When it comes to famous MMA feuding fighters, what names come to mind? Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz? Chael Sonnen and Anderson Silva? Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar?
Whether it was the trilogy of fights between Ortiz and Shamrock, the pair of bouts between Mir and Lesnar, or the odd pairing of Sonnen and Silva, these men shared one thing in common: pure disdain for their opponent. The on- and off-camera behaviors of these fighters during this time truly showcased that this was no act used simply to increase pay-per-view buys. It was a serious hatred that culminated inside the Octagon.
Now, what about Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier?
Jones and Cormier are probably the most recent addition to this infamous list. Their aggression culminated during the UFC 182 presser, where things escalated far beyond what many in the MMA world had ever seen. The on-stage brawl, which some still feel was staged, even involved members of the media, including photographer Esther Lin, who was struck by a rogue shoe. The interviews that preceded this incident were rich with profanity and a hatred that could be seen in the eyes of both men. It was one of the first times fans were able to see the real Jon Jones, and the man he would reveal to be over the course of the next few months.
Shortly after defeating Cormier at UFC 182, Jones was stripped of his title and “DC” was given his chance to capture the belt against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. Cormier was victorious in his quest, but as many fighters who compete for a vacant belt, the feeling of a true champion still eluded him. Cormier thought he would have his rematch with Jones at UFC 197, but an injury stopped that from happening. The rematch was rescheduled for UFC 200, but just days before the event, Jones was yanked from the card due to a potential out-of-competition USADA violation. Cormier was devastated, but he went on to defeat the legend Anderson Silva, who took the bout on three days’ notice. This was in July 2016.
This weekend, Cormier returns for another title defense at UFC 210. “DC” will defend his title against Rumble, the very man he defeated for the vacant belt. It will have been nearly two years since these men last met. Since then, it has been Rumble, not Cormier, who has strung together the more impressive resume.
“DC” has competed only twice, winning a split decision over Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 192 and picking up the aforementioned win over Silva. Rumble, meanwhile, has competed three times and scored brutal knockout victories over fellow contenders Jimi Manuwa, Ryan Bader and Glover Teixeira. Johnson has looked seemingly unstoppable and unfazed by anyone standing in the way of his shot at the title and redemption.
The real lingering question on everyone’s mind is not who has improved more or what will change this time around. The real question is simple: Will the victor meet Jones next?
The storylines have already written themselves for either man. For the division, a bout between Rumble and Jones would clearly be the more exciting of the two, given Rumble’s ridiculous and scary knockout power and the unorthodox style of Jones. The bout between Jones and Cormier, meanwhile, would finally give both men the chance at their own personal redemption while closing out the chapter involving these two men. Cormier would either have the ability to say he beat the only man to defeat him, or he would have to stay humble in defeat when Jones routes him once again.
Jones vs. Rumble is the fight for the fans and the division. Jones vs. DC II is all about revenge and closure. Which one will it be?