ANAHEIM, Calif. -- For the better part of two and a half rounds, Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones engaged in a heated battle .. one that Cormier seemed to be winning.
But just as soon as the UFC light heavyweight champion must have started entertaining thoughts of a victory over his hated rival, Jones ended it in a flash.
Jones, the greatest light heavyweight fighter of all-time and possibly the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time, rocked Cormier with a wicked head kick in the middle of the Octagon in the Honda Center at UFC 214.
The Albuquerque resident followed through with a wicked ground-and-pound assault and the fight was waved off at the 3:01 pound of the third round of the main event.
With that, Jones, who held the title from 2011-15, made his comeback from a series of legal issues which derailed his career and regained the crown.
“I love my fans, I have the most loyal fans,” Jones (23-1) said. “Even the haters, all the things your said, I love you too because you motivated me.”
Cormier and Jones battled tooth and nail over the first two rounds. Jones mixed up his strikes, everything from body kicks to kidney punches to foot stomps. Cormier, for his part, landed the hardest shots, landing often with big, looping right hands. He knock Jones’ mouthpiece out with a big roundhouse in the third.
The pace had seemed to slow a bit in the third when Cormier made his fatal error, as he ducked into a head kick and took Jones’ shin flush on the jaw. Cormier wobbled and Jones pounced and finished the fight.
“We knew he moves his hand to the left and we were banking on him showing it sooner or later,” Jones said.
With the win, Jones won for the 14th straight time since his only career loss, a controversial disqualification in 2009.
He was gracious toward his rival in victory.
“I want to thank this opportunity to thank Daniel Cormier for being my biggest rival and greatest motivator,” Jones said. “...He’s a model champion, a great human being. He’s a true champion for the rest of his life.”
Cormier (19-2) had a title reign which lasted two years and two months come to an end.
“If you lose both fights there’s not a rivalry,” a disconsolate Cormier said. “So I don’t know.”
After the fight, Jon Jones challenged former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.
“Brock Lesnar,” Jones said. “Come to the Octagon.”