The Ultimate Fighting Championship will crown a new king at 205 pounds at the MGM Grand this Saturday night. UFC 187 is 2015’s Memorial Day weekend card, and like most Memorial Day weekend cards, it is a must-see. Moreover, it is a card that brought in many late replacements yet lost virtually no luster to most MMA fans.
In case you haven’t heard, Jon Jones is no longer the light-heavyweight champion. After a bizarre and unfortunate hit and run accident that left a pregnant woman injured, the UFC decided to strip Jones of the title and suspend him indefinitely. Now with a vacant championship belt on the line, number one contender Anthony “Rumble” Johnson will face former title challenger Daniel Cormier in the evening’s main event to determine who will be the next ruler in Jon Jones’ absence.
Anthony Johnson has never looked better in his entire career, he’s on a nine fight win streak stemming back to 2012, and is coming off two brutal knockouts of well-respected veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and former title challenger Alexander Gustafsson. Daniel Cormier is 15-1, his lone loss was his previous effort against the best fighter on Earth, Jon Jones. Although Cormier came up short in that fight, he was not completely outclassed. Cormier gave it his all and had some good moments in the early stages of the bout. Powerhouse knockout artist versus Olympic level wrestler, who will prevail?
The original matchup between Anthony Johnson and Jon Jones was very intriguing, but this new pairing with Daniel Cormier may be even more interesting. In essence, the fight is about two athletic, well-rounded, mixed martial artists who are better in their strong points than possibly anybody else in the sport. In Johnson, we have a big hitter who is finally competing in his appropriate weight class and has also refined his striking over the last few years to become more powerful and more technical. In Cormier, we have one of the finest amateur wrestlers to ever strap on a pair of four ounce gloves, who can also strike with the best of the division.
Johnson’s power against Cormier’s grappling; that is the most prominent aspect of this contest, however it is not the be-all, end-all of determining the victor. Dissecting these two combatants games shows where their strengths lie.
It’s no secret that Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is a devastating striker, he has gifted power and sure loves to use it, but he’s not reckless in his approach. Johnson has greatly improved his striking, making his knockouts more likely and much more efficient. Blackzilian striking coach Henri Hooft, has really refined Johnson’s striking arsenal with perfect seamless transitions from offense to defense and vice versa. Cormier’s striking is not bad by any means, he has decent power and is deceptively fast, but if this was a straight kickboxing match, it would be an ugly night for the Olympian. On top of that, “Rumble” might have the nastiest uppercut in the sport right now, he uses it both offensively and as a counter with incredible timing and über malicious intent. If Cormier doesn’t close the distance with good setups and footwork, it could cost him dearly.
Reminiscent of a Kanye West lyric, “No one man should have all that power,” Johnson’s power is worthy of envy. The other-worldly power he possesses is the kind that can knock any man on the planet out-cold with one single blow. There’s no way to be safe from it, or not be preoccupied with it every time he comes forward. Virtually every shot that Johnson throws is to hurt, and yet he still uses solid combinations and good setups to unload his power strikes. Cormier can definitely tag and possibly hurt Johnson, but the odds are not stacked in his favor, he will need a perfect combination of fast, pressuring strikes and impeccably-timed takedowns to survive Johnson’s power.
Daniel Cormier is a world-class grappler, that’s not a matter of opinion, but fact. He is a two-time Olympic wrestler and one of the finest national talents the United States has ever seen compete on the mat. Up until his last fight, he had never been taken down in his MMA career, but it was due more to fatigue than a lapse in skill. Cormier has a great way of throwing his strikes to effortlessly transition into takedowns, making the Olympic caliber wrestling all the more difficult to defend against. Just in the way that most fighters cannot match Johnson’s power, most fighters will never acquire Cormier’s elite wrestling, and he will unquestionably use it to smother and neutralize Johnson’s attack.
This is the third time that Daniel Cormier is scheduled to compete in a five round fight. Cormier has gone the full 25 minutes already, as opposed to Anthony Johnson, who has only had one fight scheduled for five rounds, and has never gone past the fifteen minute mark in his career. The experience of major 25 minute bouts is crucial to Cormier’s success. This is familiar territory to him, and can definitely make it work to his advantage by implementing an intelligent, well-paced gameplan.
UFC 187’s main event is a treat for the MMA aficionado, it’s comprised of the most desired aspects of prize fighting; high stakes, and a matchup of two high-level, closely matched fighters who desperately want to grasp a gold belt. Expect a competitive first round, followed by “Rumble” landing hard shots in the subsequent rounds.
Daniel Cormier is a true talent and one of the best fighters in the world, but his combination striking and high-caliber wrestling will not be enough to defeat Anthony Johnson. Cormier’s speed advantage over the majority of the division will be negligible in this bout, and his pressuring striking approach will be his undoing. Johnson is a power striker with solid fundamentals. His attacks are constant and he always keeps himself in a sound defensive/countering mode, both in regards to strikes and takedowns. Cormier will have no answer for Johnson’s attack and will eventually fall to his patented assault of hooks, uppercuts and ground and pound.
Anthony Johnson, via 3rd round TKO