UFC 182 Predictions: Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier – Cerrone vs. Jury – Marquardt vs. Tavares

UFC 182 Picks with Analysis
When: Saturday, January 3, 2014
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
by Scott of Predictem.com

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Fight Analysis:

The new year gets started with a bang with UFC 182, featuring the long-awaited match between the best two light heavyweights in what still is the UFCs glamor division of 205 pounds. Champion Jon Jones, considered by many to be the best fighter in all of MMA, will take on unbeaten Daniel Cormier in a fight noted for its hostile build-up. It will finally be settled at the MGM Grand in a fight that is one of the more anticipated bouts in years. And the undercard wont likely disappoint, with fan-favorite lightweight Donald Cerrone battling unbeaten Myles Jury, a well as a potential middleweight barnburner with Nate Marquardt taking on Brad Tavares.

Jon Jones, (-160), 20-1 (9 KOs, 6 Submissions) vs. Daniel Cormier, (+140), 15-0 (6 KOs, 4 Submissions)
Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, a champion since 2011 and making and his 8th defense, will have his hands full with the undefeated challenger Daniel Cormier. The unbeaten contender has beaten contender at heavyweight and light heavyweight, but things get a little more difficult here against a dominant champion like Jones. And just in case some thought they could count on Jones having an off-night, the venomous pre-fight contentiousness should guarantee he will be mentally up for this fight. Pre-fight hype aside, these two really seem to have a genuine dislike for one another.

Jones, 27, has dealt with some injuries recently, as this will only be his second fight since September 2013. In his last bout, he won a one-sided decision over Glover Teixeira. Being inactive has cooled down his red-hot run, but he still enters this bout as the top commodity in MMAs premier organization. Well-rested physically and mentally, one should expect a version of Jones that is close to his peak form.

The 35-year old Cormier began his pro career in earnest in 2009 at the advanced age of 30, but it didnt take long before he was identified as a top prospect. An impressive run in the Strikeforce organization led to his joining the UFC, where he has won 4 fights without much difficulty. Setting Cormier apart from recent light heavyweight challengers is how well he fought against much bigger men, large-sized heavyweights like Bigfoot Silva, Josh Barnett, Frank Mir, and Roy Nelson. At 205, he made easy work of Patrick Cummins and Dan Henderson. In fact, its hard to remember a time he was close to losing in the octagon.

Our subconscious could play tricks on us when handicapping this fight. Jones is a supreme athlete and looks the part. He has the credentials, the hype, and the look. Cormier, however, looks like a guy you might run into at the bar. Hes pudgy, not very menacing, and doesnt immediately strike one as a topflight athlete. Well, looks can be deceiving.

Cormier is actually a very explosive athlete. His wrestling pedigree is above reproach and he has added all the necessary wrinkles needed to make the transition into MMA successfully. He has continued to enhance his striking. Beyond that, he possesses what seems to be an innate knowledge on how to fight. Sometimes we ignore that and get all caught up in different technical elements. Knowing how to fight is really what its all about and Cormier can fight like the Dickens.

The odds are pretty close, attesting to the potential closeness of this bout. In fact, when a esteemed champion like Jones is only an 8-5 favorite over a challenger in his first title fight (this is Jones tenth), its almost as if the bookie is imploring you to take Jones, as if they know something different. Anyone who has bet on Jones in recent fights know he frequently goes off at long odds. I see Jones using his extraordinary length and gutting out a close win.

My Prediction to Win: Im betting on Jon Jones at -160. This may one of his toughest fights he will have in his career and there is little to separate the two in terms of talent, though they come in very different packages. I see Jones long-range striking making an impact, with his immense championship experience tipping the scales ever-so-slightly in his favor.

Donald Cerrone, (-165), 25-6 (4 KOs, 15 Submissions) vs. Myles Jury, (+145), 15-0 (7 KOs, 5 Submissions)
Veteran lightweight contender, the ever-active Donald Cerrone, will face dangerous and unbeaten Myles Jury on the main card. It should be a fascinating contrast of styles between a veteran in Cerrone and the 15-fight Jury. This will be Jurys 6th fight in the UFC, with Cerrone taking part in his 16th UFC battle. In his last fight, Cerrone scored one of his best wins with a unanimous decision over highly-regarded Eddie Alvarez. Jury is coming off a first-round TKO in Japan over Takanori Gomi in September.

Jury lost on TUF 15 to another current lightweight contender in Al Iaquinta, but has been perfect in his tenure in the UFC, beating Chris Saunders, Michael Johnson, Ramsey Nijem, Mike Ricci, Diego Sanchez, and Gomi. The loss to Iaquinta and the win over Ricci were both by split decision. One thing Jury excels at is that hes exceptionally difficult to hit. With such small gloves, hes remarkably adept at avoiding big shots. Against Cerrone, that will help, though he will also need to thwart a top-notch submission game.

Cerrone is on a nice run of five straight wins, four of them worthy of a bonus. Over the years, only the absolute elite of 155 pounds have gotten the better of Cerrone, guys like Benson Henderson, Nate Diaz, Anthony Pettis, and Rafael Dos Anjos. But hes beaten his share of top contenders, as well. Not to over-simplify matters, Jury perhaps fits better into the group of fighters Cerrone has beaten and not the ones he has lost to in his career. Jury may be on that level, but until he shows he is, Its hard to go against Cerrone in this one.

My Pick to Win: Im betting on Donald Cerrone at -165 or lower. He has a few more avenues to victory and is operating at a high level right now, with this being the best version of Cerrone yet.

Nate Marquardt, (-130), 33-13 (9 KOs, 16 Submissions) vs. Brad Tavares, (+110), 12-3 (4 KOs, 2 Submissions)
Nate Marquardt battles Brad Tavares in a middleweight encounter over 3 rounds. Both are looking to get back into the thick of things and a win here would go a log way. The 26-year old Tavares has lost two in a row, getting decisioned by Yoel Romero, before being stopped by Tim Boetsch in his last bout. Meanwhile, Marquardt is coming off a nice win over James Te Huna in New Zealand in June. Prior to that, however, he had lost three in a row.

The 35-year old Marquardt has been through the ringer in a career that stems back to 1999. He lived through the sports dark ages and still remains a threat, despite some uneven performances in recent years. Hes had physical issues, suspensions, and a punishing 48-fight career. This is his 2nd fight back at 185 pounds after a run of fights at welterweight. The added weight seemed to help in his win over Te Huna, which earned him a Performance of the Night bonus. Between 170 and 185 pounds, he has beaten and lost to some of the top fighters for over a decade.

Tavares looked to hit a wall in his last two fights and really needs this one or he could be on the fringe. The loss to Boetsch is the first stoppage loss in his career and it will be interesting to see how he reacts. While he hasnt been around long enough to call out his body of work, he has yet to show he can compete in the upper reaches of 185 pounds, with the losses to Romero and Boetsch, in addition to a previous loss to Aaron Simpson.

A veteran with as much mileage on his odometer as Marquardt could peter-out at any time. Hes 4-5 in his last 9 and probably removed from his peak form. But hes still showing an ability to compete and thrive at a level that Tavares has not been able to handle. And I think the old vet has a few fights left in him. Im taking Marquardt.

My Prediction to Win: Im betting on Nate Marquardt at anything near -130. Hes more dependable and proven at a higher level, while Tavares might be a little psychologically damaged from having hit a wall in his last two fights. Find tons of prop bets and LIVE in-fight betting on these events at BetOnline.