UFC 182 is finally here, live from Las Vegas! Bitter rivals and future Hall of Famers, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier clash for the Light Heavyweight Championship, a fight with bad blood not seen since the days of Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock. The two were originally scheduled to fight for UFC 178 in September but an injury to Jones postponed it to the New Year. Also featured in the card is a Lightweight tilt between contenders Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and unbeaten Myles Jury. Former Middleweight title challenger, Nate Marquardt returns to take on Brad Tavares in a fight both desperately need to win. Japanese superstar Kyoji Horiguchi takes on scrappy Louis Gaudinot in a fast-paced bout that should entertain and finally, Cuban powerhouse Hector Lombard starts off the PPV against returning wreslter, Josh Burkman.
Jon Jones (C) (-180) vs Daniel Cormier (+168)
Light Heavyweight Bout (205 lbs)
As far as grudge fights go, this is the biggest of them all. Jones and Cormier have seemingly done everything to hate each other as publicly as possible to hype the fight. However, the fight will be another story as this may be a one-sided affair. Cormier is the best wrestler Jones will fight bar-none and maybe the strongest. The Olympian has steam-rolled the elite grapplers like Dan Henderson and Josh Barnett and having Heavyweight Champion Cain as a training partner only helps his cause.
The x-factor in this case as with most of Jones’s fights is his reach. In this case, Bones has a foot reach (84” versus 72”) over Cormier. This isn’t anything new to Cormier as he did knock out “Big Foot” Silva who had a 10” reach advantage but Bones is a different animal. The Light Heavyweight Champion is one of the most creative strikers in MMA and has proved as difficult to take down (96% TD Defense) as he is as good as working around it. Granted, Cormier is strong and explosive but reach usually comes into play with takedowns and Jon Jones is going to utilize his greatest asset—yet again to win a decision much to the haters’ chagrin.
Prediction: Jon Jones def. Daniel Cormier via Unanimous Decision to retain the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship
Donald Cerrone (-145) vs Myles Jury (+135)
Lightweight Bout (155 lbs)
A pick’em fight by every definition; both Cerrone and Jury are not-too-different fighters. Both have the same reach (73”), extensive BJJ skills and versatile striking ability. Cerrone edges Jury in terms of finishing ability as “Cowboy” has ended fights with knees, kicks or punches or submissions. Jury however is the better technical and defensive striker and paired with Cerrone’s notoriously slow start could make all the difference.
Cerrone is the better bet to end the fight at some point. As the fight goes on, it favours the Cowboy. But as the ode goes, “defense wins championships” and look for Jury to keep Cerrone at bay long enough to win the decision.
Prediction: Myles Jury def. Donald Cerrone via Unanimous Decision
Nate Marquardt (-123) vs Brad Tavares (+115)
Middleweight Bout (185 lbs)
A tough even fight as the lines predict. Marquardt and Tavares are hanging on a thread as both have lost a combined five of their last six fights. Marquardt is a long-time veteran of the sport having 48 pro fights since 1999 and great in every aspect of MMA and in terms overall skill is the better fighter. Yet his inconsistency and weakening chin are major concerns. Tavares is the better striker and one of the best in the clinch. What Tavares lacks is finishing power and durability. Marquardt is the better fighter and should win a close decision.
Prediction: Nate Marquardt def. Brad Tavares via Split Decision
Kyoji Horiguchi (-650) vs Louis Gaudinot (+600)
Flyweight Bout (125 lbs)
Horiguchi comes in to the fight as the second biggest favourite with good reason. The “Kid” Yamamoto protégé boasts arguably the best striking prowess in the division with precision and power. Horiguchi has won his last eight and all three of his UFC fights. Gaudinot meanwhile hasn’t won a fight since his flyweight debut against John Lineker (0-1-1). Like Horiguchi, Gaudinot is a karate black belt and loves to throw down but he’s outgunned in this fight. Horiguchi is the superior striker and Gaudinot hasn’t flashed the KO power to beat Horiguchi. However, Gaudinot is tough as nails and possesses a very nasty guillotine, something Horiguchi has shown a vulnerability to. The Japanese phenom will likely power out and send Gaudinot packing unless the New Yorker pulls an improbable upset and he just could.
Prediction: Louis Gaudinot def. Kyoji Horiguchi via Submission (Round 2)
Hector Lombard (-700) vs Josh Burkman (+650)
Welterweight Bout (170 lbs)
What does it say about Lombard that the UFC had to re-sign Burkman to get him a fight? He may be the most feared man in the division possessing that lethal combination of massive power, lightning-fast reflexes and Olympic-caliber judoka. Burkman is no slouch either. The long-time vet was a former football player with a wrestling base. Through 37 pro fights, he’s never been finished by strikes and since leaving the UFC has won 9 of his last 11 fights, his last coming via one-punch KO. Burkman as a 6-1 underdog is ludicrous but Lombard is the better fighter in every category except cardio. Given how tough Burkman is, he may last to a decision but barring a flash KO or a Lombard silly stunt it’s highly unlikely he wins. Lombard takes it.