Rivalries: Daniel Cormier

By: Brian Knapp
May 22, 2020
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No matter what happens between now and when he rides off into the sunset, Daniel Cormier will go into the history books as a transcendent figure in mixed martial arts.

The former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight and heavyweight titleholder used a stellar amateur wrestling career—he was a two-time NJCAA national champion at Colby Community College in Kansas, a onetime NCAA All-American at Oklahoma State University and a two-time Olympic qualifier—to MMA superstardom. Cormier debuted at the age of 30 in 2009, captured the King of the Cage heavyweight championship less than a year later and won the 2011-12 Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix before shifting his focus to the UFC. Since he joined the roster on April 20, 2013, he has compiled an 11-2 record with one no contest across 14 appearances inside the Octagon.

As Cormier awaits marching orders from the UFC, a look at few of the rivalries upon which he has built his hall-of-fame resume:

Jones’ wins over Cormier are tainted due to his history of performance-enhancing drugs. (Photo: Getty Images)

Jon Jones

Cormier talked the talk, but like so many who came before him, he fell short of walking the walk against “Bones.” The incomparable Jones kept his stranglehold on the light heavyweight throne with a resounding unanimous decision against “DC” in the UFC 182 main event on Jan. 3, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. All three judges awarded the champion four of the five rounds, as he exited the cage with 49-46 marks across the board. Jones stifled the two-time Olympian in the clinch, executed multiple takedowns in the championship rounds, piled up points with a variety of standup techniques and weathered several encounters with Cormier uppercuts to record eighth successful title defense. However, the Jackson-Wink MMA representative was later suspended and stripped of the 205-pound championship due to his involvement in a hit-and-run incident. Cormier then defeated Anthony Johnson at UFC 187 to capture the vacant light heavyweight crown.

The Jones-Cormier rematch—originally booked for UFC 200 but delayed when the self-destructive former champion failed a pre-fight drug test—was far more decisive but riddled with controversy.

“Bones” stopped Cormier with a third-round head kick and follow up ground-and-pound to reclaim the undisputed light heavyweight championship in the UFC 214 headliner on July 29, 2017 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Jones brought it to an emphatic close 3:01 into Round 3. Cormier pressured the Rochester, New York, native from the start while moving forward with heavy punching combinations. Jones stayed busy with kicks to the leg, knees to the body and looping punches to the head. In the third round, Cormier ducked into a head kick and shuddered. Jones pursued him across the cage, kicked his legs out from under him and trailed him to the canvas, where he met the American Kickboxing Academy captain with a savage burst of elbow strikes and punches until referee John McCarthy called a halt to the festivities. Less than two months later, the result was changed to a no contest and Jones was once again stripped of his championship after being flagged for performance-enhancing drugs.

Talk of a Jones-Cormier trilogy bout at heavyweight persists, but with “DC” now north of age 40, the likelihood of a third meeting between the days grows fainter by the day.

Cormier and Miocic each have a TKO win in the series. (Photo: Getty Images)

Stipe Miocic

With the light heavyweight title already resting on his mantle, Cormier knocked out Miocic to claim the undisputed heavyweight crown under the UFC 226 marquee on July 7, 2018 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Miocic bowed out 4:33 into Round 1, his historic reign atop the division at an end. The dramatic victory painted Cormier in an entirely new perspective, as he joined Conor McGregor as the only fighters in UFC history at the time to hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously. The Lafayette, Louisiana, native was flawless outside of few eye pokes, one of which left Miocic in visible distress, resulted in a brief pause and prompted referee Marc Goddard to issue a stern warning. Moments later, the two heavyweights tied up in the center of the cage. Cormier connected with a short but vicious right hook on the break, trailed the fallen Miocic to the mat and blasted him with hammerfists until the job was done.

Renewed hunger and a strategic shift brought Miocic back to the throne, as the Strong Style Fight Team cornerstone reclaimed the heavyweight title and did so in exhilarating fashion, as he avenged one of his three career defeats and put away Cormier with punches in the fourth round of the UFC 241 headliner on Aug. 17, 2019 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Miocic drew the curtain 4:09 into Round 4. Cormier built what appeared to be a commanding lead across the first 15-plus minutes. The American Kickboxing Academy captain used his fast hands to string together crisp combinations and pile up points, outlanding the challenger by double-digit margins in the first (71-9), second (59-48) and third rounds (69-40). However, the dynamics of the fight changed dramatically in the fourth, where Miocic turned his attention away from the head and focused on the champion’s midsection. He connected with 14 body blows, many of them left hooks, in a little more than four minutes to set the stage for the finish.

Cormier and Gustafsson engaged in a remarkable war of wills across five grueling rounds. (Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Alexander Gustafsson

Cormier retained the light heavyweight crown with a split decision over Alexander Gustafsson in the UFC 192 main event on Oct. 3, 2015 at the Toyota Center in Houston. Scores were 48-47 (Sal D’Amato) and 49-46 (Kerry Hatley) for Cormier, 48-47 (Derek Cleary) for Gustafsson. The two men engaged in a remarkable war of wills across five grueling rounds. Cormier set the early pace, as he delivered a slam takedown—Gustafsson was vertical at one point, his head pointed toward the mat—in the first round. The Swede answered back, cutting Cormier near his right eye with a left hook in the second before flooring him with a knee strike and follow-up punches in the third. The champion took Gustafsson’s best shots and did not blink. Cormier found the inner strength and resolve to press through fatigue and considerable damage in the fourth and fifth rounds. He sucked Gustafsson into the single collar tie—the site of his greatest success in the fight—and bludgeoned him with right uppercuts to the face while clutching the back of his head with his free hand. By the end of the bout, Gustafsson was suffering from severe swelling to both eyes and a nasty gash across the bridge of his nose, having failed in his second attempt to capture UFC gold. Advertisement
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