mma / Columns

Cormier vs. Lesnar: It’s Still Real to Them

July 10, 2018 | Posted by Evan Zivin
Daniel Cormier Brock Lesnar

It looks like Wrestlemania season is starting early for the UFC…

First off, Daniel Cormier is a beast, but that really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone (especially Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou…).

The idea of the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion challenging for the UFC Heavyweight Championship in the ever elusive “Superfight” seemed like a somewhat absurd proposition when it was announced back in January, mainly because the situation didn’t come together because of two dominant champions needing a new challenge after systematically cleaning out their divisions over a period years a la Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva. It came together because of two champions running out of people to fight and a promoter desperate for a big main event to promote because of a consistent failure to promote new stars.

I don’t know how well that narrative was laid out to casual fans (or if they even knew there was a fight on Saturday night) but it was enough for the rest of us to want to know what would happen when Stipe Miocic, the man who became the most successful champion in heavyweight history by defending the title a whopping THREE consecutive times, tested his mettle against Cormier, the best light heavyweight fighter of all time if you forget the losses to Jon Jones, whose only defeats are to cocaine, Turinabol, and 12 to 6 elbows.

For Cormier, though, there was a bit more to the story beyond “Champion vs. Champion,” since DC began his MMA career as a heavyweight and, after going 2-0 as one in the UFC, left the division on a cliffhanger so he wouldn’t get in the way of then champion and teammate Cain Velasquez.

Cain, of course, went on to become the greatest champion of all time, not a man who can’t get through a training camp without needing surgery or neglecting the lack of oxygen in Mexico City.

Cormier left the heavyweight division without suffering a loss and without knowing how far he could have gone in the division. That all changed last Saturday when, in the main event of UFC 226, he got to find out when he not only defeated Miocic, he knocked him out in the first round. Very few people pegged Cormier capable of beating Miocic, let alone doing it without smothering him in wrestling for 25 minutes but DC is one of the smartest fighters in the UFC, timing a right hand off a clinch break perfectly to drop the now former champion, allowing DC to make history by becoming the second fighter to hold two UFC belts simultaneously.

I wonder how hard it was for BJ Penn watch that happen.

Also, does anybody remember Brandon Vera and how, when he first came to the UFC, he said he would become both the heavyweight and light heavyweight champion? Or is my age showing?

There are plenty of opinions out there about Cormier and the legitimacy of his light heavyweight title reign but it’s hard to not be happy for what he accomplished on Saturday night. Sure, he may not have been in the position to succeed like this if Jones had managed to not sabotage his own career but what happened happened and now Cormier can boast about something that even Bones can’t.

Cormier really gets the last laugh here because not only was he able to do something that Jones hasn’t, he also got to steal away the big money main event that Jones wanted.

Jones ended his title victory over Cormier at UFC 214, the one that was eventually overturned due to a drug test violation, by calling out Brock Lesnar. Cormier ended his title victory over Miocic, which shouldn’t be overturned so long as USADA doesn’t name the gravy Popeye’s puts on their mashed potatoes as a performance enhancer, at UFC 226 by getting physically shoved by Brock Lesnar.

The ending to the Payperview has been controversial to say the least. The pure fight enthusiasts detested the cheesiness of the obviously staged confrontation. The “sports entertainment” fans were intrigued by seeing their “champion” finally emerge after months of inactivity and tired storylines being written about the fact he’s not around.

Personally, I was impressed that, even when UFC tried doing a pro wrestling angle, it still came across better than anything Bellator has ever done in that same vein.

Sorry Stephan…

The only response that the UFC cares about, of course, is the reaction from the casual fans, which appears to be positive as, for as much buzz as there should have been for the UFC 226 main event, the hive pretty much exploded at the thought of Brock Lesnar returning to challenge for the UFC Heavyweight Championship.

This is all despite the fact that Lesnar is probably the least deserving fighter to vie for a championship since…well, since he got to fight Randy Couture back in 2008.

We all know how that turned out, though, so it doesn’t make the challenge as farfetched. I mean, UFC has given title shots to fighters who didn’t win their last fight (Brock didn’t lose to Mark Hunt at UFC 200 but it was overturned to a no contest). UFC has given title shots to fighters coming off of drug suspensions.

If this is different, it’s for the fact that UFC has just given a title shot to a fighter who hasn’t had an official win in 8 years, who failed a drug test before his last fight, and who can’t even be confirmed for a return date yet because he still has time on his suspension to fill and we don’t know when that’s going to be completed.

The initial reports said UFC wanted Brock to fight in the main event of their show at Madison Square Garden on November 3rd but that seems unlikely if Brock still has 6 months to serve on his suspension, as he received a year suspension stemming from the failed drug test taken back in 2016 but only half the suspension was served before Brock took himself out of the USADA testing pool, which froze the suspension, meaning the remainder needs to be served before he can compete again.

For Brock to be able to fight this year, that means that either he’s been back in the drug testing pool and USADA has failed to make that public knowledge, which seems pretty shady and would be a blow to an entity that has been dealing with integrity issues since they first partnered with the UFC, or the UFC is going to use the fact that they can do whatever they want with their drug testing policy to allow Brock to return sooner, such as how they allowed Brock to skip the rule requiring returning fighters to be in the testing pool for 4 months before competing again so he could fight at UFC 200, and we all know how well that turned out…

Methinks UFC will be smart and adhere to the policy this time around, which means the colossal showdown between the WWE Universal Champion and the UFC Champ Champ likely won’t go down until early 2019. Still, when it does go down, there’s no question it is going to do massive business, especially if DC and Brock can keep the shenanigans from Saturday night going, which I don’t think should be a problem.

The only challenge to building a fight between the former and current champion will be trying to present any hatred or animosity between the two as genuine, which was already a struggle on Saturday, as anyone who was in on the act, including Dana White, was grinning like a kid on the last day of school at the thought of all the money this fight is going to make.

Actually, the only notable interaction between Brock and Cormier prior to Saturday that I can recall was Brock telling Cormier on Twitter “You’re welcome” for increasing his paycheck by getting added to the UFC 200 card.

There is at least a history between the two that can be manipulated to serve the means of the story, as the former college wrestlers competed at the same meets and, while I don’t know if anyone ever questioned how the two would match up since they were in different weight classes, the question can certainly be posed now, which Cormier started doing even before he turned off Stipe’s lights.

Plus, while Cormier has never competed in pro wrestling, he is a long time fan. He was even in attendance at Wrestlemania 31, the night that Brock lost the WWE Championship after Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase and pinned Roman Reigns (it makes sense if you watch this crap on a regular basis…well, maybe). If anyone currently in the UFC is capable of going after the WWE star in the ring or on the microphone, it’s Daniel Cormier.

Even if the build continues on the same cheesy path it started on Saturday night, at least it will end in a real fight. It will be a fight that everyone will assume Cormier should win handily but it’s still going to be a fight, one that plenty of people are going to be interested in seeing, or at least that’s what the UFC is banking on.

Plus, for as unbelievable as the matchup may be, even in the era of “CM Punk: UFC Payperview Star,” Brock vs. Cormier is still a much more compelling matchup than seeing Brock vs. Reigns again.

Seriously, WWE may as well just sign Cormier and set up the fight to be for both the UFC and WWE belts. That will give them a reason to be relevant once fans finally stop caring that Ronda Rousey is there. Or at least get MMA sites to stop writing stories about her. Maybe it’s still real to them after all…

Evan Zivin has been writing for 411 MMA since May of 2013. Evan loves the sport, and likes to takes a lightheart