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Daniel Cormier has one last chapter to write.
The American Kickboxing Academy captain will challenge Stipe Miocic for the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title in the UFC 252 headliner this Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. They met on two previous occasions: Cormier knocked out the Strong Style Fight Team rep at UFC 226 in 2018, and Miocic returned the favor some 13 months later. The outcome of their trilogy may shape the future of the UFC’s most turbulent division for years to come.
Cormier, now 41, has given every indication that he plans to retire following the match. As he heads toward his supposed swan song inside the Octagon, a look at five of the moments upon which his reputation was built:
1. One-Way Traffic
Cormier rendered former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder Dan Henderson unconscious with a third-round rear-naked choke in the UFC 173 co-main event on May 24, 2014 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Henderson went to sleep 3:53 into Round 3. It was a scene of utter domination, as Cormier outclassed the Team Quest co-founder in every phase of hand-to-hand combat, all while draining his gas tank with a relentless top game. “DC” struck for takedowns and achieved mount in all three rounds, outlanding Henderson by staggering margins: 131-12 in total strikes and 50-6 in significant strikes. The fabled right hand that had brought “Hendo” so much glory in the past was never in play. Late in the third round, Cormier transitioned to the Downey, California, native’s back, cinched the choke and forced him to a belly-down position. Soon after, Henderson lost his grip on reality.
2. A Mountain Too High
He talked the talk, but Cormier fell well short of walking the walk against his archrival. Jon Jones kept his stranglehold on the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight title with a resounding unanimous decision against “DC” in the UFC 182 headliner on Jan. 3, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. All three judges awarded the champion four of the five rounds, as “Bones” exited the cage with a 49-46 marks across the board. Jones stifled the two-time Olympian in the clinch, executed multiple takedowns in the championship rounds, piled up points with a variety of standup techniques and weathered several encounters with Cormier uppercuts to put another successful title defense in the books, this time against the man many viewed as his most grievous threat.
3. Tight Squeeze
Cormier replaced the suspended and deposed Jones on short notice and submitted Anthony Johnson with a third-round rear-naked choke, as he captured the vacant light heavyweight championship in the UFC 187 main event on May 23, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Johnson conceded defeat 2:39 into Round 3. “Rumble” had his chances. He floored Cormier with a searing right hand in the first round and clobbered him with multiple head kicks, but the American Kickboxing Academy anchor walked through his best shots. “DC” took control with a dominant second round, where he grounded Johnson and tore into him with punches and elbows from the top. Battered and bloodied, the Dublin, Georgia, native returned to his corner a shell of his former self. Cormier offered him no respite in the third, as he again drove Johnson to the canvas, slid to his back and set the choke for the tapout.
4. Close Call
He wanted it just a little bit more. Cormier retained the undisputed light heavyweight crown with a split decision over Alexander Gustafsson in the UFC 192 headliner on Oct. 3, 2015 at the Toyota Center in Houston. Scores were 48-47 (Sal D’Amato) and 49-46 (Kerry Hatley) for Cormier, 48-47 (Derek Cleary) for Gustafsson. The two men engaged in a remarkable war of wills across five grueling rounds. Cormier set the early pace, as he delivered a slam takedown—Gustafsson was vertical at one point, his head pointed toward the mat—in the first round. The Swede answered back, cutting Cormier near his right eye with a left hook in the second before flooring him with a knee strike and follow-up punches in the third. The champion took Gustafsson’s best shots and did not blink. Cormier found the inner strength and resolve to press through fatigue and considerable damage in the fourth and fifth rounds. He sucked Gustafsson into the single collar tie—the site of his greatest success in the fight—and bludgeoned him with right uppercuts to the face while clutching the back of his head with his free hand. By the end of the bout, Gustafsson was suffering from severe swelling to both eyes and a nasty gash across the bridge of his nose, having failed in his second attempt to capture UFC gold.
5. Double Dip
Cormier took his place among the immortals, as he knocked out Miocic to claim the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title in the first round of their UFC 226 main event on July 7, 2018 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “DC” brought it to a close 4:33 into Round 1, becoming the second fighter in UFC history—Conor McGregor was the first—to hold titles in two divisions simultaneously. Miocic threw power punches in combination but moseyed too willingly into the clinch against the two-time Olympic wrestler and reigning light heavyweight champion. After a brief pause in the action due to a blatant eye poke from Cormier, the Strong Style Fight Team cornerstone again engaged “DC” at close range. Cormier fired a right hook on the break that folded the Ohio native where he stood. A burst of hammerfists followed, knocking Miocic unconscious before a stunned crowd.