Originally scheduled to defend his belt against Anthony Johnson at UFC 187, Jon Jones had the light heavyweight championship stripped due to legal issues and was replaced by Daniel Cormier.
Fan or not, nobody wanted to see Jones dethroned in that fashion. However, his UFC 187 removal did make way for another intriguing matchup between the two best light heavyweight contenders.
Heading into UFC 187, it was tough to decide whether Johnson's striking power or Cormier's wrestling would be the bigger factor in a battle for the vacant 205-pound belt. As it turned out, both sides had their moments in a bout that lasted into the third round.
In the opening frame, Rumble cracked his opponent with a right hand. Cormier dropped to the canvas, but unlike most Johnson opponents, he was able to recover and get back into the contest before having to be saved by referee John McCarthy.
Ben Fowlkes @benfowlkesMMA
Anthony Johnson gets poked in the eye by Cormier immediately, then comes back and drops him. Yep. Sounds about right.2015-5-24 04:17:25
As importantly, Cormier quickly responded with a takedown. Smothering on the ground, Cormier was able to spend a majority of the opening round on top. While it may or may not have been enough for him to steal the round on the scorecards, Cormier made his adversary carry his weight and visibly tired Rumble in the process.
Surviving the opening storm proved key for Cormier, as Johnson's energy seemed to drain by the second. Rumble came out swinging again in the second round, but he wasn't able to stop Cormier's wrestling and again spent several minutes on his back. Once on the ground, Johnson looked defeated, not having the gas to work his way back up.
In the third round, Johnson actually mustered a takedown of his own, though it was probably in hopes of resting on top. When Cormier reversed positions, Johnson deflated and gave up his back out of exhaustion. Cormier locked in a rear-naked choke and forced Rumble to tap to become the new light heavyweight champion.
Following the bout, Johnson took the belt from UFC President Dana White and put it around Cormier's waist in a cool moment. That was followed by a short Cormier interview, in which he called out past opponent and former champion Jones.
Cormier: I have a message for one man. Jon Jones! Get your shit together, I’m waiting for you!2015-5-24 04:34:46
A rematch between Jones and Cormier would obviously be most desired, but there is no certainty surrounding Bones' return to competition.
One light heavyweight contender recognized that and has been making a push to be next in line for a shot at the 205-pound crown. Ryan Bader did some talking before UFC 187 and took his feud with Cormier to another level at the post-fight press conference, where he walked up to the podium and began jawing with the new light heavyweight champion.
If Jones isn't ready to go again any time soon, Bader's recent antics may have earned him the first crack at Cormier's belt.
Johnson, meanwhile, is going to have to climb the ladder again. With a win over former title challenger Alexander Gustafsson, Johnson isn't going to fall far, though. At 31 years old, he should still be at his best for a while also.