The team of analysts for the UFC on Fox Sports 1 and Fox broadcasts has been providing the most in-depth coverage that mixed martial arts has seen in its 20 years of existence.
With a collection of seasoned fight veterans and a handful of well-versed hosts at the helm, the people working the pre- and post-fight shows for the UFC have consistently raised the bar.
For the next installment of the series, former heavyweight-turned-light-heavyweight title contender Daniel Cormier dropped in to share his thoughts on Saturday's card for UFC on Fox 10 in Chicago. The former Olympian has proved to be one of the UFC's brightest new stars, as he's made a seamless transition from the Strikeforce cage to the Octagon.
The Louisiana native defeated former two-time champion Frank Mir and one-punch knockout artist Roy Nelson, respectively, before making the decision to drop down into 205-pound waters to chase his first UFC title.
"D.C." will square off with former titleholder Rashad Evans next month at UFC 170, but before he scraps it out with his good friend "Suga," the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner returned to this column to wreck a little more shop.
Cormier has quickly become one of the best analysts on the Fox Sports 1 team and has given some seasoned vets a run for their money.
Here is what Cormier had to say about the card for UFC on Fox 10.
Let's start with the main event between Benson Henderson and Josh Thomson. You are very familiar with Thomson having trained with him a long time, but I'm sure you've done your homework on Henderson as well. They both have tremendously well-rounded skill sets, and what do you think are the keys to victory for each fighter on Saturday?
The biggest thing for Thomson is to use his feet. He needs to be very active like he was in the fight with [Nate] Diaz. He can't stand still because Benson is a big guy and Josh normally doesn't do very well against big wrestlers. He's struggled against guys who can grab him, bear hug him, throw him down and hold him there. He needs to employ the same strategy he did against Diaz where he was moving nonstop. He would hit him then move, and Diaz was almost chasing Josh. But that's OK because Josh's striking is better from a technical standpoint and he's tighter with his punches. He's also fought a lot of five-round fights just as Benson has.
For Benson Henderson, he needs to move forward and get off to a quick start. In some of his past fights, he tends to eke into them. If he does that, Josh can start to get on a roll and he doesn't want that because it kind of snowballs. Henderson will want to start early, get in his face and put a lot of pressure on him. Henderson needs to take the fight right to him and basically say, "I'm the guy who held the UFC championship and defended it three times. I'm supposed to beat you and win this fight. I'm going to show you why I'm picked to beat you." If he does that, it will go a very long way in the picture that is going to be painted at the end of this fight because it will be Benson's fight.
You just brought up the lightweight title. Your AKA teammate was supposed to get his shot against Anthony Pettis back at UFC on Fox 9 in December, but "Showtime" became injured and was forced to withdraw. Title opportunities in the UFC are coveted, but rather than wait around, Thomson decided to get back to work. Do you think a move like this shows just how game a fighter the former Strikeforce champion is?
I think to find how game Josh Thomson is, you just go back to his three fights with Gilbert Melendez. You can look at all his fights in Strikeforce or just look at the portrait of his career. You can ignore all the things he said in the media about a terrible training camp and things not going to plan. When Thomson steps into the cage—every time he steps into the cage—this is a guy who goes out there and competes at the highest level. He's a former Strikeforce champion. He was one of the top fighters in the UFC lightweight division before they decided to scrap the weight class all those years ago.
Also, Josh Thomson has now spent more time in his fight career than his life outside of fighting. He spent 17 years of his life not being a fighter, but he's been fighting for 18 years now. He's more of a fighter than he is a regular person. That's crazy.
There are a lot of rumors floating and nothing is official, but do you think the winner of this fight will get the next shot at Pettis?
This is where it becomes tricky. Dana [White] said because of the way Henderson lost to Pettis in their last fight, it will be very hard to tell people why these two guys are fighting for a championship again. So Benson Henderson's situation is a little tricky. He needs someone to beat Pettis in order to get another championship fight.
Thomson, on the other hand, didn't get his title fight. If he wins this fight, he would have beat Benson Henderson, the former champion, after losing out on his title shot in his last fight. He also beat Diaz, who challenged for the belt when Henderson had the title. With a win, Thomson will have the clearest claim to a title shot of any weight class in the UFC.
Moving onto the big boys. Gabriel Gonzaga will fight Stipe Miocic in the co-main event. This is a strange situation because Gonzaga has looked better than he ever has and Miocic is a unique heavyweight who moves very well with his footwork. Do you think Miocic's footwork will be the difference, or do you see "Napao's" ground game being his definitive advantage in this fight?
