UFC 182: Jones vs. Cormier Fight Picks and Preview

cormier jones

As first events of the year go, we have a pretty amazing one to look forward to this Saturday as the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada hosts UFC 182. There are familiar names littered throughout a card topped by a battle for the 205 lbs title. Here is my preview, picks, betting tips and miscellaneous ramblings.

Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier

It’s finally time for what might well be the most highly anticipated and technically skilled fight in the history of MMA. Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier are not only hugely competitive, top drawer light-heavyweights fighting for a title, they also don’t like each other. And it’s not artificially constructed like so many others – this is real. Since their first verbal altercation at the MMA awards years ago, Jones and DC have gone back and forth jabbing through the media with accusations of fakeness and jealously contained in the rallies. It all came to a head, though, during a media day in August last when a much publicised stare off in the lobby of the MGM saw the pair get in each other’s faces before Cormier pushed Jones away and the champion responded with an overhand left which ended in flying shoes, fallen advertising hoardings and two of the best prize fighter in the world having to be separated on the ground. If there was any doubt about it, that ended it. This conflict is about as real as it gets.

What’s also real is the MMA ability both of these men have. Quite frankly, this is up there with the most highly skilled match-ups in the history of the sport. Jones, the champion, is arguably the greatest fighter to ever walk the planet. He has a strong wrestling base to which he has added slick submissions as well as, most importantly, a magnificent, distance oriented striking attack which has bamboozled every opponent to date. Jones is a master of keeping his opponents at bay by jabbing and low kicking from the outside where he is most comfortable. The New Yorker is at Mensa levels in his fight IQ and has a history of taking on, and beating, the opposition at their best attribute while also switching up his offence based on what he sees during the exchanges.

Cormier is a much less complicated, yet highly effective, fighter. The AKA trained #1 contender is a former two time Olympian after getting spots on the 2004 and 2008 American wrestling teams. After transitioning to MMA, Cormier has gone fifteen fights unbeaten, the first thirteen of which were at heavyweight where he picked up the Strikeforce tournament strap along the way. Unlike Jones, Cormier has a much more orthodox kickboxing style which he uses mostly to set up his bullying, controlling style of wrestling domination. Once he gets a hold of you it’s almost impossible to stop the slam or takedown.

Like all fights of this nature, it’s a tough one to call as neither man has had a real weakness in his game truly exposed as of yet. Logically, we should expect Cormier to try and push a pace early in the hopes of initiating plenty of grappling against the fence and, hopefully for him, some takedowns. Jones, on the other hand, should want to keep his distance by jabbing and kicking from the outside where the much shorter opponent won’t be able to hurt him and won’t be able to break the barrier to initiate his wrestling game. I say should because with Jon Jones you never know what he is going to do.

What we do know, though, is that Jones is intelligent enough to continue doing what’s working well and change what’s going badly as the fight progresses. I’m not sure the same can be said the other way around. If Cormier can’t tie up Jones or take him down there isn’t a whole lot of damage he can do to him in the straight striking department. In relative terms, Cormier is new to striking and doesn’t pack a punch or have the technique in his hands which would suggest he can get inside and stop or even hurt the champion. To win, it has to be twenty-five minutes of pure domination from Cormier. He has to prey on every mistake and punish Jones for it on top of taking away the jab and kicks (and thus the range) from the champion before implementing his wrestling. I’m not sure he has enough tools on the feet to do that.

I see Jones getting his oblique kick, side kick and jab popping early to set the tone for what’s to come. Expect Cormier to dance a lot early in the fight but also expect that movement to be stopped by Jones attacking the legs. Once that works, Jones can open up on the feet with spinning shots as well as starting to attempt takedowns against a less agile, more down trodden challenger before looking for submissions to seek an end to the bout once it goes horizontal. This fight is going to be a cracker, a pure exhibition of technique from moment one. I’m picking Jon Jones because he is the more well rounded of two truly awesome fighters. But, make no mistake about it, the real winners here are the fans.

My Pick – Jones via submission

Donald Cerrone vs. Myles Jury

The co-main event, between Donald Cerrone and Myles Jury, isn’t at all a bad one either with “Cowboy” on the verge of a title shot and “Fury” close to putting himself into that conversation. After a shaky 2013, Cerrone got himself back on track last year and enters 2015 riding a five fight winning streak with Edson Barboza, Jim Miller and former Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez his last trio of victims. Jury, on the other hand, has yet to taste a single defeat in fifteen fights. At just twenty-six years old the team Alliance student is improving with every outing and propelled himself up the rankings most recently with wins over veterans Takenori Gomi and Diego Sanchez.

