A bitter rivalry has been forged between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones. A rivalry which both men will look to settle when they headline UFC 200 this weekend in a light heavyweight title fight.
Cormier will be heading back into the lion’s den with the only man that he has been unable to defeat in his MMA career, with Jones having ended Cormier’s unbeaten run by beating him via unanimous decision at UFC 182 in January 2015.
There is much water under the bridge since that fight. Jones was suspended and stripped of his title just over three months after his bout with Cormier after he was involved in a hit-and-run incident in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
With the title up for grabs, Cormier was crowned the new champion when he made Anthony Johnson submit in the third round of their fight at UFC 187 in May 2015.
Cormier has since gone on to defend his title against Alexander Gustafsson, but the big question on everyone’s mind is whether the 37-year-old can topple the man rated the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC.
Here are three things Cormier must do in order to triumph over Jones and keep hold of the light heavyweight title.
1. Look to finish the fight early
In their last meeting, the fight went the distance and Jones was declared the winner via unanimous decision. In order to avoid a repeat, Cormier will have to look to finish off Jones as early as possible.
While this will be a lot easier said than done, Cormier does have the ability to knock out opponents or make them submit, having claimed seven victories via knockout and four via submission in his 18-fight career. However, he has not finished a fight before the first round since he knocked out Patrick Cummins on his light heavyweight debut in 2014, with his last five fights ending in either the third or fifth round.
Should he want to end the fight quickly, Cormier will have to be highly aggressive from the get-go and use his superior striking power to turn the contest into a fist fight. While the move could backfire, it may be a risk Cormier has to take if he is to leave the Octagon with the title belt around his waist as he won’t win a five-round tactical battle with Jones.
2. Attack and defend equally
This is drummed into every fighter from the day they start training. They are advised to keep their opponents on the back foot, but at the same time be wary of their own defence.
Cormier will definitely have to be mindful of both ends of the spectrum in his fight with Jones as failure do so could prove fatal. Not attacking enough will give Jones a signal to press forward and launch his own assault, while not staying rock solid in defence could lead to a world of trouble should Jones connect even once.
Anything short of the perfect balance may not do it for Cormier.
3. Don’t think about his last fight with Jones
Cormier admitted that he let his emotions get the better of him in his last encounter with Jones and has said he cannot afford to lose to the 28-year-old again.
It is clear the loss to Jones hit Cormier hard, but the reigning light heavyweight champion has to leave that in the past and head into the rematch with a clear mind.
Should he continue thinking about what happened in January last year, elements of doubt may start to creep in and this will be the last thing Cormier needs when he steps into the Octagon.