This is one of those situations where you have a smaller, more active heavyweight against a true heavyweight like Gonzaga. He has turned the corner because his commitment has changed in this sport. I've heard from people who have trained with him that he hasn't always trained all that hard. People who know him have told me he wasn't training very hard, but now he does.
That being said, if Stipe Miocic shows up for this fight like he did against Roy Nelson, Miocic is walking away with this fight. If Gonzaga is able to make this a dirty fight, he'll be in a great position to win. If Gonzaga leans on him and takes him down the way [Stefan] Struve did, it is going to be a much different fight. If Gonzaga is successful with putting him up against the cage and wearing him down, Miocic will get tired, and that will give Gonzaga more opportunities. Miocic will be able to fight him for 15 minutes if it's just a boxing match. Gonzaga needs to find a way to get this fight to the ground and just whale on him. He needs to put his weight on him at all, Miocic is going to box him up because his footwork is just too good.
We spoke to Gonzaga this week, and he said he has put a lot of work into his striking. He acknowledged stopping Miocic's footwork is going to be tough, but Gonzaga said he needs to cut him off at angles rather than just following him. It also has the potential to give Gonzaga a lot of problems. Do you think it will cost him the fight if he can't cut Miocic off?
Stipe Miocic is the smaller of the two, and he's so fast. If Gonzaga follows him, that's trouble because that is exactly what Roy Nelson did at UFC 161. Watch the fight. When you break these fights down, watch that fight and look at how Nelson moved in that fight. Every time Miocic would move and give him an angle, Nelson would have to reposition both of his feet to go in the direction of the angle because he doesn't have the ability to change angles as quick as Stipe did. And that is what could happen against Gonzaga.
He is a big heavyweight, and big heavyweights tend to follow. They don't really get on their feet and move. They aren't cutting angles, boxing and moving as fast as a guy like Stipe Miocic.
I'm counting on you for this one, D.C. No one else seems to give me any credit on this, but I've discovered a stigma surrounding Gabriel Gonzaga. If you look at his record, the guys he has lost to have all gone on to some form of title contention or contender's status. The only one who hasn't is Brendan Schaub, and his journey hasn't fully developed. On the other hand, the guys Gonzaga defeats all fall back into some form of irrelevance. This being said, can you see this stigma that beating Gonzaga makes you the real deal, and a loss means you need more time to reach the top tier?
The thing about Miocic is that he has plenty of time, but I don't think we are at that point yet. But if the facts show that is how it has been, then that's how it's been. Gonzaga is a guy who will introduce you to that next level. Say you are a guy who is teetering on the line, then you beat Gonzaga and it pushes you into the next level. I could possibly see that stigma with him. It may be the case, but Miocic is so young, he has plenty of time, regardless of what happens.
The problem comes in when we talk about these contenders. You have to ask are they trying to just be contenders, or are they guys who could actually hold the belt? When you look at the landscape and then compare them to Cain Velasquez, there is no reason to really think—based on what we have seen—that these guys are going to be able to challenge him. Save for him getting caught in a submission by [Fabricio] Werdum or getting caught with another knockout punch the way he did against Junior dos Santos—which could happen because we are talking about heavyweights—it is just very hard to look at these guys as true title contenders. Velasquez just seems so far ahead of these guys right now.
There is another exciting lightweight scrap on this card between Donald Cerrone and Adriano Martins. How important is this fight for "Cowboy" and how huge is this opportunity for a fighter on the rise like Martins?
It is a huge opportunity for Martins. This is one of those situations that could push him into the higher level of what is already a stacked division to begin with. Donald Cerrone has put together impressive winning streaks before. For him, this is par for the course. He goes on these long winning streaks, gets to the top of the division, then gets knocked back down. He got knocked out by Pettis. He got beat by Diaz. But then he'll go back down and put together these long winning streaks. It is up to Martins now to actually change that and not allow him to move back up into the upper echelon of the division.
Martins needs to make this his turn. It will be a very difficult fight if Cerrone shows up the way he did against Evan Dunham in his last outing. It will be a very difficult fight for Martins. Then again, we never really know which Cerrone is going to show up on fight night. It's a very dangerous fight for Cerrone because no one knows who Martins is. Huge opportunity if he can win this fight.
While we've covered the big names on the card, are there any fighters or a particular bout you've come across in your research you think fans should keep an eye on?
People need to be watching Sergio Pettis. This is a kid that goes out there and does some amazing things just like his brother. There is also a heavyweight fight between Nikita Krylov and Walt Harris I think will be interesting. Krylov got tired in his last fight against Soa Palelei but was doing very good before he gassed. He has some good stand-up skills. He will be fighting Walt Harris, who is a guy who has finished nearly all of his fights. These are two young heavyweights who always come to fight, and it should be a great way to kick off the preliminary portion of the card.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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