Jon Jones has been reinstated to the UFC, and is more than likely going to fight Daniel Cormier again next. Do you believe anything will be different in that rematch than what we saw at UFC 192? Why or why not?
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
I’m not convinced that Jones returns at light heavyweight. There has never been a better time for him to move to heavyweight than right now. If Malki Kawa is to be believed, Jones is working out, training, and hitting the weights outside if a normal fight camp for the first time in his career. If he’s hitting the weights hard, he’s packing on muscle for a move to heavyweight. And why not? What is left for him at 205 lbs? He’s beaten everyone there who matters even slightly. Would beating Daniel Cormier a second time (make no Bones about it… Bones ills through DC in a rematch) do anything for legacy? No. Not really. But what would beating, say…, Cain Velasquez (Cormier’s running buddy lest you forget) mean for his legacy? Or maybe an immediate title shot? That locks him in as the greatest fighter of all time.
But assuming he plays it safe and stays at 205 lbs… he rolls through Cormier with fuuuuuuuuuuuuuurious anger.
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
All things considered, Cormier put up a very good fight against Jon Jones in January. He was never in danger of being finished, and he showed he can take a round off of the former champ. He even picked up Jones and took him down toward the end of the fight, mostly just to show he could. That said, there’s a big difference between taking a round off of a guy, and beating him in a fight. Jones was also never in any danger in their match, dictating distance and forcing Cormier to eat a lot of shots coming forward.
While I don’t care a lot for the Cormier we’ve gotten to know through interviews and trash talk, I admire what the guy has managed to get out of his abilities. At 36 years old, he probably doesn’t have a lot of time left in the sport, despite not having spent tons of time as a professional MMA fighter. He still exhibits freakish strength that belies his every-man physique. He is, heavyweights included, one of the strongest fighters in the UFC. While his brash talk and overconfidence paints him as an arrogant and egotistical jerk, it doesn’t really make sense to fight in this sport if you can’t win. Whether he truly believes it or is in the process of convincing himself it’s true, Cormier’s bravado tells a story of undeniable faith in his abilities and will to win.
Cormier’s going to try to make this a dirty fight, much like he did with Gustaffson. He really doesn’t have much choice, as staying on the outside is just going to get himself picked apart with the massive reach advantage the former champ has. If there’s anyone who’s capable of doing this, it’s Cormier, who’s been fighting larger opponents than himself his entire career.
Cormier’s problem is that the man he’s facing can win any type of fight, fighting any type of style. Jones is younger, longer, and freakishly strong himself. He’s also a brilliant tactician, bordering on the verge of arrogance himself when he fights others at their strengths. After being on the shelf for a while, Jones is not only hungry to win a title he never dropped to another fighter, he needs to announce his presence and proclaim his relevance again. As long as he can avoid drugs, car accidents, strippers, stupid social media snafus and other associated traps that come with being young and rich, he’s going to be amped up and prepared.
Were it not for Jon Jones, there’s a chance we’d be talking about Cormier as one of the greatest to fight. With what he’s done at both heavyweight and light heavyweight, he’s shown himself to be one of the top fighters in the world. Unfortunately for him, try as he might, Jones is just too young, too good, and now too hungry. It should be a grind-it-out, and possibly brutal, affair when they meet again, but expect Jones to regain his title when they step into the Octagon.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
No, I don’t think anything will be different. Cormier lost to Jones at UFC 182, that was in January. Rust won’t be an issue for Jones, and motivation certainly won’t be an issue either. Now, Cormier has certainly gained confidence as a result of his wins over Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson, but he’s also a little older and a little more beat up. Cormier was quite impressive in his win over Gustafsson and I do think the fight will be much closer, but Jones still has that crazy reach and his dynamic striking, and I just don’t think that Cormier will be able to withstand all of that. It should be a tremendous fight and very close, but I think Jones comes roaring back and shows the heart of a champion and finishes Cormier in the third or fourth round with a spectacular flurry. I’m not going to go against Jones until I see someone getting the better of him, and that hasn’t happened yet. Jones is probably the best male fighter going, and I don’t see that changing during this fight.
BRAD WALKER, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
This is hard to peg as to whether or not things will turn out different. The first fight wasn’t nearly as competitive as many, myself included, thought it was going to be. The changes in the next bout really come down to the factor of chance. Is there a chance Jones has rust? Is there a chance he catches Cormier? Is there a chance Cormier catches him? We don’t know all the variables that go along with the bout but I have no doubt it’s going to be a grudge match pitting the returning formerly suspended and never quite dethroned champion against the new champ who wants to rub him into the mat as hard as he can. It will be a fun build up as these two guys have some seriously legit hatred between them.
ERIC HOBAUGH, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Nothing will be different in the rematch. Jon Jones is so far above any fighter in the world at 205 lbs, and he will walk through Cormier just like he did in their first fight. There’s nothing that Cormier can do or change in the rematch that will help him in any way against Jones in a second fight.
CASH NORMAN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Will anything be different as far as outcome? No. Somehow, I believe the rematch will be more entertaining than the original fight. I believe Daniel Cormier continues to improve his striking and kickboxing game. The second time around I believe Jon will want to show that he’s still dominant, while Daniel Cormier will want to show he’s a champion.
What I want to see is how will Jon Jones look after training in an off-season and with a full training camp. How much improvement and creativity can be include in his striking? This time around, I would also like to see if either can take the other down and gain dominant top control.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
While I can’t say for sure how much the layoff will affect Jones, the way that he has conducted himself over the last few years would derail the career of the vast majority of other fighters long before the hit and run would have occurred. But Jones was still plugging along finding great success in the cage despite a great amount of distractions. His ability to focus on a fight is unmatched. Because of that I can’t help but think that he won’t be affected too much by his suspension and layoff. But that is just him…
Cormier isn’t an idiot and will no doubt make plenty of adjustments in order to make the fight more competitive. He used much better angles to get inside of Alexander Gustafsson (another long fighter) while making fantastic use of the clinch with his uppercuts, which ended up doing the most damage to Gustafsson. What was most beneficial for him was how he was able to go deeper into the fight without gassing, a major factor in his loss to Jones. I still think he’ll need to work on his defensive footwork if he wants an honest chance to defend his belt against Jones as he admitted himself that he took the beating of his life against Gustafsson.
Before I give my final answer though, I need to point out a major X-factor. If Jones could be so damn good despite not being solely focused on the fight, how much better could he be if he eliminates the distractions from his life? There is a very real possibility we haven’t seen the best of Jon Jones, and that is a very scary proposition for the rest of the division… specifically Daniel Cormier.
With all that said, I expect Cormier to look better than he did the first time around and he may even be able to squeeze out a split decision, but it won’t be enough for him to remain champion as Jones will retake his rightful position upon his return.
[Jon Jones art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]