In just under seven years Daniel Cormier has made his mark as one of the very best fighters of the last decade. However, there is a feeling among fans, analysts and even Cormier himself, that a win over Jon Jones would forever solidify his legacy in the sport. Yet with Jones now possibly being absent for up to two years after a doping violation, where does the UFC light heavyweight champion go to lay claim to being one of the best fighters of all-time? Would a super-fight championship win at heavyweight be the landmark moment needed for Cormier to achieve his goal?
“DC” has a record of 5-1 during his stint as a light heavyweight in the UFC. His lone loss in the division, and in his career, came in January of 2015 to the former champion and erstwhile pound-for-pound kingpin Jon Jones. With that victory Jones maintained his place at the top of the sport. Cormier looked to be in a position where he would have to work his way back up. And at 36-years-old, the opportunities to strengthen his case as an all-time great were disappearing.
Would another division change make Cormier one of the best ever?
But three months later fate stepped in. Jones was involved in a hit-and-run (literally) accident and was stripped of his title and suspended from the promotion indefinitely. It set the stage for a May interim-title fight between Cormier and top contender Anthony Johnson. Cormier won that fight in dominant fashion and earned his first championship in the top MMA company in the world.
He would then defend that title in a fight-of-the-year candidate bout against Alexander Gustafsson. Now, not only was he a champion, but he had defended it and landed on most news sites pound-for-pound rankings. Legacy was starting to become a word to ponder for Cormier.
Then came UFC 200, and we all know the story. There was a scheduled rematch between Cormier and Jones. It was set to be one of the biggest fights in company history, on the biggest card in company history. It was a match-up between two of the best fighters in the annals of the UFC light heavyweight division. That fight never happened, and UFC legend Anderson Silva stepped in to fight Cormier on short notice instead.
The Lose-Lose Fight
While getting a win over someone of the stature of Silva is a momentous occasion in any fighters career, it was a lose-lose proposition for Cormier. “The Spider” was coming in to the fight on less than a week notice. He was also only a couple of months removed from gall bladder surgery. Plus, he was on a three fight losing streak and just turned 41-years-old. Cormier won the fight, but it wasn’t the victorious ending he had originally envisioned for the grand stage of UFC 200.
So following those events, and despite being 18-1, “DC” is left in what could be considered legendary limbo. There is no doubt he is one of the best fighters of this generation. But Cormier had an opportunity to take his place next to the likes of Georges St. Pierre, Fedor Emelianenko, Silva, and the aforementioned Jones as one of the very best pugilists to ever grace an MMA cage or ring. Where does he go to get that defining opportunity back?
The likely contenders on the horizon for Cormier are Glover Texiera, Johnson, Gustafsson and Ovince St. Preux. All four men are very legitimate fighters and sure to be recognizable wins on a resume years from now. But they are men he or Jones have already defeated. So they wouldn’t be victories that bring further credence to Cormier’s claims as one of the best ever.
“He’s a small Heavyweight but I wouldn’t count him out of any fight due to his heart.” – Mauro Ranallo
Cormier is the rare fighter that has had great success in two divisions during his career. Before he permanently moved to the 205 pound division, “DC” was looked at as the top rising star at heavyweight. He racked up a 13-0 record as a heavyweight with prodigious wins over Josh Barnett, Antonio Silva and Frank Mir. What Cormier did as a heavyweight was all the more impressive due to his size. He is considered short for the light heavyweight division. Battling and beating the largest fighters in the industry proved the level of skill he can employ.
Cormier has already staked his claim as one of the best combatants on the planet with experts since he is ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, on the USA Today/MMAjunkie and UFC pound-for-pound rankings. And with his title reign at light heavyweight, he will forever be one of the best in that division.
The History of Multiple Division Champions
In the company’s history, there have only been two men that have won championships in two division–B.J. Penn and Randy Couture. If Cormier were to return back to his former division and earn another championship, he would be forever immortalized in MMA/UFC history. He is one of the best fighters in the world. Cormier was undefeated in the division. Few could argue the legitimacy of his placement in a number one contenders match-up. Or taking part in the even rarer champion versus champion super-fight. In a bout with current world heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic or top contender Alistair Overeem, Cormier would be a very “live” underdog.
I posed the idea on Twitter to former Strikeforce and Pride FC play-by-play announcer–and current Showtime Boxing and Smackdown Live voice–Mauro Ranallo:
@CheapSeatsChat He’s a small Heavyweight but I wouldn’t count him out of any fight due to his heart.
Look no further than the previously mentioned Couture or Emelianenko as examples of smaller heavyweights being quite dominant forces in that division. Cormier was well on his way to be the next generation’s version of those men before he chose to leave the division, due to the fact that his close friend Cain Velasquez was already a stalwart at heavyweight in the UFC.
Dominating One Division instead of Fighting in Two
I also posed the question also to Bellator lightweight Josh Thomson. A former Strikeforce champion, UFC veteran, and teammate of Cormier and Velasquez at American Kickboxing Academy:
With Jon Jones’ fighting future still undetermined, the likelihood of him and Cormier matching up in the near future seems unrealistic. And with a lack of must-see match-ups for his light heavyweight title, maybe the best possible future outcome; to harden Cormier’s place as one of the best ever; is to go back to his past. And conquer the best that the heavyweight division has to offer. Leaving no doubt that he is one of the greatest fighters to have ever lived.