UFC 182, the first major pay-per-view of the year is already upon us and you can check out our predictions for all the fights below.

Main Card:

Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier

Three days into 2015 we’re already getting treated to one of the years biggest fights between two light-heavyweight stars who’ve never tasted defeat in the Octagon (ignoring the goofy ref ruling that lead to the only blemish on Jones record).

Any time we talk about Jones we have to talk about the huge reach advantage he enjoys, and it’s never been more apparent than in this fight against the short, stocky Cormier who who’s giving up a whopping 14.5″ in reach! It’s a gift that has left many of the champions opponents bamboozled, though Cormier is perhaps better prepared than most in certain respects since he’s fought at heavyweight against big men in the past (though Jones wingspan is still king even in that land of the giants).

Cormier does possess big power, so if he can find Jones’ chin then he can make his impression felt, but it’s going to be difficult to close the distance with the champion doing a very good job of maintaining distance with outstretched arms, punches and kicks.

Jones doesn’t have that one punch power, but he’s far more versatile and fluid with his offense which can really take it’s toll on his opponents, so engaging at any kind of range for any length of time just isn’t in the challenger’s best interests.

Instead, Cormier has to utilize his wrestling and in the past he’s dealt with bigger men by clinching with them, so that’s bound to be an important part of his strategy on Saturday night. As noted previously, getting into that range will be tricky though, and if he does Jones will adapt his reach with world class elbows becoming a potent weapon. In the past Jones has also shown excellent throws from here too, but it’d be a big surprise if he can get an elite wrestler like Cormier down that way.

Getting Jones on his back seems like Cormier’s best strategy as he’s still largely untested there. It’s certainly a possibility, but ‘Bones’ has the wrestling and athleticism to make it easier said than done.

In my opinion Cormier is one of Jones biggest tests to date, but on the other hand it’s unquestionably the toughest challenge for Cormier who’s never gone up against anyone quite like the champion. I think this may end up playing out in a similar fashion to many of Jones’ previous fights with his physical attributes, commanding control of distance and striking creativity likely to shut down and frustrate Cormier the further the fight goes on, leading to a late stoppage victory as repeated blows finally take their toll.

Jon Jones to win by TKO in Rd4.

Donald Cerrone vs. Myles Jury

Jury has shown himself to be a very capable fighter in his unbeaten UFC run so far and as such has been rewarded with a high profile fight against the always entertaining Cerrone.

Jury is a good all-rounder who’s at his best on the feet with good movement and sharp counter-striking, but also brings decent wrestling and good submissions to the table.

Cerrone is an excellent muay thai based fighter who establishes his range with kicks, mixes in punches where appropriate and punishes those who try to rush in either to close the distance or attempt a takedown with well timed knee strikes. That should make Jury wary of takedown attempts, and even if he is taken down Cerrone has an excellent guard and dangerous submission arsenal at his disposal.

Jury’s best bet is to pressure Cerrone early as he tends to be a slow starter, but I see ‘Cowboy’ settling into his groove and getting the better of his opponent on the feet here before staking his claim for a post-fight bonus by going for broke with a late submission.

Donald Cerrone to win by submission in Rd3.

Brad Tavares vs. Nate Marquardt

Tavares is a jack of all trades style of fighter who’s had some significant success in the UFC, but has hit upon tougher times lately with back-to-back defeats.

Marquardt is only just climbing back out of a hole himself, returning to middleweight and getting a much needed win under his belt. It looks to have been a good decision, he never seemed as potent a threat at welterweight.

Having said that, we have to see a little bit more of Marquardt before being certain he’s back on track and if he’s not a solid, dependable, hard working fighter like Tavares could punish him. Overall though I feel Marquardt is the better, more dangerous fighter here and I’m picking him to make an impression with a TKO victory.

Nate Marquardt to win by TKO in Rd2.

Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Louis Gaudinot

The UFC will be secretly hoping for someone like the 3-0 Horiguchi to make an impact in the flyweight division which is desperately in need of new challengers.

The Japanese fighter certainly catches the eye with big power for the weight class and is a threat with strikes both on the feet and with ground and pound.

Gaudinot is a handful himself with good striking and wrestling, but Horiguchi is the more dangerous fighter on the feet and I think he gets the job done here inside the distance.

Kyoji Horiguchi to win by TKO in Rd2.

Hector Lombard vs. Josh Burkman

Burkman finally makes his way back to the UFC only to meet one of the most intimidating men on the roster in Hector Lombard.

Burkman is a better fighter than when he left the UFC – offering a more well rounded skill-set to go with his athletic base and it’s served him well with a 9-2 record outside of the Octagon.

After an indifferent start to his UFC career, Lombard has moved to welterweight and made an immediate impact with his power, strength, speed and sheer presence.

Burkman’s a tough customer but his only real advantage in this fight is his cardio and I don’t think he’ll get a chance to utilize that here, with Lombard landing the big punches to end this one inside of two rounds.

Hector Lombard to win by TKO in Rd2.

Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Danny Castillo vs. Paul Felder
Marcus Brimage vs. Cody Garbrandt
Shawn Jordan vs. Jared Cannonier
Evan Dunham vs. Rodrigo Damm
Omari Akhmedov vs. Mats Nilsson
Alexis Dufresne vs. Marion Reneau