Last weekend at UFC 241, there was a passing of the torch. Daniel Cormier lost his heavyweight title to Stipe Miocic and Yoel Romero came up short against young contender Paolo Costa. Both fights were amazing and the Romero decision was one that could be argued as a win for the Cuban former Olympian. Even though both had great fights, it was important to see that these two fighters are now heading down the rankings and are both on the wrong side of 40.
What should Cormier do now?
Cormier for me has the best options. He has a great side gig in the UFC doing commentary and other hosting jobs for them. Cormier is well spoken, easy to like and extremely knowledgable when it comes to the MMA game. Until his fight with Stipe at the weekend, even though he is 40, I have not seen anyone call for Cormier's retirement. For good reason too, he was winning still and defying all odds as a combat athlete.
Why would Cormier retire?
After last Saturday's showing it would seem he may have fallen to the known folly of any UFC or MMA fighter and that is ageing pretty much overnight. DC's cardio looked less than stellar, his body looked softer than normal and he looked like he couldn't follow a game plan to save his life. That being said, he was winning for at least two and a half rounds to start. One thing that is hard to keep at his age though is a chin and it just didn't hold up against his much larger foe.
What fights are left for Cormier?
In reality, none. For years Cormier has fought the top of both the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions and he has been at the top himself for most of that time. His only defeats have come at the hands of the best in both divisions ever and there is no shame in that. For me, if Cormier wants to run these both back, he will run into huge trouble and possibly ruin his physical and mental health for later in life.
Admittedly I'd selfishly like to see him come back and destroy Stipe once more in a rubber match and then get a catchweight fight with Jon Jones to round off their trilogy - no titles on the line and nothing but pure hatred for one another. However that is my bloodthirsty side. My human side tells me he should hang it up and focus on his journalistic career, where he has a real future in the game.
What about Romero?
Romero is a different kettle of fish. Yes, he is older than DC at 42 years old but he may have more life in him yet. On paper, it would appear Romero would have the best option to leave. Last year he won a significant lawsuit against a supplement company for a whopping $27 million. Romero was awarded this because he tested positive for a growth hormone stimulater in 2016. It was deemed the supplement was contaminated and Romero was let off the hook for a long term suspension. However, he still had to sit out for 6 months.
Importantly though, he may never actually see that money. There will be appeals, more money to lawyers etc It could be a never ending merry go round for Romero, and therefore, we don't know how financially secure he is. Does he need to keep fighting to make money? Who knows.
Why would Romero retire?
Unlike Cormier, Romero looked like a man with a point still to prove in the game this past weekend. His decision loss to Costa was controversial and many (including myself) scored it for Romero. Yoel took a beating from Costa for the better part of 7 minutes and then he turned it up against his opponent and took control for the latter part of the fight. In fact both men took an absolute beating, in what was one of the most entertaining fights of the year so far. Romero appears to have the best cardio for someone who fights with their mouth open constantly.
For me Romero doesn't have to retire, but he now has a long road back to the title picture. Waiting in the middleweight wings are Adesanya (who gets a crack at champ Robert Whittaker later this year), Kelvin Gastelum and Costa after last weekend. Not to mention huge prospects Hermansson and Cannonier clipping at the heels. We are then left with the question who would Romero fight? Reality is anyone in the divison. Romero may have come up short in his two title fight opportunities, but in both fights he could easily have been the winner. Both decisions were somewhat controversial.
What fights are left for Romero?
Romero is now the gatekeeper and a damn good one at that. However, I am aware father time will catch up at some point. It just doesn't seem it has yet! So lets see how Hermansson fares against him. Hermansson is now top 5 and looking for that next opponent to take him to the next level. That man is Romero. It would put Hermansson through the ringer and would test him against a heavy handed striker. Hermansson's last loss was to Thiago Silva and we need to see if he can handle that kind of heat again before a potential title shot.
Romero also has options against number 4 ranked Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum is only 6 months or so removed from his instant classic with Israel Adesanya for the interim title and he needs a legit contender to get him back to the contender spot. Romero is that. The problem I have, is that I believe the UFC would rather see Gastelum vs Hermansson than either of these fights.
Undoubtedly Romero is also a huge middleweight and could easily make the step up to light heavyweight for some fun fights. Again though, I think he doesn't have enough time to make a run for the title due to his increasing age.
Cormier in my eyes should retire. His legacy is established and he will only be doing himself more harm than good at this point. Romero however still looks a prime athlete even at 42 and it would be interesting to see him be the oldest title holder at some point, however unlikely that may be. Age is just a number however and these two old dogs might just surprise us with some new tricks.