Our six-part look at the careers of both Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier continues as the former-Olympian DC finds himself under the bright lights of the UFC.
‘Daniel Cormier: Part I’ can be read here
When Daniel Cormier made his UFC debut after the dissolution of his old hunting ground Strikeforce, the promotion that he joined was very different to the one we are living through right now.
Cain Velasquez was the heavyweight king at the time, running through each and every challenger to his throne with a skillset that redefined what people believed to be true about the limitations of pace and cardio for a man that big. At 205lbs, a younger Jon Jones was slowly but surely cleaning out the division – solidifying his argument for pound-for-pound number-one status beyond any doubt.
DC entered the promotion with some considerable hype, for sure. He wasn’t supposed to emerge victorious in the Strikeforce heavyweight grand-prix and yet, facing the larger men he managed to completely excel, dominating fighters who boasted advantages in weight as vast as 25-30lbs.
Fighting the former champ Frank Mir in your debut is a pretty big ask – but it was a challenge that Cormier took to with apparent ease. Besting him on the feet and beating him up in the clinch, there was an apparent gulf in quality between the two – regardless of the fact that the more natural light-heavyweight came in 20lbs lighter than him.
The combos were flowing, the grind was embraced and above all else, he just seemed to tie everything together seamlessly.
It was as complete a performance as he had given up until that point and after that, Roy Nelson offered little in the way of resistance. ‘Big Country’ just couldn’t deal with Cormier and like so many before and after him – he too succumbed to the pace and pressure of the future champion.
The interesting thing about the Nelson fight was that DC weighed in 20lbs lighter for that matchup – almost in an attempt to set up a move to light-heavyweight.
With his friend and long-time training partner Cain Velasquez in possession of the heavyweight crown, the move to 205lbs seemed like a natural fit. It’s not like he wasn’t successful in the heavier division – but framewise he definitely found himself in a more fitting home when he switched.
A first-round KO against Patrick Cummins in his debut was followed by a fight that amounted to an absolute mauling of the legendary PRIDE champion Dan Henderson – a win that earned him a shot at the man who would come to define a large part of his career.
When DC met Jon Jones, you didn’t need to feel the palpable tension to realise how special a connection this was. You didn’t need to see them throwing punches at their public faceoff to know that there was a very unique dynamic in play between these two guys and when UFC 182 came around, many were genuinely on the fence on their pick to win.
Jones, of course, had been on an absolute tear. He dismantled several of the greatest fighters to ever do it like it was absolutely nothing to him but in Cormier, you had something new – something very dangerous. A fighter who had proven his ability to deal with discrepancies in reach and height and one who – like Jones himself – had yet to be fully challenged.
Both unbeaten (practically, in the case of Jones), they finally met at UFC 182.
The resulting contest was a very important lesson for Daniel Cormier and a strong indicator to all of us of how good Jon Jones actually is. There are levels to this sport and while DC proved that he was a level above – Jones was able to make the difference in quality known.
It was DC’s first defeat in MMA and one that he tasted at the hands of his biggest rival. Something would need to change.
Cormier’s first UFC title shot ended in defeat but from there he was able to take advantage of an opening and slowly carve out a legacy for himself as a champion within the UFC.
Next Tuesday will see our attention turn back to the rising force that was Stipe Miocic as he bounced back from defeat to make his run at the UFC title. Then on Thursday, our look at the career of Daniel Cormier will conclude as the dynamic between himself and his greatest rival becomes increasingly complex.
Each edition of this series will be linked below as they are published.
Daniel Cormier – Part I
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena