Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones is the kind of fight MMA fans live for; a rematch years in the making, a rivalry fiercer than ever, and the two greatest light heavyweights in a legacy defining, history altering fight. The bout itself will go down as a classic and its consequence will be felt for years to come.
Despite the emphatic nature of Jones’ win, Cormier impressed immensely.
Through his career, Jones has become a master at range manipulation. Nearly every exchange, in every fight takes place at a range where Jones can be his most effective and his opponents their most vulnerable. Jones keeps his opponents at the end of his reach denying them a straight path to him. This forces them to come in at an angle and when they do so, Jones cuts them off and picks them apart.
Jones uses two primary tools to maintain distance, the first being his patented oblique kick. A staple of the Jackson-Wink fighting system, the oblique kick has been the cause of much debate within MMA circles for the lasting knee damage it can inflict. Rampage Jackson, for example, has had repeated knee issues since his fight with Jones partly due to the oblique kick. Yet the technique itself has brought Jones and other Jackson-Wink fighters much success. Jones allows his opponents to exit to a distance they feel comfortable thinking from, only to have their knee forcibly straightened from the oblique kick.
The repeated use of the oblique kick, along with body shots slowed Cormier down significantly in the first fight, allowing Jones to run away with the championship rounds.
Negating the oblique kick was thus of paramount importance. Cormier used leg kicks to caution Jones against the use of the oblique. With incoming leg kicks, Jones ran the risk of having his based chopped off from undeneath him as he raised a leg for the oblique. Jones hesitated to throw the oblique kicks allowing Cormier an easier path towards him.
With the oblique kicks neutralized, Cormier ran into Jones’ second line of defence; his long arms. The length of Jones’ arms allows him to land strikes on opponents at a distance from which they can’t reach him. Jones will often stretch his lead arm out and as his opponent gets close, fire off a lead elbow to stun them back. To get beyond Jones’ reach, Cormier used wrist control and hand fighting. Grabbing a hold of Jones’ hands every chance he got, he would literally move them out of the way, creating a path for him to strike from.
With the oblique kick negated and the hands passed, Cormier began landing with greater frequency than he had during the first fight. His pressurizing style, a hindrance before, became an asset. He connected with several clean strikes and forced Jones to circle away from him.
Yet Cormier’s approach meant he relied on winning rounds to win the fight. His pressurizing approach while successful, left him vulnerable to strikes from Jones making the first two rounds toss ups. Adversity seems to bring out the best in Jon Jones. He has a tendency of rising to the occasion and clawing out a win no matter the situation. With Cormier’s confidence rising, Jones began using Cormier’s strategy against him.
Jones used the body teep with more frequency than the oblique kick. The teep can be thrown from a greater distance than the oblique kick preventing Cormier for kicking the standing leg.
More decisive however, was Jones application of broken rhythm. Broken rhythm is the technique of setting a pace, breaking it, and striking again to prevent your opponent to gauge your timing.
Though normally attributed to strikes in a combination, Jones extrapolated its use to movement. He would set a pace for Cormier to chase, only the break his momentum and strike as Cormier stepped in. As Jones continuously broke his rhythm, Cormier began overstepping, chasing an opponent who had already stopped. This allowed Jones to plant his foot to the outside of Cormier’s opening up the body strikes.
Deep in the third round, a combination of the teep kicks and broken rhythm were Cormier’s undoing. As Cormier stepped in to close the distance, Jones raised his left knee. At this point Cormier had been conditioned to expect the teep, causing him to premeditate its impact. He lowered his hands and bent slightly to his right (as he has a tendency of doing) to block it. Jones, seeing this, converted the potential teep into a roundhouse head kick in a fashion very similar to a question mark kick.
The head kick rocked Cormier and as he stumbled back, Jones swept him beautifully. Unable to find his feet Cormier fell to the ground and Jones unleashed a vicious ground and pound. The elevation he was able to get on his ground strikes was remarkable, stopping Cormier in the third and reclaiming the world title.
Daniel Cormier was a great champion. Yet as a great champion has fallen, another has returned to reclaim his throne. The future for Cormier is uncertain with retirement likely. For Jones on the other hand, the time is now to fulfil the potential so many saw in him from such a young age.