Daniel Cormier said in a prefight hype interview on arena big screens that he took Saturday night’s super-fight against UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic as a legacy move.
“I’ll win and I’ll never be forgotten,” said Cormier, the light-heavyweight champ.
Cormier fulfilled the prophecy at UFC 226, knocking down Miocic with a right hand to the jaw in the final minute of the first round, then pounding Miocic’s face with two more punches on the canvas to finish him.
Cormier (21-1) joined Conor McGregor as the only fighters in UFC history to hold two belts simultaneously, and he set up a fall date against former champion Brock Lesnar, who entered the octagon after the fight and, in classic WWE style, shoved the new champion to fuel the showdown.
“Push me now, you’re going to sleep later,” Cormier roared to the delight of the fans at T-Mobile Arena. “Your days are in the past, the stone age.”
“Miocic’s a piece of ... . D.C., I’m coming for you!” Lesnar barked, tossing the microphone.
“Get out of the octagon. I’ve got some pictures to take,” Cormier responded.
The UFC has eyed a Lesnar return bout for Madison Square Garden in November, but President Dana White said he doesn’t expect Lesnar, who tested positive for a banned substance in his most recent UFC fight two years ago, to fight until at least January as he re-enrolls in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency testing program, a six-month process. And Cormier said he’s interested in first defending his light-heavyweight belt.
Cormier, the former heavyweight champion in the Strikeforce organization, moved down to light-heavyweight in deference to his friend Cain Velasquez, the former UFC heavyweight champion who knocked out Lesnar to win the belt in 2010.
“I was heavyweight for a long time. I left the division and never knew what I could become,” Cormier said. “Tonight, I found out. Heavyweight champion.”
Cormier had to weather the pressure of Miocic (18-3), who was seeking to extend his UFC record of consecutive heavyweight title defenses to four.
Miocic pressed Cormier to the cage, kneed him to the body, then later landed a hard right hand. Cormier answered with effective jabs, but Miocic came back with good power punches as the action moved to the center of the ring for a slugfest.
In a clinch, Cormier landed the knockdown blow, finished Miocic and widened his raised arms to exclaim, “Oh my God.”
“I am 39 years old and I’ve been second many times,” Cormier said. “Today, I finally accomplished everything I ever wanted. From crying in the octagon a year ago to leaving as heavyweight champion … it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced.”
He then turned his attention to a moment that appeared as scripted as WWE action is.
“I’m talking to a guy I’ve watched for a long time … he’s a wrestler, he’s an American. I never thought I’d fight him, but Brock Lesnar, get your ass in here,” Cormier ordered.
If Lesnar gets his chance to fight this year or next, he’ll have to beat a savvy veteran who’s never lost as a heavyweight in amateur wrestling or in professional mixed martial arts.
Cormier’s victory and the ensuing theatrics helped fans forget the disappointing co-main event, in which heavyweight Derrick Lewis defeated top-rated former title challenger Francis Ngannou, who landed just 11 punches. Judges scored the bout 29-28, 29-28, 30-27 for Lewis (20-5).
The fans not only rained boos on the three-round bout highlighted by Lewis’ occasional kicks, they also did the wave and swayed their illumined cellphones as if listening to a rock power ballad. Referee Herb Dean even interrupted the inactivity during the second round and urged the sluggers to fight, to little avail.
The fight replaced a scheduled co-main event featherweight-title defense by Max Holloway versus unbeaten Brian Ortega of Harbor City. Holloway withdrew last week citing concussion-like symptoms.
Former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis ended a run of five losses in seven fights by submitting Michael Chiesa by second-round triangle choke while employing an arm bar.
Pettis (21-7) dropped Chiesa late in the first round with a right hand and returned to it early in the second, measuring Chiesa and delivering a punch followed by pressure that sent Chiesa to the canvas.
There, Pettis squeezed his legs around Chiesa’s neck and grabbed his arm, prompting him to tap out 52 seconds in.
“What got me to the top was submissions and kickboxing,” Pettis said.
The victory not only halted Pettis’ drop to No. 12 in the division rankings, but also resulted in an extra financial boost because No. 9-rated Chiesa (14-4) was overweight Friday and forfeited 30% of his $48,000 guaranteed purse to Pettis.
Chiesa said he’ll move to welterweight.
In a bloody battle, welterweight Mike Perry edged a game Paul Felder by split-decision scores of 29-28, 28-29, 29-28.
Brazil’s Raphael Assuncao (27-5) cruised to 30-27 scores on all three judges’ cards against Rob Font to claim his record-tying 11th bantamweight win.