Daniel Cormier weathered the storm and took the title. | Photo: Christian Peterson/UFC/Zuffa/Getty
Moments after he became the 12th light heavyweight titleholder in Ultimate Fighting Championship history, Daniel Cormier sent a message to the man he replaced on the throne: “Jon Jones, get your s--t together. I’m waiting for you.”
Cormier -- who replaced the suspended and deposed Jones on short notice -- submitted Anthony Johnson with a third-round rear-naked choke, as he captured the vacant light heavyweight championship in the UFC 187 “Johnson vs. Cormier” headliner on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Johnson (19-5, 10-5 UFC) conceded defeat 2:39 into round three.
“Rumble” had his moments. He floored Cormier (16-1, 5-1 UFC) with a searing right hand in the first round and clobbered him with multiple head kicks, but the American Kickboxing Academy export walked through his best shots. “DC” took control with a dominant round two, as he grounded Johnson and tore into him with punches and elbows from the top. Battered and bloodied, the Blackzilians rep returned to his corner a shell of his former self. Cormier offered him no respite in the third round, as he again drove Johnson to the canvas, slid to his back and set the choke for the tapout.
Related » UFC 187 Round-by-Round Scoring
Weidman Denies Belfort, Dismisses ‘The Phenom’
In the co-main event, Chris Weidman weathered an early power punching volley from Vitor Belfort to put away “The Phenom” with first-round strikes from full mount and retain the undisputed middleweight crown. Weidman (13-0, 9-0 UFC) drew the curtain 2:53 into round one.
Belfort (24-11, 13-7 UFC) uncorked a burst of vicious lefts and rights, first at a distance and then in close quarters, and cut the champion on his left brow. His efforts were not enough. Weidman covered up, withstood the onslaught and resumes stalking the Brazilian. The Serra-Longo Fight Team centerpiece then swooped in four a double-leg takedown, settled briefly in half guard and advanced to full mount. Elbows, punches and hammerfists fell next and with increasing intensity. Sensing the dire nature of his situation, Belfort yielded his back for a moment before allowing the “All-American” to return to the mount. Unable to free himself, he turned away from the blows, forcing referee Herb Dean to step in on his behalf.
The defeat halts Belfort’s three-fight winning streak and likely ends his bid to become the UFC’s third two-division champion.
Cerrone Streak Reaches Eight
Donald Cerrone disposed of Tristar Gym standout John Makdessi with a second-round head kick in a featured battle at 155 pounds. A short-notice replacement for the injured Khabib Nurmagomedov, Makdessi requested intervention from referee Jason Herzog 4:44 into round two, the blow resulting in an apparent jaw injury.
Cerrone (28-6, 15-3 UFC) sank his teeth into the Canadian with brutal leg and head kicks, knees, close-quarters elbows and crisp punching combinations. Makdessi (13-4, 6-4 UFC) answered in kind but was often limited to single strikes. By the time the second round arrived, he was visibly compromised, the Cerrone leg kicks having exacted their intended toll. Cerrone sent a slashing horizontal elbow crashing into his face and later delivered the kick that resulted in the stoppage, the impact echoing through the arena.
The 32-year-old Cerrone has pieced together an eight-fight winning streak and figures to be on a short list of potential challengers for reigning lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos -- a man who defeated him by unanimous decision in August 2013.
Resurgent Arlovski Dispatches Browne
Andrei Arlovski recorded his fifth straight victory, as he stopped Travis Browne with first-round punches in a brief but memorable heavyweight showcase. Browne (17-3-1, 8-3-1 UFC) succumbed to an accumulation of heavy blows 4:41 into round one.
In an early frontrunner for “Round of the Year,” the onetime Jackson-Wink MMA teammates threw caution to the wind. Arlovski (24-10, 13-4 UFC) set the Hawaiian on skates multiple times with right hands and pursued the finish with patience and persistence. Browne somehow survived but never fully recovered. Arlovski later dropped him with a backfist to the face and followed him to the cage, meeting him with another barrage. A counter right hook from Browne, thrown in desperation, found its mark and folded the Belarusian where he stood, briefly turning the tide. The Glendale Fighting Club export pounced on the fallen Arlovski, but the cobwebs had not sufficiently cleared. The two heavyweights then returned to their feet, where Arlovski tore into Browne with a right uppercut and straight right that had him ducking for cover and forced referee Mark Smith to act.
The 32-year-old Browne has dropped two of his last three fights.
Benavidez Grinds Down Moraga
Timely takedowns and a punishing top game spurred Team Alpha Male’s Joseph Benavidez to a unanimous decision over John Moraga in a featured flyweight clash. All three cageside judges arrived at the same verdict: 30-27 for Benavidez (22-4, 9-2 UFC).
On the feet, the two 125-pound contenders threw hands with reckless abandon, though neither man enjoyed a discernible advantage. The ground exchanges were another story. Benavidez drove the Arizona Combat Sports-MMA Lab rep to the mat in all three rounds, passing guard and letting the elbows and punches fly. Moraga was too often forced into a defensive shell on the bottom, offering little in return from his back.
Benavidez, 30, has rattled off 10 wins in 12 appearances, losing only to flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson.