Some film trilogies hit it out of the park. The Godfather. The Dark Knight. The Expendables (Don’t hate. You know you enjoyed seeing all those action stars on one screen). Other ones? Not so much. The first Major League film was a classic. The second one? It was OK. The third one? Yikes. When Scott Bakula has to be your lead actor, you’re in trouble.
The same philosophy can apply to mixed martial arts. Some trilogies are classics. Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thomson. Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard. However, others leave a lot to be desired. Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock comes to mind, even if it did help bring the UFC into the mainstream.
The UFC also has two trilogies possibly on deck within the next year. If Miesha Tate defeats Holly Holm at UFC 196 next month, it’s a lock we will see Tate face Ronda Rousey a third time for the women’s bantamweight title. Might we also see a trilogy between light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones?
If you ask Cormier, the answer is yes. During the recent UFC on Fox card, Cormier said No. 1 contender Anthony “Rumble” Johnson will have to wait a while for his title shot, because Cormier and Jones will square off two more times.
Will that happen? No. Jones will regain his belt from Cormier in the same dominant fashion that he defended his belt when the two fought in 2015. Jones outclassed Cormier from start to finish in their fight, outstriking Cormier and repeatedly stuffing his takedown attempts.
If Jones wins the belt from Cormier, then Cormier shouldn’t receive a rematch. While his lone career loss came to Jones last year, on the whole Cormier’s UFC run has been underwhelming. He went to decisions against heavyweight gatekeepers Roy Nelson and Frank Mir. His only finishes came against Patrick Cummins (who was fighting on two days’ notice after working as a barista), Dan Henderson (whose best days are clearly behind him) and Rumble (who was badly exposed on the ground in that fight).
Cormier looked to be a star on the rise when he competed in Strikeforce and dominated fighters like Josh Barnett and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. He received a second chance at the light heavyweight title in the UFC only after Jones ran into legal trouble last year (and came perilously close to getting in trouble again this week). If Jones had not been in trouble with the law, it’s highly unlikely Cormier would have received a second title shot.
Even if Cormier manages to defeat Jones, it would not be a surprise if a trilogy doesn’t happen. Jones shared photos of his workout routine since he returned to full-time training, and it’s obvious he can handle moving up to heavyweight. If he were to do so, there are several intriguing fights waiting for him. Imagine Jones fighting Fabricio Werdum or Cain Velasquez, assuming Velasquez can stay healthy, for the UFC heavyweight title. Either of these fights would likely happen right off the bat, since Jones fighting any heavyweight would be big business (literally and figuratively) for the UFC.
The wild card in all this is Rumble. While Cormier exposed Johnson’s subpar ground skills in their fight last year, Johnson’s improvement on the ground was on full display in his fight against Ryan Bader last month. Johnson stuffed Bader’s takedown attempt and, from the top position, Johnson knocked Bader into next week.
We have yet to see Jones and Johnson square off. They were slated to fight each other prior to Jones’ legal troubles. If Jones regains the belt from Cormier at UFC 197, it’s likely that Cormier will have to hope Jones gets arrested again before he gets another title shot.
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