LAS VEGAS — Stipe Miocic defeated Daniel Cormier by unanimous decision in a five-round bout Saturday night to win the rubber match in a fantastic trilogy between the fighters and retain his heavyweight championship at UFC 252.
Miocic (20-3) swept the scorecards 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47 to stake his claim as perhaps the greatest heavyweight in UFC history.
“I’m happy to cement my legacy,” Miocic said.
Miocic tagged Cormier with a vicious poke to his left eye late in the third round that sent the challenger staggering to his corner. Cormier’s eye was about swollen shut, but he gamely fought on the final two rounds in the main event of UFC 252 at the UFC APEX complex in Las Vegas
“I can’t see anything out of my left eye,” Cormier said. “It’s black.”
Miocic said he apologized to Cormier for the poke.
“I totally poked him in the eye, my bad,” Miocic said.
Cormier was taken to the hospital after the bout. There was no immediate word about his condition.
The 41-year-old Cormier (22-3, 1 NC) is a former two-division champion and has already cemented his status as one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters in UFC history. The amiable Cormier, who has found his niche as a successful broadcaster, had vowed to retire after Saturday and end a career in which 10 of his last 11 fights were fought with a championship on the line.
Cormier said he stood by his decision to retire. He won the first fight between the two but dropped two straight to Miocic.
“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,” Cormier said. “That will be it for me. I’ve had a long run, it’s been great, I just fought my last fight for a heavyweight championship and it was a pretty good fight.”
UFC President Dana White had said Francis Ngannou was next in line for a heavyweight title shot.
“Great performance to both guys. ... Congrats to Stipe on the performance. See you soon,” Ngannou tweeted.
Jon Jones, the reigning UFC light heavyweight champion, tried to stir the pot on social media by teasing a challenge to Miocic.
“Heavyweight world championships I will be seeing you real soon. Victorious,” Jones tweeted.
Miocic nearly got the finish at the end of the second round and had Cormier in trouble until time ran out.
“One hundred percent I would have finished him,” Miocic said.
Cormier knocked out Miocic at UFC 226 in the first round in their 2018 bout to win the heavyweight belt. Miocic defeated Cormier last August in the rematch at UFC 241.
The winner of this bout could make an argument as the greatest heavyweight champion in UFC history. Miocic has plenty left in the tank to keep cementing his legacy as the best big man UFC has seen inside the cage.
“Great heavyweight fight!! #UFC252 #TeamStipe,” Lakers star LeBron James tweeted.
Cormier finished with a 1-2 mark against Miocic and a losing mark against Jones. Cormier lost both fights to Jones, though the second one was overturned when Jones failed a doping test. The result was changed to a no contest.
Miocic, who continues to work shifts for the Valley View (Ohio) Fire Department, has won eight of his last night fights.
“I don’t get any special treatment,” Miocic said. “I’m just one of the dudes.”
The only thing missing was the crowd. UFC hasn’t missed a beat during the pandemic and continued to run some of its most successful shows over the last few years. But no doubt a packed and crazed crowd would have added another dimension to the epic trilogy. White said UFC will return to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island.
“I don’t see fans happening any time soon,” White said. “I’m not even thinking about it.”