Jon Jones de­feats Daniel Cormier at UFC 214 on Sat­ur­day.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

ANA­HEIM, Calif. — Jon Jones re­claimed his UFC light heavy­weight ti­tle Sat­ur­day night, stop­ping Daniel Cormier in the third round with a vi­cious head kick and a fin­ish on the ground at UFC 214.

Jones (23-1) com­pleted his rocky jour­ney back to the top af­ter a year­long sus­pen­sion 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 dealt with self-in­flicted set­backs out­side the cage.

Af­ter 21/2 rounds of even, high-level strik­ing, Jones landed a 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.

“It’s never over,” Jones said of his long road back. “As long as you’ve got a pulse, it’s never over.”

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

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.”

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.

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