By Niall Clarke
- UFC 214 preview and predictions
- Daniel Cormier vs Jon Jones, Tyron Woodley vs Demian Maia and more.
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA- Arguably the biggest match-up in the sport is set to take place this weekend as Daniel Cormier faces a returning Jon Jones for the UFC Light-Heavyweight Championship in the main event of UFC 214. Here is a breakdown of Saturday’s main card.
Light-Heavyweight Championship: Daniel Cormier (c) (19-1) vs Jon Jones (22-1)
The main event of UFC 214 is not just a mere title fight. It is the return of arguably the greatest fighter to ever step foot in the octagon to face his greatest rival and re-capture what he believes is his title.
Jon Jones has hardly proven himself as a role model for society. After years of controversy outside the cage, including a hit and run, rehab and a drug suspension, it is easy to see why the former Light-Heavyweight champion is revered by many fans.
But despite his shortcomings, Jones is a fantastic fighter and arguably the greatest ever. A pure talent from day one, the New Yorker has never been beaten with his only loss coming via disqualification for illegal elbows.
Jones ruled the Light-Heavyweight division until being stripped of his title by the UFC, allowing the belt to be placed around the waist of now champion, Daniel Cormier.
It is fair to say that Jones and Cormier can not stand each other. They traded insults for years until finally meeting at UFC 182 in one of the most anticipated title matches in UFC history.
Jones would control the fight to earn a competitive yet clear decision to retain his title. Despite the result, it was clear that these two fighters will cross paths again and after many close calls, they will finally go at it again at UFC 214.
This time the roles are reversed. Cormier is the champion and Jones is the challenger, but despite who holds the belt, many believe that Jones is still the ‘real champion’ and that Cormier needs to beat him in order to be crowned as the best Light-Heavyweight in the world. ‘DC’ is obsessed with being number one and until he beats Jones, he himself knows that can not be seen as the best.
The Champion is an elite wrestler as proven by his Olympic bronze medal in 2008, but his striking has improved leaps and bounds during his career, making ‘DC’ a much more well rounded fighter than he was as a heavyweight. Cormier is an excellent pressure fighter.
He loves to close the distance and grab hold of opponents either in the clinch or for the takedown. Once he gets you down, he keeps you there as well as anybody, and from there he can land his ground and pound or look for a submission like he did against Anthony Johnson twice.
Jones is one of the most gifted fighters of all time. Like Cormier, he comes from a wrestling background, but he has developed other areas of his game to become the fighter he is today. ‘Bones’ is an unorthodox striker and earlier in his career he was a very flashy one, but under the guidance of Greg Jackson, Jones has become a much more disciplined fighter. With his 85 inch reach, Jones controls distance possibly better than anybody in the history of the game, and his ability to avoid taking damage is unprecedented.
Prediction: Despite many arguing otherwise, the first fight was not very close. Cormier was competitive and did give Jones one of his tougher fights, but it was a clear victory for the former champion. Strip down the outside factors affecting this fight, Jones is a stylistic nightmare for Cormier.
He controls range better than anyone, he is excellent in the clinch and nobody has been able to take Jones down and keep him there. That said, the outside factors can not be ignored. Jones will no doubt be rusty after a 15 month layoff like he was in his last fight against Ovince Saint-Preux, where he did not look like his usual self despite a dominant victory.
There is also the factor of the death of Jones’ mum in the build up to the fight and how much that will affect the challenger’s preparation, and all the other personal issues that surround him such as the drugs suspension.
That said, the onus is still on Cormier to find a way to best Jones and that is hard to see. Jones is such a stylistic bad match-up for ‘DC’ that it is hard to see a path to victory for the champion. It will likely be a closer fight than the first but one Jones will probably win via decision. Jones via decision.
Welterweight Championship: Tyron Woodley (c) (16-3-1) vs Demian Maia (25-6)
Demian Maia has finally received his long overdue Welterweight title shot against Tyron Woodley this weekend, and at the tender age of 39, he can become one of the oldest champions in the history of the sport. Standing in his way though is one of the division’s best athletes and a man who has all the tools to stop the Brazilian’s run.
Woodley is another unpopular fighter on this card, but after two title defences over Stephen Thompson, even his greatest of detractors can not deny he deserves his belt. Woodley is a great athlete and comes from a wrestling background, but his biggest weapon in his recent fights has been his punching power.
He knocked out Robbie Lawler to win the belt, then almost finished Thompson twice whilst defending it. Woodley, despite his tools is a defensive fighter. He has a very low output and likes to wait for his opportunities to pounce.
Maia is a throwback to the early days of the sport. The Brazilian is excellent at one discipline, and rather average at others, but he is such a good Jiu-Jitsu practitioner that when he gets you to the mat, he is almost impossible to beat.
Maia may also be the nicest guy in the sport. He has openly stated he does not want to hurt people and does not like punching them, hence why he likes to grapple instead. But that does not stop him from being a vicious submission artist, and he is arguably the greatest ever at step foot in the octagon.
Prediction: If Maia can get Woodley on the mat for an extended period of time then the Brazilian will hold the advantage, but that is easier said than done. Woodley is a strong Welterweight and very hard to takedown.
The Champion holds the advantage on the feet, and if he can connect cleanly with a right hand then it may be lights out of the challenger. Over the course of a 25 minute fight, it is hard to not see that happening, so the pick is Woodley via fourth round knockout.
