Daniel Cormier makes his return to the octagon at UFC 210 against a pretty familiar face. Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson is no stranger to the UFC champion which means this rematch can take on a very interesting pace. It’s always interesting to see how two fighters have evolved since fighting once before. It’s a tough match to call with a number of different variables to keep in mind. Will it be the suffocating wrestling and grittiness of the champion or the powerful strikes of the challenger? Let’s analyze this ish.
Now, Anthony Johnson did get off some good strikes against Cormier in their first bout. Johnson hits pretty damn hard so Cormier adopted a very controlled and balanced strategy. It turns out all that was good for was prolonging the inevitable ‘Rumble’ rush that saw Johnson land a clubbing overhand right that floored Cormier. The problem for Johnson was that Cormier recovered. Things devolved into a dog fight with plenty of clinching and wrestling and eventually Johnson fell prey to a rear naked choke.
There’s no shame in Johnson’s game however. He still has power in his punches and kicks and he was able to land some nice strikes on Cormier’s chin. The problem with ‘Rumble’ is that he’s always felt comfortable at closing the show early with one powerful strike, that and his overly aggressive forward pressure. What he’ll need to do differently in this match is pace himself. He should be no means be lathargic with his pacing as the champ will pressure in and use it to his advantage. Instead, Johnson should look to flick a jab or two into Cormier’s face, occasionally throwing his right sparingly. The idea is to get Cormier to duck in for a takedown where a powerful uppercut will greet him from a powerful Johnson. If he does get his man hurt, the challenger should definitely pick his shots. He has the power so it makes no sense to dive in with a barrage of punches if you’re not absolutely sure you’re going to close the show.
On the flip side, Daniel Cormier should look to push for a fast start. While Johnson is in some good shape, he can wilt if the pressure is poured on and that’s exactly what Cormier should keep in mind. The first time the champion was cautious of Johnson’s power and because of that we didn’t see him open up with his gritty clinch game and dirty boxing until he secured a takedown first.
Wrestling is Cormier’s comfort zone, but he can’t rely totally on that. He should engage Johnson on the feet even despite the threat of the knock out. But he can’t be stupid and rush Johnson out of the gate. It has to be a measured approach. He has to be either all the way in or all the way out. Hanging out in the middle distance with Johnson could spell doom for the champion. Instead he should employ his usual jab, mix in a front or low kick and pounce. Johnson will likely be looking to defend takedowns with lateral movement and a sprawl. Kicking low will get Johsnon to stop in place for the slightest moment which will open up the opportunity for Cormier to close the distance with a punch and transition to either the clinch for some dirty boxing or a straight wrasslin’ fest.
Ultimately, like I believe with most fights, it comes down to who can control the distance better than their opponent. If Cormier can close distance and avoid the bombs from bashing in his head, he will ultimately control the clinch positions and ultimately the fight. If Johnson can keep Cormier guessing and force the champion to move backwards or forwards based on his own pace, it’s likely that ‘Rumble’ will secure a devastating KO.