As far as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) pay-per-view (PPV) events are concerned, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans certainly got their money’s worth with UFC 241, particularly in the last three fights that included Paulo Costa vs. Yoel Romero and Nate Diaz vs. Anthony Pettis, though I would argue that Diaz-Pettis was actually the best fight of the night because it featured a high-level battle both on the feet and on the ground, whereas Costa-Romero was just two musclebound middleweights swinging for the fences.
Maybe Daniel Cormier took a page out of that playbook entering the second round of his heavyweight title defense against Stipe Miocic, which took place last Sat. night (Aug. 17, 2019) inside Honda Center in Anaheim, California. I’m not sure how else to describe the gameplan of “DC’ because the Olympian — at least when it comes time to throw hands — is usually the smartest guy in the room. That’s what made it so troubling to hear his corner remind him of the absolute basics, like “keep your damn hands up.”
To be frank, the Cormier I saw in the UFC 241 main event looked old and tired, which doesn’t come as a surprise after speeding past the 40 year-old finish line. First round was vintage “DC” as he mixed up his wrestling with his striking, held the speed advantage, and carried most of the workload. The came the second stanza and it all started to fall apart. He stopped wrestling, he dropped his hands, and seemed content to paint-by-numbers in his attack.
Miocic, conversely, made the adjustments he needed to make, capitalized on available openings, and beat the shit out of the former light heavyweight champion in the championship rounds. There’s not a lot to say against Miocic, who reclaimed the crown he lost at UFC 226, other than he took was more damage than he needed to, but he does that in every fight, so we can’t really call that a deficiency exclusive to UFC 241. I’m not sure what’s next for him as we head into the fourth quarter of 2019, but I do think it’s time for Cormier to retire.
If you’re one of those fans who likes to say things like “No one can tell a fighter when it’s time to retire” or “you can’t abandon ship after one loss” I will kindly ask you to shut up and go read something else. I don’t write objectively and I will bludgeon you with my bias, which makes me just like everyone else who watches this crazy sport, I just choose to be up front about it.
Cormier should retire because he’s already peaked and there’s really nothing left for him to do at this point besides save face. What options does he have? Pick up a win against a fading heavyweight like Junior dos Santos, then call for a rubber match against Miocic? That extends his career at least another year. Or he could drop back down to light heavyweight to fight Jon Jones, simply because he wants to retire with a win over “Bones.” That might be a tough sell after getting put down at UFC 241 and a Jones do-over just doesn’t interest me at this point.
In addition, we have to pick our Jones’ fights wisely, because he could disappear at any moment. Based on his track record, it’s only a matter of time before he gets drunk, steals a tank, and drives it though the first-floor of an Albuquerque elementary school. I know Jones vs. Miocic was on the table for UFC 218, so it wouldn't surprise me to see UFC try to get something like that going again in the wake of last night’s result. It’s not like there’s much going on at 205 pounds anyway, at least not until Johnny Walker and Dominick Reyes can work their way into title contention.
As for Cormier, his resume speaks for itself. Strikeforce Grand Prix Champion, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, and UFC Heavyweight Champion. A record of 22-2 (1 NC) with 15 finishes, 10 of them by way of knockout. Not bad for a combatant who came in at a height and reach disadvantage for 23 of his 25 professional MMA fights. Cormier was always short and fat, but he was able to compensate for those (cough) “shortcomings” with advantages in speed, power and of course, wrestling. Those advantages were conspicuously absent in rounds two through four at UFC 241 and “DC” looked desperate to finish the fight, almost as if he knew he was feeling old and tired and wanted to get the heck out of Dodge before disaster struck.
Disaster didn’t strike. Miocic did. And while I’m not mad that he won, I do hate that so many fans discredit everything Cormier has done before this loss, simply because they dislike him. That’s the nature of sports, I suppose, something I was guilty of (twice) when the Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Cormier has nothing left to prove. He’s a great fighter, a great role model, and brought dignity and respect to the title. No failed drug tests, no run-ins with the law, no spitting on opponents, but more importantly, he fought the best fighters in the world and made most of them look ordinary. That time appears to have come and gone and with so many available opportunities outside of fighting, there’s really no reason to risk any further head trauma.
Though I can’t help but wonder if Brock Lesnar is sorry he didn’t stick around.