What a Loss to Roy Nelson Will Mean to Daniel Cormier
Let’s take stock of Daniel Cormier’s short but highly accomplished career as a mixed martial artist.
Five years ago, with a frustrated attempt at Olympic wrestling behind him, he took his first steps into the sport and began his meteoric rise to become the No. 3 heavyweight in the world.
In that time, he would walk through every opponent put in front of him, capturing the highly competitive and much-hyped Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix title before entering the UFC as a highly touted prospect.
Of course, he already had the base of an accomplished athlete behind him, carrying the skills of a wrestler which have so often fast-tracked potential mixed martial artists to the top of the sport. So while his achievements in MMA in just 12 undefeated fights have caught the imagination, the foundation for that success was laid long before he set foot inside the cage.
What’s more, he isn’t the first athlete to have reached the top of the game in such a short space of time. Jon Jones, for example, was the UFC’s light heavyweight champion in just 14 fights. Cain Velasquez, Cormier’s training partner at AKA, was heavyweight champion in just nine fights.
Both those men sit at the top of the sport with only one career loss behind them. Cormier has none.
That fact, added to his as yet flawless record, makes this a no-lose situation for him. Like some of his contemporaries, one loss in a 12-fight winning streak will do little to dent his cachet—especially against such a dangerous and heavy-handed opponent like “Big Country.”
It’s true that in his last fight against Frank Mir, a match he won convincingly by decision, his performance was far from electric, and already the knives were out to denigrate him as a lesser talent than many thought.
But Mir, ranked sixth among the UFC’s heavyweights, is still a tough challenge—as is seventh-ranked Nelson.
And, considering that his sights are set on dropping down to 205 pounds, there’s little he has to gain by stamping his authority on the heavyweight decision in his last fight there.
Instead, a tantalising match between Cormier and Jones in the division below is already in the cards. The personal animosity between the two has been steadily growing and UFC president Dana White has shown his support for the contest.
Should Cormier lose against Nelson, then it’s possible that he won’t be parachuted into a 205-pound title shot against Jones as he is expected to. The light heavyweight champion may have all but cleared out the division (and he himself is facing a tough opponent in Alexander Gustafsson later in the year), but there is still Glover Teixeira waiting in the wings for his shot.
Teixeira is getting ready to face Ryan Bader in September, and it’s conceivable that should he win convincingly, and should Cormier lose, then the Brazilian could leapfrog into the contender’s spot.
However, it wouldn’t be unprecedented to see Cormier given the nod even coming off a loss. Recall Chael Sonnen’s instant title shot at 205 pounds after his loss to Anderson Silva in the middleweight division.
But even if he does have to wait and prove himself at light heavyweight before being lined up for a title fight, it won’t take more than one fight in the division to see him rushed through to a championship contest.
Realistically, Cormier has everything to play for and not much to lose.
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