On Saturday night, UFC 192 is headlined by a Light Heavyweight world title fight as champion Daniel Cormier looks to make his first title defense. He takes on challenger Alexander Gustafsson in an intriguing fight. To prepare for the fight, we've prepared this quick guide for you - the Five Fights you need to see before Cormier vs. Gustafsson. Watch these five and you'll be ready to analyze all the action on Saturday night. And read up more on UFC 192 right here.
All fights are available at UFC Fight Pass, and when available, a YouTube embed is included here.
1. DANIEL CORMIER vs. ANTHONY JOHNSON, UFC 187
This is the fight Cormier wants on Saturday night. It's a vintage Cormier performance - work the opponent over in the clinch, take him to the mat, make him carry your weight, beat him down. Rinse, wash, repeat until you break him. See also Cormier vs. Dan Henderson, which is pretty similar to this one. If Cormier can implement this game, he's still the champion Sunday morning. That said, there are some moments of positivity for the Gustafsson camp here. Johnson connects on Cormier early and hurts him (though the fact that DC recovers so quickly from a shot from the supremely heavy-handed Rumble is not good for Gus), plus Gustafsson has superior cardio, so is not going to gas as quickly as Johnson here. Still, this is the Cormier blueprint.
2. DANIEL CORMIER vs. JON JONES, UFC 182
And this is the fight Gustafsson wants on Saturday night. They're not identical fighters, but there is a lot in common between Jones and Gus, and a lot that the Mauler can take from this performance and make work. Jones manages to avoid the Cormier takedown, which is a huge win for him right there. With that, it becomes more of a stand-up battle, and there, Jones uses his reach and some solid clinch work to wear DC down. Gustafsson has that reach, and he has some nasty knees in the clinch if Cormier gets inside. It's Cormier's lone professional loss, and it's a blueprint that Gustafsson has the tools to emulate.
3. ALEXANDER GUSTFASSON vs. JON JONES, UFC 165
This may be a loss for the challenger, but it's also one of his best performances (it's just that it came against the best in the world). He shows off his crisp striking game here and his very effective use of movement and technical boxing (Shogun vs. Gustafsson is another good example of this). But perhaps the most important story of this fight is the takedown battle. Gustafsson succesfully stuffs all but one of Jones's takedown attempts, plus manages to get the champion to his back - both extremely impressive accomplishments. They also speak to what we may see Saturday. If Gustafsson can stuff the takedown as he did against Jones and keep the fight standing, he will have the edge. Which brings us to...
4. ALEXANDER GUSTAFSSON vs. JIMI MANUWA, UFC Fight Night Gustafsson vs. Manuwa
At first, I dismissed this fight as irrelevant as much of it is Gustafsson in top control - a position he was unlikely to achieve against the Olympian. But consider those two Jones fights again. In Cormier vs. Jones, we see Cormier taken down. In Jones vs. Gustafsson, we see Gustafsson take an incredibly hard to take down opponent to the mat. The most likely strategy for the challenger Saturday night is to stuff the shot and force the striking battle, but there is the potential for him to mix things up and go on the wrestling offense, showing off the same strong top game he exhibited here against Manuwa. And once he got Manuwa concerned about the takedown, it opened the doors for his offense and the KO win. Much like we saw years ago in the first Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell fight (another all time Light Heavyweight classic), there can be an advantage in surprising your opponent by going at them in their own wheelhouse. Could Gustafsson try that approach here?
5. ALEXANDER GUSTAFSSON vs. ANTHONY JOHNSON, UFC on Fox Gustafsson vs. Johnson
Looming over Cormier vs. Gustafsson is the specter of this - Gustafsson's last fight. He ended that one brutally KO'd and lying in a heap on the mat - the first time he was ever stopped by strikes in his pro career. You can debate if he deserves a title shot on the heels of such a loss, but perhaps more important is how he will respond to it. KOs like this can rattle fighters - will we see any changes in Gustafsson as a result? And is he ready to come back from this by fighting the best Light Heavyweight in the world (and not suspended)? These are questions you have to ask as you consider what is to come.
Join us here at Bloody Elbow Saturday night for UFC 192 live fight night coverage.