(This post originally appeared on MMAFrenzy.)
It remains to be seen whether Daniel Cormier will in fact defend the light-heavyweight title, before he hangs up the gloves next March. But if it happens, does Alexander Gustafsson need to score a emphatic win over Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 227 to earn a rematch with the two-champ?
Following Cormier’s historic, knockout win over Stipe Miocic at UFC 226, the new heavyweight champ was asked about whether he intends to defend the light-heavyweight title. Although Cormier is set to fight Brock Lesnar early next year, the champ said he may look at fighting in the interim, and defend the 205 title, provided someone does something “special”.
Gustafsson has been driving for a rematch with Cormier for some time now, but the latter clearly isn’t sold on that match-up. Case in point, Cormier has talked about the fact Gustafsson doesn’t move a lot of pay-per-view buys, and he’s also expressed an interest in fighting “Shogun” Rua.
Well, during a recent episode of “The MMA Hour”, Gustafsson was asked to weigh-in on Cormier’s insistence, that “The Mauler” needs to do drop jaws at UFC 227, in order to earn a rematch. Here’s some of what the Swedish star had to say (quotes via MMA Fighting):
“It doesn’t sound right when he says things like that,” Gustafsson said.
“I respect that [Cormier vs. Lesnar] is a big fight and a money fight, but the way that he says I have to do something spectacular…I think it’s a bad thing for him to say because I’m ranked No. 1 and I’ve fought everyone in the division.
“It’s not up to him to decide something like that. I don’t know what he means by that. I’ve been fighting everybody and waiting for an opportunity like everyone else to fight for the belt.”
Does Gustafsson have a point? Yes and no.
From a meritocratic stand-point, there’s little doubt that provided Jon Jones doesn’t return anytime soon, really, Gustafsson should only need to defeat Oezdemir, in order to get a title shot. After all, he’s ranked #1, he’s coming off a win over the #3 ranked Glover Teixeira, and if he beats Oezdemir, he will have defeated the #2 ranked contender. Not only that, but Gustafsson’s 2015 bout with Cormier was super close, and he lost that fight by split decision. So, with all that in mind, even if “The Mauler” barely gets by Volkan, that should be good enough.
But, these aren’t ordinary times. Since Cormier is set to retire next March, it’s clear he’s looking to cash in before doing so. If Rua records a jaw dropping win over Anthony Smith later this month, Cormier might decide that’s the better option. The UFC might listen, considering what Cormier just did on Saturday.
At the end of the day, however, there’s a good chance Cormier won’t end up defending the light-heavyweight title again. “DC” and the UFC may decide it’s not worth the risk, having him fight not long out from his bout with Lesnar.
UFC 227 will take place on August 4th in Los Angeles, California.