Stipe Miocic cemented his legacy as the greatest heavyweight champion in UFC history with a unanimous decision win over Daniel Cormier, who confirmed his retirement after their hotly-anticipated heavyweight title trilogy fight at UFC 252 on Saturday.
In their first meeting at UFC 226 in July 2018, then light-heavyweight champion Cormier stunned Miocic in the first round in Las Vegas to become a two-division champion.
But Miocic produced a brilliant come-from-behind performance in Anaheim last August to turn the tables and stop Cormier in the rematch at UFC 241.
And the rivals battled all the way in their third meeting, behind closed doors at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, with Miocic, 37, coming out on top with scores of 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47 from the three judges.
‘Hard work pays off’
“Everyone talks about legacy. The only reason I’m happy to cement my legacy was to show my daughter, to show her that hard work pays off,” Miocic said.
“If you do something, you put your mind and effort into it, you can do good things.”
A crestfallen Cormier, 41, added: “It sucks, being on the losing end of two big fights and trilogies – it’s a very sad position to be in. But I will deal with it as I’ve dealt with things in the past.
“I’m not interested in fighting for anything but titles, and I don’t imagine there’s going to be a title in the future, so that’ll be it for me. I’ve had a long run, it’s been great.”
Miocic said of his rival: “I’ve always had a lot of respect for the guy. He’s an amazing fighter, I wish him all the best.”
The result improved Ohio firefighter Miocic’s career record to 20 wins and three losses, and extended two key UFC records. He became the first fighter to win six heavyweight title fights, and complete four heavyweight title defences.
Meanwhile, Cormier retires with a career record of 15 wins and two losses, and is one of only four athletes to hold UFC titles in two weight classes simultaneously, alongside Conor McGregor, Amanda Nunes and Henry Cejudo.
He was also the first to successfully defend UFC titles in two different weight classes.
O’Malley suffers first defeat
In the night’s co-main event, Ecuador’s Marlon Vera handed hot prospect Sean O’Malley the first defeat of his MMA career with a first-round TKO after the American was injured midway through the first round of their bantamweight matchup, when he appeared to roll his ankle and collapse on his foot.
O’Malley, 25, attempted to fight through his injury, but Vera, 27, took full advantage of his rival’s reduced mobility as he took advantage of a second slip to land on top and unload a salvo of punishing elbows that forced referee Herb Dean to step in.
Vera’s victory was his sixth in his last seven fights in the UFC’s bantamweight division and improved his impressive finish rate, with each of his last eight wins coming inside the distance.