En route to winning three fights in 2018, Daniel Cormier became the first fighter in history to hold the UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight championships simultaneously. On Tuesday, ESPN The Magazine added another accolade to Cormier’s resume by naming him the third most dominant athlete of the year.
ESPN The Magazine has compiled its list of the 20 most dominant athletes of 2018, which is the cover story of its current issue, which hits newsstands on Friday. According to ESPN, “Senior writer Peter Keating developed a statistical methodology to determine the list of athletes who redefined the impossible.”
That methodology slotted Cormier in at the No. 3 spot on the list behind Olympic gymnast Simone Biles and Olympic runner Eliud Kipchoge. No other mixed marital artist or other combat sports athlete made the list.
Cormier had a career-defining year in 2018. After having his UFC light heavyweight championship reign reinstated when Jon Jones (who had defeated him in July 2017) was flagged for an anti-doping violation, Cormier validated that reinstatement in January of 2018 with a second-round stoppage of No. 2 ranked Volkan Oezdemir.
He followed the win over Oezdemir with an unprecedented move by challenging heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 226 in July. While many pundits felt that Cormier’s wrestling and ground-and-pound game might pose significant problems for Miocic, few saw him doing what he did. Cormier stood with Miocic, who is much taller and has a much greater reach, and knocked him out inside of the first round. It marked Cormier as the only fighter to ever hold the UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight titles simultaneously.
Proving that it wasn’t just luck that catapulted him into the history books, Cormier made a hasty return from a hand injury to help the UFC save its annual November event at Madison Square Garden by defending his heavyweight belt against Derrick Lewis, who had been knocking out opponents left and right. Cormier submitted Lewis via rear-naked choke early in the second round.
Though Cormier has repeatedly stated that he intends to retire by his 40th birthday in March of 2019, he is first expected to meet Brock Lesnar in a blockbuster heavyweight bout earlier in the year.
Below is ESPN The Magazine’s full “Dominant 20” list:
- Simone Biles (Olympic gymnast)
- Eliud Kipchoge (Olympic runner)
- Daniel Cormier (MMA fighter/former Olympic wrestler)
- Ariya Jutanugarn (professional golfer)
- Katie Ledecky (Olympic swimmer)
- Chloe Kim (Olympic snowboarder)
- Breanna Stewart (WNBA/Seattle Storm)
- Luka Modric (professional soccer player/Real Madrid)
- Simona Halep (professional tennis player)
- Novak Djokovic (professional tennis player)
- Yuzuru Hanyu (Olympic figure skater)
- Lewis Hamilton (professional race car driver)
- LeBron James (NBA/Los Angeles Lakers)
- Mookie Betts (MLB/Boston Red Sox)
- Drew Brees (NFL/New Orleans Saints)
- Justify (Triple Crown winner)
- Alex Ovechkin (NHL/Washington Capitals)
- Patrick Mahomes (NFL/Kansas City Chiefs)
- James Harden (NBA/Houston Rockets)
- Mike Trout (MLB/Los Angeles Angels)