Sunday, July 30, 2017

UFC 214: Jones defeats Cormier to (re)take title

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.

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’ 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.

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.

After Oezdemir got the Anaheim fans on their feet with a vicious first-round stoppage for his fifth consecutive victory, Lawler (28-11) and Cerrone kept them up with an entertaining three-round striking exhibition between two of the toughest veterans in the sport. Cerrone (32-9) shrugged after the judges favored Lawler in two of the three rounds.

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.”

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

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