At UFC 230 last weekend, "DC" completely dominated Derrick Lewis for a little over seven minutes, taking the massive Texan down repeatedly and offering him no opportunities to bring his fearsome knockout power into play, before throttling Lewis with a rear-naked choke. With his stated plan to retire by his 40th birthday next March, Cormier is likely to face only one more challenger before calling it a career. The front-runner for that honor is former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champ and longtime World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Brock Lesnar, in a blockbuster matchup that appears to be more of a severance package for Cormier than a legitimate challenge to his title reign.
Whatever the outcome of that fight, it is extremely likely that the UFC will have to hold a championship fight to fill a vacant throne sometime next year. Of course, that's hardly a new thing for the UFC heavyweight title -- in fact, it's already happened five times.
Founded in 1997, the UFC’s heavyweight division spent a solid decade in a state of near-constant turmoil. There were three different champions in the first year. Multiple champs abandoning the title to fight elsewhere. Two champions -- Josh Barnett and Tim Sylvia -- lost their belts in the lab rather than the Octagon. The UFC’s heavyweight title was also a clear second fiddle to its Pride Fighting Championships counterpart for most of that first decade. With the 2007 absorption of Pride and, a few years later, the acquisition of Strikeforce -- including Cormier, incidentally, fresh from winning the heavyweight grand prix -- the UFC’s heavyweight division eventually gained the preeminent status it still enjoys. Today, the fighter wearing UFC heavyweight gold can lay a claim to “baddest man on the planet” status that is hard to dispute.
Here is a graphic representation of the 21-year history of the UFC undisputed heavyweight title and the times it was won, lost or defended. Interim title fights are omitted with the exception of Andrei Arlovski-Tim Sylvia 1, since the winner of that fight ended up inheriting the undisputed title without a unification bout. From 6-foot-10 giants to 5-foot-9 monsters, from larger-than-life pro wrestlers to humble firefighters, from drug scandals to grisly injuries in and out of the cage, the picture tells a story as strange and amazing as the sport itself.
You can embed this infographic. Copy and paste the code below into your site: