As the summer starts to wind down, the UFC’s fall schedule begins to loom ever closer on the horizon and with it, one of the biggest fights left on the 2014 calendar – Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier.
The two light-heavyweights, champion and No. 2 ranked challenger respectively, are accidental combatants of sorts. Jones was originally set to face Alexander Gustafsson in a rematch bout of their September, 2013, UFC 165 match, however, Gustafsson had to scratch from the fight last week (July 23, 2014) with an injury (torn meniscus) to his knee. As a result, Cormier was tapped to be “The Mauler’s” UFC 178 replacement. With the show transpiring in Las Vegas on September 27, fans have now, by way of the demise of Jones vs. Gustafsson II, been given a fight of equal, if not greater value, in “Bones” vs. Cormier.
Jones and Cormier have been trading barbs with one another since Cormier joined the UFC in April of last year. Even as a heavyweight, Cormier was throwing bombs at Jones, stating that he could and would drop down a weight class and take Jones’s belt. As such, the animosity or at least the rivalry between the two, has been growing steadily ever since. Now that fate has given him the title opportunity and fight that he has wanted, Cormier appears to be chomping at the bit for the bout’s date to arrive.
However, for as dominant as the 15 – 0 Cormier has been, he will be taking on a similarly undefeated fighter in Jon Jones – “Bones’s” DQ loss to Matt Hamill aside – and one that has a distinct height and reach advantage over him. Standing at 6’4” with an 84.5 inch reach, Jones is five inches taller than Cormier (5’11”) and has twelve inches of reach advantage on him (72.5). In short, Jones is a much taller and longer man.
On Monday’s edition of the MMA Hour (July 28, 2014), Cormier addressed the height and reach issue, and as far as the 35-year-old Olympic wrestler is concerned, “none of that is going to matter.” As Cormier sees it, he is the man to beat Jon Jones.
“You just got to watch and see. I believe in myself 110 percent. There is a badder man out there for every one of us. As good as Jon Jones is, there is somebody that can beat Jon Jones. I believe I am that guy. And there is somebody out there that can beat me. I don’t know who that is. It could be Rashad Evans, it could be Glover Teixeira, (or) it could be one of those guys that are just better than I am. But I believe that on Sept. 27, reach and height, none of that is going to matter, because I believe I have the ability to beat Jon, and I have the ability to compete with Jon, and the confidence in knowing that I can get the job done. This is the first time you have two undefeated guys fighting for the championship. This is a big deal, man. This is the type of fight we need in MMA to show that guys can sustain being undefeated for a long time, get to the top of the sport, and fight each other for the ultimate prize. This is a big deal. I can feel it. I know Jon can feel it. And I can’t wait for it.”
Truly if there is a man in the division, certainly aside from Alexander Gustafsson, that fans believe can dethrone the 27-year-old, 20 – 1 Jones, it is Daniel Cormier. However, in order for him to do it, Cormier is going to have to fight Jones on the inside and that might be easier said than done. Jones knows how to use every inch of his reach and he is also a very technically sound stand-up fighter. He also possesses a brutal clinch game and is a strong wrestler in his own right. In a nutshell, the defenses that Cormier must breach are some of the very reasons as to why Jones is a seven-time defending champion.
To be sure, Cormier has the power and explosiveness to deal with “Bones’s” battlements and erode his reach advantage. However, he might just as easily find himself eating a lot of shots to his damaged knee on the way in, as the champion targets Cormier’s impaired appendage. If this proves to be the case and Jones can successfully hobble Cormier, then it would be tough to see how the powerful wrestler would be able to pull out the win.
On the point of targeting Cormier’s knee, it is a tactic that American Kickboxing Academy team member expects Jones to employ and indeed, one that he will be “very disappointed in” should Jones not elect to use it. As Cormier noted in interview, when it comes to targeting Jones’s own injuries, it is a stratagem that he himself is “going” to pursue.
Photo courtesy of Daniel Cormier