Big names are on the marquee for UFC 214. The question is, who wins?
Tonight, the UFC rolls into Anaheim with a championship tripleheader and a star-studded cast of combatants for what promises to be a night of fireworks.
Will UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel “DC” Cormier extract revenge on former kingpin and longtime rival Jon “Bones” Jones? Will Demian Maia or Cris Cyborg finally get their moment in the sun in the form of championship gold? Will a new contender at 205 pounds emerge from the pack?
The stage is set. The fighters have weighed-in. Who will come out on top?
(C) Daniel Cormier (19-1) vs. Jon Jones (22-1)
For Daniel Cormier, this appears to be more than just a fight. A second crack at the only man to ever defeat him, in the same arena the two men first met seven years ago, and a chance to, in his own words, “validate his competitive career?” What more can one man ask for? For the reigning light heavyweight champion of the world, this is a shot at redemption and one that, for all intents and purposes, he simply cannot lose. Cormier’s place on the sport’s Mount Rushmore rides on this fight. He must defeat Jon Jones, and a loss could very well push the former Olympian into retirement.
That isn’t to say Cormier will be the only man to enter the cage with plenty riding on the night’s main event. Jones too will be fighting for redemption, though perhaps more in the eyes of the fans than his own. An opportunity to climb back atop the division he once ruled over, opposite the man who has been most outspoken concerning his troubles outside the sport could very well be a career-defining moment for the former champion, and one that, like Cormier, he can ill afford to lose.
Cormier, perhaps more than Jones, will be fighting emotional. He no doubt wants to punish Jones for his prior missteps, and in doing so, steal his legacy. A win over Jones would represent the pinnacle of Cormier’s athletic career, but the question remains, at age 38 and two years removed from a decisive loss in their first meeting, is a victory for DC in the rematch all that viable? The short answer is no.
Jon Jones will walk out of the Honda Center on Saturday night as the two-time light heavyweight champion of the world. Much like last time, Cormier’s toughness and ability to compete will carry him until the final bell, but a reinvigorated Jones who appears to be in the best shape of his life will be too much for the Lafayette, Louisiana native to handle. Jones will use his superior reach and outstanding clinch game to wear down Cormier en route to a clean sweep of the scorecards in a fight that will be grueling from the opening frame.
The Pick: Jon Jones via unanimous decision
(C) Tyron Woodley (17-3-1) vs. Demian Maia (25-6)
Tyron Woodley and Demian Maia have each been finished once in their respective careers. Both stoppages came at the hands of the same man. Woodley, the reigning welterweight champion of the world, has been defeated only three times in his mixed martial arts career. Maia, long a staple in the upper echelons of the middleweight and welterweight divisions, has suffered defeat to the same three men by way of the same method each time.
In a way, it feels as if these two were destined to clash.
Demian Maia doesn’t quite represent the “money” fight Woodley was campaigning for following his uneventful defeat of Stephen Thompson earlier this year, but what Maia lacks in mainstream appeal he makes up for in experience. Saturday night will mark the 32nd contest of Maia’s professional career, where he will be given his second crack at a UFC title.
Unfortunately for Maia, he will once again come up short. Woodley’s wrestling prowess will ultimately negate Maia’s only real avenue to victory, a submission win should the fight hit the canvas, and the champion’s ever-evolving striking arsenal will overwhelm Maia on the feet. A careful game plan should be enough for Maia to escape with his consciousness, but a highlight reel knockout for the champion isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
The Pick: Tyron Woodley via unanimous decision
(C) Cris Cyborg (17-1-1) vs. Tonya Evinger (19-5-1)
Evinger deserves all the credit in the world for willingly locking herself in a cage with Cris Cyborg, but come Sunday morning, she may regret that decision.
The freshly vacated women’s featherweight title will be on the line Saturday night when a pair of former Invicta FC champions butt heads in Anaheim. Cris Cyborg, the promotion’s long ruling featherweight champion and former Strikeforce ringleader, will square off opposite Tonya Evinger, a 25-fight veteran of the sport who recently relinquished her title to finally compete under the UFC banner.
Evinger’s durability and grittiness should allow her to push Cyborg into deeper waters than many of her previous foes, but the result will ultimately be the same. Cyborg will use her distinct size advantage to eventually overwhelm Evinger with strikes and hand her the first knockout loss of her professional career.
Cyborg’s coming out party has finally arrived.
The Pick: Cris Cyborg via knockout
Robbie Lawler (27-11-1) vs. Donald Cerrone (32-8-1)
On paper, this fight alone is worth the price of admission.
In a contest that could have quite easily headlined a pay-per-view just last year, we see former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler and perennial contender Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone relegated to appetizer status. Fret not, as this particular second-course melee will, without question, steal the show come Saturday night.
Lawler will be making his long-awaited return to the octagon following a crushing defeat at the hands of the aforementioned Woodley, seeking to once again reposition himself as the number one contender to the promotion’s 170-pound title. In Cerrone, Lawler gets an opponent who can match his ferocious pace and inflict comparable punishment in what will undoubtedly become a violent chess match.
Having absorbed a whopping 650 significant strikes in just his last 7 outings, it remains to be seen if the reinvented Lawler’s knockout loss last July was simply an anomaly or indicative of what’s to come, and Cerrone will no doubt be up to the challenge of testing his chin. Both men will meet in the center of the octagon and throw caution to the wind in what should be a fight of the year candidate. The question being, who gets their hand raised?
A fresh start at a new camp will be the change of scenery Lawler needed to return to his winning ways. Cerrone will deliver a varied attack of his own and find some success along the way, but will eventually succumb to Lawler’s punishing body shots late in the fight, and the former American Top Team product will once again find himself right in the thick of things.
The Pick: Robbie Lawler via technical knockout
Jimi Manuwa (17-2) vs. Volkan Oezdemir (14-1)
In the opening bout of the night, British power striker Jimi Manuwa meets fresh-faced Swiss powerhouse Volkan Oezdemir in what could produce the next contender to the 205-pound throne.
One thing for certain, both men will be rooting for Jon Jones to reclaim his title in the evening’s main event, as a Cormier victory would no doubt produce an immediate rubber match. Should Jones, however, push Cormier to 0-2, the light heavyweight title picture would find itself wide open once more, ample motivation for both Manuwa and Oezdemir to perform come fight time.
Fresh off a pair of dominant knockout wins, Manuwa will finally be looking to get over the hump, having suffered merciless defeats at the hands of Alexander Gustafsson and the recently retired Anthony “Rumble” Johnson in the two biggest opportunities of his career to date. In Oezdemir, Manuwa meets somewhat of a wild card, with the former Bellator combatant having only competed for the promotion twice, the more recent of which resulted in a 28-second upset of streaking Canadian prospect Misha Cirkunov.
The game plan for both men should come as no surprise: land first, and land often. Oezdemir will use a strong jab and above average kicks to keep Manuwa on the outside in the fight’s early stages, but the British commodity will eventually work his way inside and land with enough authority to put Oezdemir away. Manuwa will indeed perform on the biggest stage of his career and position himself as the next contender to Jon Jones’ freshly minted strap.
The Pick: Jimi Manuwa via knockout