It wasn’t easy, though it looked that way.
Daniel Cormier’s heavyweight title defense against Derrick Lewis on Saturday in the main event of UFC 230 was a mismatch which Cormier won by rear naked choke submission at 2:14 of the second round.
That doesn’t mean Lewis didn’t deserve the fight. Cormier versus just about anybody, at either heavyweight or light heavyweight, is a mismatch. This outcome was the result of years, of decades, of grinding in the gym to become this nearly unbeatable force.
Some may say the bout was a travesty because Lewis went down with nary a peep, but Lewis’ record suggests he was qualified for the opportunity.
There is nobody remotely close to Cormier at light heavyweight other than his archrival, Jon Jones. With Cormier set to fight only once more after Saturday’s win before heading into retirement, a third fight between Jones and Cormier would be appealing.
Jones, though, doesn’t want a third bout because he won the first two and said he has nothing left to prove fighting Cormier, though the second win was changed to a no-contest because Jones had a banned substance in his system. Cormier wants a fight with former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar as his retirement fight because it will be by far the biggest payday he could get. And Cormier, who at heart is a happy-go-lucky kid, is an avid professional wrestling fan and would get a kick out of fighting the WWE champion.
But there is no one else active at light heavyweight even close to Cormier. At heavyweight, former champion Stipe Miocic deserves a rematch, but may not get it. The only way Miocic will get the chance to avenge his first-round knockout loss to Cormier is if complications arise in getting Lesnar from the WWE back into the UFC.
Though Lesnar hasn’t spoken with UFC president Dana White recently, White believes the Cormier-Lesnar fight will happen. Lesnar is participating in the UFC’s anti-doping program so he’ll be ready to go after his suspension ends in early January.
But beyond Miocic, take a look at the heavyweights and ask yourself if you’d gamble your hard-earned money on any of them against Cormier.
Lewis is the No. 2 ranked heavyweight and entered Saturday’s bout having won nine of 10, yet it was an utter mismatch in the ring. No. 3 Curtis Blaydes is rising fast, and he may be a champion in the future, but he’s a wrestler. Is he going to out-grapple the two-time Olympian and one of the best grapplers in UFC history? Highly unlikely.
Francis Ngannou is No. 4, and he was awful in a loss to Lewis in the summer and not much better in a one-sided loss to Miocic in January. Cormier would get Ngannou onto his back in less time than it takes Usain Bolt to run 100 meters.
Alexander Volkov is No. 5, and he was knocked out by Lewis. Go down the remainder of the rankings and there is no opponent who would have more than the proverbial puncher’s chance of winning.
The concern with the UFC bringing Lesnar back and giving him an immediate title fight is that Lesnar himself hasn’t done anything to deserve it. Lesnar was mauled by Cain Velasquez, Cormier’s teammate and close friend, at UFC 121 in 2010. A Cormier-Lesnar fight would look similar to the Lesnar-Velasquez bout, perhaps more one-sided.
Lesnar, 41, hasn’t had an MMA fight since July 9, 2016, when he defeated Mark Hunt in a victory that was overturned by a failed drug test and hasn’t won a fight outright since beating Shane Carwin on July 3, 2010 at UFC 116.
It’s a good bet that Cormier’s final bout will be at UFC 235 on March 2 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. On that night, Lesnar will be four months shy of his 42nd birthday.
The concern with bypassing Miocic and giving Lesnar the title fight instead is twofold. First, what does it say to one of the great champions in UFC history when he loses one bout, against one of the top five fighters of all-time, and he can’t get a rematch?
Secondly, the UFC has to be careful to avoid these gimmicky fights. Lesnar is a pro wrestler and is getting the bout with Cormier based almost solely on his ability to sell tickets and pay-per-views.
That’s exactly the reason Miocic is not getting it. Miocic is a good guy, as anyone who has spent more than a few moments in his presence, would attest. But he is not a guy who is interested in promoting fights.
There is a balance that needs to be struck. There is no need for Miocic to turn into a carnival barker, but at the same time, he needs to do a better job of opening up and sharing things about himself.
Professional fighting is a business, and each fighter only has a brief window in which to maximize his/her earnings. For Cormier, the monetary difference in a rematch with Miocic or a defense against Lesnar would exceed $1 million and could turn out to be far more than that if the pay-per-view does as well as most expect it will.
That would be hard to ask Cormier to fight Miocic, who is the most deserving, instead of Lesnar for a couple million dollars less.
Cormier has done everything he’s been asked, and if anyone deserves the right to pick his retirement fight, he’s the guy.
A fight with Lesnar will be loads of fun for everybody, perhaps, but Lesnar.
After he spends 25 minutes — and most likely far less — locked inside the Octagon with Cormier, he’ll be wishing he had never chosen to leave the relative safety of the WWE.
This is how good of a fighter Cormier has become: Even a match with a fearsome, athletic guy like Lesnar is a mismatch.
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Steve Smith Sr. gave Baltimore the Panthers’ playbook when he signed with Ravens
• Why Michigan could stop Alabama-Clemson III
• Bizarro NFL: Patrick Mahomes gets called for rare penalty on spike
• John Harbaugh reportedly feeling the heat from Ravens brass