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Fighter's Take: Johnson vs. Cormier

Few spectators will be more interested in the outcome of Saturday night’s UFC light heavyweight title fight than Ryan Bader. Whether Anthony “Rumble” Johnson or Daniel Cormier gets his hand raised doesn’t really matter.

Bader, the division’s No. 5 contender who was forced to step aside from a scheduled bout with Cormier in June so that this fight could be made, believes he should be next in line.

“No matter who wins, I want to go out there and face them,” he said. “I know I can beat both of them. I’ll let them do their thing, but I have winner.”

Bader, who has a 20-4 record and is on a four-fight win streak, breaks down Johnson and Cormier and offers his pre-fight analysis for UFC.com:

STRIKING

BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 26: (R-L) Anthony Johnson punches Phil Davis in their light heavyweight bout during the UFC 172 event at the Baltimore Arena on April 26, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)Anthony Johnson has the edge in striking. That being said, they’re two totally different strikers. Although Johnson has technical kicks and technical combinations, he throws from unorthodox angles and is wild at times, and he hits very hard.

He’s not just a straight-up puncher. He throws high kicks, he throws low kicks, and what he does really well is put combinations together. He’ll go out there and throw combos with his hands, and he’ll end with a hard kick. He puts everything he has into pretty much every punch and kick he throws. You can see his body torqueing. He walks down his opponent down the whole time. He’ll have the striking edge in the first two rounds.

What Cormier is good at is keeping his distance and dirty boxing a guy. He’ll throw a jumping left hook, and if he catches you with that, that’s fine. If not, he’s going to wrap your head up, get his hand behind your neck and try to deliver uppercuts. He’s short in stature, so he wants to get inside. You saw that in the Jon Jones fight. He threw some right hands and then left hooks to get in there and dirty box with those uppercuts with his left hand on the back of his neck.

It’s kind of a double-edged sword. You don’t want to rush in on Anthony Johnson and get caught with heavy punches. But at the same time that’s where Cormier is going to be best.

TAKEDOWNS

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 24: Daniel Cormier (black trunks) slams Dan Henderson in their light heavyweight bout during the UFC 173 event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 24, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)I’ve got to go with Cormier 100 percent. He goes in and snatches a left leg, that lead leg, and his head is outside. That’s very unorthodox even for good wrestlers. They don’t really feel that a lot of times. They don’t feel that head outside pressure. Cormier is going to go in there and snatch it and try to sit him to his butt right away. And if he doesn’t, he uses that momentum of sitting down an opponent by running up to his crotch area and you see big dumps. He dumped a good wrestler like Dan Henderson like that. He’s very good at that. He’s also good at the clinch. What I see Cormier doing is initiate that clinch with a big punch, then he’s in that over-under position. He’s going to look to lift, elevate and throw. He’s done it many, many times, and he’ll get a good throw out of that.

He’s not really an explosive run-through-you, double-leg kind of guy, but once gets hold of you he’s one of the best at what he does.

I’m pretty confident Johnson is going to try to win this on his two feet. He’s had success in his last couple of fights in the first round. He’s looking to put those hands on him early, put those kicks on him, make Cormier second guess his entry, whereas Cormier is looking to get that entry, tie him up, get him on the ground. He’s looking at Johnson’s past losses, which is people putting him on his back, putting him in positions he doesn’t want to be in, trying to break him and finish the fight.

TAKEDOWN DEFENSE

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 22: Daniel Cormier (black shorts) punches Patrick Cummins in their light heavyweight bout during UFC 170 inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center on February 22, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)This is real interesting. We saw some great takedown defense from Johnson in his fight with Phil Davis. Davis was constantly trying to dive in on his legs, but Johnson has a good upright stance. It’s kind of hard to get to his legs, and he limped legged out a lot. When you get sweaty it gets easier to limp leg out and kick out of those takedowns. He does it in an explosive way. It’s not like he sprawls and then works his way out. You shoot in, and boom, he’s trying to get out.

For Cormier, he doesn’t really shoot those desperate shots like Davis was doing. He’s going to in there, pick his time when it’s right, get that single or move up the body and get that over-and-under hook and look to trip him – inside trip, a little outside foot sweep or look to throw him in an over-under position.

They both have good takedown defense. On pure wrestling, I have to go with Cormier because I don’t see him getting taken down. But Johnson has improved tremendously. He’s hard to take down. I haven’t seen him taken down since he’s been back in the UFC.

GROUND AND POUND

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - JANUARY 24: Anthony Johnson (top) of the United States punches Alexander Gustafsson of Sweden in their light heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at the Tele2 Arena on January 24, 2015 in Stockholm, Sweden. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)They’re both big punchers, and they can knock anybody out on their feet and on the ground. Once you get position and you’re throwing heavy punches and elbows, they both throw hard.

I would look more toward the control part of it, and Cormier has years and years of experience of body position. He’s made great fighters look like fools out there by having those heavy hips on a fighter, breaking them down, throwing punches, landing heavy shots. You saw it with Henderson, getting his back taken, throwing the hooks and ending up choking him out after being in position the whole time. I don’t see Cormier being on his back. I’d go with Cormier based on control and position.

SUBMISSIONS

LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 03: Jon Jones (L) and Daniel Cormier (R) exchange punches in their UFC light heavyweight championship bout during the UFC 182 event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on January 3, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)I don’t see this fight ending in a submission. If it does, it would probably be somebody breaking in the fourth or fifth round and wanting to be out of there. But this is a championship fight and I doubt we’re going to see that.

We’ve seen a few submissions from Cormier. It’s been a weak spot for Johnson in a couple of fights when he was at 170. We haven’t seen him on his back since he’s been back in the UFC. He’s not cutting that weight anymore. He feels good out there. He might be able to pop right back up, whereas before his body was drained from the weight cut. Somebody slaps a choke on, and it’s like, I’m done.

BADER’S FINAL TAKE

It’s going to come down to who has the better fight IQ, the better game plan, what they trained for in their camps. Johnson was training for Jon Jones, who’s a lengthy fighter. Then all of a sudden you get the opposite in Cormier, who’s a wrestler and who’s stocky and explosive.

Is Cormier going to throw punches and get in that clinch, get him down and start wearing on him right away from a wrestling position and make him get up and carry his weight? Or is he going to go in there, kind of get buzz-sawed a little bit and back up and wait until the later rounds and try to steal three, four and five after Johnson loses a little pop?

We’ve seen Johnson finish a lot of guys, but he couldn’t finish Phil Davis, who’s a very awkward fighter. I think it comes down to Cormier securing takedowns and these over-unders on the cage. If he can push him on the cage, keep him there and wear him down a little bit, even if he doesn’t take him down, I believe Cormier will get the victory.

BADER’S PICK

Cormier by decision.

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