Saturday, July 29th, 2017 in Anaheim, California for the UFC 214: “Jones vs Cormier 2” by Daniel Tom

The opinions expressed in this free content are for entertainment purposes only, as my goal here is to provide analysis for those who enjoy the technical or gaming aspects of our sport. If you choose to gamble, I recommend doing so responsibly and legally as it is at your own risk. Enjoy the fights!

Daniel Cormier (19-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 38 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Anthony Johnson (4-8-17)
  • Camp: American Kickboxing Academy (San Jose, CA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   UFC Light-heavyweight Champion
+   Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Winner
+   2x US Olympian (Wrestling Captain)
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   8 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   7 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Pressure-fighting approach
^   Forces high work-rate
+   Dangerous overhands & uppercuts
+   Deceptive distance closer
^   Slips & rips way inside
+   Strong clinch game
^   Effective dirty boxer
+   Diverse takedown game
^   Favors high-crotch single
+   Transitions intelligently on top

Jon Jones (22-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’4″ Age: 30 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 84″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Ovince St. Preux (4-23-16)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC Light-heavyweight Champion
+   JUCO National Wrestling Title
+   Multiple Wrestling Accolades
+   9 KO victories
+   6 Submission wins
+   7 first round finishes
+   Athletic & agile
+   Creative & dynamic striker
^   Preternatural instincts & improv
+   Effectively dictates range
^   Teep kicks, oblique kicks, hand posts
+   Deceptively effective inside clinch
^   Superb hand-fighting /grip disruption
+   Multiple takedown tools
+   Devastating ground striker
+   Always looks to secure rounds
^   Consistently comes on late
+/-Will fight to opponents strengths


The main event for UFC 214 is the long-awaited rematch between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones. Though the official light-heavyweight title finds itself around the waste of another this time around, the bad blood between the two remains the same.

Cormier, who fought and won four times since the two last met, has subsequently gone on to take over the mantle of kingpin at 205-pounds. Now, with the only man to ever beat him back on the docket, Cormier will attempt to clear the one-hurdle that has held him back from his deserved spot atop the list of the sport’s pound-for-pound greatest.

Jones, on the other hand, has a redemption narrative of his own. And despite it being difficult to redeem oneself from the repeat offenses Jones has been guilty of, it does not change the fact that he is a motivated former king who never lost his throne in battle.

However, going back to their first fight in 2015, I feel that history has been a bit re-written as our hunger for hyperbole often leads us to swim in the stream of common-narrative. Although the defeat Cormier suffered to Jones was a crushing one, it was also much closer than people seem to remember.

Similar to our criticisms of MMA Judging, the most recent events and the manner in which they happen often resonate with us the loudest. That is why someone like Jones can almost inherently make you write-off his opposition, whether you are judging him as a fighter, or the one judging his fights from cage-side.

And despite my official pick aligning with the projected favorite, I will attempt to explain why I feel this fight may be closer than you might think.

In their first affair, you could have made legitimate arguments for Cormier in the opening two rounds. Although only outscoring Jones officially in one of those rounds(round 2), Cormier was able to pressure Jones with effect as being the one advancing with a higher output.

Cormier then started to take it to Jones early in the third, looking to be running away with the round until Jones accidentally poked him in the eye.

Regardless of Jones’ history and rather blatant disregard to the issue of eye pokes, I feel that the momentum shift was more than likely inevitable as I do not mean to take away from Jones with that statement. But as soon as the action resumed from the inadvertent foul, Jones jumped on Cormier immediately –– finishing the round strong –– and sending DC back to his corner tired and full of doubt.

From then on, Jones established himself firmly in the fight as he allowed Cormier to come into the clinch with him, a place where we thought Cormier could have an advantage. However, Jones would again stifle the offensive momentum of Cormier as he put on a hand fighting clinic.

