All right folks, its once again time to get all mathematical about the mixed martial arts. For our laser-focused prediction fest for UFC 192, we’re using the lines given to us by Opening (which is actually the name of the company that sets Vegas odds, strangely enough) and we’re using the OFFICIAL stats provider of the UFC, Fight Metric, for all of the numbers and fractions and ratios and whatnot.
And before any of you sods start bellyaching about my methodology for UFC 192 betting odds, just remember: on my last STATS-BASED predictions for UFC 191, I went 8-3, including 4-1 on the main card : )
And onward to the main card picks!UFC Light Heavyweight Championship Bout Daniel Cormier (-200) vs. Alexander Gustafsson (+170)
Cormier, fresh off pounding Anthony Johnson into a puddle, puts his strap on the line against Alexander Gustafsson, who next to crack and Funions, has come closer than anything to defeating Jon Jones. The Swedish Ryan Gosling look-a-like obviously has the height and reach advantage, plus his average fight time is about three minutes shorter than his opponent (that’s important, you see, because it implies that he looks to finish his foes rather than lollygag around in a war of attrition.) Unfortunately, Gustafsson’s number come up really short compared to those of Cormier in most striking and grappling categories: Cormier’s striking accuracy outpoints Gustafsson’s 48 percent to 37 percent, while Black Fedor’s striking defense average (64 percent) is considerably better than Gustafsson’s (47 percent.) To be fair, Alex does have a slightly better takedown defense percentage (86 percent to Cormier’s 77 percent) AND he’s rattling off more significant strikes per minute (4.06 to 3.63) BUT Cormier is averaging more successful takedowns per fight and, this could be the big one, he’s eating far fewer knuckle sandwiches per bout (1.71 absorbed per minute versus Gus’ 3.38.) Cormier, ever the predictable fighter, will almost certainly look to bully Gus up against the cage, and Gustafsson, ever the even more predictable fighter, will simply try to keep his shorter foe at bay with ranged jabs. Alex might have some success early (heck, he might even win the first two rounds) but the longer this fight drags on, I see it heavily favoring the reigning champ. I expect Gus to gas early in the third, which allows Cormier to smother him in the corner. After drowning Gus in his fatrolls like The Blob did to Storm in that one episode of the old ‘90s X-Men cartoon for an entire round, I imagine Cormier lands a pivotal takedown early in the fourth, which lets him just pound on Gus until he can’t remember which continent he’s on. It’ll be competitive for a while, but Cormier will find a way to beat Gus in typical Cormier style.
OFFICIAL PICK: Cormier, TKO (R4)Welterweight Bout Johny Hendricks (-248) vs. Tyron Woodley (+192)
Stylistically, this is an interesting one. With a Herculean physique, Woodley has had cardio problems in long fights, while “Bigg Rigg” seems to actually fight better the longer the fight drags on. Woodley has a considerable reach advantage, a shorter fight time average, and outdoes Hendricks when it comes to striking accuracy, strikes absorbed per minute and striking defense. Alas, Hendricks has the better numbers when it comes to strikes landed per minute, takedown accuracy and — probably the x-factor in this bout – takedowns landed per fight (4.44 compared to Woodley’s 1.92.) Oddly, Woodley does have a better takedown defense ration than Hendricks, but then again, Woodley has never gone toe-to-toe with a grappler quite like Johny, either. Tyrone will obviously look for the knockout blow early, but I see this one playing out not unlike Hendricks’ fight earlier this year against Matt Brown. Once Woodley realizes he can’t make anything stick, that’s when Johny turns this one into a wrestling bout. It’s tempting to go with a left-handed one-punch KO, but I think it’s far more likely that Hendricks will just let his takedowns do the talking as he coasts to a relatively easy victory over a guy who — as judging by his loss to Nate freakin’ Marquardt — really doesn’t know what to do when the onslaught of fists start coming down on him.
OFFICIAL PICK: Hendricks, Unanimous DecisionLight Heavyweight Bout Ryan Bader (+135) vs. Rashad Evans (-245)
Let’s not even mull the fact that this is Rashad’s first fight since 2013. In virtually every striking and grappling category save takedown accuracy, Bader absolutely outclasses “Sugar.” Or “Suga.” Or whatever the hell he wants to call himself.
