UFC 220’s main event features the UFC Heavyweight Championship battle between defending champion Stipe Miocic and the electric Francis Ngganou in what could set the early pace for Fight of the Year.
Yet, in the co-main event, a subplot equally, if not more, deserving attention features Volkan Oezdemir challenging champion Daniel Cormier for the Light Heavyweight Championship.
Saturday night’s fight is Cormier’s first since he was knocked out by Jon Jones at UFC 214; a fight that sadly won’t be remembered as the classic rematch of the two greatest Light Heavyweights of all-time, but instead as the last fight before the Jon Jones Era transitioned into the Daniel Cormier Era.
And it happened in polar opposited the way the UFC hoped it would.
Jones was once again suspended for PED use by USADA after the win over Cormier and Cormier was once again thrust into the difficult spot of being the face of the UFC’s Light Heavyweight division without ever beating his rival.
It is a tough task for Cormier and one he has handled well in the past. However, Cormier was previously afforded the possibility of Jones’ return and the opportunity to prove himself against his rival in a rematch.
Cormier was the champion, but his wins to continue to cement his legacy were viewed as stepping stones to his mission of facing off against Jones; not as legacy-defining wins to add to Daniel Cormier’s legacy as one of the greatest in the history of the sport.
With Jones suspended and now out of the picture for assumedly the rest of Cormier’s career, it is now up to Cormier to move on from his saga with Jones and attempt to finish his career on top without his most desired career achievement.
Against a 15-1 Volkan Oezdemir, Cormier has an opportunity to continue his reign atop the UFC’s Light Heavyweight division against an impressive opponent, albeit one unknown to casual MMA fans.
Oezdemir’s a perfect matchup from the UFC perspective, as it gives Cormier stiff competition against fresh opponents. In turn, the high-profile bout will boost the name recognition of Oezdemir, and potentially launch a new star.
Savage post @volkan_oezdemir but since no one knows or follows you I’ll send it out to the public. 3000 likes for such a good post seems like a waste. quick point tho you’re no Jon Jones and I’m no jimmy Manuwa. And I’m a lot better than Kelly Amunson #tapmachine #bum #ufc220 pic.twitter.com/pvGpoHLE2F
— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) January 12, 2018
Oezdemir’s biggest wins – over Jimi Manuawa and Ovince St. Prieux – came against two fighters who both hoped to vault themselves into the title scene to face Cormier. They were instead sent down the rankings by the powerful Swiss fighter on his rise to prominence.
With a 3-0 record in the UFC and just one loss in his career, Oezdemir is by no means a jobber to give Cormier an easy title defense to build a bigger fight down the road. This is a fighter who knocked out two fighters hopeful to be in this position inside of a minute in his last two fights and could at any moment harm Cormier’s legacy with an upset knockout.
— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) January 18, 2018
Cormier can begin put the loss to Jones and the damage he sustained in the violent knockout loss at UFC 214 behind him in a big way Saturday. The same type of efforts Cormier showcased in his two wins over Anthony Johnson and his classic performance against Alexander Gustaffson are needed to vanquish Oezdemir, even if Oezdemir’s name is yet to resonate among fight fans in the way Rumble Johnson and Gustaffson’s permeate through the MMA sphere.
If Daniel Cormier is to lose, the journey to surpassing Jones before retiring from the Octagon is all but over. With little to no chance of evening the score against Jones, Cormier needs to begin a long reign at the top to make the case that he is a greater fighter than a man who knocked him out twice.
If that doesn’t happen and Cormier loses in an upset, he will still serve as one of the best to ever do it and a new star will be made in Ozedemir to carry the torch. If Cormier can stave off Father Time once again and push aside Ozedemir, the conversation can begin as to whether Cormier can stay on top long enough to answer any questions whether he or his disgraced rival was the best to wear the Light Heavyweight belt.