UFC light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier intends to make his first ever title defence against Alexander Gustafsson as “dirty” as possible when meeting at UFC 192 on Saturday.
The challenger holds a six-inch height advantage and a seven-inch reach advantage of the stocky champion and is expected to utilise his superior length by unleashing a barrage of technical striking from range.
Cormier obviously knows where the Swede’s strengths lie but believes he can close the distance and transform the fight into more of a brawl.
“Gustafsson is at his absolute best when he uses his footwork to frustrate guys where they can’t really get to him,” Cormier told the UFC website.
“I anticipate him doing that against me. I know he’s going to try to use his length to outwork me. I think he’ll be content to make it a stand-up fight where he’s just trying to outpoint me.
“But the dirtier the fight, the better it will be for me. I’m going to make sure that I’m close enough to hit him, to grab him, to wrestle him, to maul him.”
Cormier will have a distinct advantage in any tight exchanges due to his shorter limbs and wrestling pedigree – he represented the USA at the 2004 Olympic Games and missed out on the 2008 games due to ill health.
Javier Mendez, his head coach at American Kickboxing Academy, also acknowledged Gustafsson’s superior technical striking and clever footwork but said Cormier was the better fighter overall.
“It’s going to come down to who can dictate the action. It’s going to be an inside-versus-outside fight. Gustafsson is really dangerous because if you let him hit you, he will knock you out,” he said.
“But the problem he faces is that DC is so well-rounded. He’s not easy to game plan because he’s not just a wrestler. He’s got everything now.”