HOUSTON -- The final performance at heavyweight for Daniel Cormier wasn’t quite what he had in mind, but it served the purpose.
Cormier defeated Roy Nelson by unanimous decision over three rounds -- all three judges had it 30-27 -- and proved that being lighter has its benefits. Though Cormier weighed in at 224 pounds, the lightest of his professional career, he lost none of his physical strength.
He lifted Nelson and tossed him to the ground one minute into the opening round. And when Cormier had Nelson down, he had no trouble keeping him there.
In addition to maintaining his physical edge, Cormier’s hand and foot speed increased. He landed solid combinations and kicks throughout the fight. And he had little difficulty avoiding most of Nelson’s powerful overhand rights.
“I tried a couple of takedowns,” Cormier said after improving to 13-0. “But I wanted to stand with him to show him that I can take a punch.
“I’m going to be at 205 in my next fight. There’s a guy on my mind. He can’t get away from me for long.”
It’s no secret the guy Cormier is referring to is light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Cormier is moving to 205 pounds to become champion -- and with his longtime friend and training partner Cain Velasquez holding the heavyweight crown, there is no chance of him capturing that belt.
Cormier has said over and over that he will never fight Velasquez. And he believes Velasquez will retain the belt for a very long time.
After the overwhelming performance Velasquez put on during the main event against former titleholder Junior dos Santos, there is no reason to believe he will be dethroned in the foreseeable future.
As amazing as it might seem, Cormier could very well be a better fighter at light heavyweight. But before we start talking title shot, he needs a fight or two in the new division to earn it.
Despite his solid victory in the UFC 166 co-main event, Cormier didn’t leave fans salivating to see him face Jones. Part of the reason might be that he never seriously hurt Nelson, nor did he show any sign that neutralizing Jones’ significant reach edge won’t prove difficult.
There are still questions, however, that Cormier needs to answer before a 205-pound title shot is offered to him. Will the hand speed he demonstrated against Nelson and other heavyweights be an advantage against smaller, quicker opponents?
Cormier believes his hand and foot speed is comparable to those of any light heavyweight. And there is no doubt he will be as strong, if not stronger, than any man standing across the cage from him.
But Cormier will have to fight at least twice to prove he is the man most equipped to defeat Jones or anyone else holding the light heavyweight belt when his turn arrives. He is still in need of a dominating victory inside the Octagon.