UFC 192: SportsJOE picks the winners so you don't have to
The honour to be called the (second) best light heavyweight in the world is on the line.
Jon Jones' plea hearing couldn't have come in more timely circumstances as the uncrowned P4P best avoided jail time in the same week that two of his former conquests meet for the belt that Bones never lost.
The 205 lb division will become a lot clearer as Ryan Bader and Rashad Evans also meet on the main card while the next challenger for Robbie Lawler's welterweight crown has already been revealed as Tyron Woodley following former champ Johny Hendricks's withdrawal.
Our MMA writers' records look like this thus far.
Darragh The Quizmaster Murphy: 119-73-1
Bourbon Ben Kiely: 117-71-1
Daniel Cormier (16-1) v Alexander Gustafsson (16-3)
DM: For a title fight in one of the heavier weight classes, not a whole lot of people care about this fight.
That's because of the niggling issue of Jon Jones. Whoever wins this fight will walk away with a piece of gold and the title of UFC light heavyweight champion but they won't be the best in the world at 205 lbs.
But the fight will have to take place and I'm sure it'll be entertaining. Alexander Gustafsson will use Jones' performance against Cormier as the blueprint for his gameplan and the fact that Gus gave Bones his toughest fight to date will lead many to believe that the Swede can actually take that.
I'm not one of those people!
I see Cormier taking fewer chances against Gustafsson and don't see Gustafsson having the ability to deal with DC's wrestling. Granted, Gustafsson took Jones down but, by all accounts, Jones did no training for that fight.
Anyway enough of this love triangle of fighters. Cormier can take Gustafsson down as often as he wants and that means he'll take this by decision. Cormier via unanimous decision
BK: Once Cormier gets the takedown, it's game over. We saw it against Anthony Johnson, we saw it against Dan Henderson, the only fighter we haven't seen it against is the man who lost his belt without losing a fight (Hamill doesn't count).
Gustafsson's superior reach and elite striking should keep this competitive at the start, but he doesn't pack enough of a punch to break Cormier's iron chin. Lest we forget, he took Rumble's best, and lived to tell the tale. Cormier via submission (round four)
Ryan Bader (19-4) v Rashad Evans (19-3-1)
DM: I'm pretty torn here. I think, in both of their primes, that Rashad Evans takes this 9 times out of 10.
The problem is that Rashad is much past his prime and Bader is on the way out of his prime too.
In the light heavyweight division, these guys are the gatekeepers and neither is on the level of a Jones, Cormier or Gustafsson.
Rashad Evans has been in some wars over the years and I see his chin giving up sooner rather than later and Bader has got dynamite in his right hand.
I love Rashad but I think Bader takes this, gets a shot at Cormier and then Jones comes back to make all of this title eliminator nonsense redundant. Bader via KO (round one)
BK: Bader's a bit of a dark horse. His meat and potatoes wrestling-boxing style isn't the most exciting to look at, but it's very effective.
Despite the injuries seeing him have an extended stay on the sidelines, I don't think former champion Rashad Evans is past it. In fact, that blistering performance against Chael Sonnen made him look like he was on his way towards contendership again.
Evans is the better striker by far, and he's got enough wrestling acumen to handle Bader's takedowns. I wouldn't be surprised if he finishes Bader. Evans via TKO (round two)
Shawn Jordan (18-6) v Ruslan Magomedov (13-1)
DM: Picking against a Dagestan fighter... Sounds mental, right?
I just think Ruslan Magomedov is getting this fight a little bit too early in his career and Jordan's confidence is sky high after his ridiculous hook kick knockout of Derrick Lewis.
Jordan is just really awkward and a more experienced fighter could trouble him but Magomedov isn't that. Jordan via TKO (Round two)
BK: It may seem odd, but in a division full of knockout artists, I'm picking arguably the weakest striker.
I think Magomomedov is well-rounded enough to out-work Jordan and win this fight. However, Jordan possesses the sort of power that allows him to change the course of a fight with one punch, so it's a real lottery. Magomedov by unanimous decision
Joseph Benavidez (22-4) v Ali Bagautinov (13-3)
DM: Benavidez' superior cardio should see him home to victory against an Ali Bagautinov who won't be as forceful without his EPO.
With the flyweight division quickly running out of victims for Demetrious Johnson, I suspect Benavidez will get the nod for a title shot next year. Benavidez via submission (round two)
BK: The only flyweight Benavidez can't beat is the current champion. Not even Bagautinov thinks he can win this fight, and he's one of the better ones. Benavidez by decision
Jessica Eye (11-3, 1NC) v Julianna Pena (6-2)
DM: The first round of this is going to be a barn-burner.
Both girls are famed for their fast starts but I've become such a huge fan of Pena recently that I don't see her momentum being halted by Eye.
I think that Pena is fast on her way to becoming another one of Ronda Rousey's victims while Eye is some way off.
I think Pena is too in-your-face for Eye to deal with and that there's no real area where she loses this. Plus, she's got a hell of a back. Pena via decision
BK: It seems like the key to winning WMMA fights these days is physicality, and Pena has buckets of it. She's bigger, meaner and stronger than Eye and I expect her to win by simply out-working her opponent.
A win for Pena could put her in a title eliminator bout against someone like Miesha Tate. Pena by decision