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UFC 192 Aftermath: Time to consider Daniel Cormier an all-time great

Esther Lin photo

HOUSTON -- Imagine, for a moment, that someone told you about the credentials of a particular fighter without telling you his name.

This fighter didn't even get started in mixed martial arts until he was in his 30s. He came in with an Olympic wrestling background.

Less than three years into his career, he won the greatest heavyweight tournament put together in the sport in nearly a decade.

After going 13-0 at heavyweight, he dropped a weight class and became a champion.

This fighter now stands at 17-1, with his only loss coming at the hands of the perhaps the greatest fighter in the history of the sport, in a bout whose outcome was in doubt heading into the championship rounds.

You'd probably call this fighter one of the greatest of all-time, right?

We are, of course, talking about UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, who improved to 17-1 with his riveting victory over Alexander Gustafsson in the main event of UFC 192 at Toyota Center.

Cormier's resume through 18 fights is as impressive as any fighter already considered among the young sport's all-time best. Even Georges St-Pierre dropped two of his first 18. Anderson Silva was 15-3. Randy Couture had dropped six fights by that point; B.J. Penn was 13-4-1.

All those guys are considered legends, Hall of Famers, the greatest of the sport.

Cormier's wins stack up with the best of them: Stepping into the Strikeforce Grand Prix tourney as an alternate and winning; bullying the likes of Frank Mir and Roy Nelson; throwing around Dan Henderson; handing Anthony Johnson his only loss since coming up to 205.

But he's also never stumbled the way the others have. There are no Matt Serra- or Ryo Chonan-type losses on his resume, no expected coronations derailed with draws against Caol Uno.

Just a loss to Jon Jones, a man who has never been legitimately defeated.

Maybe Cormier doesn't get the credit he deserves because he's not afraid to unleash his opinions. Most likely it's just the dumb luck of being stuck in the same weight class at the same time as the world's best fighter is in his prime.

Either way, Cormier was correct earlier this week when he said he's being judged on a different standard than others. What Daniel Cormier has achieved in this sport, in six years, all in his 30s, is nothing short of remarkable, and it's time to start recognizing him as one of the best the sport has ever seen.

UFC 192 quotes

"I feel pretty beat up. This is the worst that I've ever been beat. Gustafsson is a stud, man. He's a good fighter." -- Cormier

"You showed some heart tonight, DC." -- Jon Jones in an Instagram post he soon thereafter deleted.

"Obviously, I want a title shot. We've got Jon Jones back in the picture, so I'm going to control the things that I can control and that's the fight in front of me; that's Rashad. We'll see what happens." Ryan Bader, after running his win streak to five

"Why not look too far ahead? I did not get into this sport to be at the bottom roster. I got into this sport to let the world know that ‘m the toughest 135-pound female fighter in the world. I'm 6-0, Ronda's 6-0; I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility, so I'm looking to be in a title shot. Jessica Eye, after her loss to Miesha Tate, if she would have won, she would have been next in line for a title shot, so why not me?" -- Julianna Pena, using a bit of funny math (counting her TUF wins as official victories) to ask for a fight with Ronda Rousey.

"I'm ready right now. If I could fight two fights on this night, I would right now." -- Sage Northcutt, after his 57-second win over Francisco Trevino.

Stock report

Up: Ryan Bader. It's time to declare the old Ryan Bader dead and buried and hail the new fighter who has taken his place. Old Bader seemed to have all the tools, but would get overly excited, forget his game plan, and do things like charge right at Lyoto Machida. New Bader seems to operate a zen-like state: Not only willing to accept that Jon Jones is ahead of him in the pecking order and he's going to have to potentially wait awhile for a title shot, but also with a newfound ability to stay patient and execute his game plan to the letter. Bader was one step ahead of Rashad Evans at every turn last night, picking him apart with a nasty jab. When a desperate Evans tried swinging for the fences with his big right hands, Bader stayed cool and sealed the win. That's the difference between Old Bader and New Bader.

Down: Rashad Evans. If the former UFC light heavyweight champion chose to walk away from MMA after his loss to Bader, he could do so with his head held high after a distinguished career. He's not getting any younger. He was out for nearly two years, and in his absence, a group of killers emerged. It's hard to picture the 36-year-old Evans competing against Jones, Cormier, Gustafsson, or Anthony Johnson. There's little doubt a true gamer like Evans will attribute the loss to ring rust and will want another fight. And he's earned the right, if that's what he wants. But Evans has nothing left to prove in the sport.

Up: Sage Northcutt A few years down the road, when Northcutt is angrily tweeting "You jerks in the media are all liars," we'll look back fondly on when he was young and innocent, smiling and referring to everyone as "sir" and "Mr. Rogan" or "Mr. Dean." In the meantime, Northcutt's debut week on the big stage was like something out of a promoter's wildest fantasies. Now, let's not kid ourselves: If you power ranked the entire UFC roster, Francisco Trevino could very well come in dead last. But there's absolutely no denying Northcutt's blazing speed, power for someone his size, and pure, raw striking talent. The kid's going to have to be brought along slowly, but last night sure looked like the start of a fun ride.

Down: Johny Hendricks. Sure, my wiseass side wants to crack that the way the UFC does business, Hendricks will probably be awarded a title shot next time out. But in reality, this week's weight-cut fiasco has been a long time coming. Hendricks, by his own admission, has gotten as high as 218 between fights. He's been cutting weight since his wrestling days. His already had a couple close calls. Eventually, his body was going to rebel. Hendricks isn't getting any younger, either, so it's not going to get any easier. Ideally, fighters will look at the success "Rumble" Johnson has found at light heavyweight, and even the early returns on John Lineker's move up to bantamweight, and conclude that cutting down to the absolute lowest weight class your body can conceivably get to isn't the smartest move in the long run.

Up: Alexander Gustafsson Guess what? It turns out you can be known for losses and still be one of the sport's true elites, after all. Gustafsson has shown the heart of a warrior in two absolutely epic title fights against two of the greatest fighters of his generation and twice come up just short. No, he didn't quite win the brass ring, but Gustafsson never backs down from a challenge and leaves it all in the cage, and when it gets right down to it, that's all we really ask out of fighters.

Interesting calls

From cageside, Jessica Eye's knee to Julianna Pena's head in the second round of their fight didn't look particularly deduction-worthy. Those watching on TV seemed of a different opinion. For what it's worth, veteran ref John McCarthy tweeted that he would not have deducted a point. Regardless what you thought of the infraction, Pena and Eye should not have been restarted in the standup, but should have been returned to their original position. The entire situation was a cluster and it falls on referee Frank Collazo to get thing right.

Francisco Trevino doesn't belong in the UFC based on his output in the cage or lack thereof, but putting his hands on referee Herb Dean after the stoppage should seal his fate either way.

Finally, the UFC should do right by Tyron Woodley. This is a guy who has done everything that's been asked of him and handles his business correct, including going through with his weigh-in and earning his show money after Hendricks dropped out. If Woodley isn't going to get the next shot at the welterweight title held by Robbie Lawler (which could come down to how long Woodley has to wait, as he hasn't fought since January), then hopefully the UFC at least took care of him financially after having the fight pulled out form under him.

Fight I want to see next: Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier 2

I mean, there really can't be any other, can there? Cormier has only upped his stock since Jones has been away, handing Johnson his only loss since his move to light heavyweight and engaging Gustafsson in a similar firefight to the one Gustafsson and Jones had in 2013. We don't yet know when Jones will be cleared to return and Cormier looked pretty banged up Saturday night, but realistically, there's Jones, there's Cormier, then there's everyone else in the division.

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