During an appearance on FS1 show Undisputed last week, Jon Jones claimed that Daniel Cormier has made “almost zero progression” since the pair first met at UFC 182 back in January of 2015.
By the time he sat down on the stool in his corner at the close of the second round of their rematch at UFC 214 on Saturday night, Jones was probably seeing things a little differently.
Despite his advanced age in athletic terms, Cormier’s striking has improved markedly in recent years and this was apparent from very early on against Jones. Cormier looked very comfortable on the feet and whenever he managed to burrow his way inside the American Kickboxing Academy fighter found success with some beautiful hook-uppercut combinations. He also had joy winging long right hands from long-range.
After ten minutes of what was basically a kickboxing match, the fight was level on two of the three judges scorecards, while the other judge had Jones up 20-18. Many observers, however, seemed to think that Cormier was ahead and controlling the bout. Michael Bisping even said on the FS1 post-fight show that he felt Cormier had been bullying Jones in the second.
‘D.C’ continued to have success at the beginning of the third, but soon he would be fighting desperately to drag himself from the floor while Jones celebrated a KO victory.
Cormier might have improved his striking, but he retained a fatal flaw that it seems Jones and his team had identified over three years ago.
Jones and Cormier were first scheduled to meet at UFC 178 back in September of 2014 but that fight was scrapped when ‘Jonny Bones’ suffered a torn meniscus and had to withdraw. Prior to this cancellation, however, Jones and Cormier did participate in some promotional events. One such event was a Q&A, in which Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier also participated. That Q&A featured a strange foreshadowing of the knockout that occurred on Saturday night.
“I do have tendencies, and I know what he is talking about, because they’re glaring,” Cormier said after Jones had spoken of openings he hoped to exploit on fight night. “I know that there’s one thing that I do that has gotten me in trouble – if you want to call it trouble – that I’ve been in a fight before, and I haven’t been in much trouble so in the instance that I did get maybe a cut or something, I know it was because of that tendency he is talking about.”
“You’re talking about the Josh Barnett fight,” Jones responded.
Cormier took on former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett in the finals of a Strikeforce heavyweight tournament in 2012. It was a bout that ‘D.C’ dominated and won comfortably on all three judges scorecards, but the Strikeforce commentary team did point out that Cormier had a tendancy to dip to his own right, his opponent’s left, something which Barnett punished with damaging punches, kicks and knees.
Below is an example. (If the time-stamp fails to work, skip to the 35:30 mark).
“That will be figured out by September 27th,” Cormier said to Jones during the Q&A. “So don’t think you’re going to kick me in the head with your left leg.”
Jones looked a little stunned and perhaps a little disappointed that Cormier was aware of an aspect of his gameplan.
“Yes, we noticed that,” admitted Jones. “Well, you better fix that.”
“I am smart enough to understand when there is a weakness and I go and fix it,” responded Cormier.
On Saturday night, however, Cormier showed that he hadn’t completely overcome this habit and he dipped right into a left high kick from Jones in the third stanza. This marked the beginning of the end for the 38-year-old, who was finished moments later with a barrage of grounded strikes.
“We know that he likes to dip his head to the left and we were banking on him to instinctually dip that way sooner or later,” Jon Jones told Joe Rogan after the fight. “I didn’t throw many high kicks and I surprised him with that one and it finished the job.”
This KO, it seems, was a longtime in the making.
You can watch Q&A below. It is times-stamped to begin at the relevant moment. If the time-stamp does not work, skip to the 21:00 mark.