Demonstrating the importance of grip fighting, Jones utilized creative forms of wrist control to disrupt Cormier’s game and open up his own. Using his long frame to multitask inside the clinch, Jones implemented over-hooks(in a similar fashion to the ones that injured Glover Teixeira’s shoulder) as he used his free arm to feed Cormier’s wrists into the over-hooking hand.

This intricate tie-up also allowed Jones the leverage to come over the top with elbows regardless of whether or not he was still holding onto wrists. For those who have not wrestled or grappled in some form, wrist control is the unsung gatekeeper of advancing position, as a solid hand-fighter can befuddle even the best of grapplers.

We saw not only Cormier struggle here, but also Teixeira, as Jones was able to operate like a technically equipped octopus inside the clinch, simultaneously denying them space while taking them into deeper waters.

If Cormier does not have a new approach toward Jones’ clinch warfare, then we may see him struggle to get his wrestling or dirty boxing game going in this rematch. And with most of Cormier’s favored takedowns taking place inside the clinch, Jones’ command of this area will be crucial if he means to limit Cormier’s arsenal once again.

Should Jones find success in shutting down Cormier’s wrestling, the former Olympian may have to win this fight within the striking realm. However, despite the fact that Cormier was overmatched on the outside(as most are against Jones), he did some things nicely in the mid-range that he may revisit.

A deceptively good kicker, Cormier was able to land effectively to Jones’ legs and body. Going to the legs, in particular, may serve Cormier well considering the lack of build to Jones’ frame in that area. I do not mean to judge a book by its cover when referring to the skinniness of Jones’ legs, but it is, after all, the reasoning behind his nickname.

Not only that, I believe that the consistent kick-heavy arsenal that Jones relies upon to maintain range comes with a cost. In reviewing footage of Jones’ fight history, I noticed that no matter how hard the battle, he would consistently limp as the contest came to a close.

I am not sure if this is a part of Cormier’s approach, but I do feel that Jones is acutely aware of this. Often switching stances when leg kicked(or when he feels like disrupting your game), Jones will almost bait opponents to come forward and throw as he uses brutal oblique kicks(that often buckles the knee) to dissuade you from approaching in said space.

Nevertheless, if Cormier does not find success at mid-to-long range, he likely won’t hang out there long as Jones should command this distance clearly on paper. And though I see Cormier’s over-hands and uppercuts being his best chance at auditing Jones’ head-movement tendencies in-close, Jonny Bones has become increasingly aware inside the pocket as this has been one of his bigger improvements over the years.

Where this fight could get tricky is within the grappling realms. Cormier has the on-paper edge there, but as we saw last time, Jones’ wrestling and clinch abilities will likely dictate the “where and when” of stanzas. Even if the champion does get Jones down, I feel that the former champ is much more dangerous on the floor in regards to strikes and submissions, whether he is on top or bottom.

Ultimately, I believe that the Cormier’s best chances are on the feet, and inside of boxing range.

However, if he cannot score the knockout or significantly hurt his foe, then Cormier will be forced to compete with Jones for scorecard supremacy, something that remains a daunting task. Coming on late in rounds with his patent taste for takedowns and flashy techniques, we have even seen an ill-prepared Jon Jones dig deep to fend off defeat.

Unless Jones suffers from a performance-related intangible, I have a hard time seeing his adjustments and creativity not come through. And as much as some of us would like to see character rewarded or karma enacted, that is not the reality of MMA –– a sport that celebrates victory no matter what the cost.