Women’s Featherweight Championship: Cris Cyborg (17-1) vs Tonya Evinger (19-5)
Finding an opponent for Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Justino may be the hardest task for an MMA matchmaker. Cyborg is arguably the greatest female fighter of all time and certainly the scariest. The Brazilian is a brutal striker with vicious knockout power, and she has ruled the Featherweight division for the better part of a decade.
She was originally meant to face then Featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie, but the Dutchwoman refused the fight and was stripped of her title as a result. Invicta champion Megan Anderson then stepped up to take the fight for the vacant strap, but the Aussie was forced to withdraw. Cyborg will now face Invicta Bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger who will make her UFC debut on Saturday, and if anything it promises to be an exciting matchup.
Cyborg is a destroyer. He size and strength can no be matched in the division, and combined with her brutal striking, you have the most feared female mixed martial artist on the planet. Early in her career, the Brazilian would completely overwhelm opponents with her wild striking. These days she is much more technically refined and disciplined, making her an even better version of the fighter that dominated Featherweight initially.
Evinger is a collegiate wrestler who likes to take her opponents down to the mat and put the hurt of them there. Evinger herself is riding an unbeaten streak stretching back to 2011 and her loss to Sara McMann. She has since won 10 fights and her only ‘loss’ in that time was overturned to a no contest. Evinger is as game as they come and has the tools to make it a tough fight for Cyborg, but size will certainly be a factor.
Prediction: As tough and as game as Evinger is, this only feels like going one way. Cyborg will likely be too big and too strong in the grappling exchanges, plus the Brazilian holds a big advantage in the striking department. It will be fun whilst it lasts, but expect this to go the way of many Cyborg fights and that is a brutal stoppage inside of two rounds. Cyborg via second round knockout.
Welterweight: Robbie Lawler (27-11) vs Donald Cerrone (31-8)
It is arguably the most anticipated fight on the card for hardcore MMA fans and it is easy to see why. Robbie Lawler vs Donald Cerrone was originally slated for UFC 213, but it was moved to UFC 214 meaning that fans had to wait an extra few weeks until they can see this dream matchup.
Lawler recently went through one of the all time great career resurgences. ‘Ruthless’ returned to the UFC after fighting in other organisations for the better part of a decade and he came back a much more refined fighter. Lawler would go on to capture the UFC Welterweight crown and defend it twice before being blasted by Woodley.
This is Lawler’s first fight since losing the title and there are many question marks surrounding the former champion and whether he is shot worn. After almost 40 fights and many of them being wars, there is a chance his chin might not hold up like it once did.
Cerrone has had his fair share of wars too. ‘Cowboy’ is one of the streakiest fighters in the sport as he often puts together long winning streaks that put him in title contention. The problem for Cerrone is that he has been unable to convert those streaks into title victories as he often falters in the big fights. His last winning four fight run was snapped brutally by Jorge Masvidal via TKO in the second round.
Prediction: The key for Lawler is to hit Cerrone very hard. Despite his toughness, ‘Cowboy’ is prone to being hit early in fights and with the power of Lawler it is hard to see Cerrone fighting through it.
Cerrone has also been susceptible to body shots throughout his career, something Lawler mixes into his game very well. The key for ‘Cowboy’ is to use all his muay thai strengths to keep Lawler out of range. Kicks will be a key weapon for Cerrone, and look for him to mix in some takedowns in Lawler gets into punching range.
There will be fireworks in this fight and there will likely be a finish. It feels like it will be either Lawler early or Cerrone late and it is hard to see ‘Cowboy’ avoiding a big Lawler punch for long. The prediction is Lawler via second round TKO.
Light-Heavyweight: Jimi Manuwa (17-2) vs. Volkan Oezdemir (14-1)
There is British interest at UFC 214 as Jimi Manuwa looks to strengthen his bid for a UFC title shot when he squares off against Volkan Oezdemir. It is a fight that was made just in case something happened with the main event that forces it to be cancelled, so one of these men could be bumped up to the main event.
It does show emphasise the decline of the light-heavyweight division that a man who filled in as a late replacement against Ovince Saint-Preux in February can go potentially within a fight of a title shot. Only in MMA. Oezdemir is a talent though and should not be under-estimated. Striking is his strength and he mixes them up well. Grappling is a weakness, but he has done a good job of avoiding those exchanges throughout his career.
Fortunately for Oezdemir, Manuwa is not much of a grappler. The Brit is another fighter who prefers to keep fights standing and use his 79 inch reach and his speed to cover distance quickly and land some devastating strikes. Manuwa’s only two loses have come against the very elite of the division in Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson and he has soundly defeated those he is expected to.
Prediction: Most of the exchanges In this fight will be on the feet, and given Manuwa’s slight reach advantage, the Brit will probably land from range without letting his opponent land many shots himself. Manuwa may also look to exploit the weakness of Oezdemir in initiate grappling exchanges when the fight gets close. The pick is Manuwa via second round TKO
Full Fight card
Main Card: (BT Sport 3am)
Daniel Cormier (c) vs. Jon Jones – Light heavyweight title
Tyron Woodley (c) vs. Demian Maia – Welterweight title
Cristiane Justino vs. Tonya Evinger – Women’s featherweight title
Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone
Jimi Manuwa vs. Volkan Oezdemir
Prelims (BT Sport 1am)
Ricardo Lamas vs. Jason Knight
Aljamain Sterling vs. Renan Barão
Brian Ortega vs. Renato Moicano
Andre Fili vs. Calvin Kattar
Early Prelims (UFC Fight Pass 11pm)
Kailin Curran vs. Alexandra Albu
Eric Shelton vs. Jarred Brooks
Josh Burkman vs. Drew Dober
UFC 214 will take place on Saturday July 29th
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