The UFC’s Greatest Of All-Time Discussion Is Complicated Between Daniel Cormier And Jon Jones

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Daniel Cormier is undoubtedly one of the greatest fighters to ever step inside the Octagon. He solidified his case as a top-five all-timer Saturday night when he dispatched Derrick Lewis easily, taking his back in the second round and submitting the 265-pound challenger to retain the heavyweight title.

Cormier landed a whopping 42 of 54 strikes through two rounds. He controlled the ground and overwhelmed Lewis on his feet. Cormier’s unique mixture of supreme wrestling ability and power behind his punches made the normally aggressive Lewis tentative, willing to engage in tossing hands from a distance as he landed only five of 14 punches thrown.

He made history Saturday night, becoming the first fighter in UFC history to successfully defend two titles. That’s something some of the greats couldn’t do. Not Georges St. Pierre. Not BJ Penn, or Randy Couture. Not even Conor McGregor. If a winning record and making UFC history were the only parameters for naming the greatest of all-time, Cormier just might be at the top of the list.

The two-division champ has earned 22 wins in 23 tries with one no contest — his lone loss coming at the hands of Jon Jones. Cormier’s no contest comes from Jones knocking him out back in 2017 before Jones tested positive for a banned substance. The 31-year-old light heavyweight king received a 15-month suspension by USADA for a steroid metabolite found in his system, but he’s now returning for yet another redemption tour, finally matching up with Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232.
In the lead up to his fight with Gustafsson, Jones seems intent on only focusing on his next opponent. When asked about a potential third showdown with Cormier, Jones said he’d fight Cormier at heavyweight, but feels like he has “nothing to prove.”

“If he had beat me, then I could see me challenging him, but it’s like, I’ve done enough to that guy. I’m going to let him breathe easy and enjoy some of his stuff,” Jones said at the UFC 232 press conference, per MMA Junkie. “I’m here, I’m in the present, and I’m back on the mission that I’ve always been on, and that’s to solidify myself as one of the greatest fighters ever.”

And that’s where things get complicated. Unless UFC pundits put Jones in the Barry Bonds wing of the UFC Hall of Fame, the light heavyweight contender will remain the gigantic blemish on Cormier’s incredible run. Jones is a repeat offender, and there are certainly questions over what these positive tests mean for Jones’ career.

“I think it’s very difficult to consider someone the greatest of all time when there [are] these types of allegations tied to them. I think this is the best way I could say it right now without going too far in one direction, just because I don’t know. I’ve said it before that he’s the greatest of all time. I’ve been in there with him twice, and I know that he’s a tremendous fighter. I believe he would have had a ton of success without doing anything wrong,” Cormier said back in September 2017, when there were still questions over Jones’ B sample, per FloCombat. “But when you start tying those negative things to your name and your legacy, it’s kind of hard to say this guy is the best fighter of all time.”

As impressive as Jones’ body of work is, it’s a significantly complicated situation. Jones had the greatest run in UFC history, knocking around the likes of Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort and Gustafsson. While Cormier has some signature wins of his own, never being able to beat Jones is going to leave unanswered questions on where he stands all-time.

For now, Cormier seems intent on fighting Brock Lesnar next, telling the WWE Universal champion to bring his belt so the double champ can become a triple champ. After Saturday’s fight, Cormier said he knows it would mean more for his legacy to beat Jones. But at 39 years old, Cormier only has so much time left in the Octagon.

“I had to change the mental process in regards to him,” Cormier said, via MMA Fighting. “I had to truly let go of it completely because when he failed that next test I was like, ‘I know I’m done by 40. If everything is what it is, if USADA is what they say they are, I’m never going to get to fight this kid again.’”

If that mindset holds, we may just have to settle with the greatest UFC fighter of all-time conversation remaining just as complicated as the rivalry between Jones and Cormier.