Official Pick: Jones – Decision

Official Outcome: Jones – TKO (round 3)

Tyron Woodley (16-3-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 35 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Stephen Thompson (3-4-17)
  • Camp: ATT Evolution/Roufusport (Missouri)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   UFC Welterweight Champion
+   2x All-American Wrestler
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   7 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Fast-twitch athlete
^   Closes distance quickly
+   Devastating right hand
^   Offensively & off the counter
+   Heavily right leg kick
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   91% takedown defense
+   Solid reactive shot
^   Favors power-double takedown
+/-Often fights along fence
+/-Offensive in short bursts
^   Gas tank bears watching

Demian Maia (25-6)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 39 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Jorge Masvidal (5-13-17)
  • Camp: Demian Maia BJJ (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   2x BJJ World Champion
+   2007 ADCC Winner
+   3 KO victories
+   11 Submission wins
+   10 first round finishes
+   19-2 w/at least 1 takedown scored
+   Excellent wrestling ability
^   Solid hips, under-hooks, takedowns
+   Crafty leg dexterity
^   Uses to pass guard/complete takedowns
+   Superb top game / control
^   89 passes in 25 fights
+   Steady & smooth transitions
^   Always looks for back
+   Improved striking
^   Underrated left hand
+   Propensity to fade late
^   Gas tank bears watching


UFC 214 gets a double-dose of gold as Tyron Woodley puts his welterweight strap on the line against Demian Maia in the co-main event.

Quietly making his third title defense since winning the belt one year ago, Tyron Woodley will look to put a stamp on his status as champion as he greets the oncoming challenge ahead.

A quintessential martial artist, Demian Maia has long been heralded the number-one contender in the division, as the Brazilian will finally get his shot despite only receiving the courtesy of one month’s notice.

Given the strengths of each fighter, the dynamic of this matchup is a clear one. The longer this fight remains on the feet, Woodley will have a substantial edge in striking exchanges. And the longer this fight stays within the grappling realm, Maia should be the one dictating the terms and winning the battles.

When you consider that Demian Maia is 19-2 in the UFC when able to score a minimum of just 1-takedown, it is hard not to see a path for the Brazilian to take against the champion. But on the other side, we have Tyron Woodley –– who coupled with his wrestling accolades –– also carries one of the higher takedown defense rates amongst his contemporaries at 91%.

With the numbers on each side potent in possibilities, this battle will likely come down to the technical inches and choices within grappling space.

An accoladed grappler both in and out of the Gi, we would see Demian Maia come onto the MMA scene, learning to strike while still on the job. After a failed bid for the UFC middleweight throne, Maia would eventually embrace weight-cutting as he came down to welterweight at 33-years of age.

Not only would Maia make a jump in weight classes, but he would also do so in regards to his style –– getting away from the striking he fell in love with –– and starting a serious affair with wrestling.

Storming the welterweight ranks with first round finishes over Dong Hyun Kim and Rick Story, the Brazilian found a wrestling style that melded his MMA and jiu-jitsu game into one solid sword.

Deceptively strong inside the clinch, Maia demonstrates an excellent use of under-hooks and a preternatural ability to keep his hips in close. What is most fun to watch is the slick leg dexterity in which Maia utilizes to finish his takedowns, as his background in judo and karate show themselves in these spaces of sweeps and trips.

Still, Maia will be facing one of the strongest wrestlers in the division when he locks up with Tyron Woodley.

Not only is Woodley strong, but also smart as the risk-averse fighter has been a proven winner from his undefeated state championship run in high school, to his Big-12 championship run in college.

From his under-hook and hip awareness to his head position and hand-fighting, Woodley does everything right in regards to the technics of defending shots in the open or inside of the clinch.

Coupled with his fast-twitch triggers and explosive movements, Woodley will likely be a tall task for Maia from a wrestling versus wrestling perspective. However, Maia has developed yet another leaf to his game in recent years that has served him well –– the half-guard pull.

A solid plan B that feeds right back into Maia’s plan A, I am a particular fan of this series as it bears a slight resemblance to the tactics of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira back in Pride.

When unable to complete his shots or takedowns, Maia will now opt to pull half-guard as this often sucks in his opposition into grappling with him, albeit defensively. Employing this tactic with a single-leg get-up in mind and at the ready, Maia’s hips will immediately spring into action once touching down on the mat.

