But the devastating knockout artist believes that Daniel Cormier is actually a harder fight for him in the main event bout May 23 in Las Vegas. To Johnson, Cormier is a better wrestler than Jones and a harder hitter.
"Daniel has power, he has speed, good technique," Johnson said on the UFC 187 media conference call Wednesday. "His wrestling is top notch. Nobody can deny that. For me, that's great. And for him, that's great. To me he's just gonna be a tougher opponent. He might be shorter than me, but the dude packs a lot of power."
Another thing going in Cormier's favor, according to Johnson, is the mental aspect. Cormier has been there before and failed, losing to Jones at UFC 182 on Jan. 3. He expects Cormier to be ever hungrier this time around.
"'DC' is a grinder," Johnson said. "He brings it. This is his second chance, so I know he's going to bring it even more."
Jones was arrested on a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving death or personal injury on April 27. He allegedly fled after an SUV he was driving ran a red light and struck a vehicle driven by a pregnant woman. The woman suffered a fractured arm in the crash.
One day after Jones turned himself into authorities, UFC president Dana White announced on FOX Sports 1 that Jones would be suspended indefinitely and stripped of the UFC light heavyweight title. Jones would have defended the belt against Johnson in the UFC 187 main event.
While Jones awaits the Bernalillo County district attorney's decision whether or not to bring the felony charge to a grand jury, Cormier has slid into his place on the card and will face Johnson for the vacant belt. Jones beat Cormier by unanimous decision in a highly anticipated fight four months ago. Johnson expects an even better version of Cormier next week.
"Now he has another chance and it's just gonna be a tougher fight, for sure," Johnson said. "I expect that. I'm a wrestler at heart and Daniel is a wrestler at heart. I know what it takes to be at this level and if you get a chance you gotta hop on it."
Cormier (15-1), a former Olympic wrestler, was undefeated coming into the bout with Jones. Johnson (19-4) has not lost since 2012 when he was choked out by his current teammate Vitor Belfort, who challenges Chris Weidman for the middleweight belt in the co-main event of UFC 187. "Rumble," who has never lost at light heavyweight, is coming off a first-round knockout of Alexander Gustafsson, the man that gave Jones the toughest fight of his career, at UFC on FOX 14 back in January.
Johnson acknowledges that Jones would have the reach advantage and the better kicks. But Cormier has the advantage in knockout power and maybe wrestling, too. Johnson certainly doesn't think he'll be lifting the title at MGM Grand after an easy bout now that Jones isn't around.
"I assume an all-out war," Johnson said.