UFC champions Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic faced similar tasks this past Saturday at UFC 220.
In front of light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier stood Volkan Oezdemir. The 28-year-old kickboxer nicknamed “No Time” for his lack of patience and regard for his opponents. Between Miocic and heavyweight history, stood Francis Ngannou, backed by the UFC hype machine and a certificate proclaiming him to be the hardest puncher in the world.
Cormier made it look easy against Oezdemir, bullying the challenger with superior wrestling and top control en route to a second round stoppage. He never once appeared to be in trouble, even during the initial opening minutes, where Oezdemir was at his most dangerous.
Miocic was unable to completely avoid the power punches of Ngannou, but he remained conscious as the Cameroonian’s hands returned to his side, allowing him to return fire. After the five-minute mark, Miocic’s cardio and wrestling took over, allowing him to dominate the challenger and pick up a unanimous decision victory.
With his third straight title defense at heavyweight, many have proclaimed Stipe Miocic as the greatest heavyweight in history. If not for Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier would undoubtedly be the greatest light heavyweight of all-time.
Miocic’s place at the top is questionable, through no fault of his own. He’s beaten everyone put in front of him, including former champions. He’s the only man to defend the UFC heavyweight title three times, which speaks to his ability and the historical chaos of the division.
The historical chaos is why some are bullish on calling Miocic the heavyweight GOAT. Victories over Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos, and now Francis Ngannou all come with their own detractions. “Too old, weak chinned, too beat up, not quite ready” are all excuses used to take away from Miocic’s accomplishments.
There’s also the myth of Cain Velasquez. Many believe that he’s the most talented heavyweight of all-time, but injuries have stopped him from dominating the division the way Miocic currently is. Until Miocic faces, and defeats, Velasquez, he may never get his proper due.
For Cormier, there is no escaping the shadow that Jones casts. While Jones’ legacy may forever be tarnished due to multiple drug test failures and suspensions that cost him the prime of his career, nothing can change what happened in the cage between the two men. Jones holds two visual victories over Cormier, one coming via a brutal stoppage that turned the AKA standout into a Twitter meme.
No one questions Cormier’s place in MMA history, but his status can change only so much unless he defeats Jones or does something that Jones has yet to do.
Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier need to fight each other for their own legacies.
Moving up to heavyweight, where he’s never lost, and capturing the title would put Cormier in a class with only four other fighters. Cormier can’t go any higher on the all-time light heavyweight list. But a victory over Miocic moves him up the all-time pound-for-pound list.
A victory over Cormier would mean more for Miocic than a victory over Velasquez. First, there’s no guarantee that the former heavyweight champion fights again. Second, even if he does, the criticism can already be heard. “Miocic beat a broken down Velasquez, who was overrated in the first place.”
Even at 38-years-old, Cormier is not slowing down. Any questions about his mental fortitude following the KO loss to Jones were answered at UFC 220. The only criticism Miocic could face following a victory over Cormier would be that he defeated “a light heavyweight.” Given Cormier’s history as a heavyweight fighter and his overall skill level, that criticism would be quickly laughed off.
UFC president Dana White has already stated that a clash between champions is something he’s interested in. After he gets finished with his beer and football, Miocic will likely have no issue accepting the bout. The ball firmly in Cormier’s court when it comes to this fight happening. He doesn’t want to stand in the way of his friend, but with his career winding down, maybe it’s time Cormier got a little selfish.