ANAHEIM, Calif. — Jon Jones is once again king of the light heavyweight division. In the main event of UFC 214 on Saturday night, Jones defeated Daniel Cormier to recapture the 205-pound title, putting away his bitter rival with a vicious head kick to pick up the third-round knockout.
Who’s next for Jones? Will it be Alexander Gustafsson or Brock Lesnar? That will be decided soon enough.
Before Jones found a way to stop Cormier, the battle contained all of the hard-hitting action that one would hope to see in a rematch between the two best light heavyweights in the world. Similar to their original encounter, Cormier constantly pressured Jones and made several advances inside.
In the clinch, the two waged war as they delivered uppercuts, knees and even collided heads. Jones attempted to keep Cormier at bay by attacking the body and utilizing his front kick. The 30-year-old Albuquerque also had a 31-5 advantage in significant strikes over his foe.
But Cormier relentlessly took the fight to Jones throughout the bout, tagging him several times inside the pocket. It included a second-round effort that had many in the Honda Center chanting for the now-former champion.
After two physical rounds of combat however, Jones finally took back what he felt was always his, as a devastating head kick rattled Cormier and sent him to the canvas, allowing Jones to capitalize by using ground-and-pound to get the KO at the 3:01 mark.
“This fight feels like my first championship ever, almost,” Jones said at the post-fight news conference. “This feels like a new beginning. I went through a dark period.”
Jones’ long road back coincides with the culmination of his nearly three-year feud with Cormier. And while the two managed to build a deeply-rooted personal vendetta that gave mixed martial arts fans a constant show in recent times, there was no shortage of respect at the contest’s conclusion.
“I want to thank Daniel Cormier for being my biggest rival and motivator,” Jones said. “He has no reason to hang his head. D.C. is a model husband, a model father, and a great champion.”
Cormier, who was distraught in the octagon after the loss, had a tough time finding
words in the wake of the sudden stoppage.
“If you lose both fights there’s not much of a rivalry,” he said. “So I don’t know. I thought the fight was going well.”
While many will speculate where Cormier goes from here, fans and media are already looking ahead to a possible superfight between Jones and Lesnar, something the new champ made clear he would like in a post-fight promo.
“Brock Lesnar, if you want to find out what it’s like to get your ass kicked by a guy
who weighs 40 pounds less than you, meet me here,” Jones announced.
Oddsmakers were listening. The Westgate sports book opened the line Sunday morning, with Jones as minus-300 favorite over Lesnar. Early money on Jones pushed the price to minus-400.
Regardless of where each fighter goes from this point, the Jones-Cormier battle at UFC 214 proved to be the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another.
In addition, it gave the combat sports world a fitting end to one of its most prominent sagas. It also, as UFC president Dana White emphasized, solidified the true pecking order.
“Daniel Cormier is one of the best to ever do it,” White remarked. “I truly believe Jon Jones is the best to ever do it.”