The UFC returns to New York City and Madison Square Garden this Sunday! A massive heavyweight title bout between Daniel Cormier and Derrick Lewis headlines the card. We preview that fight as well as the continued rise of New Zealand striking Phenom Israel Adesanya as he takes on wild man, Derek Brunson.
Daniel Cormier the reigning two divisional UFC champion and current #1 ranked pound-for-pound fighter will put his heavyweight strap on the line this Sunday against the terrifying ‘Black Beast’ Derrick Lewis. This one has come out of the blue for most MMA fans; with Cormier’s next fight expected to be against either former heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic, Brock Lesnar or the returning Jon Jones. However the UFC needed a strong main event on short notice to headline the New York card and therefore this is the fight we get. Despite the fact Cormier is a massive favourite here, there are still are few interesting wrinkles to this fight.
Derrick Lewis is taking this fight less than a month after a 3 round war against Alexsander Volkov. I actually bet Volkov in that fight and he was looking excellent through 3 rounds; keeping Lewis at the end of his jab and clearly getting the best of the striking. However even when absolutely exhausted and battered; Lewis has incredible power and with just 10 seconds left in the fight was able to sleep Volkov with a massive shot. That’s Lewis in a nutshell. His entire style revolves around the fact he is a giant man with giant man strength. He is a low output striker who likes to fight off the back foot and lull opponents in before striking with surprising speed. He is devastating when in top position, but doesn’t have much of a wrestling or grappling game outside of that big man strength. He seems to have horrendous cardio, almost always slowing down before the first round is through, but as he showed against Volkov, he is able to retain power through the later stages. He is currently riding a 3 fight win streak against good competition, but he hasn’t looked great in any of those wins and this is a massive step up against one of the best to ever set foot in the octagon.
Daniel Cormier has only ever lost to one man, Jon Jones. He has dominated every other opponent with a combination of cardio, fight IQ and Olympic level wrestling. He has also evolved into a very effective striker, using his striking to back opponents against the cage and opening up his dirty boxing. He knocked out former heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic in his last fight, so obviously his power transfers well to heavyweight. He is used to being the smaller man in fights and has won striking exchanges with Big Foot Silva, Jon Jones and Josh Barnett. He is a supremely talented wrestler, but isn’t known for his blast doubles or high energy takedowns. Instead he likes to chain wrestle and keep opponents locked against the cage. He has excellent top pressure and strong rear naked choke. Basically where ever this fight goes Cormier will have a significant skill advantage, but Lewis still has one very clear path to victory.
Prediction: There’s no two ways about it, if Derick Lewis is going to beat Daniel Cormier to become the UFC heavyweight champion he is going to have to do it by devastating KO. He will likely be losing every moment of the fight until he lands the big shot. I think his size advantage will make him difficult to take down, especially in the earlier rounds. But I also don’t think Lewis can put Cormier on his back either. Lewis has traditionally struggled striking with smaller, faster opponents with his last three loses coming to Mark Hunt, Matt Mitrione and Shawn Jordan. I see Cormier having a lot of success on the feet, but whether he can put Lewis away, I’m not so sure. If Cormier can avoid the big shot, he wins this fight in a canter. I really can’t forsee a scenario where this doesn’t get a stoppage. Even if Lewis can stifle Cormier’s offensive, there’s no way he can go five rounds at Cormier’s pace and will most likely tap to exhaustion. It’s very hard to find value in this fight, as Cormier is such a short priced favourite (even inside the distance) and I can’t in good conscience recommend an underdog play on Lewis. So I’m going have a bit of a flyer and hope that Lewis can hold on for the first 3 rounds and bet Cormier in round 4,5 or by decision. Daniel Cormier 4th round rear naked choke.
This fight promises to be a fun one. Originally from Nigeria, Israel Adesanya moved to New Zealand as an eleven year old. He didn’t take up kickboxing until his late teens, but quickly made up for lost time. He amassed a 75-5 record as a kickboxer and crafted a reputation as one of the most exciting and diverse strikers in the sport. Since transitioning to MMA, Adesanya has a 14-0 record with 12 KOs. His opponent, Derek Brunson should prove an excellent test in his burgeoning MMA career. Brunson is an exciting, but incredibly floored fighter. He moves forward winging wild punches and has almost zero striking defence. In his fight with Robert Whittaker, Brunson spent the whole first round charging straight at Whittaker eating punches, before eventually getting felled with a headkick. There is a massive striking differential here and if Brunson employs his regular method of striking defence, his chin will get cracked. However Brunson does have a solid wrestling game and definitely has the ability to win rounds on top. This is the best wrestler Adesanya has faced and it will be interesting to see how it affects his striking game. I still can’t go past Adesanya here and I expect him to earn a late finish.
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