Coming up into a single-leg position, Maia establishes an even better hold on his opposition to complete his originally intended takedown. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu master will also manipulate his opponent’s grasped leg with his own as he positions himself to either get the takedown or take the back.

This recent development of craft fits a fighter profile that I like to classify as a “presenter,” given the way that Maia will present a positional situation as bait to gain ground in the bigger picture.

Against Matt Brown, Demian Maia demonstrated his presenting abilities by selling a scene of vulnerability off of failed takedowns. And though the Brazilian ate a shot or two for his troubles, he inevitably sucked Brown into his brand of quicksand, tricking him into grappling space.

That said, I doubt that Woodley will be easily lulled into the Brazilian’s web as we have seen the champion(under the care of Din Thomas) come in well-schooled, and usually with a good game plan.

However, Woodley also has a propensity to fight along the fence, which by nature, feeds into Maia’s game. With that in mind, it will be interesting to see what the champion’s approach is in regards to taking the center for striking and circling off the breaks.

Given the dynamic of the matchup, histories of each fighter, and shorter-notice intangibles at play –– I feel that the oddsmakers are spot on in opening the champion as a clear 2-to1 favorite.

From the on-paper stylings to statistical numbers, this should be a bad matchup for Maia, who has had one of the harder paths to a title in recent memory. And should Woodley’s wrestling allow this fight to stay standing, he carries a devastating counter right-hand that he will be looking to land with effect.

The problem with painting that simplistic picture is, in my opinion, the gas tanks of both men as this fight could get interesting the longer it goes. Despite Woodley having a head start on camp and looking good coming in, he too has a propensity to fade as the fight wears on.

In looking further into each fighter’s sample size, it appeared that grappling stanzas are what typically seems to drain Woodley, which could explain his lack of emphasis on wrestling within matches(clocking only 8-takedown attempts in 19-fights). Wheras Maia, who even when tired, grapples well as prolonged striking stanzas are usually the common culprit for swaying the momentum of his fights.

In other words, if Woodley fails to break or circle off and gets sucked into playing defense(ala his fight with Jake Sheilds), then I could see Maia turning this into the grappling version of chicken, seeing who will break or make a mistake first. And with that scenario likely turning each fighter’s gas tanks into lit fuses, the currents odds may quickly become closer than projected as I recommend caution on any big plays here.

Official Pick: Woodley – Decision

Official Outcome: Woodley – Decision

Cris Cyborg (16-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 32 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 68″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Lina Lansberg (9-24-16)
  • Camp: RVCA Gym (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Invicta FC Featherweight Champion
+   Former Strikeforce Featherweight Champ
+   BJJ Brown Belt
+   15 KO victories
+   9 first round finishes
+   KO power
+/-Aggressive by nature
^   Superb killer instinct
+   Improved striking
^   More technically refined
+   Solid wrestling ability
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   Favors body-lock / lateral drop
+   Transitions well on top
^   Devastating ground striker

Tonya Evinger (19-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 36 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Yana Kunitskaya (3-25-17)
  • Camp: W4R Training Center (Missouri)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Invicta FC Bantamweight Champion
+   TUF 18 Competitor
+   Wrestling Base
+   8 KO victories
+   7 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+/-Aggressive pace & pressure
^   Willingness to trade
+   Improved striking offense
^   Favors right hand
+   Active inside the clinch
+   Solid takedown ability
^   Changes level well
+   Scrappy scrambler / transitions well
^   Good at finding the back


In a redux effort for the female featherweight title, the UFC will attempt to make things right by giving Cris Cyborg a shot at gold in her natural division as she is set to scrap with Tonya Evinger.

Considered a pioneer of female my mixed martial arts amongst hardcores, Tonya Evinger has made her name known on many of resumes en route to her Invicta bantamweight title. Now, getting her long-deserved chance to compete in the big show, Evinger will look to shock the world by beating the best female fighter of our time.

