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Patience is a virtue, and after nearly two long years of waiting for the rematch, fight fans will finally get their reward this weekend when Daniel Cormier and Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson do battle in Buffalo for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
The two Americans first faced off in the Octagon in May 2015, in Las Vegas, for what was then the vacant belt. After Cormier’s third round victory, courtesy of a submission, everyone has been talking about round two between the reigning champion and the number one challenger.
They were scheduled to fight in December in Toronto at UFC 206 but Cormier was forced to pull out with a groin injury. Time has now healed the 38-year-old, two-time Olympian and he’s putting his title on the line at the KeyBank Center, in what promises to be an explosive match up.
No-one hits harder than Johnson. His last three fights against Glover Teixeira, Jimi Manuwa and Ryan Bader all brought the 33-year-old wins by knockout, and although he lost to Cormier in Vegas, he did have his rival on the canvas as early as round one.
“Anthony is the boogie man,” Cormier said this week. “People love the way that he fights. They love to watch him knock out people. They love that aggressive, striking style. But I do like beating Rumble because people make him out to be something that I truly don’t believe he is. I’m not afraid of him in any way, shape or form. There’s nothing about Anthony Johnson that scares me. You look at other fighters and it was clear they were terrified of Anthony. You won’t see that from me.”
Defeat in Vegas was Johnson’s only loss since he returned to UFC in early 2014 from the World Series of Fighting, and the challenger is the narrow favourite to become the new champion at 3/4. Cormier is rated evens to see off his younger opponent and remain top dog.
The prospect of Johnson winning in Buffalo with a trademark knockout punch is rated 11/10, while the betting suggests Cormier’s best chance of victory will come by submission, which is priced at 5/2. The challenger is a 12/1 shot to take the belt by a unanimous decision, while the champion is 8/1 to get the nod from the judges if the fight goes the distance.
There’s little chance, it seems, that Johnson is going to take the belt by a submission – a 20/1 shot – while Cormier isn’t fancied to punch his way to glory, priced at 9/2 to win by knockout.
A repeat of Cormier’s third round triumph of two years ago is 10/1, while Johnson is 5/2 to unleash a decisive shot in round one and win the fight in quick-fire time. The smart money, however, is on the title showdown finishing before the full five rounds, whoever comes out the victor. It’s 1/5 not to go the distance, compared to 100/30 to go all the way.