You know the tired cliche, you’ve heard it a million times: hindsight is 20/20.
There’s even a Wikipedia article that goes into a surprising amount of detail about the expression. But guess what? This article is going to take a page out of Captain Hindsight’s playbook, because looking back, Daniel Cormier shouldn’t have fought Anderson Silva at UFC 200.
Late last Wednesday evening, news was breaking about Jon Jones’ USADA violations (in case you missed it, Jones’ B sample was also positive). Obviously, Jones was now off the card, the match-up with Cormier lost yet again. It seemed as though there would be no way to find a suitable replacement; who in their right mind would step up and face the light heavyweight champion on a mere 2 days notice? Of course, we now know the story. Anderson Silva got in touch with his management, got in touch with Dana White, and boom: we got ourselves a matchup.
As outlined in the Rolling Stone article above, Dana White was quick to point out that “The Spider” was still, “[devastatingly] undefeated at light heavyweight,” and, “looked even better than he did at 185,” which, I mean, he’s a promoter. Promoters gonna promote. Silva, to his credit, was taking a fairly large risk with both his health and legacy. He was certainly not the fighter I expected to step in.
Cormier, for his part, was more than willing to take the offer and told media that he felt it was a tough match-up for him, and that he’d, “have to fight smart and to do my best in order to win this fight.” Nothing earthshaking in his statement, but perhaps we all should have listened a bit more carefully. Essentially, “DC” was letting us in on the fact that, absolutely he was going to fight to his strengths, not take a ton of risks, and get that win any way he could.
The result speaks for itself. Cormier used his vaunted wrestling ability to smother “The Spider” on the canvas. Silva, who has in the past shown a vulnerability to wrestling based tactics, was only able to lockdown the Light Heavyweight Champion. Much of the fight took place in the half-guard of Silva, with Cormier attempting to land what strikes he could while trying to advance position. It was a very high level grappling match, but not a particularly engaging one.
The job of a matchmaker is to determine fights that make sense logically and stylistically, while making sense from an entertainment perspective as well. It’s no easy task, and the UFC are certainly some of the best at providing us with the most compelling fights. That said, if this result was so glaringly obvious to most fans, then why not just save Cormier for another card?
It would have been unfortunate for Cormier to miss out on his payday, unfortunate for Cormier to have spent so much time training for no fight and unfortunate for the fans who wanted to see Cormier on UFC 200. However, UFC 201 is just 20 days after the mega-event. That show also suffered the loss of a headliner, as Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson was forced to pull out with an injury (you may have missed that, as it happened basically when Jones was removed). I suspect Cormier could have survived another few weeks of camp, and it would have provided the added benefits of:
Sparing us from a (mostly) dull, predictable match
Bolstered the very thin UFC 201 card (seriously, $60+ for that)
Allowed Cormier’s opponent, Silva or otherwise, to have some sort of a camp
Could have moved up one of the big fights from the undercard, Lauzon vs. Sanchez was always destined to be fireworks
While it’s obvious why the UFC made the choice it did to keep Daniel Cormier on the card, sometimes it can be better to take the short-term loss, for the long-term gain.
Hopefully the UFC will learn from this situation, and next time instead of jumping at the first tantalizing-on-paper match, they’ll use a bit more foresight, for all of our sake.