Coming in as the closest comparison women’s MMA has to Mike Tyson, Cris Cyborg has struck terror in her contemporaries as well as interest from spectators since her monumental battle with Gina Carano eight years ago. That said, Cyborg is no longer just a bloodthirsty brawler, as the Brazilian’s style has matured in the later part of her career.

Moving shop to the United States, Cyborg has found a solid fit in Southern California as she has been working with Jason Parillo to sharpen up her striking. A coach who has helped refine fighters like BJ Penn and Michael Bisping, Parillo has also shown his skills through the work done with Cris Cyborg.

Displaying a much more measured approach, Cyborg will steadily stalk forward while still managing the distance to her preferred terms. Cyborg has also improved her stance, showing to keep her balance much better as she now will rarely throw herself out of position.

Prodding with a jab as she enters space, Cyborg needs all but the slightest bite to swarm her opposition with punches. However, given the striking discrepancy at hand, I am not sure how much Evinger will give her the occasion to hang out within range.

Despite keeping a low standing guard that may invite in a marauding Cyborg, Evinger will typically stay just outside of striking range until she is ready to attack. Disguising her intentions behind flicking left-hands or leg kicks, Evinger likes to load up on right hands as she enters space, usually looking for takedowns.

Wielding a decent level change, I suspect Evinger will go to it early and often against an aggressive Cyborg as those will be her best chances to get the fight to the floor on her terms. And if she fails, she may get the fight to the floor anyways as the Brazilian has a knack for reversing opponents failed shots into slams of her own.

Even against the live threat of Marloes Coenen’s guard, Cyborg had no problem taking down the former Dutch champion at will, passing and leaving her guard as she pleased.

In my opinion, Evinger’s best chances to win will be by creating a scramble. Whether she is doing it from topside through takedowns or from bottom by attacking submissions, Evinger has knack for creating scrambles as she seems to thrive in them.

Equivalent to a honey badger amongst her contemporaries, Evinger hustles her ass off when fighting it out for position. And though she had a taste for armbars earlier on in her career, Evinger has become much better at finding the back as things could get interesting should she end up there.

Ultimately, the betting lines and narrative of this matchup may speak louder than any technics or paths I present for the Invicta bantamweight champion. Evinger may be able to stick around longer than expected, but I do not think it is long enough to make a difference as I see Cyborg able to dictate terms until finding the right spot to finish.

Official Pick: Cyborg – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: Cyborg – TKO (round 3)

Robbie Lawler (27-11-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 35 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: KO loss / Tyron Woodley (7-30-16)
  • Camp: Combat Club (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC Welterweight Champion
+   Elite XC Middleweight Title
+   20 KO victories
+   1 Submission win
+   12 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Dangerous left hand
+   Deceptively accurate right hook
+   Superb outside-foot-awareness
+   Hard left Thai kicks
^   Variates well to body & head
+   Underrated wrestling ability
+   Good get-up urgency
^   Excellent use of butterfly guard
+   Effective ground striker
–    Lackadaisical kick defense
+/-Sometimes subject & activity lulls
–    Dropped or stunned in 4 of last 6 fights

Donald Cerrone (32-8)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 34 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 73″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / Jorge Masvidal (1-28-17)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Multiple Muay Thai Titles
+   28-0 as a Pro Kickboxer
+   8 KO victories
+   16 Submission wins
+   13 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Intelligent strike setups
^   Feints, reads, and reacts
+   Devastating head kicks
+   Accurate & intercepting knees
+   Hard leg kicks
^   Most landed in UFC history
+   Underrate wrestling ability
+   Excellent transitional grappler
^   Favors triangle chokes
–    Head & posture often upright
^   Overhand & body shot availability
+/-4-6 against UFC southpaws


In a fight that I and many are looking forward to most, “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler makes his return against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in what has all the makings for a welterweight war.

Re-entering the Octagon almost one year to the day from when he lost his title, Robbie Lawler will look to remind people of who he is and what he brings to the table.

