Since losing to reigning UFC Light Heavyweight champion Daniel “DC” Cormier almost two years ago, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson has wreaked havoc in the division by knocking out other top contenders to earn a rematch for the belt at UFC 210 in Buffalo, New York on April 8 (April 9 in Manila). The 6’2” power puncher from Dublin, Georgia with a 22-5 win-loss record has put to sleep division giants Jimi Manuwa, Ryan Bader and Glover Teixeira one after the other before this much-awaited rematch with DC.
Considered probably the most feared knockout artist in the UFC today, Johnson has a devastating punch that has knocked out cold 11 of his opponents in the UFC, including such fearsome strikers as Alexander Gustafsson and Antonio Nogueira. The champion Cormier himself was floored by one of Johnson’s vicious punches in the opening round of their 2015 title fight. In UFC 210, Rumble will get another crack at the Light Heavyweight belt as he vows to knock out DC.
But Cormier is one of the toughest MMA fighters in the planet, and makes a case as the best grappler in the Light Heavyweight class. DC has a remarkable 18-1 win-loss card that includes convincing victories over the who’s who in MMA like Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson and former UFC Heavyweight champions Frank Mir and Josh Barnett. His only defeat was a unanimous decision verdict against the former champion Jon Jones, who is considered the current best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC. Jones was stripped of the UFC Light Heavyweight belt in 2015 after he served time for felony hit-and-run charges, which paved the way for the Cormier-Johnson 1 championship match.
Against Johnson in the first fight, DC used his superior wrestling to keep most of the fight on the ground where he controlled most of the joust before forcing Rumble to submission via rear naked choke in the third round.
A multi-titled wrestler, DC is a two-time Olympian wrestler and a former captain of the 2008 Olympic wrestling team of the United States. His python-like holds make it extremely difficult even for sizable opponents to push him off. And once he gets them to the ground, they hardly get up to their feet. DC’s signature move is lifting his opponents up then slamming them hard to the ground.
It’s no secret that Johnson’s best chance is to knock out Cormier early. From the opening bell, he must start aggressive with his striking against the champion. But he needs to watch out for the takedowns, where DC is highly successful. But Rumble must also respect DC’s striking, as he boasts of a respectable 3.77 significant strikes landed per minute average.
As for the champ, it’s imperative for him to avoid Johnson’s power strikes. The sooner he can get the fight to the ground, the better the chances for him to keep his belt. Although Johnson himself is an accomplished wrestler, DC is just in a different level with his grappling. It’s hard to imagine anyone right now, perhaps even in the Heavyweight class, that can beat DC on the ground. By the way, Cormier debuted in the UFC as a heavyweight in 2013 and was 2-0 in the division with unanimous decision wins over Mir and Roy Nelson.
My prediction: Cormier by decision.
In the co-main event, former UFC Middleweight king Chris Weidman hopes to bounce back from a terrible loss to Yoel Romero last November when he takes on the rampaging Gegard Mousasi. After three successful title defenses, Weidman lost the Middleweight strap to Luke Rockhold in 2015 before suffering another setback to now No. 1 contender Romero. Weidman was caught by a shattering knee from Romero that opened him up. A masterful wrestler, Weidman will use his power and aggressiveness against the highly technical striker from Iran. But Weidman won’t find Mousasi to be a walk in the park. The former Strikeforce champion has a 41-6-2 record and is on a four-fight winning streak. His last three victories are all knockout wins against elite middleweights – Thiago Santos, Vitor Belfort and Uriah Hall.
My prediction: Weidman by unanimous decision.