Daniel Cormier could be playing mind games by complaining about Roy Nelson’s beard prior to their UFC 166 clash, but it may be fans who are left wondering what to think if “DC” picks up the victory.

Cormier brings a 12-0 professional MMA record with him to the Octagon as he faces former The Ultimate Fighter winner “Big Country.” Cormier also has an amateur wrestling background that is more packed than a grilled stuff burrito from Taco Bell. Yet, despite this laundry list of accomplishments, Cormier still finds his position in the MMA rankings in a state of flux. The American Kickboxing Academy fighter (and coach) has discussed moving to light heavyweight in the past, but still hasn’t successfully made the cut down. However, he has also done an excellent job of taking out a number of top-ranked guys in the heavyweight division.

It started with Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. Bigfoot’s stock may be on the decline right now in the UFC, but when Cormier faced the Brazilian under the Strikeforce banner, Silva was expected to easily handle his much smaller adversary. Silva had won three consecutive bouts prior to facing Cormier, with one of those wins coming over former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski and another via nasty TKO stoppage against MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko. Cormier made quick work of the Brazilian, though, by knocking him out inside the first round. However, it wouldn’t be until Cormier’s fight with Josh Barnett, also under the Strikeforce banner, that fans would truly see how talented of a fighter Cormier is.

Barnett, a longtime MMA veteran and former UFC heavyweight champ, was one of the favorites to win the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix since the bracket was drawn up. Cormier, meanwhile, fought as an alternate until an opportunity presented itself for him to actually enter the tournament. Barnett and Cormier sport excellent grappling games along with decent stand-up skills, but it was Cormier who used the platform to demonstrate the improvement in his striking game. The fight was one-sided from bell to bell in favor of “DC,” who even scored a huge slam late in the fight.

In his UFC debut, Cormier faced another former UFC heavyweight champ in Frank Mir. The former champion was expected to present some problems for Cormier. After all, Mir had a good—Joe Rogan would say very underrated—striking game to go along with a dangerous submission game. None of that would matter, though. Cormier implemented a perfect game plan against Mir and took home the one-sided, albeit lacking in entertainment, decision win.

If Cormier can defeat Nelson at UFC 166, that will make it three, possibly four, wins against top-10 opponents in the heavyweight division. No other title hopeful in the heavyweight (or light heavyweight) division can match that resume. If Cormier stays in the heavyweight division, there’s really no argument against Cormier receiving a crack at the championship. Now, whether he would accept it if Cain Velasquez is still champion would be another story.

The real argument against Cormier receiving a title shot comes when the discussion moves to “DC” dropping down to the 205-pound division.

UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones isn’t sipping the Cormier kool-aid.

“To be honest with you, I don’t think Daniel Cormier really deserves a big fight,” Jones said. “I don’t respect him as a person. I think fighting me would be an opportunity of a lifetime for him. I don’t think I have much to gain from beating Daniel Cormier because no one knows who he is, and he hasn’t really proved much.”

It’s pretty shocking to hear Jones say that when his upcoming (at the time) opponent, Alexander Gustafsson, had only one win over a top-10 opponent, an over-the-hill Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Furthermore, Jones’ next title challenger, Glover Teixeira, is receiving a title shot after his two biggest wins were against a pair of fighters—Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Ryan Bader—that were clearly out of the title picture. Rampage didn’t even want to be in the UFC anymore, and even though Bader has struggled to get past gatekeeper status, he came very close to finishing Teixeira in their fight.

Outside of Gustafsson, there isn’t anyone more deserving of a fight with Jones than Cormier. He’s defeated a number of top-ranked guys and has the amateur wrestling credentials to rival that of anyone in the UFC. He has also shown that he has no issues with talking to the media, which would help generate pay-per-view buys.

As long as Cormier can successfully make the cut to 205 pounds—which is far from a certainty in the eyes of many—I don’t believe fans will be complaining if Cormier receives an immediate title shot. After all, we’ve seen a number of guys get a crack at UFC gold for doing far less than what Cormier has done.

Photo: Daniel Cormier (Ester Lin/MMAFighting)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.