Phil and David break down everything you need to know about Jones vs. Cormier 2 for UFC 214 in Anaheim, and everything you don’t about bloodfeuds between dorks.
Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier 2 this July 29, 2017 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
One sentence summary
David: Blood in, blood out.
Phil: I might LOOK like a crackhead in a suit, but I’ve never BEEN one, David.
Record: Jon Jones 22-1 Daniel Cormier 19-1
Odds: Jon Jones -255 Daniel Cormier +235
History / Introduction to both fighters
Phil: Welcome to the dorkiest blood feud in living memory. We can talk about the history, or the technique, or the trash talk, but to me, one of the very best things about this rivalry is how basically awkward the two participants are. Jones was the runt of the litter in a household of athletic gods, yet when he came to MMA he fit into it like a glove, and quickly outstripped basically everyone around him. This has not really made for a terribly stable individual, but what it has made for is a hell of a fighter. Still, despite years as one of the most viciously well-equipped unarmed combatants on earth, Jon Jones remains that weird guy that switches between po-faced, petulant and goofy, and always feels like he has to prove something to those around him. He has something to prove this time.
David: As I once said of Jon Bones Jones; he didn’t come here for the ventures of the common day. He came here for the fabulous forces. There’s a perpetual need in the 21st century to make sense of a man or woman’s psychology. As if civilization is all sitting on a couch, and we need to express how and why we feel and think the way we do. There’s a line in Sin City where the brute, Marv, is ogling Nancy on the dancefloor. Clive Owen does his best to mime Frank Miller’s often laughable but fun dialogue, reflecting on who Marv would have been in the Roman arena, fighting other gladiators – “they would have tossed him girls like Nancy back then.” It’s a stupid line, but one that’s fitting for Jones. He just wants to drive his enemies before him, and hear the lamentation of their women. Jones is a brute, through and through. A brute out of water, if you will. The UFC never had the wits to sell him that way. But that’s who Jones is. That’s not ALL he is. But it’s a critical piece of his profile. He didn’t choose this brutal, unforgiving sport. It chose him.
Phil: Daniel Cormier is perhaps the Daddest of all the fighters to ever step into the UFC cage. There have been others (Henderson, Dan Kelly, perhaps Couture) who stand strong, but I don’t think any of them are quite the embodiment of a specific kind of hardworking, bluff Americana that DC is. This is, of course, a sizable reason why Jones rubs him the wrong way quite so much. I don’t think Hank Hill would like Jon Jones much, either.
David: If Jones is some kind of fighter anachronism, Cormier is thoroughly modern. He had a uniquely human response to his first loss. His verbal weapons against Jones are paternal, constantly telling him what a fuck up he is. He had to mentally and explicitly figure out why Jones would want to literally kill him, and how such a scenario would logically unfold. Cormier has had to suffer and sacrifice for the smallest things (making weight). Jones has only had to suffer and sacrifice his weed. In Cormier’s eyes, Jones is just a punk. It’s a lot of baggage to take into a fight but we’ve seen the baggage turn into the talking point after talking point of Fox telecasts. The wait is over</Goldberg>.
What’s at stake?
David: In my best Gary Oldman impression, everything!!! Seriously, this rivalry has spanned years. It has been as much physiological as it has been psychological. A win for Cormier officially supplants Jones’ legacy as the GOAT (or at least that’ll be the talking point). A win for Jones brings the division back to heel, if not a foray into heavyweight.
Phil: All the marbles. DC has said that Jones needs to lose this fight to become the man that he should be, and I suspect there’s still a small amount of paternal “if this kid could just get his life together” admiration in there. Honestly, though, I think Jones may disintegrate with a loss. DC could withstand one better. It would be a vicious lesson in how the universe doesn’t intrinsically value “goodness” and “hard work”, but DC has gotten those before, and kept on going.
Where do they want it?
Phil: Jones is the prototypical awkward, high-volume Jackson-Wink product on the feet at range. His mentality blends almost perfectly with the kind of style they teach, which is to say things like options, and individuality, and workrate. Like most of their fighters, he lacks pop with his hands (although Brandon Gibson has helped greatly), but offering Jones a wide array of offensive tools has allowed his phenomenal tactical mind to come up with unique solutions.
Against DC, the range game is going to be free damage a lot of the time. If Jones can keep Cormier on the end of his reach, he can chew him up with body and leg kicks, and catch him with the check hook and the shift left straight as he comes in. Once inside, however, Jones remains that special monster. Grimy head pressure, incessant wrist control, knees and elbows. He is brutally tough and tireless.
