There's a Reckoning Coming for Daniel Cormier

Matthew Ryder@@matthewjryderFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2017

Dana White, center, stands between Daniel Cormier, left, and Jon Jones during a UFC 200 mixed martial arts news conference, Wednesday, July 6, 2016, in Las Vegas. Cormier and Jones are scheduled to fight in a light heavyweight championship fight at UFC 200 on Saturday. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher/Associated Press

Imagine being great.

Imagine being a conqueror, one who has stood atop every mountain he ever tried to scale. One people respect and fear in equal, healthy measures.

Imagine being showered in attention, praise and riches for it, and lapping those things up to the tune of money and championship belts.

Imagine how it would feel to be genuinely, undeniably great like that.

Now imagine that it was all contingent on one thing: Daddy ain't home.

If you've got all the imagination required to walk yourself through the steps above, you've got the imagination required to relate to UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier.

Cormier is the sitting titleholder of what was once the promotion's marquee division, a former heavyweight who has defended his belt twice, beaten all-time great Anderson Silva during his reign and left little doubt that he's the best active 205-pounder around at the moment.

Key word being "active."

Jon Jones, Cormier's chief nemesis, sits inactive, the subject of one of the most incredible self-sabotages in the history of sports, much less MMA. Before that sabotage, Jones was on an upward trajectory unlike any ever seen in the business.

He debuted in the UFC at age 20 and was the youngest champion in history by his sixth fight in the promotion.

He defended that title eight times in four years, closing in on Silva's record for title defenses before his 28th birthday—a remarkable accomplishment considering the hoopla surrounding Demetrious Johnson matching Silva last weekend, given how far Jones got in fewer fights and at a younger age.

He also convincingly beat Cormier—both in the cage and the alley—as his final defense before his career was derailed, handing the former Olympian a demoralizing drubbing that was never particularly in doubt.

But due to his demons, Jones was sidelined and Cormier took his spot only a few months after that loss. It didn't come easy for him, as he had to defuse the bomb of Anthony Johnson on short notice (which he had to do once again for his second title defense), but he has remained something of a placeholder without Jones in fold.

People know he's the second-best guy, and they know he needs to prove otherwise to be fully accepted as champion. In that regard his reckoning is very much on the way as the UFC is targeting Jones-Cormier II for UFC 214according to Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting.

Win and his reign will be legitimized, his own demons related to his feud with Jones and lone career loss exorcized. He'll also score the inevitable payday of a trilogy fight, probably immediately.

Lose and the doubters and naysayers will be louder than ever, criticizing him as a paper champion who was simply keeping Jones' seat warm atop the division he cleaned out from 2011 onwards.

There'll likely be shots fired about Cormier enjoying that paper championship a little more than he should have as well, which has been a big part of his being booed while Jones has worked out his issues.

The facts are what they are: Jones is a longstanding champion who has rarely been tested, including by Cormier. Cormier won his title only insomuch as Jones lost it to himself. Cormier earned his title without beating Jones, but he has defended that title admirably. Jones is coming back for it, and there's not much reason to think he can't get it.

Of course, Cormier can add to that story by beating Jones and showing the world he's the one true king to emerge from the past two years of divisional flux.

It's the greatest reckoning of his, and perhaps anyone's, career to this point, and it will define his legacy forever. 

Imagine that as the stakes for greatness.

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder!

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