Jon Jones stops Cormier in third, re­gains UFC ti­tle belt

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Jon Jones reached the pin­na­cle of mixed martial arts and then fell harder than just about any­one ever had be­fore. When he got back on top Satur­day night by stop­ping his great­est ri­val in dra­matic style, Jones vowed to ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery­thing he had lost and re­gained.

Jones re­claimed his UFC light heavy­weight ti­tle by stop­ping Daniel Cormier in the third round with a vi­cious head kick and a fin­ish on the ground at UFC 214, com­plet­ing his rocky jour­ney back to the top af­ter 2 1/2 years of drama with his 14th con­sec­u­tive vic­tory.

He fended off a stiff chal­lenge from Cormier (19-2), who held the belt for most of the past two years while Jones (23-1) dealt with self-in­flicted set­backs out­side the cage. His ti­tle belt has been stripped twice, and he en­dured a year­long sus­pen­sion for a dop­ing test fail­ure be­fore re­turn­ing to beat Cormier for the sec­ond time.

“I feel like I’m leav­ing my past be­hind me and I’m eras­ing ev­ery­thing I’ve done be­fore,” Jones said. “I feel like this is a step to a new ca­reer, a new cham­pi­onship, and I want to be a bet­ter cham­pion than I was in the past.” Af­ter 2 1/2 rounds of even, high-level strik­ing, Jones landed a left head kick that caught Cormier lean­ing in. The cham­pion stag­gered back­ward and then around the cage with Jones in pur­suit, and Jones fin­ished the fight on the ground with a se­ries of mer­ci­less strikes.

Jones was widely con­sid­ered the world’s top pound-for-pound mixed martial artist while he held the belt for nearly four years from 2011-15. He beat Cormier by clear de­ci­sion in their first bout in Jan­uary 2015, but had fought just one time since.

BIG­GEST MO­TI­VA­TOR

In con­trast to the com­bat­ive na­ture of their pub­lic di­a­logue over the past three years , Jones praised Cormier af­ter­ward.

“I want to thank Daniel for be­ing my big­gest ri­val and my big­gest mo­ti­va­tor,” Jones said. “He has no rea­son to be ashamed. He has been a model cham­pion. I as­pire to be a lot more like that man, be­cause he’s an amaz­ing hu­man be­ing.”

Jones also called out for­mer UFC heavy­weight champ Brock Les­nar for what would al­most cer­tainly be the high­est-pro­file fight in MMA his­tory.

Earlier, Cris “Cyborg” Justino be­came a UFC cham­pion for the first time at Honda Cen­ter, stop­ping Tonya Evinger in the third round to win the va­cant feath­er­weight belt. Ty­ron Wood­ley also de­fended his wel­ter­weight ti­tle with a clear de­ci­sion over Demian Maia, thor­oughly frus­trat­ing the Brazil­ian jiu-jitsu mas­ter in a fight that drew loud boos from the Honda Cen­ter crowd.

For­mer wel­ter­weight cham­pion Rob­bie Lawler squeaked out a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion vic­tory over Don­ald “Cow­boy” Cer­rone in another com­pelling matchup on the UFC’s most stacked card of the sum­mer.

Jones’ next op­po­nent for the 205-pound belt could be Swiss sen­sa­tion Volkan Oezdemir, who kicked off the pay-per-view show with a sen­sa­tional 22-sec­ond knock­out of Bri­tain’s Jimi Manuwa.

But Jones, who did an ex­u­ber­ant cart­wheel when he en­tered the UFC cage for the first time since April 2016, is the UFC’s light heavy­weight cham­pion for the third time in his tu­mul­tuous ca­reer.

Jones lost his belt in early 2015 for his in­volve­ment in a hit-and-run ac­ci­dent in which a preg­nant woman’s arm was bro­ken. In July 2016, Jones was pulled from a re­match with Cormier for his drug test fail­ure. Cormier reigned atop the divi­sion for most of Jones’ ab­sence, but he re­al­ized his glit­ter­ing ti­tle belt was af­fixed with an enor­mous as­ter­isk. The 39-year-old ex-Olympic wrestler has been trad­ing ver­bal shots with Jones ever since one of the best ri­val­ries in MMA his­tory was sparked by their brawl in a casino lobby dur­ing a pro­mo­tional ap­pear­ance in 2014.

Cormier ap­par­ently in­curred a con­cus­sion dur­ing their re­match. He cried in the cage af­ter­ward.

Jones’ vic­tory thrilled a crowd that was de­flated af­ter Wood­ley de­fended his wel­ter­weight belt with a strong tech­ni­cal per­for­mance against the 39-year-old Maia, a vaunted jiu-jitsu spe­cial­ist from Brazil. Maia couldn’t get the fight to the ground thanks to the wrestling acu­men of Wood­ley, who pa­tiently stuffed take­downs and grinded out a vic­tory that bored UFC Pres­i­dent Dana White. Af­ter­ward, White said Ge­orges St. Pierre will fight mid­dleweight cham­pion Michael Bisp­ing next in­stead of Wood­ley. White claimed that “no­body wants to watch Ty­ron Wood­ley fight.”

Justino is widely con­sid­ered the most dan­ger­ous pound-for-pound fighter in women’s MMA af­ter a lengthy ca­reer spent dom­i­nat­ing smaller pro­mo­tions. She fi­nally claimed a UFC belt by me­thod­i­cally break­ing down the tough Evinger, a late re­place­ment op­po­nent fight­ing 10 pounds above her usual weight.—AP

ANAHEIM: (L-R) Jon Jones el­bows Daniel Cormier dur­ing the UFC 214 event at Honda Cen­ter on Satur­day in Anaheim, Cal­i­for­nia.— AFP

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