Daniel Cormier and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson are set for a sequel that might mirror the original.
UFC 210 goes down Saturday night in Buffalo, New York, and it features two top-notch combatants going toe-to-toe for the light heavyweight title. In a rematch from their UFC 187 headliner nearly two years ago, Cormier (18-1) defends his gold against Johnson (22-5).
In what will be only his second defense since capturing the crown, the current 205-pound king is listed at even money, while Johnson sits as the slight minus-120 favorite.
With Cormier picking up the submission victory in the third round of the first bout, fans and pundits eagerly await this weekend’s follow up. Which factors will come into play this time around?
Cormier’s utilization of his wrestling background and clinch work allows him to close distance effectively and create opportunities for takedowns and dirty boxing in close range. With Olympic-level wrestling credentials and dogged advances inside the pocket, “DC” has showcased this skillset in recent bouts. He constantly swarmed Alexander Gustafsson in his first defense of the strap at UFC 192 in late 2015 and dispatched Anderson Silva with takedowns in their non-title fight at UFC 200 last July.
The titleholder was able to successfully bring Johnson to the mat three times during the first bout; it did not fare well for Johnson from that point on. Using relentless pressure from the top position, Cormier was able to break down his foe to the point of exhaustion, synching in a rear-naked choke at the 2:39 mark of the third round to effectively secure the tap as well as his first title in the UFC.
While many combat sports fans still cling to the thought of former champ and pound-for-pound frontrunner Jon Jones (22-1) returning to the light heavyweight division, this fight stands as a pivotal one for the career of the 38-year-old Cormier, as a second victory over Johnson would help solidify his place within the mixed martial arts storybook.
It didn’t take long for Johnson to recover from his defeat at UFC 187. “Rumble” has made easy work of his past three opponents, finishing Jimi Manuwa at UFC 191, Ryan Bader at UFC on Fox 18, and Glover Teixeira at UFC 202, with only Manuwa making it out of the first round. The No. 1 contender’s devastating striking has been the driving force behind his second run for the belt.
One of the most dangerous punchers in the sport, Johnson possesses uncanny power that has helped highlight his second stint with the UFC. It is the raw power that has resulted in 16 career knockouts and an average fight length of 6:02. It is also the power that the champion himself witnessed in the opening moments of the original matchup, as Johnson landed a huge overhand right that sent Cormier halfway across the octagon.
Using an array of hooks, uppercuts and head kicks, the 33-year-old fights as if he does not intend to be in the cage very long, often resulting in early, aggressive flurries of offense that allow his stoppage factor to immediately come into play. Additionally, Johnson is a lethal counter puncher, as his ability to slip in shots from tight, often awkward angles makes it extremely difficult for opponents to charge, allowing Johnson to dictate the pressure himself.
Round Prop: 1.5
Will Go: minus-170
Won’t Go: plus-150
Pick: Daniel Cormier via TKO (4th round)
It is no secret that the dynamics in the first contest will naturally come into play in the rematch, and those factors will lead to the same outcome, in very similar fashion. Cormier withstands the initial onslaught, gets Johnson to the canvas and keeps him there, using top pressure and ground-and-pound technique to finish the knockout artist early in the fourth round with punches.
Brett Lawson is a VSiN producer. Follow on Twitter: @BrettLawsonLV.