When we last left our heroes...I didn't pay much attention to whatever hype was going on between Cormier and Rashad Evans before he pulled out of the fight due to an injury. So I'm not aware of any "bad blood" that might have been brewing between the two. Judging by Steph Daniels' interview with him, there seemed to be none.
Yet somehow, over the course of just ten days, Cormier and Cummins have been able to cram two season's worth of soap opera drama into one painfully dull, and forced 8 minute TV interview.
I can't speak to mass psychology. But I feel like Dana underestimates the intelligence of your average sports fan. As sports fans, we're fine with the narratives behind spectacle. Although they're games to the observers, to the athletes, they are the narrative itself; the story about how interests blossom into goals, and how these goals ultimately determine your way of life. Fundamentally, there shouldn't be anything shocking about watching a game become political for an athlete, for example.
Hatred and vendettas, therefore, we accept in sports. Just not when it's written on a script by a playwright we don't trust to understand the human condition. And Dana White is no Joel Cohen.
Here's some video analysis of the final three fights on the UFC 170 card by our own Kid Nate, Dallas Winston and Connor Ruebusch. They dive deep into Ronda Rousey vs. Sara McMann, Daniel Cormier vs. Patrick Cummins, and Rory MacDonald vs. Demian Maia.
So here we are, back to arbitrary UFC narrative number 4324242: these two guys hate each other, so we should watch. It's the monster truck rally of fight promotion. Listening to Cummins on that Fox show, this is all I hear; words being lethargically read from a script.
But then what do I know? Dana White tried to articulate this vendetta as some sort of "what goes on in the locker room stays in the locker room" broken code at the UFC 170 media scrum the other day. So maybe Cormier really does resent Cummins for "breaking" him and making him cry.
While this has nothing to do with the fight itself, it's another example in a growing list of examples highlighting the UFC's inability to form the narratives that attract more than the niche crowd, but actual honest to goodness sports fans. Which is unfortunate because when you dig deeper, you find that there is an honest story in here.
The first question revolves around Cummins' journey. How does a promising young mixed martial artist with a unlikely but stellar NCAA wrestling background debut in Strikeforce to a smashing success suddenly disappear? Charges of burglary, apparently, which Cummins has described as a 'prank'. When I think of pranks, I think of innuendo involving markers, or butter on the floor. Not someone losing something of monetary value they can never get back.
I guess I should have told you guys you could skip the first 500 words.
The second question revolves around Cormier's drop in weight. Here's a guy who has had to fight at HW in MMA because his previous weight cutting foray in the 2008 Olympics led to kidney failure. Will he be healthy for this fight? Have the proper authorities overseen his capacity to participate in this event? Or are the proper authorities simply hoping Cormier's judgment will be enough?
What both men can do: It'll be difficult to say what Cummins can't do. But thanks to Coach Mike Riordan and his excellent breakdown of Cummins' wrestling career (with gifs!), we can say quite a bit about what he can. The Idiot's Guide version of Riordan's article: Cummins is brilliant with the high crotch lift, has fantastic upper body strength, doggedly pursues the single leg, and is part of a (wrestling) MMAth equation that involves Wes Hand who nearly beat Brock Lesnar in the 2000 NCAA Finals and Greg Wagner who beat Cain Velasquez in college.
With so much limited video it's hard to say much more. After all, pure wrestling matches don't tell us much. Neither does Cummins' win over Ricky Pulu either. It isn't the most flattering display for Pulu at least, who sort of just feebly taps upon being back mounted after taking a few strikes (not that they looked like they tickled).
The fact that he has a split of TKO and submission wins bodes well. However, he's up against an unbeaten, and legitimate mixed martial artist who has feasted on HW's.
Cormier isn't just a strong wrestler. He's an agile striker who continues to improve his boxing. I've always said that his striking reminds me of Fedor's in some ways. His arm arcs as he swings, and the momentum of his punches end up looking like the Russian's infamous ridge hands. He dominates with speed and a grace on the ground that you don't typically see in your heavyweights (when he fought there).
One of the points I feel the need to repeat; as Dallas Winston astutely points out, which is that Cormier doesn't suffer from the usual fate that strong men with a low center of gravity usually have. He's incredibly mobile, and that mobility was key in his dismantling of guys like Josh Barnett and Roy Nelson.
What both men can't do: In one second, I think I figured it out. Cummins, taking cues from his wrestling habits of leading in with his head held low, will be prone to uppercuts and straight punches down the middle. Or at least that's what I appear to be looking at from 1:07 to 1:08 in his fight with Pulu. Obviously I'm being a bit facetious, but I'd expect Cummins to make the mistakes many wrestlers turned boxers often do: predictable takedowns allow opponents to better time their offense.
Cormier will be looking to exploit this potential habit. However, it's important to remember that for Cormier, he's facing uncharted territory as well. He's been the beneficiary of fighting at HW where he's the faster and more skilled fighter. At LHW, speed won't be as pronounced. The fact that Cummins will be faster than many of these lesser guys DC has faced, in addition to the fact that Cummins will likely try to grind out a decision win makes it interesting on paper.
In practice, Cormier should have little trouble just by virtue of the fact that Cormier is ultimately a guy who could contend for the HW and LHW titles. Probably even simultaneously. Cummins has four professional fights, and his last pro win was over 5-15 Willie Smalls. That's all that really ever needed to be said.
X-Factor: The weight cut really is an issue. Even disregarding whether or not his health won't be compromised, there's still that emotional history Cormier may or may not be rattled by.
In-Fight Soundtrack: Give the people want they want Dana....(thanks BE readers).
Prediction: Daniel Cormier by TKO, round 1.