Daniel Cormier vs. Brock Lesnar: Head-to-Toe Breakdown

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2018

Daniel Cormier vs. Brock Lesnar: Head-to-Toe Breakdown

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    The UFC gave fans that tuned into UFC 226 a special treat after the show's main event, as newly minted UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier was greeted in the cage by Brock Lesnar. Promos were cut, shoves were exchanged and dollar signs appeared in UFC President Dana White's eyes.

    Just like that, the biggest matchup of the UFC's winter schedule was set, and that begs just one question: How good of a fight is it, anyway?

    While there's no question that Cormier is an all-time-great talent and Lesnar remains one of the biggest box-office attractions in MMA, will these two give fans their money's worth? And is Lesnar a real threat to DC after another lengthy hiatus?

    Well, Bleacher Report is here to look over the details of this matchup and break it down to its core elements.  

Striking

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    Brock Lesnar has some excellent ground-and-pound. 

    His strong top control game and freakish strength allow him to peel back an opponent's limb and sling heavy, uncontested leather to their head. Even if he can't do that, he has an incredible ability to generate power within a short distance, allowing him to bloody up opponents with shots that would be inconsequential if thrown by anyone else. 

    Because of that, Lesnar likely has an advantage over Daniel Cormier in ground striking. Everywhere else, though? Not so much.

    At range, Lesnar has never been particularly impressive outside his pure power, and that likely didn't change during his latest two years in WWE. Meanwhile, Cormier has demonstrated himself to be generally solid at striking distance, capable of avoiding big shots while landing good shots of his own. In the clinch, meanwhile, he has become increasingly potent over recent years, which was highlighted well by the tight right hook he used to knock out Stipe Miocic at UFC 226.

    Lesnar's quickness and power are not to be trifled with, but the Beast will struggle to land anything big unless he can get things to the ground. That, however, is much easier said than done.

    Edge: Cormier

Wrestling

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    There are levels to wrestling and, more often than not, those levels make themselves quite clear on fight night.

    Brock Lesnar was a heavily credentialed wrestler in college, achieving NCAA Division I All-American status in 1999 and following that up with a heavyweight championship win in 2000. Those are huge achievements, and would give the Beast Incarnate the edge over almost anyone in today's UFC heavyweight division.

    Not Daniel Cormier, though.

    Cormier is one of the most decorated wrestlers to step into the Octagon, achieving All-American status in 2001 and following that up with seven strong years on USA Wrestling, a run which included two Olympic berths. Those skills were expertly adapted for the cage following the 2008 Games, as he coached at notable MMA gym the American Kickboxing Academy and then began fighting himself in 2009. Though many high-level wrestlers stray from their roots with time, Cormier has prided himself on building up from that foundation. 

    Granted, DC isn't going to do anything that Brock hasn't seen before and dealt with already. He'll have answers to any wrestling attacks that are thrown at him and his pure physicality will go a long way in scrambles and battles for position. In short, Lesnar will be able to keep things competitive.

    But saying that Lesnar will "keep things competitive" pretty much says it all about who has the advantage here.

    Edge: Cormier

Submissions

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    Neither man involved in this fight is what anyone would call a "submission ace." Both can defend themselves while grappling just fine and both have defended titles by making challengers tap out, but these two are a far cry from heavyweight tapout machines like Fabricio Werdum or Aleksei Oleinik.

    For both men, submissions are generally reserved for opponents who have either tired out or been thoroughly softened up with strikes. Given his larger body of work and longer time in the sport, Cormier likely has the on-paper edge in submissions over Lesnar. Functionally, though, this category is a wash.

    Edge: None

X-Factors

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    When the UFC 226 main event kicked off, the reactions of those surrounding this writer were a unanimous "wow, Daniel Cormier is a lot smaller than Stipe Miocic." Cormier obviously won the fight, but when Brock Lesnar stepped into the cage to greet the newly minted champ-champ's challenge, the reaction was "wow, Cormier is way, way smaller than Brock Lesnar."

    And indeed, that's the appropriate reaction to seeing these two square off. Because, oh boy, Lesnar is an enormous man.

    Cormier has plenty of history facing heavyweight competition, but Miocic was a different breed from his past foes, adding a dose of athleticism to his height and reach. Lesnar, though, is possibly the best pure athlete the Octagon has ever seen and is 30 pounds heavier than Miocic. That will pose a huge challenge for DC regardless of the differential in technical skills, and stands as a huge X-factor in Lesnar's favor.

    That said, working for Cormier is the simple fact that Lesnar will be working on close to a three-year layoff.

    Lesnar hasn't competed in the Octagon since 2016, when he scored a clear unanimous-decision win over Mark Hunt. Though that win came after its own four-year layoff, another extended stay on the shelf is bound to translate to some ring rust for the now-40-year-old.

    How much rust? That's impossible to guess until fight night, but any amount is too much when facing a technician like Cormier.

    Edge: Lesnar

Prediction

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    Even at his competitive peak, with the title around his waist, a sizable chunk of UFC fans refused to acknowledge Brock Lesnar's in-cage skills. Judging by the raucous boos he was greeted with at UFC 226 that hasn't changed, but make no mistake! Lesnar was, and likely still is, a fearsome heavyweight.

    His NCAA wrestling background is beyond proven. His freakish athleticism is still capable of giving anyone fits. Judging from his 2016 fight with Mark Hunt, he remains well-conditioned and mostly free of ring rust. Against almost any fighter in the UFC heavyweight division, Lesnar's chances of winning should be given serious consideration.

    Not against Daniel Cormier, though. 

    DC is an terrible stylistic matchup for Lesnar, capable of neutralizing his wrestling at every phase of the fight and besting him standing. Given Lesnar's otherwise limited skill set, that leaves him little more than a puncher's chance against one of the best fighters in the game today. Though that's not the worst position in the world for someone that punches as hard as Lesnar, there is little reason to be particularly bullish about his chances here.

    Lesnar's size and physicality will be enough to keep Cormier honest throughout the fight. He won't be able to take complete control with his wrestling, and that will keep him from getting overly comfortable as the action progresses.

    Unless Lesnar can land a huge shot, though, look for DC to take command from start to finish en route to a lopsided decision win, or a stoppage in the championship rounds.

    Prediction: Daniel Cormier def. Brock Lesnar by unanimous decision

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