David: Jones has always been a master of tactics paired with improvisation. He seems to have a challenge more than a strategy. Against Glover Teixeira (am I the only who finds Glover’s last name harder to spell than Ponzinibbio?), he fought Glover on his turf, and inside the pocket. It’s a unique approach that I don’t think anyone has ever replicated (Fedor beat Nog on the ground, and tested himself on the feet against Mirko, but not to the extent that Jones has). Jones is a walking talking snorting pincer movement. He’s a lot less dangerous at range – at least in proportion to what he can in close. But even then who wants to eat those oblique kicks all night? The main thing is that Jones doesn’t generate supernatural power at range. He can win all day from afar, but we’ve seen opponents have the best success against him – Gustafsson, Evans – trying to beat him with technique or potshotting. However, it’s hard to really stay there for prolonged durations. Inside, he’s dangerous from multiple angles; elbows, trips, double legs, knees. It’s prison rules in the clinch with Jones.
Phil: I have consistently picked against Cormier, and he has consistently found ways to prove me wrong. He’s a unique fighter: somewhat portly, but with blazing footspeed. Short for both the divisions he fights in, but someone who generally attacks the upper body with takedowns, and headhunts.
His boxing is the part of his game which has improved the most in his time in the UFC- he marked up Jones several times with his jab, and retains a brutal uppercut and overhand. It’s still in the clinch that he does his best work, of course, where he holds onto that herculean single collar tie and whomps people with his free hand, or sends enormous men improbably spiralling into the air.
David: Cormier has always impressed me with his speed – it’s not what he’s known for, but it’s crucial to his mechanics. He doesn’t exactly walk through the raindrops, but he’s graceful moving in and out for punch/clinch/or grappling entries. He’s a small bear in the pocket, if not the closest thing MMA has to Khabib’s Bear Fully Grown. Those high crotch singles are deadly, and he’s taken to those attrition clinch battles that will keep him going against Jones. Like Fedor before him, Cormier likes to sweep with his punches, looping and ridgehanding his way to violent contact. He’s incredibly quick, and yes, he’s got a jump kick option that’s more Kung Fu Hustle than Enter the Dragon.
Insight from past fights
David: Jones has been out of the game too long to analyze with any sort of certainty, so it’s best to simply look at their first encounter. Both guys had a lot of success attacking in a straight line. Both guys also possessed a few money tactics; Jones with the duck and pop left hook, and Cormier – when Jones was southpaw – with the lead leg kick/left hook combination. They also battered each other to the body in close, and at range. It was a great fight, and therefore hard to predict. Each fighter has issues to resolve. For Cormier, finding a way to stay out the clinch. He found success, so it’s tempting to use it as opportunity, but Jones landed too much and too often for Cormier to walk into the fire yet again. For Jones, looking for the clinch more often. Cormier didn’t exactly light Jones up or anything, but when he was pressuring with his jab, it opened up options for left hooks and overhand rights. Jones may not have looked outgunned, but he was definitely punished, and IMO, ostensibly hurt at times.
Phil: Cormier simply must find a way to solve Jones’ wrist control. His defense just isn’t good enough to win an outside kickboxing fight, so he has to find a way to win in the clinch. As the fight wore on, Jones would concede the collar, then simply hold Cormier’s punching arm, going two-on-one or building frames around it on the fly. If Cormier can’t strip Jones’ hands, or get his left hand working more readily, he’s going to be in serious trouble.
Phil: I fear that the damage which Cormier has absorbed may be catching up to him. So much of his success has been based around his durability, but he took shots from Rumble which would kill a moose, and had a vicious war with Gustafsson where he got dropped by a knee. His last four fights represent a borderline Lawler-esque run. It can’t last forever.
Conversely, of course, there’s Jones. He’s historically been able to shrug off external chaos once he gets to the cage, but this kind of thing is uncharted territory, even for him.
David: As you said, the damage. It’s not just age, and “ring rust”. But the fact that both have styles that lend themselves to brutal attrition battles. Their first fight was absolutely grueling. Both were blooded within the first round, pushing, pulling, and punching inside the clinch. It’s hard to envision a scenario where the same thing doesn’t happen.
Phil: As I have mentioned recently, I do not think Jon Jones is a flawless fighter. However, as I’ve also mentioned, I’m not sure that Cormier is the man to beat him. There are definitely ways to win the fight for Cormier, but from a style perspective, Jones is the one working from a position of strength. He is younger, and the more adaptable fighter, and it’s hard to see the champ pull off the upset with so many factors stacked against him. Unless Cormier’s chin has disappeared, he remains extraordinarily tough and difficult to put away, so I think we get something which looks a little like their first fight, where Jones gradually pulls away down the stretch. Jon Jones by unanimous decision.
David: Gotta play devil’s advocate here. Cormier has the better difference making power at range. If he can commit to his jab, take advantage of Jones’ awkward head movement, and use that jab to open up space for higher impact range strikes, I think we’ll Jones hurt. The “rise and fall” algorithms of Jon Jones analysis will bust out like champagne. But the truth will be simpler: Cormier is a great heavyweight in a light heavyweight’s body. Which is juuuust enough to beat the LHW goat. Daniel Cormier by TKO, round 5.