The January 4 fight between Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and challenger Daniel Cormier was a good start for mixed martial arts (MMA) this year.
Although Jones clearly won, the fact that Cormier was able to take down the champion twice and even heave him from the air at the closing round showed that the challenger was not easy pickings.
Standing at 5’11,” Cormier was the same size as Quinton Jackson and Rashard Evans, two challengers whom Jones dispatched with a lot to spare. But Cormier proved he was way much better than Jackson or Evans, who ended up as punching bags when they faced Jones.
While Jones clearly won, there was no doubt that Cormier was a tough nut to crack. I actually expected Cormier not to crumple under the onslaught of Jones’ strikes in a column I wrote in August last year (‘A humdinger of a fight), where I stated that Cormier had a tough chin having been a heavyweight contender in most of his fights.
Cormier even forced Jones to backpedal in many occasions even if the champion landed clean and strong punches on the challenger. While it was Jones’ championship pedigree that also carried him throughout the fight, Cormier wins my admiration for being, again, a tough nut to crack.
But after the fight, some ugly things turned out—Jones still belittled his opponent; and it was announced that he tested positive for cocaine use.
The award for the worst post-fight antics or behavior in MMA still goes to former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, who literally mocked Frank Mir after he administered a one-sided beatdown in their rematch. But Jones, since he is still looked up by many as a top MMA fighter, should strive to show that sportsmanship is a trait of top professional fighters.
While we can fault Cormier for starting an actual physical confrontation with Jones at the stage when the fight was first announced, I am very sure more fans will admire Jones if he demonstrated a more gentlemanly attitude after the fight.
Then here comes news that Jones has tested positive for cocaine use and will enter rehab. If there is any consolation, it is Cormier sympathizing with Jones. In a statement posted at www.mmafighting.com, Cormier said “I am aware of Jon’s test, and if there is anything to say it is this: there are a lot of people you impact, so please let’s get it together. Good luck on your rehab!”
But taking out the behavior of Jones after the bout and his testing positive for cocaine use, it was obvious that MMA trumped boxing at the start of the year. So far there is no boxing match scheduled this month that can approximate the electricity generated by the Jones-Cormier fight. And to me, this is not a good sign.
Perhaps gone are the days when top boxers literally risked their careers by taking on opposition that could end or derail their careers. And in the Jones-Cormier fight, it would be hard to imagine what type of future each of the fighters will have if either of them got knocked out very badly in the early rounds. So credit both of them for taking the risk of facing each other.
As of now, boxing is still more popular compared to MMA because of its rich history and wider acceptance worldwide. But with the way MMA is building its rich history in the past years, there will come a time when boxing will find itself getting lesser fight fans.