In February of 2014 Daniel Cormier decided to drop down into the light heavyweight division in order to avoid an inevitable showdown with his good friend and training partner, Cain Velasquez. After Rashad Evans dropped out of the UFC 170 bout last second, Cormier made his debut by smashing Patrick Cummins in under a round. While a short notice win over a local barista was not exactly something to get the historians scribbling, that win did spark what would eventually become one of the best runs in the history of the UFC light heavyweight division.
Many people don’t think about his run in such a way, but consider the resume. After running through Cummings, Cormier finished three of his five victories by submission. He threw Dan Henderson around wildly until he latched onto his back and choked him unconscious. Then on not one, but two occasions he submitted the heavy-handed Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. This run of submissions was only matched by one other UFC light heavyweight champion in history; you guessed it, Jon Jones. To go along with his finishing power, he also picked up decision victories over top 205lbs contender Alexander Gustafsson and all-time great Anderson Silva. All of this, thanks to his level of activity, was completed in just over three years.
However, his two losses to Jon Jones have the MMA world questioning the future of Daniel Cormier. Essentially, he’s fallen into Joseph Benavidez territory; he’s most unquestionably the second best fighter in the division. He’s proven that with performance after performance. Still, nobody is, or will be for some time for that matter, clamoring to see him get a third shot against the champ. Their first fight was a clear cut decision, and if there was any question left to answer about the match-up, Jones did so with a nasty head kick this past weekend. So now the pundits sit around contemplating Cormier’s retirement or try to force his hand into a new division. In the end, it’s Cormier’s decision to make, but the right move career wise is to change the division.
Let’s talk about why it makes sense for Cormier to change divisions. First of all, he was dominant at heavyweight; a fact that many people forget due to the fact that he is often the smaller man at light heavyweight. Before he dropped down, he took down one of the best grapplers in the heavyweight division, Josh Barnett, at will en route to a near clean sweep of the judges’ scorecards and a Strikeforce grand prix title. He also holds five (T)KO victories at heavyweight to go along with his perfect 13-0 record.
If his success isn’t enough of a reason why he could move back up, how about the fact that the heavyweight division is in dire need of new challengers. The rumored fight for champion Stipe Miocic is Cain Velasquez, whom Cormier abandoned the division to avoid. However, in the time that Cormier has been out of the division, his good friend has only fought twice and is 1-1 with a win over the slumping Travis Browne. I would argue that Cormier’s resume in that time is grounds for a title shot before Cain. Additionally, the only unbooked fighter with a claim to the top is Alistair Overeem. At the very most, Cormier would be one fight away from a title shot and possibly two away from becoming the UFC’s fourth two division champion.
WHY HE WON’T
The reason why Cormier won’t move back to heavyweight is the same reason why he should. A trilogy fight with Jon Jones is a longshot by all account; if you asked Cormier, he would likely admit things would have to fall into place incredibly in order for it to happen. Perhaps a Jones loss to Gustafsson and a Cormier rematch with the Swede would set up one more go at the young gun. It instead has to do with that emotion that we all saw on Saturday. That emotion was not just the disappointment of losing his belt. It wasn’t even some realization that his title reign and run at 205 was not as impressive as he thought it was. Instead it was the feeling of falling further away from redeeming the only blemish you’ve ever had on your record.
Daniel Cormier is perhaps one of the greatest competitors the sport of MMA has ever seen. He’s driven to be the best, which is why he was an Olympian and why he needed to find an outlet like MMA after wrestling. He need to be the best and won’t stop until he is or someone forces him to. I believe that chasing Jones until the end of his career will give him far more drive and excitement than walking into the shallow waters of heavyweight and throwing people around. And that, above all of these other accomplishments and accolades, is why you have to respect a man like Daniel Cormier.