Daniel Cormier picked up another clear-cut victory at UFC 166, but now he has a new challenge awaiting him. He will move to light heavyweight in an attempt to challenge Jon Jones, or whomever the champion may be, for the title at a later date.
All signs point to Jones defending the title against Glover Teixeira next. A title fight is seemingly off the table, but there are plenty of other options. And it may work out best for Cormier. A fight before challenging for the title will allow him to acclimate himself to the weight cut first.
So, who is on the table for Cormier to face? In my opinion, there are only three names that UFC should consider:
This fight will not happen. Let's make that perfectly clear. It's in the best interest of the UFC's business practices to align Gustafsson up with a lesser fighter than Cormier. Thus, if and when both he and Jones win their fights they can have the money rematch.
However, in the interest of MMA as a pure sport the UFC should put this fight on. Cormier and Gustafsson are the two best fighters for Jones, and the two most interesting fighters for Jones. One of them should get the next title shot, and to ensure that one of them would fight for the title would be to pit them against one another.
It is an intriguing fight in itself. Cormier and Gustafsson is the fight that should, but won't, happen.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Nogueira was slated to face Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, but a back injury forced him off the card. The two may end up fighting sooner rather than later, but currently it's not booked.
Nogueira would make a fine first 205-pound opponent for Cormier.
Nogueira has some of the best pure boxing in the division, and he is a jiu-jitsu specialist. He poses significant challenges for Cormier. It is a good measuring stick for where Cormier fits in the division. And the added bonus is that Nogueira is ranked. Thus, a win for Cormier would give him a key victory to lay claim to a title shot.
If the UFC wants to give Cormier a good fight, but not a top-tier opponent, this is the fight to make.
If the UFC wants to toss Cormier into a high-profile bout immediately then the obvious choice is Phil Davis.
Davis has won three straight, and he is working his way back into the title discussion. He is currently ranked No. 3 in the division.
This is a strong bout that would test both fighters before they challenge for the title at light heavyweight. It is also a premier contest that could co-main event any card the UFC puts on. Perhaps it could be the co-main event under Jones vs. Teixeira. Just a suggestion.
This is probably the most enticing offer for the UFC in regards to Cormier, but no matter which route they go, Cormier is sitting in a prime position to become a challenger to the crowd in 2014. And a fight with Jones is one we are all chomping at the bit to see.