Freelance: Daniel Cormier and the Top 5 UFC Light Heavyweights
The UFC’s light heavyweight division appears to be in trouble. Every man or woman across all of the organization’s divisions should want to be considered must-see television. Unfortunately, this division just isn’t that (at least across the board.) A few of the key bouts are examined below. Don’t forget to share your thoughts!
Champion: Daniel Cormier
Whether Cormier wants to admit it or not, Jon Jones is going to continue to haunt him. Until Cormier vs. Jones 2 actually happens, he won’t be viewed by many as the best man at 205 pounds—just the best there is right now. This bout needs to happen because if it does not, “DC” will always be viewed as the guy that took ownership of the belt because “Bones” couldn’t stay out of legal trouble.
Jones is nearing the end of concurrent year-long suspensions from both the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC.) He also infamously broke the arm of a pregnant woman in a hit-and-run incident while in New Mexico, has a noted bad history with alcohol and multiple DUIs, and has previously tested positive for cocaine metabolites.
As an athlete though, first time that he defeated Cormier, the current champion was brought to tears as Jones out-struck him (126 of 215 landed for Jones, 92 of 178 significant strikes were landed. Cormier went 78/191 overall and landed 58 of 165 significant strikes.) He then out wrestled the Olympian as Cormier went 1 for 8 in the takedown department (12 percent) compared with his adversary 3 of 5 (60 percent) per FightMetric, LLC.
Add in the verbal exchanges that usually see Jones coming out on top with this embarrassing performance, and you can see why some still feel like Cormier has yet to really claim his throne.
UFC President Dana White said this about the potential rematch to ESPN.com on April 18:
“Cormier is available to fight on July 8, but that time-frame doesn’t work for Jon Jones,” White said. “Cormier already told me he’s willing to fight either Jones or (Jimi) Manuwa. If Jon Jones is ready to fight (by UFC 214) on July 29, we’ll see the Jones versus Cormier rematch finally.”
#1 Alexander Gustafsson vs. #2 Glover Teixeira
These two entries are grouped together as Gustafsson and Teixeira are presently booked to fight each other at UFC Fight Night 109 in Gustafsson’s native Sweden on May 28. Unfortunately, “The Mauler” and Teixeira appear to be the silent contenders that no one is talking about.
The Brazilian in this equation was taken out via TKO in just 13 seconds to snap a streak of three wins by stoppage. Teixeira is now fighting to stay relevant as Cormier submitted Johnson with a rear-naked choke in just the second of a potential five rounds at the recent UFC 210 pay-per-view event. This contender is should be viewed as “on the bubble.”
Meanwhile, Gustaffson’s current status as the #1 contender to Cormier is honestly perplexing as he had just one fight in 2016 (his first and a win since his loss to “DC” in their title fight at UFC 192 the year before.)
While the Swede never planned on retiring, he admitted in 2016 to having trouble finding motivation to continue on with the sport. Perhaps the fact that he is still in the thick of things in his division (despite the fact that his last victory came against #13 Jan Blachowicz) will be motivation enough. Aside from Cormier, he has expressed interest in a rematch with the former king in Jones.
3. Jimi Manuwa
Twitter is a beautiful thing! Through the advent of social media and a nearly flawless run in the UFC’s octagon, 37-year-old Jimi “Poster Boy” Manuwa has made himself the most viable option for Cormier outside of Jones despite Gustaffson outranking him (his only two losses in the UFC are to Johnson and Gustaffson.)
Manuwa might be higher up the card if it weren’t for those defeats and that’s why he’s still another name on the come-up. All of his victories in the UFC have been through KO/TKOs, but two of those after his debut were due to back-to-back leg injuries to opponents Cyrille Diabaté and the late Ryan Jimmo.
Manuwa’s present situation provides further proof that the louder noise that’s made on a UFC microphone (or over Twitter) the more executives are going to pay attention. See the full exchange of tweets here.
Dana White summarized the result of the spat in the previously-mentioned ESPN.com interview, saying:
"Jimi wants Cormier," White said. "They got into it at UFC 210 and Jimi told me he's never been talked to like that before. We'll see how this plays out."
4. Mauricio Rua
“Shogun” being anywhere need the upper part of this division may seem like an anomaly, but the 35-year-old former Pride FC champion has won three straight bouts. Most recently, he knockout Chris Weidman’s teammate, 15-8 Gian Villante through strikes. It was Rua’s 20th KO/TKO.
Although fighters are responsible for earning their rank, that hasn’t always been the case (money fights.) Maybe an aging veteran chasing a title for one last time will also make a good enough narrative for the UFC promotional teams as well after one or two more finishes.
5. Volkan Oezdemir
This Swiss-born prospect is a new name in the Top 5, having just come in from Bellator and a series of smaller promotions. He may not be the bottom of the totem pole in the division, but he definitely is when it comes to the world title. It just means he has work to do.
Oezdemir will now have the opportunity to truly test himself against the best fighters in the world (his lone Bellator appearance is the only blemish on his 13-1 record, a submission defeat.) “Cousin” brings with him a list of ten stoppage victories (nine KO/TKOs and one tap-out to make up 77 percent of his wins) with three wins from scoring.
Oezdemir debuted in the UFC back in February, topping former title challenger Ovince St. Preux by way of a split decision.