He’s got the reach advantage, he has a shorter fight length average, he’s throwing more punches and eating less of them than Evans and his takedown average per fight and takedown defense is better, too. But the big decider here is the submissions category; much to my surprise, Evans has never gone for a submission during his UFC tenure, while Bader is averaging about one sub attempt per fight. Rashad is no doubt going to have a lot of cage rust heading into this one, and I think Bader makes short work of him as a result. I see “Darth” rocking Rashad early in the first, then following up with either a guillotine or rear naked choke finale.
OFFICIAL PICK: Bader, Submission (R1)Bantamweight Bout Jessica Eye (+140) vs. Julianna Pena (-180)
Well, this one ought to be lopsided as hell. Eye has never gone for a takedown in her UFC career, while Pena is averaging five of them per fight. Oh, and she’s landed every single takedown she’s attempted so far while employed by Zuffa. The striking stats are just as damning. While Pena is landing an absurd 7.81 significant strikes per minute, Eye is landing just 4.82. Defensively, the numbers also favor Pena: she’s eating just 0.45 significant strikes per fight (an absurdly low number for any fighter, male or female) while Eye is getting popped hard 4.39 times every sixty seconds she’s in the Octagon. It’ll be a wild slugfest for a minute or so, but as soon as Pena gets the takedown — and rest assured, she will get the takedown –this thing is all over.Heavyweight Bout Shawn Jordan (+100) vs. Ruslan Magomedov (-140)
Of all the main card bouts, this is probably the hardest one to call. Jordan has a significant weight advantage, but Ruslan has the height and reach advantage. Jordan has more accurate striking, but Magomedov is chewing fewer shots per minute, tossing more significant strikes per minute and successfully defending more shots. Ruslan also has better takedown defense and offense (he’s batting 100 percent when it comes to attempts in the UFC), but that’s primarily because Ruslan is averaging just 0.5 takedowns per fight compared to Jordan’s 2.14. So, all of that to say — I really have no clue, folks. Magomedov is probably the more complete fighter, but as a tiebreaker, I generally go with the guy who has the more effective takedown skills, and in this case, that makes Jordan our man. It will be a competitive bout, no doubt, but since both these guys have a nasty tendency to gas early on, it probably won’t be too exciting a match-up, either.
OFFICIAL PICK: Jordan, Unanimous Decision
And now, on to the preliminary card quick picks!Joeseph Benavidez (-300) vs. Ali Bagautinov (+220)
Folks, the spread on this one is so high for a reason. Take Benavidez and the points, as the perennial flyweight also-ran chalks up yet another unanimous decision win here.Dan Hooker (+170) vs. Yair Rodriguez (-230)
Neither of these guys are terribly consistent, and with the insane spread afforded to Rodriguez, that gives me more than enough incentive to put my moolah down on Hooker (boy, that’s a bad one to take out of context!) and a boring unanimous decision victory.Rose Namajunas (-350) vs. Angela Hill (+250)
All you need to know about this bout? Namajunas’ nickname is “Thug.” Take the favorite and first round TKO victory in this ‘un.Alan Jouban (+170) vs. Albert Tumenov (-230)
Tumenov’s nickname is “Einstein.” No, seriously. For that reason alone, I’m giving this fight to Jouban, split decision.Islam Makhachev (-120) vs. Adriano Martins (-120)
Vegas says flip a coin, so I did. It came up for Islam (the fighter, not the world religion.) So, uh, Islam it is, unanimous decision.Sergio Pettis (-185) vs. Chris Cariaso (+145)
Yes, Sergio is Anthony’s brother. And in this fight at least, he’s going to have much better luck than “Showtime” had against Rafael dos Anjos. I’m giving Sergio a round three stoppage victory, for no particular reason.Derrick Lewis (-115) vs. Viktor Pesta (-125)
Another toss-up heavyweight bout. I’m more familiar with Lewis (which still isn’t that much familiarity, to be frank), so he gets the unanimous decision nod.Sage Northcutt (-230) vs. Francisco Trevino (+170)
With a name like “Sage Northcutt,” the fight is over before it even begins. Take the favorite, as he opens the show with a highlight reel-caliber head kick KO finish in the very first round.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Houston with a stacked card this Saturday on pay-per-view. In the headliner, light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier takes on former top contender Alexander Gustafsson in an outstanding scrap. While Gustafsson's booking drew heat from fans who would've preferred not to see a challenger who was melted in his last outing, it is one of the best fights that can be made in the division.
The long shadow of Jon Jones hangs over the entire event. Forty percent of the fighters on the main card—Cormier, Gustafsson, Rashad Evans and Ryan Bader — have fallen to the longtime and now former light heavyweight champion. This fight is for the full title only because the UFC has made it so, not because there's any doubt as to who the best 205-pounder on the planet happens to be.
Jones will likely get the winner of the main event when he returns from his suspension. While Cormier holds the belt he won against Anthony Johnson, this is essentially a glorified top contender matchup. With that said, it's still an outstanding fight.
The rest of the card is stacked to the brim with meaningful and entertaining bookings. In the co-main event, former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks takes on Tyron Woodley in a likely top contender matchup. The winner will likely draw the winner of Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit in January.
Further down the card, the hits keep coming. Bader takes on Evans in what could also be a top contender matchup at 205 pounds, with the winner getting a shot at either Gustafsson or Cormier if Jones can't return to action in the near future.
Shawn Jordan and Ruslan Magomedov meet in a matchup of two of the division's best younger fighters, with Magomedov in particular on the cusp of breaking through to the divisional elite. Jessica Eye takes on Julianna Pena in the main card's opener as The Ultimate Fighter 18 winner gets a shot at vaulting herself into the top 10 and eventual contention.
The preliminary card is as good as it gets. Joseph Benavidez takes on Ali Bagautinov in the Fox Sports 1 headliner, and every fight beneath that carries some level of interest. Rising stars Yair Rodriguez and Rose Namajunas compete for attention with a matchup between violence specialists Albert Tumenov and Alan Jouban.
Even the Fight Pass portion of the event is outstanding. Sergio Pettis draws former top contender Chris Cariaso as he attempts to stay relevant in the flyweight division, rising star Islam Makhachev takes on Adriano Martins and hot prospect Sage Northcutt makes his debut in the evening's curtain-jerker.
Let's take a look at each individual matchup.The Fight Pass Prelims
Derrick Lewis (12-4, 1 N/C; 3-2 UFC) vs. Viktor Pesta (10-1; 1-1 UFC)
Texas' Lewis takes the Czech Republic's Pesta in a solid heavyweight matchup. Lewis ate a hook kick to the jaw from Shawn Jordan in his last outing, while Pesta defeated Konstantin Erokhin.
Lewis' game revolves around his physicality. He's enormous, ridiculously strong and hits like a ton of bricks, and his approach revolves around getting the takedown and pounding his opponent into dust. Pesta is durable and a solid kickboxer, but the heart of his game involves takedowns, top control and a mixture of ground striking and submissions.
While Pesta is the more skilled fighter, particularly on the ground, Lewis is a drastically better athlete, and Pesta has to walk into his wheelhouse to make his game work. Still, the Czech fighter has shown that he can take a shot, and if he can weather the early storm the fight is his to lose. The pick is Pesta by decision.
Chris Cariaso (17-7; 7-5 UFC) vs. Sergio Pettis (12-2; 3-2 UFC)
The younger brother of former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis returns to action following a devastating knockout loss to Ryan Benoit in March. He draws former title challenger Chris Cariaso, who followed his blowout loss against Demetrious Johnson with a thorough thrashing at the hands of Henry Cejudo.
Pettis is less dynamic than his brother, but he throws gorgeous punch-kick combinations, cuts sharp angles and works at an outstanding pace. He has enough wrestling and grappling acumen for a change of pace. The problem is durability: He has been dropped in three of his five UFC outings despite well above-average defensive skills.
Cariaso is a skilled southpaw striker with a nice left kick, smooth movement and the takedown defense to keep the fight in his wheelhouse. Unfortunately, he's an average athlete without much power, which limits his ceiling in the division.
The 22-year-old Pettis is a terrible matchup for Cariaso. Pettis works at a quicker pace and can match the older fighter's technique with much better power and speed, and he should take this by decision.
Frank Trevino (12-1; 1-1 UFC) vs. Sage Northcutt (5-0; 0-0 UFC)
Model and blue-chip prospect Northcutt, 19, debuts against the older and more experienced Trevino, who was victorious in his UFC debut and was blown out against Johnny Case in his return engagement.
Northcutt is an outstanding athlete who is nowhere close to reaching his physical prime. He has a deep background in point karate, which expresses itself in a constant barrage of side and round kicks at range. Surprisingly solid wrestling and a slick move to the back give him a full array of dangerous options. His killer instinct is off the charts, which is exactly what one looks for in an aggressive and talented youngster.
Trevino is a striker by trade, and a decent one with solid kicks and a good clinch repertoire. He wrestles reasonably well and can do good work from the top, but he is slow, plodding and lacks power.
The youthful debutante should blow Trevino out of the water. He's an infinitely better athlete with finishing ability everywhere, and his pace alone should get him a win. The pick is Northcutt by submission in the first round.
Adriano Martins (27-7; 3-1 UFC) vs. Islam Makhachev (12-0; 1-0 UFC)
A blue-chip prospect and lifelong friend of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Dagestan's Makhachev gets a big step up in competition after winning his UFC debut. Martins has won two in a row, the most recent a decision over Rustam Khabilov last February.
Makhachev has been trained by Nurmagomedov's father since childhood, and the similarity in their games is obvious. Once Makhachev gets his hands on his opponent, he is absolutely suffocating, utilizing a combination of trips, throws, shot takedowns, rides and top control to wear down and eventually finish his opponent.
Martins is enormous and has well-rounded skills, with big power on the feet, slick takedowns and a lethal top game on the mat. The problem is offensive output: Martins simply doesn't do much and slips into long periods of inactivity.
This is an even-money fight, and rightfully so. Martins is a more powerful but less active striker with excellent takedown defense and could finish the fight on the feet or on the mat if it goes there. Still, the Dagestani is something special, and the pick is Makhachev by decision.The Fox Sports 1 Prelims
Rose Namajunas (2-2; 0-1 UFC) vs. Angela Hill (2-1; 1-1 UFC)
Namajunas, one of the finalists on The Ultimate Fighter 20, returns to action after losing to Carla Esparza in the first strawweight title fight in UFC history last December. She draws Angela Hill, a fellow TUF 20 cast member and a promising prospect who was ground into dust by Tecia Torres in June after beating Emily Kagan at the show finale.
Hill is big, physical, athletic and raw. She packs power in her strikes at range, throws solid punch-kick combinations and is a monster in the clinch. On the downside, her wrestling game is rudimentary at best and nonexistent at worst, and she offers nothing on the ground.
Pundits pegged Namajunas as the next big thing during her time on TUF, but Esparza exploited her seriously deficient wrestling chops and overly aggressive guard game. On her feet, however, Namajunas is a devastating whirlwind of kicks, punches, and spinning strikes, and she can finish from her back as well.
Hill is durable and promising, but unless Namajunas' game has completely failed to develop in the last year this fight is hers to lose. She's a far more technical striker and grappler, and more dangerous as well. The pick is Namajunas by submission in the second round.
Alan Jouban (12-3; 3-1 UFC) vs. Albert Tumenov (15-2; 3-1 UFC)
Violence specialists Jouban and Tumenov meet in one of the evening's favorites for Fight of the Night. Jouban, a California resident, has won two in a row since suffering an extremely controversial loss to Warlley Alves last November. Tumenov is riding a three-fight winning streak, the most recent a decision over Nico Musoke in January.
Jouban is an aggressive, powerful swarmer who can finish both at range and in the clinch. The southpaw flings potent left kicks and punching combinations as he moves in, but is at his best in the tie-ups, where he mixes sharp knees and devastating elbows. He has improved his wrestling, but is merely competent on the ground rather than a real threat.
The Russian is a slick, athletic striker with a killer left kick and a murderous left hook. He does his best work on the counter and takes crisp, smooth angles. His takedown defense is outstanding, and he can do enough from the top to stay busy.
While Tumenov is a -215 favorite, Jouban's pressure game and physicality could give the Russian serious problems, especially early. The more likely scenario involves Tumenov's slick counters and combinations giving him the edge in a back-and-forth fight. The pick is Tumenov by decision.
Yair Rodriguez (5-1; 2-0 UFC) vs. Daniel Hooker (12-5; 2-1 UFC)
One of the very best prospects in the UFC, Yair Rodriguez won The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America, and he is the promotion's great hope to gain a foothold in the coveted Mexican market. After defeating Charles Rosa in June, he draws New Zealand's Hooker, who knocked out Japanese veteran Hatsu Hioki in a massive upset last May.
