Daniel Cormier and the UFC's Light Heavyweight Division: Where Does He Rank?

Clinton BullockFeatured ColumnistJune 20, 2013

Daniel Cormier and the UFC's Light Heavyweight Division: Where Does He Rank?

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    Former Olympian, and now undefeated mixed martial arts fighter, Daniel Cormier staked his claim as a top heavyweight championship contender with his win over former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir at UFC on Fox 7.

    However, even though Cormier is the UFC’s current No. 2 heavyweight contender, and would most likely see a title shot sooner rather than later, the Louisiana native has chosen to relinquish his status as a top heavyweight fighter. As a result of his friendship with Cain Velasquez, Cormier has chosen to drop down to the light heavyweight division, therefore avoiding the possibility of competing for the title against the current heavyweight champion.

Dana's Pitch

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    It is interesting to speculate exactly where the undefeated fighter will fall in the 205-pound rankings once Cormier finally makes his debut. Given the current standing of the UFC’s light heavyweight division, accompanied by Cormier’s MMA accomplishments and flawless record, if he was to enter today, it would be reasonable to believe that the former Olympian would not only sit at the No. 1 contender’s spot, he would also be presented with an instant title shot.

    In speaking with MMAFighting.com, UFC president Dana White all but confirmed the possibility of Cormier being granted an immediate title shot at light heavyweight. He stated:

    He could drop to 205 and get a shot at the title in my opinion, on day one. Look at the guys he's beat at heavyweight. I actually prefer him at 205. This heavyweight division isn't like other heavyweight divisions. And in saying that, he beat Josh Barnett. That's a big deal. I just don't think he has the punching power at heavyweight that he'd have at 205.

    White’s assessment of Cormier’s position among the other light heavyweights is valid and speaks volumes to the current state of the 205-pound division.

The State of the Light Heavyweight Division

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    Given the amount of unavailable top-10 light heavyweights, Cormier’s placing at No. 1 is logical and gives way to an extremely active 205-pound division that is deep with competition:

    *Alexander Gustafsson (No. 2) is scheduled to face the light heavyweight champion Jon Jones later this fall.

    *Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida (No. 1) is locked in with a fight against Phil Davis (No. 8) at UFC 163.

    *Former three-time world champion Dan Henderson (No. 6) just came off a loss to former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans (No. 3) at UFC 161.

    *Former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (No. 7) will face an unranked opponent in Chael Sonnen at UFC on Fox Sports 1 in August of 2013.

    *Gegard Mousasi (No. 9) needs surgery on his knee and his return is not yet known.

    *Ryan Bader does not have an upcoming bout scheduled. However, it would be highly unimaginable to believe that Cormier would face off against a No. 10 opponent and have to work his way to the top of the division.

Fight Possibilities: Rashad Evans and Glover Teixeira

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    Despite White’s push for a Cormier title shot upon entry into the lighter division, the former Strikeforce heavyweight champion rejected this notion and stated that he wished to advance his career by beating a named opponent first. On UFC Tonight, Cormier stated:

    My first fight at 205, I’d like it to not be for the belt, and I would like a very high level guy. I’m thinking about both weight divisions. I’ve been watching the rankings. I want to fight someone that actually advances my career. Big fights is (sic) what I’m interested in, whether it be at heavyweight, whether it be at 205, it doesn’t matter.

    If Cormier wasn’t granted an immediate title shot upon entry to the 205-pound division, he could feasibly face a perennial championship contender in Evans, who just picked up a much-needed win at UFC 161, or the significantly hyped competitor that is Glover Teixeira.

     

    Rashad Evans

    Evans is coming off a lackluster, split-decision win over MMA veteran Dan Henderson. A win over a highly touted Cormier would more than likely grant him a title shot. A matchup of this caliber is, in all probability, what the former light heavyweight champion needs to completely recharge his career.

    For Cormier, a win over a game opponent in Evans would solidify his place among the best of the 205-pound division.

     

    Glover Teixeira

    Despite not having fought nor beaten any one of the UFC’s current top 10 light heavyweight contenders, Teixeira is listed as the No. 3 light heavyweight contender. A win over Cormier would legitimize the Brazilian’s standing and knock off a potential championship contender. A Cormier win over Teixeira would not only put his new division on notice, it would derail Teixeira’s title shot hopes—at least for the moment. 

Daniel Cormier: The UFC’s No. 1 Light Heavyweight Contender

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    As it stands, White is content on granting the former Strikeforce Grand Prix heavyweight champion a title shot upon entering the light heavyweight division.

    Given the former Olympian’s undefeated MMA record, accompanied by his world-class wrestling, the amount of hype that surrounds his very name and the amount of top-10 contenders who are currently unavailable or coming off a loss, it is difficult to disagree with the UFC president’s placing of Cormier as the light heavyweight division’s No. 1 contender.