Daniel Cormier has earned his time in the spotlight, and he’s milking it for all it’s worth.
The UFC light heavyweight champion was coy and playful, dishing out barbs, and just generally being an amped-up version of himself following his UFC 210 main event victory over Anthony Johnson, one in which he overcame an apparent broken nose as if it was no bigger deal than the sniffles.
But while DC deserves this moment to bask and gloat, there’s also no doubt that a light heavyweight division that already wasn’t exactly the UFC’s deepest class in the first place just got a whole lot less so in the wake of Saturday night’s festivities at Buffalo’s KeyBank Center.
Johnson, for his part, responded to just his second loss in his past 14 fights by abruptly retiring from the sport. I suspect I’m not alone in suspecting that by about 2019, we’ll be writing about the Return of Rumble, but for now, this is a big blow to the division at a time it could least afford it.
The champion is 38 years old. He’s been through wars both as an undersized heavyweight and a light heavyweight. He looked like death warmed over at the weigh-ins on Friday, where he needed an assist from Towelie to make weight, and his body looks like it doesn’t want to force itself down to 205 much longer. Cormier’s a world-class competitor, but time is not on his side.
Beyond that? Alexander Gustafsson is still trying to regain his mojo. Glover Teixeira and Ovince Saint Preux had their biggest chances come and go. Misha Cirkunov is intriguing, but still a prospect. And don’t Ryan Bader and Phil Davis all of a sudden seem like they may have been worth spending a few extra bucks on?
Which brings us back, as it always does, to Jones, the guy who’s always lingered while Cormier has run around with the belt. Cormier claims he doesn’t need a rematch with Jones, who handed him his only career defeat in 2015, to feel whole.
“If I were done today, I would be completely fine with everything that I have accomplished, Cormier said. “I don't feel like I should let this young man have so much control over me and my legacy. He beat me, so what he won a fight. I would love to fight him again and beat him, but if I don’t fight him, especially for something that I cannot control, I’ll be fine.”
Maybe that’s why Cormier tried a little too hard to start a pro wrestling-style beef with Jimi Manuwa, the closest thing to a freshest face and sellable fight the division has while Jones is on the sidelines. After all, if he can’t get us to believe he and Jimi Manuwa hate each other, what are his other options?
UFC 210 Quotes
“I don’t make the rules. It was legal and I felt he didn’t want to continue. I think everyone saw that. He didn’t want to continue. How is that my fault? I don’t give a f*ck, I won.” -- Mousasi’s counter.
“The toughest fight I can possibly think of was always with myself. That’s just what it is. That’s everybody’s fight. You always battle yourself and not the opponent.” -- Johnson, who inexplicably played Cormier’s wrestling game.
“You sit over there pot with your Cialis or whatever it’s called, and you throw it at the kettle, so sit over there pot in detention, Cialis boy.” -- Cormier to Jon Jones.
Up: Daniel Cormier. Cormier is not the sport’s most under-appreciated champion — not when flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson was consigned to FS1 more than four years into his title reign. But beyond that, yeah, Cormier has yet to get his due credit for one of the sport’s most remarkable runs. This space was the first to call Cormier one of the all-time greats, and since, his legacy has only grown. With 20 fights under his belt, Cormier has run through a who’s who of the best at two different weight classes, including a slew of former world champions. In his first career rematch, against Johnson, Cormier went out and finished one of the sport’s most dangerous fighters faster than he did the first time. And while he has that one loss to Jones, Cormier’s not the one who didn’t make it to the post at UFC 200; Jones was. I’ll say it again: Daniel Cormier is one of the greatest fighters in the history of mixed martial arts.
Hold: Gegard Mousasi and Chris Weidman. If you’re looking for my thoughts the fight-ending fiasco, head down to the “Interesting Calls” section. This is more about the fallout of the stoppage. Mousasi and Weidman were having a tremendous, back-and-forth matchup that lived up to its advanced billing when Mousasi threw the pair of knees that caused everything to blow up. It was just reaching the stage in which you wished the fight was five rounds instead of three. There are obstacles getting in the way of a rematch. Mousasi’s UFC contract is up, and even if he does come back on board, its understandable that he wants to move on after leaving Buffalo with a victory. But the stench of the finish is too strong, and there’s still a logjam at the top of the division with champion Michael Bisping set to fight Georges St-Pierre instead of an actual middleweight contender. Mousasi’s first inclination in the cage, to offer Weidman a rematch “no problem,” was the correct one.
Up: Cynthia Calvillo White went a little overboard in his praise of the Team Alpha Male standout at the post-fight press conference, comparing the first time he saw the strawweight to the first time he saw Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor. But it’s also not hard to see why White wants to get that hype train rolling. Calvillo made it two submission wins in as many PPV cards with her third finish of a tough-as-nails Pearl Gonzalez. It’s too soon to rush Calvillo into the deep end of the strawweight division, but it’s just as clear we’ve got a competitor with real potential on our hands, one deserving of the slow, step-by-step star build.
Up: Myles Jury It’s hard to believe the still fresh-faced Jury has been around long enough that you can look at one of his fights and think “that’s the old Myles Jury,” but there you have it. Fighting for the first time since late 2015, Jury mauled Mike De La Torre to earn his first win at featherweight and his first overall since 2014. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee the fighter who started off his career 15-0 will go on another tear, but it’s the first time he’s looked like himself in awhile, and that’s as solid a re-start point as any.
Up: Patrick Cummins Hey, look: Cummins is never going to be the UFC light heavyweight champion. His defense is the MMA equivalent of the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. But Cummins, one of the sport’s most easy-to-like people, is a throwback fighter in the best of senses — that wrestler who is just too damn tough for his own good. Sometimes it means he loses fights he should win, and sometimes it means he wills his way to victory when he should have been finished, like he did last night against Jan Blachowicz. As much as the sport of mixed martial arts has evolved, I hope it never evolves to the point we don’t appreciate a fighter like Cummins, who gets the most he can out of an average skill set, strong cardio, and endless heart.
It would be easy to peg the Chris Weidman-Gegard Mousasi fiasco on the hapless New York State Athletic Commission. They’ve done more than their share to earn the criticism flung their way, even if White, knowing how much money the states brings in, has been muted about it, comparing it the earliest days of the Unified Rules era.
But this one comes down to referee Dan Miragliotta, a veteran out of New Jersey, which has one of the most well-respected commissions in the country. Miragliotta ruled that the second of two knees thrown by Mousasi was illegal. Here’s where things get tricky.
I’m not going to criticize Miragliotta’s initial ruling, because, guess what? It took us all several replay viewings, along with Joe Rogan screaming like a six-year-old who just had way too much sugar, to make it clear one of Weidman’s hands came off the mat before Mousasi’s knee hit, which makes it legal under the newly instituted ruleset. Miragliotta had to make the split-second judgment in the moment.
From here, New York’s rules don’t allow for replay evidence to come into play. Miragliotta changed his ruling midstream, and the bedlam which played out in the interim demonstrated why a referee needs to stick with their call in this situation.
Maybe you think every state in country should have replay. That’s an entire reasonable position to take. I’ll likewise not argue if you feel some sort of karmic justice was done to Weidman for playing the “hands down” game. But referees need to follow the guideline they have, not the ones we wished they had. Miragliotta didn’t follow protocol, and as such, Weidman has clear-cut grounds to have the decision overturned.
Fight I’d like to see next: Mousasi-Weidman 2
I mean, I suppose I should stump for Cormier vs. Jon Jones, here. But, Jones isn’t yet reinstated. White, at least for now, is saying that he’s not going to headline a fight card with Jones right away. And Cormier-Jones has actually been delivered about a quarter of the times it’s been pushed. So I’m not going to get excited about that one until we actually see them both in the Octagon with Bruce Buffer announcing their names.
So with that out of the way, the only thing that really screams “must make” is Weidman vs. Mousasi, for all the reasons I’ve already gotten into. It’s not like Mousasi is getting a title shot next anyway, so why not clear things up once and for all?
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