Rodriguez is an extraordinary athlete blessed with ridiculous speed and explosiveness. While his hands still need work, his flashy kicking arsenal more than makes up for the deficiency, and he melds the kicks with surprisingly effective takedowns. His guard is lethal and fast, reminiscent of former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.
Hooker is a rangy and crafty striker who works out of both stances. He's better in southpaw, with a crisp cross that distracts from his consistent kicking output. The clinch is his wheelhouse, where he delivers a steady stream of slashing elbows.
While the Kiwi is durable and dangerous, this booking is intended to allow Rodriguez to get some cage time in an entertaining matchup. He's much faster and more powerful, and far more lethal on the mat. The pick is Rodriguez by submission in the second round.
Joseph Benavidez (22-4; 9-2 UFC) vs. Ali Bagautinov (13-3; 3-1 UFC)
Perennial bridesmaid Benavidez draws fellow former title challenger Bagautinov in the preliminary card's main event. The American has won three in a row since his second loss to divisional kingpin Demetrious Johnson, the most recent a decision over John Moraga in May. Bagautinov hasn't fought since losing to Johnson in June 2014 and then testing positive for EPO, which garnered him a year-long suspension.
Benavidez is one of the division's best in every phase, and an outstanding transitional fighter to boot. He throws crisp punch-kick combinations from both stances at range, has an excellent arsenal of singles, doubles and knee-taps and is a lethal scrambler and choke artist on the mat.
Bagautinov, a native of Dagestan, is a legitimate Combat Sambo world champion with enormous pop in his right hand. While not terribly crafty at range, he works in combinations and his power is a game-changer. He has a slick arsenal of takedowns and a strong clinch game to complement his vicious overhand.
The American is a big favorite at -320, but those odds seem too wide. Bagautinov isn't a walkover, and while Benavidez throws more volume, he has always been hittable and the Russian is a strong enough wrestler to keep this standing. The pick is Benavidez by a tighter-than-expected decision.Jessica Eye vs. Julianna Pena
Jessica Eye (11-3, 1 N/C; 1-2, 1 N/C UFC) vs. Julianna Pena (6-2; 2-0 UFC)
The Ultimate Fighter 18 winner Julianna Pena is the UFC's brightest young prospect in a thin and aging division. Her UFC career has thus far consisted of softballs Jessica Rakoczy and Milana Dudieva, whom Pena beat in her return from a devastating knee injury in April. Eye, who dropped her last outing to Miesha Tate in July, will be Pena's first big step up in competition.
Pena resembles a more athletic version of her teammate and friend Tate. Aggression is her hallmark, and she moves forward flinging wild and powerful punching combinations as she attempts to force her opponent toward the fence.
Once against the cage, Pena goes to work in the clinch before ducking into explosive shot takedowns. While her takedown defense isn't impenetrable, her athleticism and scrambling ability make up for it. From top position, Pena is a monster. She hits smooth passes, strong control and vicious ground strikes.
Eye is the quintessential out-fighter. She works behind a crisp, consistent jab and a long right hand. Over her last several fights, she's become much more comfortable sitting down and throwing combinations in the pocket, particularly on the counter. Sharp movement and clean angles make Eye difficult to corner and allow her to keep the fight in the middle of the cage where she's most comfortable.
The Ohio native is a striker, pure and simple, and offers little in terms of secondary skills. Her takedown defense is on point, particularly in open space where her movement makes it difficult to get a clean shot at her hips. She is a competent defensive grappler, and that is essentially it.
Pena -245, Eye +205
It's surprising that the inexperienced Pena is this big a favorite. Eye's path to victory is clear: stick Pena on the end of the jab, land right hands, cut angles and keep moving. She's certainly capable of pulling it off, particularly given her substantial skill advantage on the feet.
Pena's aggressiveness and athleticism should be the difference here, though. Eye has consistently struggled with bigger, stronger fighters, and Pena's sheer physicality should overwhelm her with takedowns and top control. The pick is Pena by hard-fought decision.Shawn Jordan vs. Ruslan Magomedov
Shawn Jordan (18-6; 6-3 UFC) vs. Ruslan Magomedov (13-1; 2-0 UFC)
Dagestan's Magomedov is the most promising up-and-comer in the thin heavyweight division, and he draws the experienced and still-improving Jordan in his first brush with the fringes of elite competition. Jordan has won three in a row, all of them by knockout, since losing to Matt Mitrione in March 2014. Magomedov defeated Viktor Pesta in his debut, and then Josh Copeland in his return engagement last November.
