It was billed as the most high quality fight in UFC history and, even though it didn’t quite fit that billing, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier turned out to be an outstanding showcase of elite MMA as UFC 182 went down at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Jones set up his marquee range orientated stance early on as he attacked with kicks high and low in a fast paced opening period. Cormier desperately attempted to get inside with punches to set up his wrestling but the control of the distance allowed Jones to punish the body with some well placed knees and side kicks. It wasn’t all one way traffic, though, as Cormier did have some success when he was able to control the clinch and land some uppercuts on the inside. The second round was by far the best for the former Olympian as he was more tuned in to the range of Jones. The champion still landed his fair share of shots from the outside but wasn’t stopping the clinch exchanges. That was where Cormier had his most successfully periods with the uppercut his money shot all evening.
In the third, Jones initiated his long range game again and brutally kicked the legs, body and head of his opponent who was bravely relentless with his forward motion. That walking forward was necessary for Cormier to get inside but also led to the far bigger Jones cutting him off almost every time with digging elbows and knees. By the time the championship rounds began, Cormier looked noticeably gasping for air. So tired in fact that Jones was able to take him to the floor not once, but twice. From there, Jones was happy to play it safe and controlled Cormier in the clinch against the fence as the challenger wilted.
The final round had the least output and was the easiest to score as the crowd jeered while Jones, again, decided that cage control was his best option. That control, which saw Jones land with a few tight shots with his shoulder and elbows, lasted until the last ninety seconds of the fight when Cormier finally got an offensive wrestling motion as he lifted Jones in the air before briefly putting him on the deck. Jones immediately got back to his feet and, with seconds left on the clock, celebrated in the face of Cormier before they had one last exchange as the bell sounded.
In a fight which was thought to be the best versus the second best in the world, what was really showcased was exactly how much of a gulf there is from Jones down as all three judges scored the bout in favour of the champion, four rounds to one. Cormier put up a valiant effort but Jon Jones is clearly on another level. Next up for the champion is the winner of the fight between Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson which goes down later this month in Sweden. No matter who the winner is, he’ll have a tough time taking the title from arguably the greatest fighter to ever live.
The co-main event was also a high quality fight on paper as lightweight contenders Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Myles “Fury” Jury battled it out to put themselves right in line for a title shot. I say on paper because in practice it turned into a drab affair for fifteen minutes – a theme which ran throughout a fairly forgettable card. Nevertheless it wasn’t the worst of opening rounds as Jury quickly jumped on a takedown. Unfortunately for the prospect, Cerrone landed in an omoplata which he cranked until Jury was forced to give up his back. Cerrone quickly strapped on the body triangle and had his opponent in trouble with a rear naked choke which Jury did well to defend.
In the second Jury was a lot safer and used his speed to keep the distance. Cerrone became frustrated and landed almost only leg kicks as Jury popped in and out with strikes. The final stanza was all Cerrone as he began to shut off the movement of Jury in another pretty monotonous round. The most impressive blows of the bout came in the last fifteen seconds as Cerrone booted Jury in the backside as he lay flat on his back. In the end, the Judges scored every round to Cerrone who keeps his spot near the top of the division. After it was announced on the broadcast that lightweight champion Anthony Pettis will fight Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC185, Cerrone’s next outing might well be a mouth-watering clash with gritty Russian prospect Khabib Nurmagomedov. Watch this space.
Elsewhere on a main card which contained only decisions, welterweight monster Hector Lombard returned against Josh Burkman. It was another pretty average affair as both men looked off pace from the very start. Lombard was clearly the better man throughout the fight and landed with a number off sporadic striking attacks but couldn’t put away the iron chinned Burkman as he took the unanimous decision. The same can pretty much be said for Brad Tavares and Kyoji Horiguchi who handled Nate Marquadt and Louis Gaudinot respectively with ease before getting the nod from the cageside scorers.
The prelim portion of the card turned out to be the stand-out action of a disappointing night. On the top of the non-PPV action team-alpha male veteran Danny Castillo took on UFC sophomore Paul Felder in a bout which saw an early contender for knockout of the year. Felder started the better and hurt Castillo early with a number of well placed combinations. With Castillo unable to implement his wrestling Felder was able to open up even more on the feet and with the halfway point of the fight approaching landed a mesmerising spinning back fist which knocked Castillo spark out.
Castillo’s fellow team-alpha male member Cody Garbrandt preceded him in the Octagon and put on a much more solid display against TUF veteran Marcus Brimage for three rounds before viciously knocking him out with a series of hooks in the final minute of the fifteenth. That was the second clean knockout of the night after Shawn Jordan put newcomer Jared Cannonier to sleep in the first round – ending his unbeaten streak along the way. A trio of pretty low action decisions filled out the card as veteran Evan Dunham won every round against Rodrigo Damm and Omari Akhmdov won two of three rounds against Mats Nilsson while the opening bout of the whole night saw the thoroughly outmatched Alexis Dufresne take a ruthless beating from the promising Marion Reneau in one better left forgotten.
Next up: UFC Boston in two weeks.