Welcoming back the former champion is Donald Cerrone –– a former lightweight turned welterweight contender –– who is also seeking redemption from a loss, and possibly a fight-of-the-night bonus.

With each man likely having unique advantages over one another standing, Cerrone should have the edge when striking at distance. Embracing his frame and kickboxing base, Cerrone does an excellent job of using teeps and legs kicks at range. Mixing in punches appropriately, Cerrone will draw out his opposition’s defenses to set up fight-ending head kicks.

When Cerrone’s opponent tries to close-in on his preferred range, he will intercept them with accurate check-knees up the middle. Despite these techniques working well against lighter weight fighters, Cerrone would need to upgrade his game to counter the pressure from bigger, stronger welterweights –– and he did just that.

Enter Brandon Gibson.

The quiet storm in the striking department at Jackson-Wink MMA, his help has shown in this recent iteration of Donald Cerrone. Moving his head and torso offline and at angles, Cerrone will unload his punches with different mechanics than before as he now has more of a presence inside the pocket.

Often punching his way out of exchanges with his left-hook, Cerrone will feed his newfound flow it into his patent head kicks as his arsenal is much more symbiotic.

Even though Cerrone is showing a solid technical-renaissance, we have seen the areas that have traditionally plagued him resurface in recent bouts. In Cerrone’s last two fights against Matt Brown and Jorge Masvidal, his recent upgrades became unwound when the appropriate pressure was applied.

So despite the fact that Cerrone has more offensive tools on paper, Lawler could pose some real problems if he brings his pressure game to the table, much less the potentially improved version of it.

We saw Nathan Diaz and Jorge Masvidal abuse Cerrone’s center-line with jab–cross continuums in their battles. And considering what the former champion was able to do to Rory Macdonald in said striking-lanes, I would not be surprised to see Lawler take a page from previously mentioned performances.

With this in mind, Cerrone will have to be careful any time he finds himself in between the fence and inner-black Octagon lines as this space is Lawler’s preferred kill zone.

Whenever he gets his opposition in between the cage and inner-black Octagon lines, you can throw all activity lulling accusations out the window as Lawler attacks with impunity here.

Similar to Anthony Johnson (a pupil of Lawler’s newfound striking coach, Henri Hooft), Lawler will steadily march his opposition down in left-to-right shifts, transferring his weight accordingly.

Fueled by an excellent outside-foot-awareness, Lawler symbiotically moves his head defensively as his feet set up offensive onslaughts. This approach also allows the former champion to stay on balance when attacking, which will come in handy when facing the level-changing takedown threats of Donald Cerrone.

Though Lawler is known for his devastating left hands and power kicks, his right hook is the quiet killer in exchanges as I feel that will be the punch to look for in this fight.

Whether he is coming forward with it or throwing it as a check, Lawler’s right hook is deceptively accurate. And considering that Cerrone has been dropped by right hands on 4-occasions in his last two outings, you can count on the ruthless one to attempt to audit and prolong that trend.

Despite forecasting most of this fight to take place standing, I suspect we will see some opportunistic attempts to grapple sprinkled into the chaos. Both men are underrated in their ability to wrestle, but I feel that Cerrone will be the fighter with more motive to shoot as he has a recent history of spicing-up his offensive looks.

Should Cerrone score a takedown, it could make the difference in what imagine will be wild, eventful rounds. However, Lawler has answers off of his back as he has long wielded a solid butterfly guard he uses nicely to get back to his feet.

If Cerrone ends up being the one who is on the bottom, then he will still be comfortable as the cowboy is known for his submission and transition game from his guard –– threatening with triangle chokes to finish, or using Gogoplatas to create scrambles. But given Lawler’s positional awareness inside of the guard and improved fight IQ, I do not suspect ground stanzas to last long between the two.

In a matchup that should be a back-and-forth battle on-paper, I agree with oddsmakers opening the former champion as a moderate favorite. That said, Lawler has also been visibly stunned or hurt in 4 of his last 6-outings, with his past few opponents successfully feinting out his reactions and landing big right-hands or head kicks.

