By Michael James
The Tribe Sports
In truth, there really is no shame in being beaten in a fight, for there has never been born a single human being who cannot be defeated by another. But there is also a reason for the old saying, “You have to beat the champion to BE the champion.”
Among the takeaways from Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier II at the Ultimate Fighting Championship 214, this lesson was paramount as the true light-heavyweight title was returned to its rightful owner in devastating fashion. The end of the charade of Daniel Cormier as champion began in the third round with a disorienting head kick and ended with a rain of increasingly vicious blows which were mercifully ended by referee John McCarthy, who allowed the fight to go on long enough to make clear the outcome was certain.
Through a probable concussion and a flood of tears, it was Cormier himself who admitted what many suspected all along: that he was merely a tough and talented fighter who was simply a pretender to the throne. Today, and for all time, history will record his reign as interim, made possible only because Jon Jones has made a habit of defeating himself outside the Octagon.
For a while, though, Cormier made the unlikely seem possible, going toe-to-toe with Jones, fueled by determination and hope. For a few fleeting moments, he made believers of doubters. He made us think his destruction of Rumble Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson made him truly worthy of holding onto the belt that Jones relinquished only through a self-inflicted suspension.
Those victories cannot be stricken from Cormier’s record, but now the truth is known. Obviously, it was a bitter pill for Cormier to swallow as he had truly convinced himself that things would be different from his first meeting with Jones at UFC 182 on January 3, 2015 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Things were different, only not the way Cormier envisioned.
Even in defeat, though, Daniel Cormier deserves a lot of credit, and, hopefully, when the pain of this loss subsides, he will accept his fate and never again resort to the kind of trash talk and bluster that followed his first loss to Jones. The decision in UFC 214 was emphatic and final. Jones is – far and away – the greatest light-heavyweight the UFC has ever seen.
Even before the third-round TKO, it seemed that while Cormier had shown all the tricks available in his arsenal, Jones was holding something back. That something, after a plethora of body and leg kicks, it seems, was a high head kick. When he finally unleashed it and connected, there was no doubt as to what was to come.
The only real surprise of the night – other than the respect the fighters showed each other by willingly touching gloves (which I predicted they would) – was the respect Jones showed Cormier afterward.
“I want to take this time to thank ‘DC’ for being my greatest rival and motivator,” Jones said. “He has no reason to hang his head. He is a model champion, and I aspire to be more like that man. He’s an amazing human being. I know we were opponents, but outside of that, he is a true champion for the rest of his life.”
For his part, Cormier, who admitted he had no idea what happened in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, closed the door on the ridiculous talk of a rivalry that never really was.
“If (Jones) wins both times,” Cormier said, “I guess there is no rivalry.”
For all the harsh exchanges between the two over the past several years, truer words were never spoken.
With the victory, Jones improved to 23-1 and has won 14 straight fights. Cormier fell to 19-2 with his only two losses coming to his hated rival.
Jones proving the adage that one has to beat the champion to be the champion was foremost in my mind when Miesha Tate and Cormier held titles and simultaneously trash-talked their sidelined greatest rivals. It felt as though neither had truly earned the right to talk so tough despite having the hardware.
Tate, after being soundly beaten several times by Ronda Rousey, held the crown briefly by virtue of a late submission win over Holly Holm, who shocked the world with a head kick that ended Rousey’s reign of terror and removed her nickname of “baddest woman on the planet.”
Cormier owned Jones’ belt by virtue of defeating Anthony Johnson on May 23, 2015, at UFC 187 for the vacant title UFC president Dana White had stripped from Jones.
Though both were talented fighters, neither Tate nor Cormier earned their crowns the old-fashioned way – by beating the opponent considered the true champion.
None of this is to say that Daniel Cormier, or Tate, for that matter, don’t have championship hearts. They are both dedicated, tough and accomplished warriors who deserve respect for what they accomplished in and outside of the ring. However, there was a legitimacy problem with the UFC having “champions” who didn’t earn the belt by taking it away from the person seen as their greatest challenge.
The UFC now has another title-holder controversy on its hands with the crowning of Cris “Cyborg” Justino as featherweight champion after her third round TKO over Tonya Evinger at UFC 214.
Although having a belt and being accepted by the UFC makes Cyborg and her fans happy, the accomplishment feels hollow. Essentially, this was a division created for a woman who is known as a long-time steroid cheat, who tried to talk her way into the bantamweight division in order to fight Ronda Rousey when she was the belle of the UFC ball.
Dana White essentially created a division for Cyborg where she does not even have a No. 1 contender. In fact, she doesn’t even have a competitor, although former bantamweight champion Holly Holm seems interested.
For a champion to be legitimate in the UFC and pretty much all sports, there’s only one way to do it. It’s not by fighting for interim belts that have been stripped from others for bad behavior. It’s not by creating new divisions to accommodate chemically enhanced cyborgs who likely can’t make weight for established divisions because of years of steroid use and abuse.
There is one way to become the champ. If you are at all still confused about how it’s done, you just might want to ask Jon Jones.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.thetribesports.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/mjtribe.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Michael James has spent more than 20 years in sports journalism as a general assignment reporter with the Detroit News, an NBA beat writer for the New York Daily News and as head writer for ESPN’s Quite Frankly With Stephen A. Smith.[/author_info] [/author]