Jordan is an outstanding athlete with well-rounded skills. He is an effective puncher from the southpaw stance, slinging powerful combinations punctuated by a particularly dangerous right hook. He has good instincts on the counter, and mixes in the occasional flashy kick as a change of pace. The problem is defense. He is hittable at every range, rarely moves his head and doesn't have a great chin.
The Louisiana native is competent elsewhere. A state wrestling champion in high school, he hits explosive and authoritatively finished singles and doubles, and is difficult to take down. From the top he throws absolute bombs and controls well.
Magomedov is a rangy, athletic striker. He uses every inch of his 6'3" frame, working behind a probing jab and a slick kicking arsenal that features a deceptive, lightning-fast left kick at all levels. Counterpunching is Magomedov's specialty, and he can generate excellent power even moving backward. He works at an excellent pace, and his crisp footwork makes him difficult to pressure.
Like practically all fighters from Dagestan, Magomedov is an excellent wrestler. He has outstanding takedown defense, and his movement, angles and command of the distance make it difficult to get in a shot in the first place. The occasional takedown of his own and competent top control give him an additional tool in his arsenal.
Magomedov -145, Jordan +125
This should be fun. Magomedov's takedown defense means this will likely play out on the feet, where Jordan's aggression and combination punching match up well with Magomedov's slick counterpunching and rangy kicking game. Both are hittable, but the Russian should cleanly outland Jordan before landing a big shot. The pick is Magomedov by knockout in the second round.Ryan Bader vs. Rashad Evans
Ryan Bader (19-4; 12-4 UFC) vs. Rashad Evans (19-3-1; 14-3-1 UFC)
Former light heavyweight champion Evans returns to action for the first time in nearly two years. A devastating knee injury has kept him out since a dominating first-round win over Chael Sonnen at UFC 167. He draws Bader, who has slowly improved since winning The Ultimate Fighter nearly seven years ago.
This fight will decide whether Evans is still an elite light heavyweight, or whether Bader has finally broken through.
Throughout Evans' career, he's been consistently overrated as a striker and, despite his collegiate background, underrated as a wrestler and top-control specialist. At range he probes with his lead hand and then leaps in and out with flurries of two or three shots at a time, almost all of them punches. He packs some power, but is not a devastating puncher, and he has never thrown much volume.
Evans is at his best when he uses his strikes to cover the entries on his authoritative and technical double-legs. He is one of the best phase-shifters in the sport, and has repeatedly taken down even elite MMA wrestlers such as Phil Davis with shocking ease.
The former Michigan State wrestler is special on the mat. He controls effortlessly from the top ride as his opponents attempt to scramble out, works smooth passes with shocking ease and melds unshakable control with brutal, vicious ground striking.
Bader has developed into a complete and competent fighter, if not a spectacular one. A crisp jab, potent left hook and a slicing switch kick make him a competent striker, all of which he delivers with excellent power. He is surprisingly sharp defensively and is difficult to hit, which his raw speed and athleticism reinforce.
The former Arizona State All-American remains an outstanding wrestler. He does an excellent job of covering takedown attempts with strikes and hitting reactive shots as his opponents come in, and he owns one of the cleanest and most technical blast doubles in the sport. Takedown defense is a real strength of his game as well.
While not particularly dangerous on the mat, he is perfectly competent, and he blends top control with the use of top rides and mat returns to suffocate and grind out his opponents. Powerful ground strikes and the occasional submission attempt in transition give him some finishing ability.
Evans -160, Bader +140
Evans is the favorite here, and rightfully so, but this is a difficult fight to pick. More than a decade of high-level competition and serious injuries may well have taken their toll on the aging former champion. Bader is younger, probably the better athlete at this point and hasn't spent the last two years on the shelf.
Still, in a fight where their wrestling will probably cancel out, Evans is the cleaner, smoother striker who makes the most of his limited opportunities with combinations. The pick is Evans by slow decision.Johny Hendricks vs. Tyron Woodley
Johny Hendricks vs. Tyron Woodley was scrapped from UFC 192 on Friday afternoon. It was reported that Hendricks was dealing with weight-cut related issues.
Hendrick's manager, Ted Ehrhardt, gave a statement to Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting.com regarding the situation citing a blockage in his intestine, in addition to a kidney stone. Hendricks was taken to the emergency room and given an IV.
Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports is reporting that, according to UFC president Dana White, Woodley would be getting the next title shot, vs. the winner of Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit (those two are set to fight on Jan 2nd at UFC 194).Daniel Cormier vs. Alexander Gustafsson
Main Event: Light Heavyweight Championship
Daniel Cormier (16-1; 5-1 UFC) vs. Alexander Gustafsson (16-3; 8-3 UFC)
With rightful champion Jon Jones out for the foreseeable future, Cormier needed an opponent to defend his shiny new belt against. That turned out to be Gustafsson, who took Jones to the limit two years ago but whose only win since then was over Jimi Manuwa.
Anthony Johnson knocked the Swede into next week back in January, while Cormier recovered from his devastating loss to Jones with a dominant win over Johnson in May. The winner will have a return engagement with Jones when he inevitably returns next spring.
Gustafsson is a pure out-fighter. His entire game revolves around being either all the way on the outside or all the way inside, in the clinch, with as little time as possible spent in the pocket. He moves constantly and produces an extremely high volume of strikes.
The Swede uses his height beautifully. A rangy 6'5", he works behind a versatile and constant jab that stabs, probes and sets up an increasingly effective arsenal of low and middle kicks. The right hand is Gustafsson's biggest asset, however. His cross is sharp, with a quick trigger and no telegraphing, and his uppercut is beautifully timed and powerful.
Gustafsson transitions beautifully from the outside into the clinch. If he misses on punches, he moves fluidly into a single- or double-collar tie, where he delivers a sharp knee or two before breaking off and reestablishing distance. It is nearly impossible to hold him the clinch if he doesn't want to be there.
More than his crisp striking, proficient wrestling is what makes Gustafsson an elite fighter. His takedown defense is nearly impenetrable: He automatically digs for underhooks on shots and uses the cage well for balance. The combination of constant movement and his rangy frame make it difficult to get a clean shot on his hips in first place.
Offensively, he has a gorgeous chain of double-legs and knee taps, and he finishes with clean technique.
Gustafsson is nearly impossible to hold on the mat if taken down, which rarely happens. He is competent on top and passes neatly, while his long frame gives him good posture and substantial power in his ground strikes. Submissions aren't his strongest suit, but he does have a quick move to the back in transition.
Cormier, a former Olympic wrestler, has evolved into a fully three-dimensional fighter. He fights surprisingly long given his lack of height (5'11"), with a crisp jab and a consistent kicking game that extends his effective range beyond what his bowling-ball frame would suggest.
He is a competent, meat-and-potatoes striker. Two- and three-punch combinations follow behind the jab, and he is comfortable both moving forward and on the counter, though he prefers the former. While he has knockouts on his record, he is not a terribly powerful puncher on the feet.
Cormier's real wheelhouse is the clinch, and he does his best work pinning his opponent against the cage. Although his striking is competent, it mostly serves as a bridge to the tie-ups, where he is one of the most dominant fighters in the sport. He uses his head and an underhook or wrist control to hold his opponent in place, and then goes to town with combinations of short punches and knees.
The Olympian can do this for entire rounds at a time. Cormier is happy to grind his opponents into dust, and his wrestling game reinforces that. He has a full arsenal of takedowns, from singles to doubles to knee taps to step-outside throws, all of which he chains beautifully. The best facet of his wrestling, however, comes in the scrambles. His front headlock is a thing of beauty, and he stays exceptionally heavy in the ride.
From the top, Cormier is absolutely suffocating. He controls beautifully, letting his opponent move between guard, half guard and the turtle. All the while Cormier lands strikes and makes his opponent hold his weight. Those strikes are potent and consistent, and Cormier melds them with the occasional submission attempt.
Cormier -340, Gustafsson +280
The odds don't seem right. It seems the knockout loss to Johnson has made the betting public forget the vast majority of Gustafsson's career, which involved him moving constantly while using his height and reach to stick shorter fighters on the end of his strikes as they tried to walk him down. He produces a tremendous volume of strikes and wears his opponents down with output and pace.
That's exactly what will happen here. Cormier has to consistently pressure and move forward, all the while eating kicks and jabs from Gustafsson and burning energy trying to get in on difficult takedown attempts. That burns energy, and it will take its toll, just as it did against Jones. While it should be close, the pick is Gustafsson by decision in a major upset.
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