The UFC light heavyweight title will be on the line this Saturday night when the Key Bank Center in Buffalo, New York plays host to UFC 210. The card is decent from top to bottom, most notably the main pay-per-view slate of bouts. Yet, rest assured it’s the rematch being showcased as the “main event” that has both fight fans and bettors alike most excited.
Current 205-pound UFC titlist Daniel Cormier (18-1) aims to make it 2-0 against Anthony Johnson (22-5), having defeated “Rumble” via submission a little less than 11 months ago. Though Johnson was able to hurt Cormier and almost finish him early on in their first fight, the champion was able to gradually break the challenger down. Eventually he slapped on a rear-naked choke to secure a third round stoppage.
For the rematch oddsmakers initially installed Cormier as a -120 betting favorite, but a steady flow of money on Johnson has forced bookmakers to adjust. And as we go to print it’s now Johnson who’s listed at -125, with the take-back on the champion +105. That’s a very significant move as the early money reflects the betting market believed the wrong man was made the favorite.
In their first meeting, Cormier opened a -150 favorite to capture the light heavyweight title that had been vacated due to Jon Jones’ suspension. Ironically, early money on the underdog Johnson had also forced the betting line to move in his favor back at UFC 187.
So will the result also be the same… or will the challenger prove the early money being bet on him is warranted? Rather than break down both fighters’ strengths and weaknesses, along with statistics from past bouts, I’ll get right to the “bottom line.”
Now let me tell you why.
This time around Johnson gets a full training camp to prepare for Cormier. Many forget the challenger was getting ready to face Jon Jones before the fight was canceled. That training camp was assembled and a game plan had been developed for a much different opponent. Also, having already been inside the Octagon with Cormier prior should prove to be very beneficial in knowing what to expect.
For Johnson, he simply needs to focus on his take-down defense and manage his gas tank in case the bout reaches the championship rounds. The challenger knows Cormier wants to try and grind out a win by making it a so called “ugly fight.” He’ll try to keep Johnson against the cage, in the clinch, and secure take-downs in an attempt to avoid his powerful striking.
Since losing to Cormier, the challenger has reeled off three straight knock-outs, with two in the very first round. Although a former collegiate wrestling champion, Johnson mostly uses those skills to keep his fights standing. Under one of the game’s top striking coaches, Henry Hooft, his timing, distance, hand speed, and power have all come together. Coupled with solid kicks, especially to the head, Johnson has emerged as one of the promotion’s most dangerous strikers.
Historically the winner of the first bout has shown to have the advantage going into the second, but I am confident this rematch will be an exception. Johnson knows he can hurt Cormier, but he’s also well aware of what can happen if he’s not physically prepared to go the full five rounds. I expect Johnson’s edge in punching power to ultimately be too much for Cormier to overcome.