Just like the main event, range will be a big issue in this fight – although in a different way. Both men are happiest when fighting from the outside on the feet which is an unusual prospect for both as they are more accustomed to opponents trying to stop the fight from taking place at arm’s length. Jury is the quicker, more nimble man who likes to come in and out of range with well-timed, powerful combinations of punches and kicks while remaining constantly light on his feet. Cerrone is the taller fighter and will look to crush the legs of Jury with kicks from that outside range while following it up with some 2s and 3s from the hands. A knockdown is likely the only way this one will go south but if it does they are also both high level and very well matched on the ground with 20 combined wins coming by way of submission.

This is a tough one to call because Jury is somewhat of an unknown against such lofty competition. What we do know is that he is extremely talented with his hands, constantly moving and hard to hit. We also know Cerrone, despite beating a fair share, has struggled with such fighters in the past. Jury has a proven ability to keep his concentration while implementing a detailed gameplan and not getting into a brawl over fifteen minutes while Cerrone tends to get frustrated. I think that intelligence level, and his physical capabilities, are key to beating Donald Cerrone.

My Pick – Jury via decision

Hector Lombard vs. Josh Burkman

After being released by the promotion when he lost to Pete Sell way back at UFC 90 in 2008, Josh Burkman finally makes his way back into the Octagon this Saturday night. In his time away the American won nine of his eleven fights outside of the UFC to earn his way back. That run culminated in a 4-1 stint in the World Series Of Fighting where he fought for the promotional strap as well as beating respected veterans Aaron Simpson and Jon Fitch. Now, back in the UFC, Burkman is being thrown directly to the wolves as he faces Hector Lombard – one of the most feared fighters on the roster. Lombard is a former Bellator middleweight champion who was undefeated in twenty-four bouts before losing two in three in the UFC which forced a drop down to welterweight. There, he has beaten former Strikeforce champions Nate Marquardt and Jake Shields in impressive fashion and will be looking to push his way towards the title talk on Saturday.

Burkman is a hard-hitting puncher who likes to wait for an attack, avoid the strike and land with a counter or takedown while switching stances. On the floor he is an expert submission artist and favours the guillotine – the move he slept the seemingly unsubmittable Jon Fitch with. His problem, though, lies where Lombard is strongest. The American is somewhat pedestrian and struggles with head and foot movement while the aptly nicknamed “Lightening” Lombard is unbelievably quick on his feet and will look to exploit that advantage. The Cuban loads up his energy and attacks in bursts with devastating hooks from both sides. If they don’t put you down, Lombard can also clinch and use his Olympic level judo to introduce you to the canvas. Burkman’s best path to victory is to catch Lombard early and put him away. If he doesn’t do that, Lombard eventually will. I see Lombard stalking early before using the clinch to test the sometimes questioned cardio of the American. Once he does that, Burkman will become a sitting target to Lombard’s strikes. Then, it’s just a matter of time.

My Pick – Lombard by KO 

 

SHORT PICKS

Brad Tavares vs. Nate Marquardt – Tavares via KO
Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Louis Gaudinot – Horiguchi via decision
Danny Castillo vs. Paul Felder – Castillo via decision
Marcus Brimage vs. Cody Garbrandt – Brimage via decision
Shawn Jordan vs. Jared Cannonier – Jordan via KO
Evan Dunham vs. Rodrigo Damm – Dunham via decision
Omari Akhmedov vs. Mats Nilsson – Akhmedov via decision
Alexis Dufresne vs. Marion Reneau – Defresne via decision 

BONUS PICKS

Fight off the night – Jones vs. Cormier

Performance of the night – Jones and Lombard

BET OF THE WEEK

At 13/8 I think Myles Jury is a fantastic price to beat Donald Cerrone. If you were to stick him in an accumulator with favourites Jones, Jordan, Lombard and Dunham you’re looking at a cool 8/1.  Without him that foresome at around 5/2 is also a good bet, if that takes your fancy.

START TIMES (IRISH TIME)

Fight Pass Prelims – 12 midnight on UFC.tv

Prelims – 1am BT Sport

Main Card – 3am BT Sport

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma