UFC 214 (July 29th, Anaheim, CA) is what UFC 213 wanted to be, but due to injuries, the promise of that last card never came to fruition. At least we don’t have to wait too long for what looks to be the biggest and “bestest” MMA event of the year.
While rematches are usually fun, the second meeting between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones is like one of those sequels that comes so many years after the original that you forgot the franchise even existed.
In case you need a refresher, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away, Jon Jones beat Cormier back at UFC 182 (January 3, 2015). The Champ won that matchup via unanimous decision but ultimately ended up losing at life. Jones committed a DUI hit-and-run (Jones literally ran from the scene) that led to the champ being suspended and stripped of his title. Cormier was able to win that vacant light-heavyweight belt, but a dark, Jones-shaped shadow has always loomed.
Jones returned to the cage at UFC 197, beating Ovince Saint Preux in lackluster fashion and earning a shiny interim light-heavyweight belt in the process. A Cormier vs. Jones II unification bout was then scheduled for UFC 200, which was supposed to be the greatest MMA card ever. But that was blown up after the USADA nailed Jones for failing an out-of-competition drug test. Jones claimed that the drug he took was something to keep him erect for sexy time, but the only thing that got screwed was the fans.
That failed drug test led to another one-year suspension and title-stripping for Jones. Now fast forward to present time, and although I want to believe we are finally going to see the fight, I’m just waiting for the other glove to drop.
It’s clear the UFC feels the same way. The powers that be stacked the card with intriguing fights in case the main event doesn’t materialize.
In the co-main event, Tyron Woodley defends his welterweight title against Demian Maia who is one of the most deserving no. 1 contenders we have seen in a long time. If amazing jiu-jitsu vs. punching power isn’t your thing, and you have a hankering for the ladies, the scariest woman on the planet, Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, will be facing her toughest competition in Tonya “Triple Threat” Evinger for the vacant UFC women’s featherweight title.
Add the canceled UFC 213 bout between Robbie Lawler and Donald Cerrone as another appetizer of destruction and this card is already well worth the price of the pay-per-view dollars. Even the undercard has some matchups to keep an eye on as it’s chock-full of grade-A prospects.
So if Jones ends getting abducted by aliens — or maybe Cormier breaks his face after tripping over a chihuahua — at least there is solid entertainment surrounding the main event that will give us MMA addicts the hits we deserve. Let’s hope for the best, though, and act like we’ll see Part II of the Jones vs Cormier movie on July 29th, remembering all the while that we need to practice safe excitement.
UFC 214 ODDS AND PREDICTIONS
Daniel Cormier (C) (+235) vs. Jon Jones (-255) (Light-Heavyweight Title)
While Jon Jones (22-1) has been sitting back in Albuquerque enjoying the suspended life, Cormier (19-1) has been busy winning fights and shining up his UFC light-heavyweight title. Since his loss to Jones, Cormier has reeled off four wins in a row including slapping a rear-naked choke on Anthony Johnson at UFC 210 back in April.
No matter how great Cormier has looked, it appears fans see him as a placeholder rather than the real champion. “Bones” Jones never lost his belt in the Octagon; he lost it for being a criminal and (alleged) cheater. With only one fight in the last two years, many are wondering if cage rust will be a factor when these two finally exchange blows.
Cormier loves to use his striking to set up takedowns. Given his wrestling prowess (Cormier has been averaging 1.92 takedowns with an accuracy of 42.8% in his MMA career), opponents have to devote much of their energy and attention to take-down defense if they want to keep the fight upright. That leads to a sort of Sophie’s choice for most: do you want to be taken down and beaten into submission or receive your knockout blow standing up?
Cormier is also the type of fighter that gets better as the fight drags on, as his repeated takedowns and takedown attempts run you out of gas.
All the above is why Cormier is the best 205-pound fighter in the world … that isn’t named Jon Jones.
You can try to convince yourself that Jones’ layoff will produce a completely different fighter. But the reality is that he is 29 years old, potentially entering the prime of his career, and already beat the man he’ll be facing pretty convincingly.
Back at UFC 182, Jones landed 92 strikes to Cormier’s 58 and scored three takedowns to just one for Cormier, a former Olympic wrestler. Jones’ freakish reach kept Cormier and his shorter arms on the outside, and a nice blend of kicks, elbows, and punches, had Cormier guessing all night. Although Cormier had his moments, Jones controlled the fight and the judges all scored it 49-46.
Like a fine wine, Cormier, 38, has only improved since the first (and so far only) loss of his career. That makes it somewhat tempting to take the champ as a pretty sizable ‘dog in this fight, but I haven’t seen him reach Jon Jones-level dominance yet. And we will probably never see Cormier reach those heights, since they’re as high as Jon Jones was for years. All in all, Jones’ is just a matchup nightmare for the stocky Cormier, and no amount of time off will change that. It’s not like Cormier’s arms grow an inch every time Jones gets suspended.
Sure, one punch could end this, and ring rust might be there, but it’s not like Jones hasn’t been training his ass off for his second chance to beat the living crap out of his rival on pay-per-view. Look for Jones to prove he is still the true light-heavyweight champion of the world.
Pick: Jon Jones (-255)
Tyron Woodley (C) (-190) vs. Demian Maia (+165) (Welterweight Title)
Thanks to all the inexplicable title shots and weird money-matches that the UFC hands out, fighters like Demian Maia (25-6) have had to scratch, claw, and choke their way up to the fights they deserved yesterday.
Maia has shown why he is the greatest jiu-jitsu practitioner we have ever seen compete in the Octagon and his seven fight winning streak leaves a trail of men who have been submitted, battered and bruised by the Brazilian bad-ass. Now, seven years since his last title opportunity against Anderson Silva, which I’m sure he would like to forget, Maia gets another chance to win the one thing that his distinguished career lacks: a UFC title.
The only thing standing in the way of Maia’s legacy achievement is a killer named Tyron Woodley (17-3-1). Although Maia has been able to beat wrestlers before, he has never faced a man with Woodley’s arsenal. Sure, the 35-year-old has Division I All-American wrestling status, but he also packs shotguns for hands. If he connects, Maia might not remember how to perform a basic arm-bar the next day.
It’s in Woodley’s best interest to keep this fight standing and use his wrestling pedigree to keep it from going to the canvas. While Maia’s stand up has improved a lot and he’s not afraid to mix it up on the feet, Woodley just successfully defended his title twice against one of the best strikers in the division in Stephen Thompson. There is nothing that Maia can do standing that Woodley will fear. The best way for Maia to win this matchup is clearly by sucking Woodley into his BJJ game and that’s going to be hard to do.
Maia is very tough to bet against; he has surprised so many times during his current run and he clearly has the advantage in one significant area; if Woodley isn’t careful, he will find himself tapping out. But Woodley’s punching power should be the difference, slowly but surely wearing Maia down in a five-round affair that goes to the cards.
Pick: Tyron Woodley (-190)
Cristiano Justino (-1175) over Tonya Evinger (+755)
Robbie Lawler (-155) over Donald Cerrone (+135)
Jimi Manuwa (-175) over Volkan Oezdemir (+155)