Daniel Cormier, the so-called “king of the mill”, experienced the power of Anthony Johnson on Saturday night. But even the most shocking hit in “Rumble” was not enough to dissuade Cormier, who subjected Johnson to the third round by rear throttling to capture the vacant UFC light heavyweight title.
Cormier did not expect a title fight so soon after losing to Jon Jones in January, but after Jones was stripped of the title and the double Olympian had the chance to compete for the vacant crown in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, he took advantage of his second chance.
Cormier’s first act as champion was to call the former king.
“Jon Jones, come together,” he said. “I’m waiting for you.”
Jones has been suspended indefinitely and stripped of his title since 2011 after being involved in a hit-and-run accident which resulted in a criminal charge to vacate the scene of a bodily injury accident.
Johnson’s first punch landed, a right-to-right loop, sent Sprawling Cormier to the mat. Cormier recovered quickly and was able to lock himself up with Johnson, eventually putting him on the canvas. Johnson didn’t stay there long, but Cormier was relentless with his pressure, smothering the Georgia native against the fence.
With two minutes remaining, Johnson freed himself and resumed unleashing bombs. Cormier was able to resist the assault, and with a minute left, he attacked Johnson at the close, a strategy that did not please the fans, but it was clearly effective.
Johnson pierced Cormier with a right hand and two fierce head shots to open the second round. Cormier’s response was to lift Johnson and slam him in the middle of the Octagon. After a series of ground strikes, Cormier worked three times for a kimura but allowed each attempt to continue his striking attack on the mat, with few responses from “Rumble”, which was cut by the elbows of Cormier.
Johnson’s solid start once again came as nothing when he slipped on the mat early in the third. Johnson was able to get a quick withdrawal, but Cormier stood up and took control of the fence. After two minutes, Cormier took the back of his enemy and locked the naked choke in the back, with the tap of the Johnson exhausted moments later at 2:39.
“Tonight I might have lost, but you should never give up,” said a gracious Johnson. “No matter what goes on in life, keep pushing.”
With this victory, Cormier, 36, goes to 16-1; Johnson, 31, falls to 19-5.