Cormier is showing he’s strong to the finish

MMA

NEW YORK — Daniel Cormier may have summed it up best, just moments after defeating Derrick Lewis to retain his heavyweight title at UFC 230 on Saturday.

“There are no surprises with me,” Cormier said. “If you have a puncher’s chance, that’s not enough. You have to be one of the best in the world to even compete.”

No disrespect to Lewis, but he never had much of a chance in this one. Part of the appeal of Lewis is he’s a man you can never count out, but stylistically he had nothing for Cormier — and Cormier knew it.

Lewis definitely had earned the right to fight him (having won nine of his last 10), but Cormier’s wrestling is too good and he is too professional to take Lewis lightly, which was probably the only way Lewis could have caught him.

As Cormier put it, there really are no surprises with him.

The closest Cormier came to defeat on Saturday was apparently early on fight day, when he claims he threw out his back … due to a sneeze.

“That’s getting old,” said Cormier at the postfight press conference. “That’s what that is.”

If there was a surprise in all this, perhaps it’s the fact the fight happened at all. Cormier plans to retire in March, prior to his 40th birthday. He was still dealing with a hand injury four weeks ago. He didn’t need this fight.

This was a chance for Cormier to help out the UFC one last time (as it badly needed a Madison Square Garden headliner), make a pile of cash to do it and soak in an extra dose of glory before retirement. Create history by becoming the first champion to defend titles in multiple weight classes, and do it in a historic venue.

And why not? This will not go down as one of the best UFC headliners this year, but Cormier will go down as one of the best fighters ever, and there’s no question he’s on borrowed time.

We’ll see if Cormier does, in fact, retire in March — but it does seem as if everyone around him genuinely hopes he will. Coaches, managers, teammates — even UFC president Dana White, who knows how valuable Cormier is as an active fighter — can’t deny it makes sense. All the right pieces are in place.

“I told him a long time ago, ‘If you’re my champion the rest of my career, I’m cool with that,'” White said. “Unfortunately, he’s like 40 years old, and you can’t keep doing this much longer if you’re Daniel Cormier.

“I think he will [retire]. I think he is a guy who’s made a lot of money and he has a real future in broadcasting.”

History says Cormier will have a hard time walking away. Almost every fighter does. But the stars may align for him to face Brock Lesnar on March 2 in Las Vegas, 18 days before his birthday. That’s pretty much perfect.

“That could be the retirement fight for ol’ DC,” Cormier said. “You’re talking about an opportunity to go out on an all-time high, headlining Las Vegas against Brock Lesnar, before I turn 40. Two weeks before my birthday. It’s crazy.”

And if you consider Saturday’s fight within that context, it makes you appreciate it more. Yeah, it was a predictable outcome, but it was also bonus Daniel Cormier. And it’s hard to complain about that.

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