In the main event of UFC 214, light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier will put his title on the line against former champion Jon Jones. The bout will be a rematch of their 2015 fight in which Jones, then the champion, dominated Cormier and retained the belt. The following is a look at the statistical categories that were major factors in the first fight and will likely play a large role on Saturday.
After several years competing in MMA, Cormier has become a well-rounded fighter. However, at his heart, the Olympian is still a wrestler. During his combined UFC/Strikeforce career, he has attempted 63 takedowns and landed 1.92 per 15 minutes of fight time. Outside of the first fight against Jones, Cormier has successfully completed 52 percent of his takedown attempts. Against Jones, he went one for eight, which is only 13 percent. In order to be successful, he will need to find a way to drag Jones to the ground.
Taking down "Bones" is not an easy task. In the UFC, he has stopped 94 percent of his opponents' takedown attempts. Other than Cormier, Alexander Gustafsson is the only other fighter to successfully take down Jones. Like Cormier, he managed only one takedown on eight attempts. Unfortunately for Cormier, he will need to worry about more than Jones' defensive wrestling. In their first fight, the former champion took down Cormier three times. During his UFC career, Jones has landed 2.25 takedowns per 15 minutes at a 52 percent clip. Despite not having the wrestling credentials of Cormier, Jones proved that he could win a takedown battle in their first fight. If he can repeat that feat, he will have the upper hand in this rematch.
Jones is a very accurate striker. He lands 55 percent of his significant strike attempts. That is the third-highest striking accuracy among ranked light heavyweights. On the other hand, Cormier lands 49 percent of his significant strike attempts, which is seventh-best among ranked light heavyweights.
While Jones has the overall advantage in terms of striking accuracy, that advantage is much more pronounced when it comes to distance striking accuracy. At distance (i.e., standing but not in the clinch), Jones lands 47 percent of his strikes, while Cormier lands only 38 percent of his attempts at distance. "Bones" has an 84-inch reach, and that gives him a unique advantage over most light heavyweights when it comes to landing strikes at range. Against Cormier, he will have a 12-inch reach advantage. In their first fight, Jones used this edge quite well. He landed 41 percent of his distance strikes compared to only 29 percent for Cormier. If Jones is able to use his wrestling to keep the fight at distance, Cormier will be fighting an uphill battle all night.
Jones' ability to land strikes at range comes across not only in his striking accuracy but also in terms of striking differential. Striking differential is the number of significant strikes landed per minute minus the number of significant strikes absorbed per minute. Jones has the second-best striking differential among ranked light heavyweights. His 2.25 striking differential ranks behind only Corey Anderson (2.63). Cormier is also respectable in this category. He has the fourth-highest striking differential at 1.71. Considering the average striking differential for ranked light heavyweights is 0.75, it is fair to say that both fighters are well above average.
In their first fight, Jones dominated this category. On a per minute basis, he outlanded Cormier by 1.36 significant strikes. As expected, Jones had the edge at distance. He landed 2.04 distance strikes per minute compared to 1.40 for Cormier. However, "Bones" also had the edge in the clinch. In that position, he landed 1.60 significant strikes per minute, nearly doubling up Cormier who landed only 0.88 significant clinch strikes per minute. This has to be concerning for the champion. In the first fight, even when he was able to close the distance and avoid Jones' reach, he still ended up losing the striking exchanges. He will need to show improvement or employ new tactics to land meaningful shots against Jones.