And considering that Cerrone is a master of drawing-out reactions to land head kicks from either side, I would not be surprised to see him win a shootout with devastating effect. But given that Cowboy has been dropped or stopped in 3 of his last 6-fights himself, this matchup could be a case of whose bottom drops out first.

For that reason, I suggest avoiding any major plays on this match. Even though Lawler’s sometime-lackadaisical kick defense could cost him here, I ultimately feel his southpaw pressure-fighting ways –– a style that has traditionally troubled Cerrone –– will win out the day as I see him hurting Cowboy in exchanges early en route to a building victory.

Official Pick: Lawler – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: Lawler – Decision

Jimi Manuwa (17-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 37 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 79″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Corey Anderson (3-18-17)
  • Camp: Allstars Training Center (Sweden)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Purple Belt BJJ
+   15 KO victories
+   1 Submission win
+   11 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Good feints & footwork
^   Draws strikes / conducts traffic
+   Accurate left hook
^   Variates well to body
+   Dangerous right hand
^   Offensively & off the counter
+   Diverse kicking game
^   Works well off lead leg
+   Improved wrestling fundamentals
?   Questionable overall ground game

Volkan Oezdemir (14-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 27 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 75″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Misha Cirkunov (5-27-17)
  • Camp: Combat Club (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Kickboxing Accolades
^   5-0 as a pro
+   10 KO victories
+   1 Submission win
+   11 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Consistent pace & pressure
+   Solid Muay Thai technique
^   Seldom out of position
+   Accurate left hook
+   Hard leg kicks
^   Often punctuates combos
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   Strikes well off the breaks
+   Underrated wrestling / grappling
^   Good offensive & defensive fundamentals


Kicking off the main card is a scrap between two top-5 light-heavyweights as Jimi Manuwa squares off with Volkan Oezdemir.

Coming in at number-three in the division, Jimi Manuwa has made multiple statements since coming off of his most recent layoff. An athletic outlier who started mixed martial arts late in life, Manuwa will look to continue to defy the odds as he makes his ascension toward the top.

Standing in the Englishman’s way is Volkan Oezdemir, a former training partner of Alistair Overeem who has found success since transitioning into MMA. Now, working state-side with Henri Hooft and company for the past year, Oezdemir will seek to showcase his improvements by scoring another upset inside the Octagon.

Starting off on the feet, we essentially have a pairing of pressure-fighters who go about achieving their goals in two different ways.

The more opportunistic tactician, Manuwa will utilize pressure through feints to force his opponents into uncomfortable exchanges. Despite often throwing his strikes in no more than one-to-two at a time, Manuwa arguably makes up for this with the accuracy of his arsenal.

Mixing his targets up appropriately, the Englishman conducts traffic brilliantly off of his lead side. Whether he is variating his left hooks from body-to-head or sneaking in switch-kicks upstairs/to the inside leg, there is no soft side to Manuwa as everything seems to carry potency.

Nevertheless, Manuwa will need to mind his manners defensively as Oezdemir does not appear to be one to fold with ease.

A well-trained Muay Thai practitioner whose trained both in Thailand and The Netherlands, Oezdemir implements a bit of both styles into his MMA game. Moving well with his punches and seldom throwing himself out of position, Oezdemir will punctuate his combinations with crushing kicks that often follow his patent left hook.

Despite typically maintaining a technical and measured approach, Oezdemir has also shown that he is not afraid to stand his ground and return with force. Regardless of on-paper advantages, planting against the likes of Manuwa will like playing with fire.

Considering that both fighters love their left hooks, we could see a similar exchange to what Carlos Condit and Dan Hardy had whenever these two decide to sit down in the pocket. And with the phrase “don’t hook with a hooker” being a tricky one when both fighters are skilled, these stanzas may come down to Manuwa’s speed and snap versus the healthier sit-down in Oezdemir’s shots.

