Stipe Miocic staked his claim to be recognised as the greatest UFC heavyweight of all-time by defending his title against Daniel Cormier in their trilogy bout in Las Vegas on Sunday.
The American, who lost the first of three clashes with Cormier in 2018 before winning the crown in August last year, took the headline bout at UFC 252 by unanimous decision. The judges scored the contest 49-46, 49-46, 48-47.
Miocic had knocked down his rival at the conclusion of the second round, although an eye poke later in the fight did appear to significantly reduce Cormier’s threat. Cormier, a former two-division champion, reiterated his decision to retire from the sport immediately following the loss.
“He’s an incredible fighter,” Miocic said. “Love the guy. No ill will towards him. He’s having a baby in October. God bless.
"I’m going home, I’ve got the belt. It was real close. He fell. That’s why he’s a great fighter: he knew he was in trouble and he did the right thing.
He’s real good at countering - for some reason I just couldn’t get off what I wanted to - a couple times I did, I almost caught him in the second - but he’s an amazing fighter, that’s why he does what he does. That’s why he’s won so many titles and beat so many good guys."
Afterwards, Cormier said: “Look at my eye. I couldn't see the rest of the fight. I can't see anything out of my left eye, it's black. It is what it is, it doesn't matter. I told [referee] Marc [Goddard] that he poked me; he thought it was a punch, but then after the fight he said he saw it on replay.
"[Miocic] did a good job. He was able to clinch and hold me against the side of the octagon for long periods of time and I believe that separated those close rounds."
On his retirement, the 41-year-old American added: “I’m only interested in fighting for titles. I don’t foresee I will be fighting for a title… so 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.”
In the co-main event, Sean O'Malley suffered the first professional defeat of his career when he succumbed to a first-round TKO against Marlon Vera.
The finish arrived after O’Malley suffered a serious injury to his right foot earlier in the round, with Vera sealing the win 20 seconds from the buzzer. A huge upset, it was O'Malley's first loss in five UFC appearances.