The winding road that led us to Daniel Cormier vs. Anderson Silva at UFC 200.
Everything seemed oddly familiar. It was as if we just picked right back up at the schoolyard. In a self-inflicted mind wipe, we forgot the leviathan rap sheet Jon Jones had stacked against himself and even booed Daniel Cormier every time he reminded us. Unlike Cormier, the fans shattered their moral compasses long ago. They just wanted to see the People's Light Heavyweight champion spinning elbow another skull in a steel cage. We all did.
Jones chuckled on FOX Sports Live's Jay and Dan, painting a picture of him swimming in the mansion pool he claimed he owned in Cormier's head. Joe Rogan sat between both men and mediated a discussion that would be quoted in the media and at the water cooler the next day. We followed that same, familiar media circus right up until the stare down. Jones and Cormier stood in front of each other, each with a big gold belt and both spitting off at the mouth. "Shut the fuck up", demands Jones.
The MMA gods fooled us into getting hyped again as we ran the whole damn thing back. Those same gods that Jones defies time and time again. After the face-off, déjà vu was the only thing that elbowed something into oblivion. Jones popped and would be pulled from UFC 200, and we realized this time nothing was the same.
Absolute pandemonium erupted. MMA's Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart rivalry was ruined, and not by a Montreal screw job; This a Jon Jones screw job. It is at this point that we wish that Kimbo Slice was still alive and well to speak to Jones about the duality of the enemy and the inner me. While fans sat slack-jawed on Twitter, other fighters didn't pause to try and understand the fluctuation of fate.
A list began to form that sounds like the most incredible fantasy grand prix you could ever build: Michael Bisping, Yoel Romero, Roy Nelson, Gegard Mousasi, Alexander Gustafsson and more screamed their name down the hall of chance. Hell, even Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone threw his proverbial, ten-gallon hat into the Octagon. Each fighter entering the running seemed more unlikely than the next, but no one could have ever predicted that at the end of this labyrinth of chaos would rest a giant "spider".
Only in an unpredictable sport like MMA, does an absolutely bonkers pick like Anderson Silva seem to be right at home. Cormier couldn't have summed it up better by saying he went from one "greatest of all time" candidate to another. It's actually a bout that almost seems perfect nestled right next to warring Heavyweights, Mark Hunt and Brock Lesnar. A division that Cormier was, at one point, ranked number two in the world. A win over a legend like Silva would surely be a highlight in a career that spans weights and intimidating victories.
Jon Jones left a void at UFC 200 that the brave and crafty (perhaps crazy) Silva was happy to fill. However, the greater chasm that has opened is the divisional hole in which deemed Cormier a placeholder. That label is no more. Some people may say, "to be the man, you have to beat the man", but a potential two year ban on Jones and Cormier's near perfect record says otherwise. This is Cormier's division now, and nothing will be the same.
Artwork by Justin Golightly