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Daniel Cormier says even Anthony Johnson's coaches expected 'Rumble' to quit

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Daniel Cormier can't help but laugh to himself when people build up Anthony Johnson.

It's not like "Rumble" is a hype job, of course. Johnson will go into his UFC 206 light heavyweight title challenge against Cormier as the winner of 12 of his past 13 fights over the past four-plus years, nine of them by way of his lethal fists.

But Cormier, of course, provided Johnson with his only loss during that run, a third-round submission at UFC 187 which filled the vacant title.

So talk of Rumble as some sort of unbeatable monster is all the motivation Cormier needs to get up for the rematch.

"I like how Anthony looks so phenomenal in his fights that people kind of make him into King Kong, like he's 10-foot tall," Cormier said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I like people viewing him in that way, and then i get to go smashing on him and showing that it don't matter what you build these people into, when they get into the Octagon and fight, the guy who is more skilled and more well rounded is going to beat him. I like that they build him into this Superman. It's amazing we fought a year and a half ago, I heard this all like 15 months ago. Maybe he's gotten better, and I don't know."

Four of Johnson's five career losses have come by way of submission, including a memorable one at welterweight to Josh Koscheck. Cormier went into their first fight believing a lack of self-confidence lingered in the back of Johnson's mind -- and that Rumble's own coaches confirmed it right before Cormier submitted him.

"Here's the issue, how is he doing any different?" Cormier asked. "He just went back to everything he was doing before I fought him. So, you, to me the most telling thing, and it was something his coaches gave me that they didn't mean to give to me is, right when we were fighting in the third round and I was on top, his coaches started yelling ‘don't give up, don't give up.' To me that's crazy, that tells me that's something they've seen in him a lot of times. So to yell that in the middle of a fight is about as bad as it gets, especially when the guy he's fighting again has heard it and knows that when things get tough, you know what to expect from Anthony."

Still, Cormier has felt Johnson's power firsthand. Johnson scored a first-round knockdown, and while Cormier shook it off and get back into the fight, he also considers it the hardest he's ever been hit in a fight. So while he's confident going into the rematch, he's also not about to get caught off-guard.

"I respect Anthony," Cormier said. "I like Anthony a lot. I think he's a phenomenal fighter, he's tough as nails, he hits hard as can be. But, truth is, if he doesn't knock me out, he can't win the fight, and that's not enough. You can't have one avenue to victory, he has to knock me out because I know Anthony Johnson can't outwrestle me over 25 minutes, I know Anthony Johnson is not gonna submit me, I know the only way he can beat me is to knock me out. One avenue to victory is just not enough."