In a ridiculous twist that nobody could have anticipated, former UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones has been yanked from Saturday night’s UFC 200 main event. Jones’ removal from the card is the result of a potential violation from a USADA-administered test from June 16. This unfortunate news was announced late on Wednesday night.
Already, we’ve learned that UFC 200’s original co-main event—a heavyweight bout between former champ Brock Lesnar and long-time contender Mark Hunt—has been bumped up to the main event spot. The status of Jones’ opponent, current undisputed light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, however, remains uncertain.
Given that UFC 200 is now just days away, it seems unlikely that a new opponent will be found for Cormier. Yet at the last-minute press conference thrown together to address Jones’ USADA snafu, UFC president Dana White did not rule that possibility out.
"Maybe someone will pop up and fight Cormier at the last minute," he said. "Stranger things have happened."
Yes, while it is undeniably unlikely that a replacement opponent for Cormier is found on such short notice, the UFC president himself has assured that there is a chance. This of course, begs one massive question: who, of all the fighters alive, might actually step up to fight Cormier with so little time to prepare?
Well, not surprisingly, the options are fairly sparse.
In a perfect world, Jones’ spot would be filled by top a top contender like Anthony “Rumble” Johnson or Glover Teixeira. Yet these two light heavyweight destroyers are scheduled to fight one another in mid-August, and are unlikely to be pulled from this bout—even if it means saving a historic card like UFC 200.
In a slightly less perfect world, Cormier’s replacement would be Alexander Gustafsson, who he fought to a split decision last October. Unfortunately, however, Gustafsson has not fought since that bout, which means he is probably far outside the light heavyweight division’s 205-cap. And even though Cormier has apparently assured he’s willing to fight as high as 225 pounds, Gustafsson is still probably not in fighting shape. He is not, therefore, a very likely choice for Cormier’s replacement adversary.
So, when searching for a potential replacement for Cormier, we’re left with the absurd choices—and though Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is surely blowing up UFC matchmaker Joe Silva’s phone, that’s not who we’re talking about.
Instead, we’re talking about fighters who can actually tip the scales somewhere in the vicinity of 205 pounds—fighters like the American Gangster, Chael P. Sonnen.
If his interactions on Twitter are to believed, Sonnen is not opposed to this idea. In a response to a Tweet from UFC middleweight Josh Samman, Sonnen assured that he would “whip his [Cormier’s] ass.” And at a glance, a Cormier vs. Sonnen bout is not a bad consolation prize.
Of course, the problems with this bout are immediately clear. Though Sonnen’s PED-related suspension ended on July 23, he’ll need to be relicensed before he fights, and unless he’s been working on getting relicensed since the moment his suspension ended, that probably means his stepping in against Cormier is out of the question. Luckily, there are still a few more options for the abruptly opponent-less light heavyweight champ.
“Filthy” Tom Lawlor, for example, also threw his name in the hat on Twitter. The former middleweight, who recently returned to light heavyweight, had this to say.
“Hey @danawhite if you need someone, give me a shot.” As far as last minute choices go, the ever-entertaining Lawlor is not a bad one.
And then there’s Uriah Hall, a middling middleweight with an affinity for spectacle.
“Shit.. I’ll fight him,” Hall said on Twitter. Hall is indeed another unlikely, yet oddly interesting choice.
Then, however there’s arguably the most compelling of all the choices available to Cormier: brand new UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping. Like Sonnen and Lawlor, Bisping made his case on Twitter, flaunting some serious cojones as he did so.
“2 months, 2 weeks, 2 days...... Hmmm middle vs light heavy???? I stand by my words. I'd do it!”
As incredible as a last-minute, champion-versus-champion UFC 200 showdown would be, however, this option does seem like a bit of a stretch. Bisping is suddenly an extremely valuable commodity to the UFC, and the organization is unlikely to throw his ultra-marketable Cinderella story away on a last-minute scrap with Cormier.
So, if not Sonnen, Lawlor, Hall or Bisping, who might the UFC call upon to replace Jones?
Well, there’s always the time-tested strategy of replacing an injured main card fighter with a healthy fighter from the prelims. Yet considering there are no light heavyweight bouts on UFC 200’s undercard, there is clearly only one sacrificial bout available: Gegard Mousasi and Thiago Santos’ middleweight bout.
In deciding between Mousasi or Santos, the UFC has one very clear choice, and that’s the former. Mousasi has a long history at light heavyweight, including a major title win under the Strikeforce banner. Perhaps even more importantly, though, Mousasi is just the kind of fearless fighter who might actually step up to fight an Olympian turned Strikeforce tournament winner turned UFC champion on two days’ notice. In fact, according to a Tweet from UFC on Fox, the Dutchman is actively campaigning for just that:
“Gegard Mousasi has offered to accept the fight against Daniel Cormier in a 5 round fight at 205 pounds. He wants it.”
Then again, it’s probably important that we all do our best to stay realistic. The chances that UFC finds a viable replacement opponent for Cormier on such short notice are undeniably slim. But it is hard to forget Dana White’s words at Wednesday night’s press conference. Slim as the chances may be "stranger things have happened.”
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