UFC: Is It Even Worth It For Daniel Cormier to Fight Before Facing Brock Lesnar?

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Daniel Cormier UFC
Daniel Cormier Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Daniel Cormier reigns supreme, but while fans are right to be excited about Brock Lesnar, there are a few caveats to be sorted out first.

Daniel Cormier is now a two-division world champion, and he did so by defeating the best heavyweight of the last decade.  He has defended the light-heavyweight title three times and appears to have his sights set on remaining in the land of giants for the foreseeable future.  But while the UFC is excited to have a new two-division champion who is intent on staying active, the future is not clear for the new heavyweight king.

We’ve now spent the last several months being promoted a “SUPERFIGHT.”  How do you top that?  The return of WWE mega-star Brock Lesnar is certainly an option.  Every sport aims for the next event to be bigger and better than the last.  Whether the confrontation between Lesnar and D.C. was planned or not doesn’t matter.  Lesnar’s appearance in the cage following the main event at UFC 226 served it’s purpose in exciting the fans for what would come next.

But before the dates can be set, there is red tape to be cleared.  Brock Lesnar is currently serving a suspension stemming from a USADA violation at UFC 200 in 2016.  Lesnar re-entered the testing pool little more than a week ago, and a return to action can’t happen until January.  At the time of his violation, the lay-off didn’t affect Lesnar.  He went straight back to the WWE where continues to get paid handsomely.  However, rumors of a return began to circulate earlier this year and UFC President Dana White had mentioned the idea of Lesnar possibly facing the UFC 226 winner.

Is such a fight worth the wait?  The UFC undoubtedly believes so.  The fight loses its value should Cormier lose the heavyweight belt which makes potential fights with Alexander Volkov or Curtis Blaydes highly unlikely.  Thus, the best option is to defend the light-heavyweight title.  Currently, the top ranked fighters in the division are Alexander Gustafsson and Volkan Oezdemir, who are scheduled to meet at UFC 227 next month.  However, Cormier has already defeated both men during his title run. The champion mentioned Gustafsson as a potential opponent as he waits for Lesnar, which would make the most sense considering he defeated Oezdemir only months ago and the Swiss striker has not been back in the cage since.

If the rematch with Gustafsson does not come to pass, then a new opponent could be in the cards.  Cormier also mentioned Mauricio “Shogun” Rua recently.  In the last few years, Rua has quietly accumulated three consecutive victories that currently stands as the longest active win-streak in the division. That would usually put him in a title shot by the process of elimination.  However, Rua’s 1-4 skid in 2012 has many doubting that the Brazilian can offer anything competitive against a champion as dominant as Cormier.  It is no secret that
“Shogun” has struggled with injuries and been inactive, fighting only once per year since 2015.  Most pressing, Rua is already locked into a bout with explosive stand-out Anthony Smith next week at UFC Hamburg.

Another option is Glover Teixeira, a former UFC title challenger who has campaigned for a bout with Cormier.  Teixeira famously went on a 20 fight win-streak, including five in the UFC, before facing Jon Jones for the title in 2014.  Since then, he has put up a respectable 5-2 mark.  However, stoppage losses to Anthony Johnson and Gustafsson dramatically halted the momentum he had built up leading up to both bouts.  Teixeira will be in action in Hamburg as well against a short-notice replacement in Corey Anderson.

Cormier is holding to his self-imposed deadline of retiring before he turns 40 next March.  If that holds true, then the question may be whether it is worth the risk to his legacy to take a fight before Lesnar.  Any bout at this stage is high-risk and low-reward at light-heavyweight in terms of raising his stock.  What it could well mean is Cormier electing to simply wait at the end of the day and ride off into the sunset with a final payday against Lesnar.

After making history, could anything that happens next really be unexpected?

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