“The winner by knockout and now — and again — the new undisputed UFC light heavyweight champion of the world…Jon 'Bones' Jones.”
That was the announcement booming from the golden voice of Bruce Buffer after Jones defeated Daniel "DC" Cormier at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California to emerge with the title in the headline fight at UFC 214.
Jones has ties to New Mexico in more ways than one. He has trained out of the local Jackson Wink MMA Academy for many years, but he was also stripped of his title in 2015 following an arrest for a hit-and-run accident in Albuquerque. The incident occurred just months after he defeated Cormier in their first championship match.
“Bones” was subsequently suspended, and Cormier secured the vacated title in his next fight, dispatching Anthony Johnson.
Cormier and Jones were scheduled to lock horns on two separate occasions last year, but neither came to fruition. Cormier pulled out of UFC 197 with a foot injury, and Jones later tested positive for a banned substance prior to UFC 200 and was suspended again.
Jones took to Twitter and maintained that he didn’t knowingly cheat, but it resulted in Cormier missing a potentially huge payday.
There seemed to be a genuine dislike between the two fighters, even before that incident. The press conferences leading up the championship were considered by most to be wildly entertaining with fans hoping the actual fight would live up to the hype.
After more than two years of waiting, Cormier was no doubt looking forward to avenging the only loss on his record. But instead his night ended in frustration and tears after he was knocked out in the third round.
Here is a look at how the fights on UFC 214 main card shook out:
Volkan Oezdemir vs. Jimi Manuwa
The opening card didn’t last long. Oezdemir won his third fight in a row after going on the offensive early. He landed some clean punches in a clinch and connected with a crushing left hook to finish Manuwa just 42 seconds into the first round.
Robbie Lawler vs. Donald Cerrone
Unlike the preceding fight, Lawler and Cerrone went the distance. The two put on a tremendous performance in three close rounds as Lawler edged out Cerrone in a unanimous decision.
Lawler seemed to dictate the pace in round one, though Cerrone did notch a takedown. Cerrone responded by being the aggressor in round two. He landed the cleaner shots in the round, but Lawler didn’t seem to get rattled and remained upright.
Things were contested very closely in the final round, but Lawler did seem to reassert himself and arguably land the bigger combinations to snag the victory.
Cris Cyborg vs. Tonya Evinger
Cyborg could be heading for a highly-anticipated match with New Mexico’s Holly Holm after breezing through Evinger on Saturday.
Evinger managed to stay upright for much of the first round — even taking her opponent to the ground on a couple of occasions. But Cyborg constantly fired off low leg kicks throughout the round, setting up some devastating punches and a high kick to rock Evinger.
Things remained the same in the second round, with Evinger taking significant damage again. It seemed like every time she threw a punch, Cyborg countered with something stronger.
Perhaps sensing the end was near, Cyborg came out swinging in the third round. She started landing multiple knees to Evinger, which prompted a stoppage after the referee felt she had suffered enough damage.
Tyron Woodley vs. Demain Maia
Fans seemed to be bored with the fight, as Woodley received criticism for his unwillingness to engage. Woodley has been touted as a defensive fighter and seemed to be cautious — perhaps overly so — of guarded against takedowns.
Maia tried to get Woodley to the mat several times, but was unsuccessful in penetrating the defense. Woodley’s right hand effectively kept Maia at bay for much of the fight, countering any time there was a perceived threat.
The fight went all five rounds as boos reigned down from fans, but the style is effective as Woodley walked away with another victory by unanimous decision and is riding a six-fight unbeaten streak.
Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier
Jones had the edge in so many different categories — height, reach, age. But Cormier seemed to use the experience of the first fight to his advantage.
Cormier suffered a small cut to his right eye during the opening round but stood toe-to-toe with Jones in a very close first round. Jones executed the instruction of his team to shoot the low leg kick to perfection.
Though Cormier was able to land punches, Jones’ kicks never allowed him to get into a rhythm or string together combinations that could cause major problems.
Cormier seemed even more at ease as he settled into a groove in the second round. He picked his spots on offense and, although Jones threw more strikes, Cormier seemed to deliver shots that were more crisp and precise.
He landed consistently to the head and body in clinches, but Jones was never in serious trouble, and he continued to keep his opponent at bay with the constant barrage of low kicks.
The tide took a major turn in the third round after Jones picked the perfect time to go high on Cormier, connecting with a vicious leg kick to the side of the champion’s head.
Cormier was never able to find his bearings as he stumbled and spun around trying to avoid the pursuit of Jones. But Jones wasted no time closing things out, throwing. After Cormier was unable to defend himself, the referee stepped in to stop the fight at the 3:01 mark.
A distraught Cormier pulled away from the referee prior to the official announcement, but Jones displayed class and humility in victory.
Shortly after he was adorned with the championship belt, Jones beckoned for the microphone. He thanked Cormier and said his opponent was the type of man he aspired to be more like.
“He has been a model champion, a model husband, a model father, teammate, leader,” Jones said. “He is a true champion for the rest of his life.”
Jones said even though they were opponents, Cormier would be viewed by him as a true champion for the rest of his life. It has been a widely-held opinion that Jones and Cormier are the best two light heavyweight fighters in the history of the UFC.
The new champion directed his attention to a potential “super-fight”, calling out Brock Lesnar. That fight may not be as likely to take place considering the weight disparity, but would definitely generate a lot of fan interest.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers football and men’s and women’s tennis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @robert_maler.