UFC 214 takes place tomorrow night in Anaheim, California and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones
At long last the UFC’s two best light-heavyweights finally get another opportunity to lock horns, some two-and-a-half years after their first encounter.
On that occasion Jones not only beat Cormier, but actually did so by besting his rival in the area that he usually excels in, purposefully opting to work in the pocket with clinch work and wrestling.
That leaves DC with a dilemma here, as there isn’t really a ‘plan B’ for him that makes much sense for him. If he tries to change things up and opts to strike with Jones then he’s going to have issues as his short, stocky build just doesn’t match up well with ‘Bones’ abnormally long, rangey frame and reach, which he utilizes to great effect.
Therefore, DC is likely to be preparing for a similar fight to their last one, and though he’ll no doubt be making small adjustment that will affect the outcome, his biggest hope for a different outcome this time will be that Jones may not be the fighter he was in 2015 due to his long layoff and well-documented issues out of the Octagon.
That’s definitely worth taking into account as Jones did look to have some ring rust in his last fight with OSP in 2016, and a gruelling five round battle with Cormier tomorrow night will be a far tougher test.
That being said, since their last fight Cormier hasn’t had it easy either. He’s won some major fights, which will give him confidence, but Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson both rocked him, and he’s also had to deal with injuries, not to mention the fact that he’s now 38-years-old. In fact, I get the sense that, win or lose on Saturday night, DC might not be too far away from retirement.
On the other hand, Jones is still only 30 and hasn’t had to endure that level of wear and tear. He also has more ways to win here, he’s coming in with a lot to prove, and has a real sense of purpose as he looks to win back his title, so I’m picking him to emerge victorious in the rematch – though I think he’ll have to go to the scorecards to do it.
Jon Jones to win by decision.
Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia
Maia richly deserves his title shot after reconnecting with his elite-level grappling skills during his time at 170lbs to great effect, but this is a tough stylistic match-up for him.
The first issue for him is that Woodley has a strong wrestling base and that’s going to make him very difficult to take down, even though Maia has developed a nice line in trip-based takedowns.
Assuming Maia is struggling to get T-Wood down, he then faces a hugely daunting task as his striking is fairly mediocre and he doesn’t have the kind of power that’s going to trouble the champion.
On the other hand, while Woodley’s workrate may leave something to be desired, when he does throw, it’s with face-rearranging knockout power.
So, Maia will really have no option but to repeatedly try to get inside and find ways to get Woodley to the mat, and in doing so I expect him to leave himself vulnerable to being caught with what will prove to be a fight-ending punch.
Tyron Woodley to win by KO in Rd2.
Cris Cyborg vs. Tonya Evinger
At long last ‘Cyborg’ has a chance to fight for the UFC featherweight title, and she’ll do so against a respectable opponent in Invicta FC 135lb champ Evinger.
It’s a bit of an unfortunate situation for Evinger here, finally getting the call from the UFC, but having to step up a division to face the most feared woman in the sport in order to make it to the Octagon.
Still, we’re talking about a savvy veteran here, unbeaten in 11 fights, wielding a 19-5 (+1nc) record and with a legitimate path to victory here as she is an effective grappler, who will look to trouble ‘Cyborg’ on the mat if she gets the opportunity.
That’ll be easier said than done against ‘Cyborg’ though, as she’s the bigger, stronger, more athletic fighter, who won’t be out of her depth if she has to grapple, but most importantly also possesses some of the most dangerous striking in WMMA.
It’s worth noting that ‘Cyborg’ isn’t neccessarily a one-punch KO artist, but when she starts landing you can see opponents visibly wilting, and being as the Brazilian star is aggressive and relentlessly offensive, it’s only a matter of time before they fold.
As tough as she is, I don’t think Evinger will be any different in that regard. She’ll try to make a fight of it for as long as she can, but Cyborg will mercilessly beat her up on the feet for a third round TKO victory.
Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino to win by TKO in Rd3.
Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone
With so many title fights on the main card, Lawler Vs Cerrone hasn’t received much attention in the build-up to UFC 214, but nevertheless this is a terrific match-up that’s almost guaranteed to deliver fireworks.
Striking wise there’s no doubt that former 170lb champ Lawler is the signifcantly heavier hitter, possessing serious one-punch KO power, while Cerrone has shown more pop since moving up to welterweight, but over the course hasn’t been as natural a finisher on the feet as the ‘Ruthless’ one.
Cerrone puts together well crafted combos though, and his leg kicks in particular could be an important factor here as that’s something Lawler has never dealt particularly well with that.
‘Cowboy’ also transitions nicely to knee tap takedowns from his striking at times, and on the mat he is always a threat with submissions, which is something Lawler will have to be constantly mindful of.
It’ll be interesting to see how Lawler looks after a year out following his KO loss to Woodley. I’m counting on him being refreshed and raring to go, and he won’t have to pace himself as much as he did for his five round title fights. Cerrone has been out for six months himself after being TKO’d last time out, but within the last six weeks he’s also suffered a torn groin and a staph infection, which isn’t exactly ideal.
Overall I’m leaning towards Lawler Forcing ‘Cerrone onto the back foot and landing a bomb at some stage in the fight that he can’t recover from, but it’s certainly a fight that could easily go either way.
Robbie Lawler to win by TKO in Rd2
Jimi Manuwa vs. Volkan Oezdemir
Oezdemir has made an immediate impact in his two UFC fights to date, but I think he may find the going tougher against Manuwa tomorrow night.
The only two losses of Manuwa’s 19-fight career have come against elite striking opposition in Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson. Aside from that, there are few fighters as dangerous as the hard-hitting Minuwa when it comes to a firefight on the feet.
Oezdemir appears to be a solid kickboxer, but I think Manuwa’s speed and power will prove too much for him and I see the Brit emerging with a TKO victory here.
Jimi Manuwa to win by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Jason Knight vs. Ricardo Lamas
Renan Barao vs. Aljamain Sterling
Brian Ortega vs. Renato Moicano
Calvin Kattar vs. Andre Fili
Kailin Curran vs. Alexandra Albu
Eric Shelton vs. Jarred Brooks
Josh Burkman vs. Drew Dober