UFC 226 preview: Heavyweight battle pits underdog Cormier against mighty Miocic

Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports

LAS VEGAS – Daniel Cormier was getting it from all sides on Thursday at the Palms Resort during the final news conference for UFC 226, which is Saturday at T-Mobile Arena. Cormier, the light heavyweight champion, was seated inches away from Derrick Lewis, the promotion’s quick-witted, offensive tackle-sized heavyweight contender who fights Francis Ngannou in what figures to be an explosive match in the co-main event.

Cormier will challenge Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight title in the main event Saturday in a bid to become only the second man, after Conor McGregor (featherweight and lightweight), to hold two UFC title belts simultaneously, and just the fifth, following Randy Couture (light heavyweight and heavyweight), B.J. Penn (welterweight and lightweight), McGregor and Georges St-Pierre (welterweight and middleweight) to win a UFC title in two classes.

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If he wins on Saturday – and he’s about a 2-1 underdog – he’ll have a lot of people gunning for him for a shot at one of his belts. Cormier noted that one of them will be Lewis, apparently confident of a win over Ngannou.

“Derrick Lewis told me he was going to knock me out before we walked out here,” Cormier said, as Lewis grinned. “Derrick Lewis may knock out Francis and then knock me out after. I know guys are lined up to fight me. He’s been sizing me up since we got back here.”

Lewis, who could have a career in stand-up (comedy, as well as fighting) if he chose, was asked why he was threatening Cormier.

“He disrespected Popeyes chicken,” Lewis said.

That was a jab toward a parody video of Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass,” played at the World MMA Awards. Cormier, who is frequently teased about his weight, danced in a song called, “All About that Cake (and Chicken)”:

When the news conference ended, Cormier took a step back and went down as if he was hit on the chin by Lewis. He tripped over a speaker that was too close behind and fell. He injured his shin, but said he was fine.

“That’s all we would have needed, for him to have gotten hurt like that,” UFC president Dana White said.

Max Holloway missing UFC 226

White was already dealing with the fallout from featherweight champion Max Holloway’s situation. Holloway was yanked from his title defense in the co-main event against Brian Ortega. He withdrew late Wednesday with what were initially described as concussion-like symptoms.

White on Thursday suggested that some doctors believe it may be weight-cut related, and he told Yahoo Sports that there was evidence that Holloway was “water loading.”

“It’s super dangerous, when you water load,” White said. “I didn’t know this, but there’s such a thing as water poisoning and you can actually drink too much water and die.”

Holloway won’t fight anytime soon, White said, as doctors try to get to the bottom of the issue. He was also pulled from his bout for the lightweight title at UFC 223 in April on the day of the weigh-in when officials refused to allow him to lose any more weight.

Clearly, something is amiss and needs to be determined before Holloway sets foot in a cage again.

Daniel Cormier nearing end of his UFC career

The show will go on, though, and the main event will offer a history-making proposition. Cormier, who weighed in at 246 on Friday, insists he’s going to retire in March, when he turns 40.

That means that if he beats Miocic, he’ll likely only have one more fight, and it hasn’t been determined whether that would be at heavyweight or light heavyweight. Cormier has said he’d like to try both, but his self-imposed “hard deadline” of March 19, 2019, as well as White’s reluctance to let him do that make it unlikely in the event of a win.

There is, of course, the possibility of another fight with bitter rival Jon Jones, the ex-light heavyweight champion who is currently suspended because of a drug test failure that he is contesting. Jones is hoping to be cleared soon and able to fight.

In a June 25 tweet, he taunted Cormier without mentioning his name.

“Good luck in your next fight, I’ve always wanted to be heavyweight champ… who’s your daddy?” Jones wrote on Twitter, clearly directed at Cormier.

When a fan wrote to Jones on Twitter about taking both belts from Cormier, Jones responded, “Never say never.”

Cormier, though, has to pull off the upset before that can even be discussed, and Miocic was not of a mind to even consider it.

“This sport is about proving yourself each time,” Miocic said. “People have doubts and questions and the only way to answer those is by what you do in there. I respect him. He’s beaten a lot of great guys and done absolutely amazing things. There’s no doubt. But I’m just an entirely different proposition.”

Stipe Miocic, left, and Daniel Cormier pose during a news conference for UFC 226 on Thursday in Las Vegas. (AP)
Stipe Miocic, left, and Daniel Cormier pose during a news conference for UFC 226 on Thursday in Las Vegas. (AP)

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