Former UFC Light Heavyweight champ "Sugar" Rashad Evans will take on undefeated Daniel Cormier who will be dropping down from the heavyweight division for the first time in his MMA career. But which fighter will offer us value in our UFC picks?
Rashad Evans (22-3, 8 KO's, 3 Subs)
After Evans lost his title to Lyoto Machida and saw his undefeated streak come to a violent end in May of '09, it seemed reasonable that he would fight a few young guns, notch a couple wins and gain a rematch with The Dragon. However a funny thing happened to the UFC Light Heavyweight division. It became one of the marquee weight classes that included future Hall-of-Famer Randy Couture reentering the division, Mauricio Shogun Rua wresting the title from Machida, Antonio "Little Nog" Nogueira wreaking havoc and a surprise entrant in former Strikeforce champ Dan Henderson assimilating into the UFC after it cannibalized Strikeforce.
But fading stars like Couture and former UFC Light Heavyweight king Tito Ortiz were merely speed bumps along the way for any real contender like Evans and gatekeepers like Rampage Jackson, Phil Davis and Ryan Bader were good resume builders to get back to the head of the class. There was not one fighter that was clearly better than Rashad Evans and it seemed as though it was just a matter of time before Sugar got to wear the strap again. But then his good friend Jon "Bones" Jones burst onto the scene like a supernova and has become the pound-for-pound greatest fighter on the planet. Evans lost to his buddy Jones and tonight he faces yet another tremendously talented personal friend in Daniel Cormier. Evans is hoping for different results.
Daniel Cormier (13-0, 5 KO's, 3 Subs)
Daniel Cormier may not look exactly like the prototypical MMA fighter but he certainly fights like one. Cormier has few of the requisite tattoos complementing his thick torso and legs but does not possess the ultra-chiseled physique nor the neck to toe ink commonly splashed on the fleshed canvases of many of his contemporaries. But Daniel Cormier has proven to be more talented and dangerous than anyone he has fought.
The former US Olympian has racked up 13 wins in his professional MMA career and was crowned the Strikeforce Gran Prix Champion with a victory over the legendary Josh Barnett. Upon transitioning from Strikeforce to the UFC he has added two more victories with wins over Frank Mir and most recently against Roy "Big Country" Nelson, both unanimous decisions.
Cormier has proven that he can stand and bang with the biggest hitters on the circuit or dominate on the mat where he has made his bones throughout his career. Tonight the fight will be decided on the ground and Cormier may be finally matched against an opponent who can keep him in check when the fight hits the floor.
Free UFC Pick
I am not going to peruse the UFC odds on this one until I think it through because I don't want to bias myself. The other component we should consider is how easily will Cormier make weight if he indeed makes it at all. Cormier is a small heavyweight by nature but to see his compact frame at 205 makes me wonder if he will possess the same brute strength that has made him successful thus far.
When the fight is standing Evans will have the advantage in terms of pure speed and scoring though Cormier has the ability to end it quickly with his phenomenal power. When the fight hits the mat it's Cormier's world and we are all just living in it, and that includes the highly talented Rashad Evans. And that my friends will be the difference here. Cormier is just too thick and suffocating even for a talented grappler such as Evans. Remember, Evans was a very good though not great NCAA Division I wrestler at Michigan State while Cormier was a runner-up for the NCAA National Championship at Oklahoma State and a member of two US Olympic teams.
I finally peeked over at the UFC odds being dealt by WilliamHill.com and I see Cormier as a -277 favorite. Although that seems steep to me and does give me cause for pause, I cannot convince myself to place a value bet on Evans knowing that it will probably be a losing ticket for my UFC picks.
UFC Pick: Cormier -277 at WilliamHill.com.