2015 Starts with a Bang for UFC (UFC 182 Review)

ufc_182Heading into UFC 182 the talk concentrated on the rivalry between light heavyweight champion, Jon Jones and his challenger, Daniel Cormier. Both fighters did not like each other very much and they certainly didn’t hide it heading into the fight. With one fight between the two cancelled due to an injury to Jones there was plenty of time for fans to find out that these two fighters were happy to get in the octagon and beat each other up. There was a lot more to fight for though s the anger was enough to motivate the fighters but it was not the only thing. For Jones this was a chance to take out another major challenger to his title. There are plenty of great fighters in the division and plenty could beat Jones but only Alexander Gustafsson and Cormier are considered major threats to Jones. With Gustafsson getting the chance and barely losing to the champion it is time for Cormier to step in and see if the hype is real. If Jones can get through Cormier he will likely move on to Gustafsson, if he beats Anthony Johnson later this month, in an attempt to clean out the division. That is the goal for Jones as he is in pursuit of the title of greatest fighter ever. To be mentioned among the likes of Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Georges St. Pierre, and Anderson Silva he needs to do what they did and eliminate any true challengers from the division. That is the motivation for Jones heading into UFC 182 as he is in constant pursuit of being the greatest ever and against Cormier he attempted to take one more step towards that goal. Meanwhile Cormier came into the fight trying to get the belt that he has been pursuing for years. Cormier had plenty of hype coming into the UFC in 2013 after a successful career in Strikeforce where he won the Heavyweight Grand Prix. He was expected to immediately challenge for the heavyweight title and when he came into the promotion he did not disappoint. After running through heavyweights he decided to avoid teammate Cain Velasquez, the heavyweight champion, and move to light heavyweight where he continued to run through opponents. He has yet to lose in his career and in the UFC has yet to lose even one round. The final step in solidifying himself as one of the best fighters in the world Cormier needs one thing, a UFC belt, and that is what he was pursuing when he took on Jones. The two faced off after one of the biggest build ups in recent memory and it would prove to be a match of different styles. On one side was the Olympic level wrestler who has knockout power and the ability to take anyone on the ground and ground and pound them. On the other side was one of the most creative fighters in the UFC that has an NCAA wrestling background but loves to find ways to knockout opponents with strikes from everywhere. It was a classic matchup with plenty of motivation between the two fighters including the fact that they quite literally hate each other as the UFC began 2015 with plenty of hype. The fight itself may not have matched the hype, although nothing could, but it was still extremely close. Both fighters saw success standing with big shots exchanged by both. The difference became the clinch and the fighter who could get their opponent down. In both cases it was Jon Jones who won those exchanges. Cormier needed to get the fight in close to eliminate Jones’ reach advantage but he learned quickly that Jones is not afraid of the clinch. With short elbows and upper cuts Jones was able to do plenty in the clinch. Meanwhile Jones became the first and only fighter to ever take Cormier to the mat. He did it plenty of times in the fight while Cormier took Jones down once, becoming only the second fighter to do so, late in the fight. Cormier did not pose the threat that most thought he would and it may have been the trash talk that motivated Jones more than usual. The loss means that Cormier fell short of earning that title that he has been trying to get and his performance won’t likely warrant an immediate rematch. An eventual rematch is not out of the question though if Cormier can put together another string of wins. For Jones the next challenger could be determined soon as the fight between Gustafsson and Johnson later this month will likely be for the #1 contender spot as Jones looks to continue cleaning out the division.

The build-up for the main event overshadowed what was legitimately a great card with plenty of top contenders. As usual though the co-main event featured two lightweights trying to get noticed. It has been the theme of all of 2014 and looks to be the same in 2015 as the lightweight division continues to be one of the toughest to break though. The log jam at the top of the division is beginning to clear up though as Anthony Pettis has finally defended the belt and eliminated Gilbert Melendez from the picture, for now. Pettis will take on another contender in March with a scheduled fight against Rafael Dos Anjos. Now that the title picture is beginning to move there is some room for the rest of the division and now is the time to make an impression as top contenders get their shots. Donald Cerrone and Myles Jury were both waiting for that shot long before this year began. Cerrone lost to Dos Anjos in 2013 but since that fight has not dropped a single fight. He has looked better than ever and is a true contender for the title that he has come so close to but never been able to get. His opponent is on a better winning streak though as Jury is riding a 15-fight win streak and has yet to lose. Sitting at #4 and #8 in the division a win at UFC 182 would go a long way towards a title shot and would likely place both fighters only a top contender fight away from a match with the champion. Although they were far from the concentration on the night Cerrone and Jury looked to make it about them in a match between two well-rounded fighter who were looking to not only win but make an impression in their first fight of the year. As the two squared off in the octagon it became clear fairly early who came to fight and who was simply not ready for the level of competition. The first round saw Cerrone take the fight to the mat and control the entire round with multiple attempts at submissions. He locked in different submissions throughout the round and finished showing that he was far better on the mat than Jury. The rest of the fight remained mainly standing and once again Cerrone showed that he was the better fighter. It wasn’t furious action between the two but Cerrone unleashed his arsenal and kept Jury on the outside while landing enough to score. As the fight ended Jury sat on the mat with Cerrone uncorking massive kicks on Jury’s legs. It was a clear mismatch even though Jury had a 15-fight win streak heading into the fight. Clearly Jury wasn’t ready for the top 5 but despite the loss he still could be the future of the division if he learns and gets better from the loss. The win for Cerrone has put him right in the title conversation and could potentially fight for a title next or could fight Khabib Nurmagomedov who is tied with Cerrone for the longest active win streak in the division.

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