History repeated itself at UFC 210 in Buffalo, NY when the UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier defended his title in a rematch with Anthony Johnson, winning via submission in a very similar fashion to the original fight. The result and the aftermath of an event that will probably become known for the NYSAC’s incompetence during the Weidman/Mousasi fight provided an indication of what could be next for Cormier.
Anthony Johnson was an intriguing comeback story, released from the UFC in 2012 after missing weight multiple times at 170 lbs, only to return to the promotion two years later at the much heather light heavyweight limit to emerge as a contender. Aside from the pair of losses in title fights, “Rumble” racked up wins over Gustafsson, Nogueira, Bader, Manuwa, and others during his second tenure in the organization. Regardless of the result of UFC 210, you must give credit to Johnson for the accomplishments after he moved up to 205 lbs.
Again, similar to the first bout, “Rumble” clipped the champion with strikes early in the fight, appearing to cause a broken nose, but DC survived the flurry before ultimately using his Olympic-level grappling skills to lead to the submission in the second round.
Post-fight, the challenger emotionally announced his retirement, revealing that he took another job outside of mixed martial arts. He implied that the decision was made prior to the bout, but I would guess that if he would’ve won the belt, he wouldn’t pass up the money to be made defending it. It’s possible that the 33-year-old simply decided that if he couldn’t reach the level of champion that it was time for him to pursue other career options.
Jimi Manuwa, a competitor with a record of 17-2 was conveniently in attendance, and during an interview with Joe Rogan, the champion addressed Manuwa directly, seemingly to plant the seeds for a possible title fight. Jon Jones, the troubled former champion of the division, was shown on camera, but DC dismissed him, citing Jones’ inability to fight because he is still suspended for a PED violation until July.
This is where the “Jon Jones effect” so to speak determines the direction the division.
DC lost the contest when he challenged Jones for the title in January of 2015. Following that bout, it was announced that “Bones” Jones failed an out-of-competition test when he tested positive for cocaine. Just a few months later, he was involved in the infamous hit-and-run incident that led to the UFC stripping him of the championship. DC defeated Anthony Johnson in their previously mentioned initial fight in May of 2015 to claim the vacant belt. “Bones” returned to the cage victorious in April of last year, claiming an intern title, but showed signs of ring rust from the extensive time away from the octagon. Just as the rematch of DC/Jones to unify the division was set to take place at UFC 200, Jones tested positive for PEDs and the match-up was cancelled. Jones was subsequently suspended for a year.
Essentially, there’s a perception that DC isn’t the “real” champion of the division because he won the belt without beating Jones and lost their previous bout. However, that view-point is completely incorrect. You can’t blame Cormier or question his status because Jon Jones can’t conduct himself as a professional. The bottom line is, Jones took himself out of the game with the laundry list of dumb mistakes so he really shouldn’t be in the conversation until he can fight again.
But, Manuwa isn’t exactly prime opposition, as he defeated lesser competition in the UFC, while he lost to the upper tier of the division when he fought Johnson and Gustaffson. Did Manuwa really earn a title shot with wins over Corey Anderson and Ovince St. Preux? Furthermore, is Manuwa vs. DC a contest that people will pay to see? It can be disappointing from a purist prospective, but as I said before, the UFC is as much of a business, if not more so as it is a sport.
As much as Jon Jones doesn’t deserve to be immediately booked into the main event, that’s what the general public will pay to see because of the grudge with DC so that’s probably what will happen. But, I wouldn’t automatically assume that Jones reclaims the title if/when he steps into the octagon again. The ring rust was apparent when he fought OSP, and there’s no direct way to gauge his true status as a fighter until he proves he can compete on a more regular basis. Have the mistakes outside of the cage affected him as an athlete? Are his days as a top-level competitor past him?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve said it many times, Jon Jones is a tremendous athlete that had the potential to be a legend in the sport. But, he became a case of wasted talent and until otherwise is proven, I wouldn’t expect some major turn around in his career. Jones should be setting records in MMA, not sitting on the sidelines AGAIN.
That being said, the cloud of “Bones” will surround the division as long as Cormier is champion until there’s a DC/Jones fight. The former champion’s mistakes led to a very scrambled 205 weight class. Cormier is 38-years-old so you have to wonder how many more years will he continue to fight? That translates to the grudge match being booked as soon as possible since WME isn’t going to leave that money on the table. If/when these two clash again remains to be seen, but assuming Jones doesn’t cost himself even more opportunities, business dictates that it will happen. As undeserving as Jon Jones might be, the most money to be made for everyone involved would be a title shot when he returns to the octagon. This entire scenario emphasizes that business usually dictates the direction of the sport, and you can’t necessarily blame UFC brass for attempting to generate the most revenue possible, especially after the price tag of the UFC sale last year.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta
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