Daniel Cormier vs. Rashad Evans: Early Head-to-Toe Breakdown
The five-round bout is booked for UFC 170 on Feb. 22 in Las Vegas.
Alexander Gustafsson leads the field for who gets the next title shot at 205 pounds, but he will have to beat Jimi Manuwa to earn that distinction. Cormier and Evans are right behind him in the pecking order, and a big win at UFC 170 could put either of their names opposite the champion's in 2014.
There is a lot on the line for the two Fox Sports analysts, and it will be one of the most intriguing matchups in all of 2014.
Here s an early preview of the important tilt which could have title implications.
In terms of power, the edge goes to Cormier, but in overall technique, that lies in the hands of the former UFC champion.
Evans has had a longer time to hone his striking skills, and we have seen him use it to great effect. His greatest asset is his speed. Over the years, his foot and head movement have improved greatly.
Cormier has big power in his hands. There is nothing to suggest that will diminish with the weight cut, but we won't know until he officially drops down. Evans has shown that he does not have the strongest iron chin of any fighters, but he does recover well.
The former champion has the edge in speed and technique, and he will not regress in this bout, as long as he is learning from Tyrone Spong.
The easy way out is to mention Cormier's Olympic credentials and claim he is the best grappler in both the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions. However, that is not completely accurate.
Cormier may very well be the best grappler in both divisions, but MMA grappling is different than just wrestling. We have seen Olympians falter, and we have seen fighters without much grappling background blossom into nearly unstoppable beasts. We need to look no further than GSP.
Evans is one of the best takedown artists in the division. He was never a high-level wrestler at Michigan State University, but in MMA, he is one of the top wrestlers because of how he blends his striking into his set-ups.
Evans can take Cormier down, but he needs to establish his hands first. Cormier doesn't need to do that. His grappling is superior and he has shown it against competent grapplers in both Strikeforce and the UFC. He has proven that his wrestling translate to the cage very well.
If I were you, I would not expect a submission finish to this fight. It is not what either man likes to do.
Regardless, if you are giving the edge to one over the other, then you have to side with Evans.
He simply has more time on the mat in that regard. Neither man has submitted anyone since the start of their careers. They prefer to utilize their ground and pound on the canvas, as opposed to seeking an appendage or a choke.
Whether in the top position or off his back, Evans has more options than Cormier. That's really the difference here.
Cormier's X-factor: The Weight Cut
There has always been a lot of speculation about Cormier cutting weight to 205 due to his problems at the 2008 Olympics.
Cormier suffered kidney failure that summer after he admitted that he was not cutting weight the proper way. He chose not to lose weight gradually, but instead cut large amounts of weight the night before. That won't happen this time.
The science of weight-cutting in MMA has changed, and Cormier will have everything at his disposal to do it properly and safely. However, it will remain a question until we see him step off the scale on Feb. 21. Even if he completes the cut, we will have to wait until the fight to see if it hampers his cage performance.
Evans' X-factor: Diversity
Evans is the more-complete mixed martial artist in this fight, and he will need to show it in order to win.
Evans has to be more diverse with his game. Leg kicks will be dangerous. If Cormier catches one, he will put Evans on his back. Standing with Cormier's power is tempting fate and wrestling with an Olympian is a bad move.
That is why Evans needs to blend it all together seamlessly. The former 205-pound champion needs to make Cormier guess at every turn so that all of his offense lands cleanly. It is a tall task, and one that requires a great deal of skill. Evans has the ability to do so, but he needs a perfect night.
This is an interesting battle between two elite fighters. There are a lot of variables that will determine who gets his hand raised in February.
When it comes down to it, Cormier has a higher percentage chance to win this fight.
His striking is always evolving, but his saving grace is his big power, although he doesn't need to rely on it. He can simply take his opponents out of their game plan by getting his mitts on them. His wrestling approach is smothering.
Evans needs to establish his hands and begin to mix things up. He will have five rounds to show that Cormier simply cannot drop weight and run through the division.
Evans will have his moments, but ultimately, Cormier will go back to his roots and win at least three of the five rounds to win by decision. His stifling ground game will be enough to keep him in the title hunt at 205 pounds.
Prediction: Cormier defeats Evans by unanimous decision.