If you think Daniel Cormier’s heavyweight title defense against Derrick Lewis on Saturday is a foregone conclusion, you’re not the only one. Every major oddsmaker has the champion as the favorite for this weekend’s UFC 230 headliner. Odds for a DC win range from -700 to -800 and don’t forget this is when he’s about a face a man tied for the most knockouts in UFC heavyweight history with 10. Still, analyze Cormier’s pound-for-pound credentials and you’ll see why everyone is backing him.
DC became the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet in July when he stunned Stipe Miocic in a round to add the heavyweight title to his light-heavyweight crown. It took him to 6-1 NC in his last seven bouts and was one of the biggest upsets in UFC heavyweight history, especially when you consider Cormier hadn’t fought in the division since 2013. Factor in Demetrious Johnson’s flyweight title loss to Henry Cejudo in August and the inactivity of featherweight king Max Holloway, and Cormier sits alone at the top of the rankings. So, ahead of UFC 230, let’s cement Cormier’s argument for standing at number one.
First, his form is better than any other male UFC belt-holder. Since May 2015, he’s won six title contests, more than any other male in the UFC. Johnson and welterweight Tyron Woodley are his closest pursuers with five, while Miocic has four. What’s more, DC is smashing through his adversaries, decking Miocic with a close-range elbow and mauling Volkan Oezdemir on the ground in round two in January. He also leads finishes in title fights since April 2017 with three. His followers? Johnson, Holloway, and bantamweight TJ Dillashaw with two.
A former Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix champion, Cormier also has longevity in his favor. He made his debut in 2009 and 14 months later, he upended future UFC standout Sol Palalei before stopping Antonio Silva and outscoring Josh Barnett in 2011. It’s worth noting that both of the latter were larger and more experienced than Cormier, too.
Later, in 2015, the 39-year-old stood at 15-0 and 4-0 in the UFC before Jon Jones shattered his undefeated ledger, and aside from a second reverse to Jones in 2017 (overturned to a no contest when “Bones” tested positive for Turinabol), that remains Cormier’s only blotch on his record.
His knack for staying at the top, evidenced by his latest figures of 21-1-1 NC, also helped him become only the second man to hold two UFC titles at once, and the fifth man to win two separate UFC belts. All that considered, Daniel holds a longer period of dominance than any active fighter other than perhaps stablemate and lightweight champion, the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Form and longevity aside, the American has only opposed the best –that strengthens his place at the top spot. He counts a litany of former Pride, Strikeforce, and UFC champions among his victims such as –wait for it– Barnett, Dan Henderson, Frank Mir, Anderson Silva, and Miocic. Quite the roll call, then.
It has to be said, Cormier’s ascent to pound-for-pound greatness is the biggest selling point for Saturday’s main event at Madison Square Garden. He has never lost when starting as the favorite and added to that, Lewis only competed last month at UFC 229, battling through three rounds of hell before stunning Alexander Volkov in the dying seconds. Conventional wisdom favors Cormier, then, and the mixed martial arts world will be eager to see whether or not he can hold off the likes of Johnson and Holloway and remain at number one.
This article first appeared on The Runner Sports. Read more Alistair Hendrie's coverage for the site here