war once more. Which man will leave as the undisputed champion?