“If you win both fights,” said Daniel Cormier, having been stopped in round three by Jon Jones at UFC 214, “there is no rivalry.”
Endearingly honest, Cormier, concussed and in tears, was also wrong. There was a rivalry. It could be one that’s now dead, following Jon Jones’ stunning performance tonight (July 29) in Anaheim, California, but, make no mistake, Cormier played his part in waking a sleeping giant, otherwise known as the most talented mixed martial artist of all-time, and subsequently helped him get his shit in order.
Jon Jones is back. He’s once again the UFC light-heavyweight champion. More importantly, he’s back competing, back in the Octagon, back to being the scourge of Daniel Cormier’s life. Out of the orange jumpsuit – for good, hopefully – ‘Bones’ Jones is back where he belongs.
Not content with edging Cormier on the cards, as was the case in 2013, Jones exploded with a left head-kick in round three, which emptied the champion’s resistance and put his legs on skates, and then proceeded to shut him off with a series of ground strikes. It was violent, devastating stuff. It was vintage Jones.
Before that flashpoint, however, Cormier, 38, had very much been in the fight; some would even say he had momentum on his side. Marauding forward, head bobbing side-to-side, Cormier impressively took away Jones’ 12-inch reach advantage and was able to sporadically get through with long left hooks and overhand rights, as well as fierce uppercuts, one of which knocked out Jones’ gum shield in the opening seconds, whenever the pair got close. He smiled throughout. He raised his arms after both round one and two. He seemed happy with the way things were going.
Thirty-year-old Jones, though, a talent whose threat is tangible for every second of the fight, can explode at any moment; change things at any moment. He also possesses a vast skill-set that ensures he’s a danger wherever the fight goes and at every possible kind of range. In close, for example, he throws spiteful elbows and knees and is liable to throw his opponent to the deck. Out of range, meanwhile, he will typically spike his foe with a variety of kicks from afar, one of which, a left head-kick, cracked Cormier midway through round three and changed the flow of the fight in an instant. Unsteady, his mind in disarray, Cormier, 19-2, backed up, was tripped up, and then stumbled towards the floor, as Jones raced after him and looked to finish.
It didn’t take long. A series of ground strikes rendered Cormier unconscious and Jones, back to something like his savage best, completed his redemption story.
“I made it back, man; such a beautiful moment,” Jones, 23-1, said afterwards. “I did a lot of right things to get back in this position. Anybody at home who let themselves down, let their family down, let their co-workers down — it’s never over. As long as you never quit, it’s never over.”
The rivalry may well be over. Cormier probably got that right. But one senses the second life of Jon Jones is only just beginning.