One of the biggest rivalries in combat sports will add another chapter to its book come Saturday night. Heated foes Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones will contest for the UFC light heavyweight title in a highly anticipated rematch in the main event of UFC 214. This is by far the best card of the year, and one of the best events in the company’s history, as it features two more exciting title bouts in Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia and Cris Cyborg vs. Tonya Evinger, a fight of the decade candidate in Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone, and a crucial light heavyweight bout in Jimi Manuwa vs. Volkan Oezdemir.
What: UFC 214
Where: Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
When: Saturday, July 29. The three-fight UFC Fight Pass preliminary card begins at 6:30 p.m. ET, the four-fight FXX preliminary card begins at 8 p.m. ET, and the the five-fight main card begins at 10 p.m. ET live on pay-per-view.
Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones
Everything about this fight is amazing. Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones 2 presents a fantastic story line, a genuine rivalry, and the crème de la crème of professional fighting. It really doesn’t get much better than this, as this match up checks all the requirements of a good ol’ fistfight.
Cormier is a phenomenal wrestler with great boxing and an insane ability to take punishment and perform well with wear. The former Olympic wrestler is a freakishly strong athlete and has great conditioning. Cormier has also stepped up his striking game, and can now hold hid own with the very best. Despite the improved striking, Cormier’s strength still remains his clinch fighting and takedowns. Jones, on the other hand, is a more dynamic and multi-purpose athlete. Jones is extremely strong, flexible, quick and agile. Apart from being one of the best athletes in the game, Jones also has one of the most diverse fighting styles. The 30-year-old fighter is a fantastic striker with phenomenal wrestling and dangerous submissions. Jones can fight anywhere the fight takes place and do well.
Since their first meeting at UFC 182, back on Jan. 3, 2015, Jones was suspended and stripped from his belt due to issues in and outside of the cage. Due to the suspensions, Jones has only fought once since 2015 – in a relatively lackluster performance against Ovince Saint Preux. Meanwhile, Cormier went on to win and defend the vacant title, racking up four consecutive victories. Now, after so many failed bookings, the two fighters will meet again but in very different circumstances.
I’m one of those that believe that if Jones would have fought Cormier at UFC 197, Jones would’ve likely lost the bout. It’s difficult to know what version of Jones will return, but he looks confident and appears to be in tremendous shape, so I’m guessing we will see vintage Jonny. If that’s the case, I think Jones will get the victory here. Jones is rangier and far sophisticated striker than Cormier. In the wrestling department, Jones is right there with Cormier, and you could even make the case he might have an edge there. Cormier is a fantastic fighter, but hasn’t shown a dramatic improvement in his skill since fighting Jones. Cormier still remains at a high-level, but I don’t think he has anything new for the challenger. I see this being a similar fight to their first bout.
Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia
Technically speaking, this probably the most interesting fight on the card. We know what Demian Maia has to do, and we know what Tyron Woodley has to avoid. Yet, there are mixed predictions on the outcome of this bout.
Woodley uses powerful wrestling to mainly keep fights on the feet. Although the welterweight champ has excellent takedowns, he mainly uses them as a way to tactically score points on the judges’ cards rather than a tool to cause damage. On the feet, Woodley can cause plenty of harm with his fight ending power. However, the 35-year-old fighter has a very low striking output and tends to back up a lot on his feet, which can hurt him in decisions. Meanwhile, Maia is a very different animal. The Brazilian doesn’t have the same power behind his wrestling as Woodley does, but he’s far more crafty with his takedowns. Maia has great takedowns, but the key to his success is not necessarily the technique behind them, but the consistency of his attacks. Maia’s striking is not bad either, but he’s so much more lethal on the ground that it makes no sense for the Brazilian to keep a fight standing.
This is a fun puzzle for both fighters. I would agree with most that Woodley has plenty of tools that make this a horrible matchup for Maia, but I could also argue that Woodley has several habits that make this a good fight for the jiu-jitsu expert. For starters, Woodley has a tendency to keep his back close to the cage, and many of Maia’s takedowns come from pushing guys against the fence (not having a power double in his arsenal). Additionally, Woodley’s low striking output and activity will allow Maia to get in close proximity for a shot. Maia also has experienced dealing with stronger opposition having fought at middleweight.
I don’t think Maia has to takedown Woodley to win the fight, he just has to outwork the champ and have him be constantly defending, very much like in Woodley’s loss to Jake Shields. Regarding knockout power, Maia has the luxury to always drop to his back, and I doubt Woodley will go looking for him there.
This is the first time Cris Cyborg will fight in her weight class since joining the UFC. It would’ve been nice to skip all that catchweight nonsense and had her fight for the belt last year in Brazil. But whatever, here we are.
Fans may not be looking at it this way, but this truly is a superfight in women’s MMA. Cyborg, former Invicta FC and Strikeforce women’s featherweight champion, will be taking on fellow veteran and last Invicta FC bantamweight champ Tonya Evinger for the UFC featherweight strap.
Cyborg is a deadly striker with clean technique and a killer instinct like none other. Cyborg hasn’t lost since 2005 and she’s terrorized the women’s featherweight for 12 years. Apart from being a skilled fighter, the Brazilian is an incredible, well-rounded athlete. If any women were to stand a change against Cyborg, she’d have to be incredibly tough. Well, Evinger is as tough as they get in WMMA. The 25-fight veteran is extremely well rounded. She has solid striking, and good takedowns followed by a respected ground game.
We all know Cyborg is has a huge advantage against anyone she faces, but I find Evinger to be one of her toughest challenges. Evinger has a high threshold for taking damage, and she can present dangers on the feet, clinch and ground. Either way, I see Cyborg taking home the belt, but it won’t be a walk in the park.
Yeezus, I still can’t believe this fight is happening. Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone is a welterweight contest between two of the most violent fighters in the UFC.
Lawler, the last man to hold the welterweight title prior to Woodley, hasn’t fought in a year. In his last outing, which was against Woodley, Lawler got knocked out basically with the first punch that connected. The quick knockout made many wonder how much of Lawler is actually left following his brutal war with Carlos Condit at UFC 195. It’s unknown what version of Lawler we’ll get, but if all is right, we can expect a fierce technical striker with heavy power and a solid takedown defense. On the other hand, Cerrone has been very constant up to this date. Cerrone is a skilled muay thai striker, with surprisingly good takedowns, and a very advance ground game.
Hard fight to pick, since I’m not really sure where Lawler is at in his career. But if the best version of Lawler shows up, I can see it topping the best version of “Cowboy.” Lawler is relentless and that should be enough to keep Cerrone on the back of his heels. Cerrone has sometimes issues with head movement, and that’s not good when facing a heavy hitter like Lawler. I’m really looking forward to this, can’t wait.
Believe it or not, the winner here might find himself fighting for the light heavyweight title next.
Whether or not you think the winner here is a suitable candidate to fight for the title, Jimi Manuwa vs. Volkan Oezdemir is an excellent matchup between two of the best strikers in the division. Oezdemir has a great kickboxing background that’s paired up with decent takedown defense and grappling skills. Oezdemir has good leg kicks and attacks the body often. Meanwhile, Manuwa has shown to be a quick, powerful striker in his UFC career. The British fighter has only fallen short to top-level competition in his MMA career, losing to former title challengers Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson.
This is a fun bout, but I find Manuwa to be the more dangerous and athletic fighter here. I think Oezdemir possesses the technique to hang with Manuwa on the feet, but I think the Brit to se far too quick and explosive for Oezdemir. Manuwa also has a significant reach advantage. You never know with heavy strikers, but I expect Manuwa to show a his edge in athleticism and raw talent.
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