UFC 182: Jones vs. Cormier Main Card B/R Staff Predictions

Riley Kontek@@BigRIlesMMAFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2015

UFC 182: Jones vs. Cormier Main Card B/R Staff Predictions

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    A new year, the same crew. Bleacher Report is back in 2015 to guide you through the main cards of UFC events throughout the year.

    We kick things off with Saturday's UFC 182, which is likely the most anticipated main event since Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen II. We have UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones defending his title against Daniel Cormier, the biggest threat to his crown to date.

    There are a number of great fights on this card, but we will stick with the main card as always. Without further ado, Scott Harris, Sean Smith, James MacDonald, Craig Amos and I, Riley Kontek, will guide you through UFC 182.

Hector Lombard vs. Josh Burkman

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    Kontek: Josh Burkman is getting a giant challenge in his return to the UFC. Though he will be elite among most of the promotion's welterweights, Hector Lombard is simply a force of destruction at 170 pounds. He will outwork Burkman for 15 minutes.

    Lombard, Unanimous Decision

    Smith: With wins over Jon Fitch, Aaron Simpson and Gerald Harris under the WSOF banner, Burkman is an interesting addition to the UFC welterweight division. This is a horrible, no-good matchup for him, though. Lombard will make for a rude welcoming party, as it'll be near impossible for Burkman to take the Cuban down and utilize his solid grappling.

    Lombard, TKO, Rd. 2

    Amos: Burkman is back in the UFC. That's cool and everything, but he's not beating Lombard. I would even go so far as to say that Burkman will suffer the first knockout loss of his career.

    Lombard, TKO, Rd. 2

    MacDonald: Burkman drew the short straw for his return to the UFC. No one wants anything to do with Lombard in the welterweight division, and for good reason. The former Olympic judoka is every bit as terrifying as he looks. What’s more, he only seems to be getting better. If Burkman makes it through the first round, he could make it competitive if Lombard slows down like he has in the past. However, I expect the Cuban to make a statement with a first-round stoppage.

    Lombard, TKO, Rd. 1

    Harris: Lombard is the inside-out version of Rousimar Palhares, only better. Burkman lacks the athleticism to get Lombard down (few do) or to stick and move on the home run slugger. Lombard is going to chop down another one with extreme prejudice.

    Lombard, TKO, Rd. 1

Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Louis Gaudinot

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    Kontek: Kyoji Horiguchi is a future title challenger at 125 pounds, and this is a big test for him. Louis Gaudinot is a gritty veteran with a lot of tools to give Horiguchi trouble throughout the fight. That said, Horiguchi is the superior striker and can ward off takedowns, which is what will get him the win here.

    Horiguchi, Unanimous Decision

    Smith: Gaudinot's win over Top 10 flyweight John Lineker seems to be getting farther and farther away—partly because that's how time works, and partly because Gaudinot does not have a win since then and is looking less and less like a legitimate contender in the 125-pound class. At 24 years old, Horiguchi has shown huge potential on his way to a 3-0 UFC record. He keeps rolling this weekend.

    Horiguchi, TKO, Rd. 2

    Amos: Horiguchi hasn't drawn much attention as of yet, but with three UFC victories in his pocket, he is on the cusp of breaking out. A win over Gaudinot may not be the one that puts him over the edge, but it should at least get him a fight that presents such an opportunity.

    Horiguchi, Unanimous Decision

    MacDonald: I don’t see this fight being particularly competitive. Gaudinot hasn’t exactly been a consistent performer since his time on The Ultimate Fighter, while Horiguchi has demonstrated the potential to make a name in the flyweight division. He might not get the finish, but look for Horiguchi to earn a comfortable decision.

    Horiguchi, Unanimous Decision

    Harris: Gaudinot is a tough customer and so forth, but I don't see him having the chops to stick with Horiguchi's Krazy Bee karate style. As reluctant as I am to pick yet another Japanese fighter as the next big thing out of that part of the world, Horiguchi might be the bright exception.

    Horiguchi, TKO, Rd. 2

Brad Tavares vs. Nate Marquardt

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    Kontek: This is a total toss-up of a fight. Nate Marquardt has looked more comfortable since moving back to middleweight, but Brad Tavares is just so tough. I will side with the latter for his takedown defense and clinch work in this one. 

