As is customary when a prominent fighter calls it quits, there was an immediate effort to contextualize Cormier’s legacy. Also customary in this process is the clash between recency bias—“He just had a big fight and UFC employees called him the greatest, so it must be true!”—and reactionary invalidation: “Cormier has never beaten anyone good, actually.” Neither of those sentiments are correct even as a strict assessment of his accomplishments, and both are even more inaccurate when measuring the totality of Cormier’s legacy.
By any competitive standard, Cormier’s career doesn’t quite match the fanfare he has received in the aftermath of his retirement. He was a two-division champion in the two thinnest divisions, with no title reigns nearing anything resembling historical notability; he’s certainly a better fighter than Chuck Liddell ever was, but it’s not so clear that he was a greater champion. Cormier was the clear loser in his biggest rivalries in both of his divisions, and outside his win against Miocic—which was a remarkable achievement, no doubt—his best win was either his five-round drubbing of Josh Barnett or his split decision win over Alexander Gustafsson. There is a lot of “good” and “very good” woven throughout Cormier’s career, but there is very little “great…”