UFC 192 is right around the corner. With the shadow of Jon Jones lurking over this card, the next few days could get interesting. Here are my thoughts.
Daniel Cormier (C) vs. Alexander Gustafsson-Light Heavyweight Championship
From a booking standpoint, this fight confused many when announced back in June. Reason being, in Gustafsson’s last fight, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson almost knocked his head clean off his shoulders. However, Johnson is probably the hardest puncher in UFC history. I’m surprised he hasn’t killed someone yet. But from a matchup perspective, this is a very intriguing fight. I’m not a fan of the promotion of this fight touting the major reach difference as the main sticking point.
Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson is the best striker in the Light Heavyweight Division and one of the best in the UFC. Boxing has always been Gustafsson’s style. He changes levels often and will use his long reach to hit fighters as they try to close the distance. The other area of Gustafsson’s game that is just as impressive is his wrestling. He has elite takedown defense and is one of only two men to takedown former champ, Jon Jones.
The other man to hold that honor is the current titleholder. Cormier’s own failed bid at Jones’ belt was not quite as close as Gustafsson’s. However, “DC” can boast that he claimed the belt soon after by finishing Anthony Johnson, the man who had beaten Gustafsson senseless just four months before, and had the Swede contemplating retirement.
JOHNSON WILL BEAT YOU TO RETIREMENT!
My reason for that digression is that Gustafsson and Cormier faced the same opponent (Johnson) within 5 months of each other. The Swede was seeing stars while Cormier dominated Johnson. Cormier’s bread-and-butter is the clinch, as he does his best work pinning his opponent against the cage and either using dirty boxing or working for a takedown. His striking is much underrated, but it serves as a way he gets in clinch.
Prediction: My impression from public perception is that Cormier is the favorite just because Gustafsson is coming back from a knockout loss to Johnson. But let’s be real here, Johnson will do that to anyone and everyone. My thoughts: as Cormier tries to close the distance, he will be at the end of a lot of strikes as the Swede constantly backpedals. Gustafsson can move around all day. Cormier cannot. The champ is very tough so he won’t get knocked out, but I see this as a Gustafsson victory by decision, and a likely sequel to one of the greatest fights ever with Jon Jones.
Johny Hendricks vs. Tyron Woodley
Update: This fight has been officially scrapped due to Johny Hendricks being hospitalized with problems cutting weight. It is unfortunate because this was likely to crown the no. 1 contender for the welterweight title, so it seems that Woodley will get the next title shot. This isn’t the first time Hendricks had issues cutting weight. Just Wednesday (10/1), Hendricks weighed in at 196lbs. Which meant he needed to cut 25lbs in two days, which is pure insanity. I am certain UFC President Dana White will mandate him to move up a weight class to middleweight.
Ryan Bader vs. Rashad Evans
I was more than a little disappointed with Ryan Bader’s last performance in a lackluster victory against Phil Davis. He is a very stiff striker going up against a quick fighter in Rashad Evans. Bader remains one of the best wrestlers in a division filled with great wrestlers. Rashad may very well be a better wrestler. Honestly, these two are very similar fighters, which makes this very interesting. Evans’s wrestling and boxing are great compliments to each other, faking takedowns to punching combos or combo punching to a takedown.
Prediction: At 36, injuries have kept Evans on the shelf for the better part of two years, and he is not getting any younger. However, Evans is just too slick and too experienced and Bader’s striking isn’t good enough to keep up. Evans by unanimous decision
Shawn Jordan vs. Ruslan Magomedov THE MATCHUP
Magomedov is a raw prospect. He is a counterpuncher and doesn’t control the distance very well, which doesn’t bode well for a division known for its aggression. Jordan sometimes throws flashy strikes and he is always looking to land his left hand. So if I know the left hand is coming, his opponents do too. He sometimes telegraphs the punch-opponents see it coming because he dips his right shoulder right before he throws the punch.
Prediction: Magomedov is just too raw a fighter to be put in this big of a spotlight too soon. He is 28 years old and there hasn’t been much evolution to his game. Jordan by second round KO.
Jessica Eye vs. Julianna Pena: THE MATCHUP
Julianna is one mean fighter. I guess that is because she doesn’t have the best relationship with Lady Luck. Pena dominated “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 18, then was sidelined for more than a year when her knee practically exploded. Pena is very aggressive, but she sacrifices her technique. She is very similar to Ronda Rousey in regards to her fighting style. Not a well-rounded striker but will look to get in the clinch where she will look for takedowns. On the ground, Pena is just mean. Once she gets the opponent on the ground, a plastic surgeon is on speed dial. Her gound-and-pound is mean, straight mean…and violent. Jessica Eye is a female version of Alexander Gustafsson. Her problem is that she will sometimes lose her composure and get in some wild exchanges, abandoning her technique, which was a big problem in her last fight with Miesha Tate.
Prediction: Unless Jessica Eye has become more mature and composed as a fighter since her last fight in July, this should be a tough battle. However, being out of action for two years due to injury cannot be understated. This underrated matchup has “Fight of the Night” written all over it. Eye via split decision.