    Tavares, Unanimous Decision

    Smith: Despite losing two in a row, Tavares faces another tough matchup on Saturday. Marquardt might not be the fighter he once was, but his submission win over James Te Huna showed he still has the ability to exploit his opponents' weaknesses. Tavares is more well-rounded than Te Huna, but he's still working on some of the same holes, and Marquardt should be able to take advantage if he can get this fight to the ground.

    Marquardt, Submission, Rd. 2

    Amos: This match should be a close one, and it could be entertaining, as well. I don't have a ton of faith in either Tavares or Marquardt right now, though. I'll go with Tavares, largely because he has a greater capacity for improvement at this point.

    Tavares, Unanimous Decision

    MacDonald: It’s probably fair to say that Marquardt has already seen his best days. He remains a good all-around fighter, but the competition has simply gotten better in recent years. Tavares is by no means a world-beater, but he boasts good striking and sound defensive wrestling. The Hawaiian should edge this one on the feet.

    Tavares, Unanimous Decision

    Harris: Marquardt is better than Tavares. But he's not better than a little old man we like to call Father Time. It's just a matter of whether the father has pulled out his chips yet on Marquardt's elite career. Here's guessing he'll let it ride just a little bit longer.

    Marquardt, Unanimous Decision

Myles Jury vs. Donald Cerrone

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    Kontek: While Myles Jury has a style that can give Donald Cerrone trouble, this isn't Cowboy's first rodeo. He has faced guys like Jury before and flourished. Fury will try to get inside on Cerrone and get caught.

    Cerrone, Submission, Rd. 2

    Smith: This matchup gives Jury a chance to move toward the front of the line in the race for a shot at the lightweight belt. However, he's meeting a veteran opponent who is strong in all the same areas. Jury will continue to be a contender at 155 pounds, but he'll suffer his first official loss against Cowboy.

    Cerrone, Unanimous Decision

    Amos: Cerrone has looked terrific of late, but more importantly, he's looked consistently terrific. Likewise, Jury has been impressive, but he is not the most challenging opponent Cerrone has ever faced, so I like Cowboy to keep the ball rolling with another win.

    Cerrone, Submission, Rd. 3

    MacDonald: Jury is an excellent young fighter, but he has been overhyped to a certain extent. I don’t see him as a future champion but rather as a fringe contender. Cerrone boasts a superior all-around skill set and should have too many tools for his younger foe.

    Cerrone, TKO, Rd. 3

    Harris: I flogged myself a little on this one. Cerrone and his muay thai and his winning streak and his cowboy swag are hard to bet against. And yet, here I go. The young Jury is more well-rounded and has the defense and cardio to weather the Cerrone storm, not to mention the power and skill to catch him if given the opportunity.

    Jury, Unanimous Decision

Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier

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    Kontek: While Daniel Cormier is the biggest test to Jon Jones in his UFC championship reign, Jones is simply on another level. He will need to deal with the grind and wrestling of Cormier, but his cardio will be a key factor here. An errant takedown from Cormier will lead to a signature guillotine choke from Jones. 

    Jones, Submission, Rd. 3

    Smith: Cormier will probably be the best wrestler Jones has faced inside the Octagon, but D.C. is also 35 years old and hasn't competed in more than seven months. As he did against other high-level wrestlers like Chael Sonnen and Rashad Evans, Jones should be able to use his reach and athleticism to avoid wrestling with Cormier. Make it eight title defenses in a row for Jones, who is closing in on becoming the greatest to ever compete in MMA.

    Jones, Unanimous Decision

    Amos: I buy Cormier as Jones' most difficult challenge to date. I even think he has a real chance to pull out the win. But, forced to pick a winner, I can't stray from the champion. Cormier's edge in the wrestling department might influence the direction of the match, but Jones is so well-rounded that he'll have opportunities elsewhere to make up the difference.

    Jones, Unanimous Decision

    MacDonald: In the middle of last year, I was convinced that Jones would handle Cormier with relative ease. Now, I’m not so sure. If the champ decides to go against the grain and challenge Cormier where he’s strongest, we may very well see a new champion crowned. However, I have a feeling that Jones will fight smart and use his superior reach to earn a hard-fought decision.

    Jones, Unanimous Decision

    Harris: This is just a fascinating matchup in every possible sense. Cormier supporters rightly note that Jones has never faced a wrestler of Cormier's caliber; the counter is that Cormier has never faced an anything else of Jones' caliber. Score another one for the bad guy.

    Jones, Unanimous Decision