It’s a new year, so Combat Press is taking a look back at the best of MMA in 2018. Throughout the next few weeks, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
This year has been one wild ride for MMA, for sure. The UFC finally wrapped up its deal with Fox and moved to ESPN, the first MMA “trade” happened when Ben Askren was finally signed to the UFC in exchange for Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, and don’t get us started on the Jon Jones controversy and madness leading up to UFC 232. There was also a lot of competition for the Combat Press 2018 “Male Fighter of the Year.”
First, there was Kamaru Usman, who seemingly has dismantled all of his opposition en route to skipping over Colby Covington for his shot at UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. There was Khabib Nurmagomedov, who will forever be associated with the post-fight leaping kick he threw outside the cage after defeating Conor McGregor. Israel Adesanya was touted as the next middleweight phenom after having won all four of his UFC bouts in 2018 and coming off his most impressive victory, a first-round TKO over Derek Brunson in November. Even with all of these incredibly talented fighters, there was one that was a “heavy” favorite over the rest: Daniel “DC” Cormier.
Cormier has really evolved since his first loss to the aforementioned Jones. He defeated the likes of Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (twice), Alexander Gustafsson and former middleweight champion Anderson Silva. DC would go on to lose to Jones in their rematch in July 2017, but the loss was later overturned due to Jones’ positive drug test. This gave DC back the belt that he lost that night, but the world was not ready for what Cormier was going to do in 2018.
DC was matched up against rising contender Volkan Oezdemir to start off 2018. In impressive fashion, DC stood with the dangerous striker and picked up the TKO victory early in the second round. It truly seemed like the only man that could defeat Cormier at light heavyweight would be Jones. The division was headed for a dominant champion atop the throne. So, Cormier decided to go bigger, quite literally. The man he went after? Stipe Miocic, who had established himself as the top UFC heavyweight at the time.
It was a fight where many felt Miocic would have the power and speed advantages, given that it had been a few years since Cormier had competed in the weight class. Miocic himself looked unstoppable, coming off a huge five-round decimation of Francis Ngannou the same night that DC had defended his belt against Oezdemir. On paper, it was a matter of when Miocic was going to land the power punch and when DC was going to go for the takedown. In a moment that will forever be ingrained in the MMA world, Cormier dropped jaws — and Miocic — in less than five minutes to become the second-ever concurrent dual champion. However, Cormier didn’t stop there.
Just a short four months later, DC took on Derrick Lewis, another man who many felt would only need to land one shot to become the champion. Cormier was able to finish Lewis early in the second round with a beautifully executed rear-naked choke and, in turn, became the first UFC champion to defend a championship in two different weight classes within the same calendar year.
The day prior to UFC 232, Cormier decided to relinquish his light heavyweight title prior to the Jones vs. Gustafsson II main event.
In all honesty, Cormier has nothing left to prove when it comes to his accomplishments. His talent on commentary will keep him in the fight game for years to come. His retirement is set for March of this year, and it may end with just one more title fight, against Stipe Miocic, Brock Lesnar or, if he so chooses, Jon Jones. Only time will tell. For now, though, Cormier can add another honor to his list: that of Combat Press 2018 “Male Fighter of the Year.”
Other finalists: Kamaru Usman, Israel Adesanya, Khabib Nurmagomedov
Make sure you check out the rest of the Combat Press 2018 MMA Award winners.