Post-Fight Thoughts: Daniel Cormier -vs- Volkan Oezdemir
Despite the momentum and hype gathering behind Volkan Oezdemir, my initial analysis of this fight was that it would boil down to a modern iteration of the striker versus grappler dynamic — and that is exactly what we got. Cormier, from the opening bell, advanced toward his opponent very quickly, looking to cut off any space and begin clinch battles. For the majority of the first round, Oezdemir was able to avoid being taken down and was landing a few shots, although Cormier was clearly leading the action.
Oezdemir wasn't fighting scared, but you could tell he absolutely did not want to be stuck, with his back against the cage, and Daniel Cormier attempting takedowns. This caused Oezdemir to have to spend a lot of time on the back foot, which meant that even when he did land punches their power was diminished. Cormier was pushing a very high pace, too, which seemed to overwhelm the challenger after a few minutes — the physical and mental toll of Cormier's constant offence was visibly wilting Oezdemir. By the end of the first round, Cormier had broken his opponent, took him down and would have secured a rear-naked choke had their been a few more seconds left on the clock.
The second round was almost perfunctory, as Cormier just resumed the one-sided beating he was now putting on a demoralised, deflated opponent. Cormier took Oezdemir down with ease, put him in a crucifix mount and rained-down punches until the referee waved the bout off. Oezdemir was not completely shut out, but aside from landing a small handful of punches in the opening minutes, the hype train definitely had the brakes pulled. Some of this result could be explained by Oezdemir's relative inexperience at the top level of MMA, but the main driver in this result is the fact that Daniel Cormier is one of the best fighters in the sport of MMA.
I knew Cormier would not be completely averse to striking with Oezdemir, but he did better than even I expected, using his boxing — and the ever-present threat of a takedown — to neuter the challenger's offence and make him tentative at all times. Cormier did not land all of his takedown attempts, but his persistence, and ability to chain takedowns together, took only a few minutes to break down Oezdemir's defences and begin wearing him out. When it was clear we weren't going to see a quick KO victory, it seemed inevitable that Cormier would be retaining his title.
All told, I would not say this was a terrible fight for Volkan Oezdemir. It was one-sided, and a tough loss, but this is the sort of experience that can help a fighter realise what they need to do to take their career to the next level. Oezdemir got a title shot extremely quickly into his career, probably too quickly, so I don't think too much can be gleaned from this loss. What matters is that he keeps improving; light heavyweight is a barren, desolate wasteland, so if he strings together some quality wins then he could very well get another crack at the belt sooner rather than later. The hype train's brakes were engaged, now we need to be sure it doesn't go screeching off the tracks entirely.
As for Daniel Cormier, this should be a vindicating result for him. The loss to Jon Jones must have been immeasurably difficult to handle, and then being given his title back — despite being head-kicked unconscious in his last fight — looked bad and likely felt worse. To be able to rebound by dispatching the next title contender in such one-sided fashion, that has to be the ideal result for Cormier — he performed like a champion last night. What comes next is unknown, but I would suspect they try and book a rematch between Cormier and Alexander Gustafsson; I don't know how many more fights DC has in him, but I don't think it's very many.
Unless some sort of miracle happens, I don't think we're going to see Jon Jones competing any time soon. In light of this, Daniel Cormier makes an almost unassailable case for being the greatest light heavyweight in UFC history, and possibly one of the best fighters of all time — period. As it stands right now, there is no one on the roster I would favour over Daniel Cormier. (I think Gustafsson presents a serious thread, but would be an underdog if they rematch.)
Published: January 21st, 2018.