UFC 192 goes down this weekend in Houston, Texas, and the top three fights on the card are packed with guys who bring a solid wrestling game backed by punching power to the cage. First up, we looked at Rashad Evans vs. Ryan Bader, then Johny Hendricks vs. Tyron Woodley, and now we’re on to the main event, a light heavyweight title matchup between the challenger, Alexander Gustafsson (16-3) vs. the champion, Daniel Cormier (16-1).
Gustafsson comes into the fight off a devastating KO loss to Anthony Johnson in January of this year. Prior to that, he’d gone 1-1, beating Jimi Manuwa but losing to Jon Jones in a hotly contested decision.
Cormier comes into the fight on this second title defense, having submitted Anthony Johnson in the third round of their fight to win the light heavyweight title that was vacated after Jon Jones was suspended by the promotion. Now Cormier looks to defend his title for the first time.
Both fighters don’t have similar levels of wrestling experience like the fighters in the two fights we just finished discussing, but wrestling will still be the major deciding factor in this fight.
The champ is the definite favorite in this fight at -340 while Gustafsson is the underdog at +280. If Gustafsson wants a chance, he can’t be flat-footed like he was in the fight against Johnson. He needs to be light on his feet and constantly moving and working to avoid any takedown attempts that Cormier throws.
Cormier has good takedowns and lat drops, so if Gustafsson tries to close the distance, he could end up paying for it. Gustafsson will enjoy a reach advantage (all of Cormier’s opponents do), and he’ll need to work that advantage early and often if he wants a chance of defeating Cormier.
However, that’s easier said than done. Cormier can close the distance easily, and he’s used to taking some shots on the way in to score that takedown. Cormier packs some solid KO power, but this method like won’t be the one to bring him the win as Gustafsson could see that punch coming from a mile away.
Wrestling will be the name of the game in this fight. If Cormier can’t use his wrestling effectively, Gustafsson’s odds of winning will go up exponentially. But, if Cormier can score those takedowns on a regular basis, he’ll outlast Gustafsson and score points over all five rounds to win a unanimous decision.