Daniel Cormier was looking for a storybook finish in his final career fight, but Stipe Miocic was too formidable an obstacle to overcome.
The duo completed their heavyweight championship trilogy on Saturday night, and while the 41-year old San Jose fighter had his moments, champion Miocic (20-3) was simply too much. The Independence, Ohio native wore his opponent down and retained his title via unanimous decision in the main event of UFC 252 in Las Vegas. The judges scores were 49-46, 49-46, and 48-47, as Miocic won the fight, and took their series two fights to one.
Cormier (22-3) landed the harder power shots, but Miocic was the more active fighter, landing a wide variety of strikes throughout the bout. The biggest blow came late in the second, when he cracked Cormier on the jaw and dropped him near the cage, leaving Cormier to hang on until the horn. The rest of the way, Miocic was never seriously threatened.
“Honestly, D.C. is a Hall of Fame, one of the best,” a self-admittedly tired Miocic said afterward on the ESPN broadcast. “God bless him, he made me better.”
Cormier’s chances of rallying were damaged by an eye poke in the third round, as Miocic caught him inadvertently and left him unable to see out of his left eye for the remainder of the fight.
In their first fight, at UFC 226 in July 2018, Cormier, who came into the bout as light heavyweight champion, knocked out Miocic in the opening round to claim the title. The rematch last August at UFC 241 was a grueling, back-and-forth affair won by Miocic in the fourth round.
Cormier acknowledged after Saturday’s fight that it would likely be his last, as many expected.
“I’m not interested in fighting for anything but titles. I don’t imagine there’s going to be a title in the future, so that’ll be it for me,” Cormier said on the broadcast. “I’ve had a long run. It’s been great. I just fought my last fight for a heavyweight championship. It was a pretty good fight.”
It marks the end of a tremendous athletic career for Cormier, including spots on the 2004 and 2008 U.S. Olympic wrestling teams, the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix tournament championship and a place as one of just four UFC fighters to simultaneously hold two weight-class belts.
The evening’s co-feature bout was an attempt to build flashy Montana upstart Sean O’Malley, but the train got stalled at the station.
O’Malley (12-1) suffered lower left leg injury in the first round of his bantamweight bout with Ecuador’s Marlon Vera (15-6-1), who proceed to knock him out with elbows soon thereafter for a TKO win at the 4:40 mark of the opening round.
In other main-card bouts, Jairzinho Rozenstruik of Suriname knocked out fellow heavyweight Junior Dos Santos of Brazil at 3:47 of the second round with a hail of punches; Daniel Pineda TKO’d Brazil’s Herbert Burns with elbows at 4:37 of the second round in their featherweight bout; and Merab Dvalishvili of Georgia won via unanimous decision over John Dodson in a bantamweight bout, with all three judges scoring it 30-27.
–Field Level Media