It was branded as a tune-up fight for Daniel Cormier. Cormier tuned him up, all right.
Even with news swirling about a title rematch between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson, fans might be forgiven for wondering whether Cormier is Jones' toughest test at light heavyweight after the drubbing he laid on Dan Henderson at UFC 173 Saturday night.
The official and merciful end came when Cormier choked Henderson unconscious with a rear-naked choke at 3:53 of the third and final frame.
No one will consider the 43-year-old Henderson a contender at this point in his career, but it was still striking to watch Cormier throw the former Pride champion around the cage like a chew toy. It was not always electrifying, but it was dominant, with Cormier staying on top and in full control from horn to horn.
Daniel Cormier landed more strikes in the 1st round (25) than Dan Henderson landed the entire fight (12)— Jason Floyd (@Jason_Floyd) May 25, 2014
After the event, UFC president Dana White confirmed that Cormier was indeed next in line for the light heavyweight title shot, assuming Jones and Gustafsson 2 comes to fruition. White also said—understandably, for a promoter—that he did not want Cormier to wait for the title shot:
Dana: Gustafsson earned the rematch with Jon Jones. Cormier is definitely next in line. He doesn’t want him to wait for title shot— Jason Floyd (@Jason_Floyd) May 25, 2014
Cormier took this fight because he didn't want to wait. It will be interesting to see if he makes a similar decision now.
A former Olympic wrestler, Cormier, 35, is now 15-0 in pro MMA, including 4-0 in the UFC Octagon and 2-0 since dropping to light heavyweight.
Henderson, who was noncommittal on his future plans after the fight, has now lost four of his last five contests. His only win came in a rematch with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, another aging lion of the sport whose Pride glory days are well behind him. Though it may be sad to some longtime fans, it appears Henderson is now destined for the UFC's novelty circuit.