Daniel Cormier (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

New Contenders at Heavyweight Might Come From UFC’s Light Heavyweight Ranks

It’s a division that features the biggest, baddest men humanity has to offer. Heavyweight. Unfortunately, this division has become increasingly thin lately. There are no new prospects on the outside primed to contend for a title in the coming couple of years, and the division’s current crop of top stars is an aging group.

Yet, maybe the heavyweight division doesn’t have a problem. The answer might be found just one division down, at light heavyweight. This lighter weight class could provide an injection of new blood into the heavyweight ranks.

The biggest injection of them all comes in the form of Daniel Cormier.


Cormier moved down to 205 pounds to avoid his American Kickboxing Academy teammate, Cain Velasquez, who held the UFC’s heavyweight strap when Cormier first arrived on the scene. Despite his progress through the division to become known as one of the better heavyweights in the world, Cormier, being the teammate he is, moved down in weight.

Since his shift to light heavyweight, Cormier has become the king of the division. He’s one of the more dominant fighters at light heavyweight and reigns as the UFC’s champion. He did lose his original title bid against Jon Jones, and that cloud will always loom over his reign so long as Jones is able and willing to compete. However, Jones may not come back and be at the form he was in prior to all of his personal struggles. Perhaps Cormier will clean out the division and want a new challenge. Maybe the weight cut becomes too much. With Velasquez no longer at the top of the mountain, Cormier always has an option to go back to heavyweight.

Cormier, due to his wrestling and power, would be an instant threat in the heavyweight division. He would enter the weight class as an instant top contender and potentially could get a title shot straight off the bat. Remember, too, that he was a perfect 13-0 as a heavyweight before dropping down a division. If he were to return to the weight class, he’d certainly make a significant impact on the UFC’s heavyweight landscape. Of course, Cormier has also claimed he’ll never go back to the division. However, this was a long time ago, and there’s always the possibility that he can change his mind.

Cormier, despite his past claims to the contrary, does seem like the most likely option to end up in the heavyweight division out of the 205-pound fighters. He has a history in the division and knows he can fight in the weight class. The move would give an instant boost to the division, albeit short lived since Cormier is 37 years old.

But what about light heavyweight fighters beyond just Cormier? He isn’t, after all, the only 205er whose name has been associated with the heavyweight division.

There’s Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. Rumble has fought in the heavyweight division before, and he could find appeal in a move to heavyweight. If Johnson loses in a second bid against Cormier, then a third fight is pretty much out of reach. If Cormier remains champion, then it would create a situation akin to what veteran star Urijah Faber faces in the bantamweight division. Rumble would stagnate in the No. 2 slot until Cormier was dethroned or departed the division. His only other option would be to initiate a move of his own.

The big deal would be Johnson’s power translating over to heavyweight. He hits extremely hard for a light heavyweight, but he could find it more difficult to knock out heavyweight opponents. However, we know from watching Johnson’s past fights that this wouldn’t be an issue. At light heavyweight, he has brought an early end to the night in each of his last three fights. Glover Teixeira, Ryan Bader and Jimi Manuwa were straight knocked out by Johnson, and all very quickly, except for Manuwa, who was promptly knocked out at the beginning of the next round.

The light heavyweight division also has one big name that has avoided the heavyweight division despite fans clamoring for him to join the ranks. Maybe all hope isn’t lost yet for those fans who’d like to see former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones move up a division. Jones has walked a fine line, going back-and-forth on the idea of shifting divisions. He hasn’t had much competition at light heavyweight except for one fight with Alexander Gustafsson. Heavyweight could hold the challenges Jones needs. The UFC interim champ’s size and range certainly translate easily to the heavyweight division.

The money could also be very much to Jones’ liking. There’s no doubt that he’d be in big-money fights at heavyweight. His name as a dominant champion and top pound-for-pound fighter makes his an intriguing opponent for anybody in the weight class. Jones is one of the top pay-per-view draws the UFC has to offer. He isn’t quite at the level of Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey, but he is probably the next best thing.

The heavyweight division needs an influx of talent. With the prospects drying up, the division’s lifeblood could be found just a step below at light heavyweight with guys like Cormier, Jones and Johnson. It isn’t farfetched to think others could make the jump as well. It would give the UFC’s heavyweight division a whole new meaning.