Contributor: Nolan Howell
With Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier fighting for a second time with the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship on the line at UFC 214, Undercard Superstar takes a look back at the fight to see what was working for both fighters the first time around to keep an eye on as they rematch Saturday night.
Round One: Cormier works best with punches from the clinch early, but Jones is landing knees to the body that could prove troubling. Jones is keeping low as Cormier gets inside to preemptively stuff takedowns and is struggling to use his reach as effectively as usual. Cormier gets a kick caught and Jones sweeps the leg into taking the back. Jones switches to southpaw, but his striking gets a little herky-jerky as he has a tendency to lunge when and use awkward footwork in this position. Jones using look-away head fakes like a point guard or a quarterback looking off his receivers and establishes distance midway through the round. Cormier’s striking looks rudimentary, but he is able to trouble Jones with constant forward pressure and Jones is not able to do anything in retreat. Cormier’s best striking comes in the clinch still with uppercuts, but Jones is able to land a knee for every punch or two to even it out inside. Jones controls the fight and lands the more significant strikes, plus wins with a takedown compared to stuffing a Cormier attempt. 10-9 Jones on the Undercard scorecard.
In between rounds, Jones’s corner takes a more Zen approach focused on breathing and waterfalls while Cormier’s corner liked his aggression towards the end of the round.
Round Two: Jones opens with a left kick to the body in southpaw. Cormier throws kicks of his own, but to less effect and Jones goes for the left kick again. Cormier catches, but Jones grabs a headlock to block the takedown and threatens a guillotine. Jones controls up against the fence and looks for the standing armbar before settling on a more controlling position. The straight left appears to be Jones’s best punch, but his bobbing as he tries to angle away as Cormier comes inside is getting him in trouble as Cormier has him timed. Jones with elbows as Cormier looks for underhooks in the standing clinch. Cormier almost seems to pressure Jones in the standing clinch however as he constantly gets free arms to land punches. Jones able to find the left elbow in the clinch, but Cormier continues to win the striking exchanges there. Jones also uses the open hand to post-off to set up elbows. A loose arm near the fence from Jones allows Cormier to duck and arm drag Jones up against the fence, but Jones able to push off almost immediately. Right kick to the body from Cormier finding a home this round, but the clinch is his home and he wins the round as the round is spent there. 10-9 Cormier on the Undercard scorecard, 19-19.
In between rounds, Cormier’s corner wants him to continue the “dogfight” strategy but use his wrestling more and to bring more low kicks.
Cain Velasquez shown watching on with Steven Seagal.
Round Three: Jones using his range kicks and landing punches to the body, but he leaves his head open when throwing these. Cormier again finds the body kick. Jones landing the left hook to the body, but his bobbing down as Cormier comes inside is too predictable and Cormier finding holes there. A jab lands for Cormier, but Jones with the open-hand extension to the eye poke for the first one of the fight so far. Southpaw body kick from Jones connects as the fight starts back up and Jones shoots for a single-leg, but Cormier with one of his own. Jones able to maintain balance on the right leg and keep it away from a Cormier sweep. Cormier backs him to the fence, but Jones able to get control of the right wrist and turn Cormier to the fence. The wrist control allows Jones to again land the left elbow. Cormier less active in the clinch because Jones controls the right wrist and he continues to land elbows because of it. A right uppercut from Cormier in the clinch reminds Jones why he sought that wrist control. Jones with another straight left and Cormier fences him again, but Jones reverses him into the fence whenever he wants and lands a knee to the body. Jones with another knee to the body and Cormier lands another uppercut in the clinch. The round ends with an attempt to jump guard from Jones. Closest round of the fight with Jones stifling Cormier and landing the more subtle strikes inside while Cormier lands the stiffer punches inside. 10-10 on the Undercard scorecard, 29-29.
In between rounds, Cormier’s corner asks for more activity with the hands, a good observation considering Cormier was noticeably less active with the clinch last round. Jones’s corner asks for him to circle and crack on Cormier.
Round Four: Cormier’s pressure has slowed down and Jones takes a more measured approach. A head kick and straight left from Jones connect and they clinch, where Jones lands a knee to the body. Cormier seems tired and it sets up Cormier getting backed to the cage and having Jones yank his legs out from under him in a double-leg takedown. Cormier shows no sign of explosion trying to get back up and Jones has control of the back. Cormier back up and back down, with Jones working in half-guard. Jones patient in working a headlock and selectively striking. Cormier playing defense mostly at this point, as Jones has an underhook with the right arm and continues to control the dominant hand right wrist of Cormier. Jones with dirty boxing and the left elbow again lands with a minute and a half left. Off the fence, Jones seems content to play range and stay heavy in the clinch. Cormier pressed back to the cage with thirty seconds, though Cormier reverses and Jones again just tries to play heavy to make Cormier work. Before the bell, Jones takes his left foot and gets it behind Cormier’s right foot and swings Cormier to the left with a right underhook and left overhook to take him down as the bell sounds. Control, control, control on a tired Cormier. 10-9 Jones in the clearest round on the Undercard scorecard, 39-38 Jones.
In between rounds, Cormier’s corner tells him that he needs to stop him and get busy, but Cormier looks gassed. Jones’s corner gives little advice more than circle and hit as Jones looks the fresher fighter.
Round Five: Jones switches stances a few times in the opening seconds to land a right head kick. Cormier opening up with punches inside, the uppercut continuing to find a home. Double underhooks unable to secure Cormier the takedown and Jones again gets him back to the fence. Wrist control again telling the story for Jones as both men exchange occasional flurries to little effect. Cormier doing little to fight the wrist control and Jones takes the back. Cormier reverses and presses Jones up against the cage for a second or two before Jones pushes off the cage. Jones’s leverage not allowing a tired Cormier to do anything in the clinch and a failed takedown from Cormier sees Jones push Cormier back to the fence again. Cormier reverses and gets a hold of the left leg. Jones with elbows and he headlocks Cormier, but Cormier able to get lift on the single-leg and land a slam takedown. Jones slips out from under Cormier and pops right back up, landing a spinning elbow against the cage. Cormier tries for another takedown, but Jones with a guillotine attempt and he celebrates early. Cormier releases as he seems to see Jones celebrating and Jones throws a combo. Cormier returns fire perhaps a bit after the bell in return. Jones in control and wiped out Cormier’s most significant offense of the round by popping right back up. 10-9 Jones on the Undercard scorecard, 49-47 Jones for the win.
Jones with a “suck it” crotch chop after Herb Dean separates the two.
Judges’ Decision: Jon Jones wins by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46).
The left arm was pivotal for Jones in the first fight, using it both as his best punch in the straight left hand, his best strike with the short left elbow inside, his best defense primarily in controlling the right hand and thus the best punch in the right uppercut of Cormier.
Cormier will need to be in better shape this time around, gassing out after the third round. This will also need to place emphasis on protecting the body in the clinch from Jones’s knees and will require a measured pace in the clinch rather than activity, perhaps giving him the gas needed to continue later into the fight.
Expect another close fight Saturday night.
-Nolan can be reached at email@example.com or @undercardnolan.