Nevertheless, I still see the Swiss fighter being most vulnerable off of the counter.

Despite Manuwa not being your traditional “lay in wait” counter striker, he demonstrated the effectiveness of his right hand in his fight with OSP as he followed his opponent’s lackadaisical strike retractions by coming in over the top. But given that Oezdemir typically does a good job of retracting strikes to his shelling-style guard, Manuwa may be better served to throw straight shots upstairs and save his hooks for the body.

Though I project that this fight will primarily stay standing, I could see each man exercise clinch and grappling opportunities to gain the edge in close rounds.

Oezdemir, who has yet to have a chance to display much on the ground inside of the Octagon, has shown he has offensive wrestling in other organizations as he demonstrates competent takedown fundamentals.

From topside, the sturdy base and balance Oezdemir displays as a striker seems to translate well to the floor as the Swiss native holds a solid mount, striking and transitioning well along the way.

However, like Oezdemir, Manuwa’s grappling strengths stack up highest in the defensive realm as the Englishman has a killer sprawl in the open, and improved technics in his head and hand positioning since moving shop to Allstars Gym in Sweden.

That said, if either fighter is to be grounded, I see Oezdemir being the one who has a better shot of getting back to his feet.
Demonstrating the wrestling improvements he has made state-side, Oezdemir will immediately turtle or tripod up to his base, fighting hands while making his way to standing.

Although turtling can come at the cost of front-headlocks or back takes, those threats are fewer and far between at light-heavyweight when you look at the general size and skill-sets of the current crop in the UFC.

Ultimately, I can see why the oddsmakers opened the Englishman as the favorite as perhaps they, like me, are also tired of getting burned by doubting the destroyer that is Jimi Manuwa. Still, I find myself swayed given the dynamic of this matchup.

We essentially have a classic battle between a devastating opportunist who is still largely untested in later rounds, versus a more process-driven pressure fighter who seems to fear no one. And if you are familiar with my analysis, I tend to side with process over opportunism.

I initially came into this bout leaning toward Manuwa as his pressure is as technical as it is menacing, but he is also much more reliant on needing an exact temperature to implement his game. In both victory and defeat, Manuwa has typically struggled(at first or altogether) when it comes to establishing his rhythm in high-pressure environments.

Unless Manuwa catches Oezdemir square coming in (which is near the top of probable outcomes), then the Englishman will need to demonstrate that he has an answer for countering pressure outside of the occasional counter shot. If he cannot, then the next likely outcome is that Oezdemir’s process of high-volume pressure will stack up rounds with a good possibility of producing a finish.

Official Pick: Oezdemir – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: Oezdemir – Inside the distance

Preliminary Card Predictions:

  • Knight def. Lamas
  • Barao def. Sterling
  • Moicano def. Ortega
  • Fili def. Kattar
  • Albu def. Curran
  • Brooks def. Shelton
  • Burkman def. Dober

Dan’s Plays:

(*like my breakdowns, these are for your reference & entertainment)

Props worth looking at(@

-Barao “by Decision” +186 (0.25 Unit)
-Moicano “by Decision” +100 (0.25 Unit)
-Cyborg-Evinger “starts round 2” +150 (0.25 Unit)

Playable parlay pieces(My most confident favorites within play):

*No parlay pieces I like, but here’s a parlay I played for fun via*
-Sterling-Barao “Over 2 1/2” (-260)
-Maia-Woodley “Doesn’t go the distance” (-350)
-Shelton-Brooks “Starts round 3” (-370)
^Parlayed 1-Unit to win 1.26 Units

Straight plays:

-Knight +100 (0.5 Unit)
-Moicano -140 (1 Unit)
-Barao +120 (0.5 Unit)

Fights to avoid(live dogs, inflated lines, high intangibles, etc.):

-Burkman vs Dober
-Shelton vs Brooks
-Curran vs Albu
-Fili vs Kattar

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