Daniel Cormier says Rashad Evans is a tougher opponent than champ Jon Jones
JAN 09, 2014 7:23p ET
With six weeks to go until he weighs in as a light-heavyweight for the first time, Daniel Cormier says the move down to a lighter division has gone smoother than anticipated. This is the step he made to chase a championship, something he couldn't do at heavyweight, where his friend and training partner Cain Velasquez was blocking his path. We'll never know for sure, but perhaps it was with an ironic wink that UFC brass moved Cormier directly into a fight with another friend, Rashad Evans.
As a test gauge, this match is about as demanding as anything Cormier could have imagined. Evans is a former UFC light-heavyweight champion who is currently ranked No. 3 and fresh off his most dominant win since 2011. In November, he defeated Chael Sonnen via TKO in less than a round.
The victory showed flashes of the dynamic ability that became his calling card in his early days. It's something Cormier knows well. As one of the sport's most analytical minds, he's seen it from afar and near. The two have trained together in the past, and due to his observations and experiences, Cormier believes that the matchup for him will be even more difficult than a matchup against the reigning champion Jon Jones.
“I really do care about the guy but I know on that day Feb. 22, Rashad Evans is going to try to beat me. He's going to try to take away everything I've worked for four years now and I can't allow that to happen.”
"He's got a different set of skills than Jones," he said during a Wednesday media lunch in Los Angeles. "I think Rashad will be a little more difficult to take down for me than it would be for a guy with longer limbs. I don't mind wrestling a guy with long limbs. I think it works to my advantage because I can get to their legs. Rashad doesn't kick as much. Kicking actually feeds your opponent the leg. Jon kicks more so that's easier to grab takedowns. And Rashad is just a more dynamic type of fighter. In terms of one-punch knockout power, he has more than Jones does. Explosiveness, he's a little faster in that sense. Jon's great but he works at his pace, he fights at his pace. I don't know if he's ever put anybody out on his feet. It's like submissions, and he gets on top and pounds guys out. That's one tool that kind of goes out the window against me because he can't score a takedown."
The familiarity Cormier and Evans have with each other no doubt plays a role in his assessment as well. When he transitioned from amateur wrestling to MMA and looked for someone to base his career upon, it was Evans that Cormier took as his model for both inside the cage ability and outside the cage success.
These days the two also work together as an analysts on UFC Tonight, and although their friendship has taken a backseat to competition until the morning after UFC 170, Cormier concedes it will be uncomfortable to look across the cage and see a friendly face in a hostile environment.
"It'll be tough," he said. "I really do care about the guy but I know on that day Feb. 22, Rashad Evans is going to try to beat me. He's going to try to take away everything I've worked for four years now and I can't allow that to happen. So it doesn't matter how difficult it is, when they close that door, I got to try to hurt him."
After all, there is a pot at the end of the rainbow, and that's the gold that Jones carries around. Cormier is going through this hardship of fighting his friend and cutting weight -- he is currently about 225 -- in order to get a crack at the belt. He was always destined to come to light-heavyweight, and if he gets his wish, that opportunity will come against Jones.
The two have built a long-running rivalry from afar, and while Cormier is complimentary of Jones' gutsy comeback win in 2013's Fight of the Year with Alexander Gustafsson, he sees the division catching up to him. Evans was the first man to take Jones the distance, and Gustafsson was the first man to threaten him in any meaningful way, and Cormier would like to be the one to topple the empire.
"He got through that fight with Gustafsson," he said. "He got through that fight. Most people wouldn't have gotten through that fight when they've never dealt with adversity before. So that says something about him. But I know that he left something in that cage on that night, too."