In the final part of our buildup to tomorrow night’s UFC 226 headliner, we bring things up to the present day as Daniel Cormier establishes himself as the champion of the 205lb division.
When we left things with Daniel Cormier back in Part II, he had just been on the receiving end of his first loss as a mixed martial artist. You learn a lot about yourself in defeat and for DC, his first moment of failure in his career as a pro was one that allowed his talent to truly bloom in the years that followed.
His role as the villain in his dynamic with Jon Jones has been explored in detail before, but after tasting defeat on the biggest stage of his career – a more refined and mature Cormier emerged.
We all know Jones’ side of the story. His problems with the law saw him stripped of the title he had truly dominated in the years before then and relegated to the role of an onlooker to the 205lb title picture. With his great rival Cormier set to face Anthony Johnson for the vacant belt at UFC 187 – a new era was soon to be ushered in for the division.
Johnson was and is perhaps the most-feared knockout artist in the history of the sport. A former welterweight who gradually ballooned to become a frankly massive light-heavyweight, ‘Rumble’ was seen as perhaps the greatest threat to the long-running reign of Jones before his eventual stripping.
DC went in there that night and stole away that shine in emphatic fashion – breaking his opponent mentally before getting him out of there with a rear-naked choke. It was the first step Daniel took in the boots previously occupied by his sworn enemy and all things considered, he passed his test with flying colours.
And from there, Cormier went on a road in which he entered his peak as a fighter. He fought and beat Alexander Gustafsson, a man who had given Jon the toughest fight of his career and then defeated both Anderson Silva and Anthony Johnson (again).
None of these victories were incredibly dominant – barring the Silva fight – but in a way, it did seem as though DC was preparing himself for the inevitable rematch with Jon Jones down the line. In Gustafsson, he fought and beat a man who resembled Jones’ frame and in Johnson, he took out the most dangerous puncher in the game, a man who was danger incarnate – and he beat him twice.
When UFC 214’s second offering in their legendary rivalry came about, there were no doubts over how much Cormier had improved. The questions that surrounded Jones, however, were plentiful.
The fight was an absolutely riveting one.
Cormier was well and truly fighting the fight of his life for the first two rounds. Pressuring Jones and testing to see exactly how his time off had affected him, despite his impressive start, it was the volume of Jon that stood as the deciding factor in this fight.
In the third-round – with DC still piling on the pressure but noticeably slowing down – Jones cracked him with a beautiful head-kick before TKO’ing the champ with a vicious barrage of ground-and-pound strikes.
The lows DC was feeling after this loss no doubt overshadowed those that came with his first defeat to the same man but again, as they do – things had a way of becoming blurry as far as the newly-crowned champ’s career was concerned.
Stripped of his title for a second time, Jon Jones has since faded back to the sidelines and Cormier – after being reinstated as champion – defended his belt for the third time against Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220. It wasn’t an overly competitive contest but Daniel was able to prove his mettle and ability to persevere and in his reaction to winning, you could see exactly how much it meant to him.
Tomorrow night, the 205lb champion will attempt to make history by ruling over the two most historically prestigious weight-classes simultaneously. In Stipe Miocic, he will face off against perhaps the toughest task of his career but if he does, in fact, prove successful, no one will ever be able to deny him again.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena
Tomorrow, our series will conclude with a look at the most recent years in the career of the heavyweight champion, Stipe Miocic – bringing us up to date as we edge closer to Saturday’s eagerly anticipated super-fight.
Each edition of this series will be linked below as they are published.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena