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Jon Jones defends UFC title in win over Daniel Cormier

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LAS VEGAS — In a UFC title bid on Saturday, Daniel Cormier did nearly everything he had promised to do to Jon Jones when the two finally met in the Octagon.

Except beat him.

Jones (21-1) notched his eighth consecutive light heavyweight title defense at UFC 182 inside MGM Grand Garden Arena, defeating Cormier (15-1) via unanimous decision. All three judges scored the bout for Jones, 49-46.

A two-time Olympian for the U.S. wrestling team, Cormier aggressively went after Jones from the opening bell, seeking to get inside the champion’s record-longest 84.5-inch wingspan.

The 35-year-old had promised to do so during fight week and certainly had more than his share of moments, but the effort required to stick on Jones at all times seemed to wear on him.

The buildup to the 205-pound championship fight included a melee during a media function in the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino lobby in August. The Nevada State Athletic Commission fined both fighters 10 percent of their individual purses for their respective participation in the scuffle.

UFC president Dana White said the bout featured one of the best first rounds he’d seen in a title fight.

“I thought there would be a feel-out period in the first round, with all the s–t they had talked,” White said. “There was no feel-out period in that fight. They went forward from the minute the bell rang.”

After his win, Jones mocked Cormier for his inability to take him down consistently.

“He’s only human,” Jones said. “DC, all the haters, all the crap he talked — he motivated me. I took him down, what, five takedowns to zero?

“Sorry I’m being classless right now. I don’t like DC, and that’s why I’m being this way.”

After each round, Jones, 27, lifted his arms in a sign of victory over the challenger.

In the fifth round, Jones did so with seconds remaining on the clock. When Cormier, somewhat foolishly, dropped his guard and left his hands at his sides, Jones fired off a few last-second punches to put an exclamation point on the grudge match.

Despite Cormier’s strength in wrestling, it was his boxing that gave Jones trouble — especially early. He relentlessly walked forward on the much lankier Jones, working into the clinch and setting up his dirty boxing with the inside right uppercut.

“A lot of coaches in MMA focus on MMA wrestling,” Jones said. “My coach, his high school team is ranked 10th in the nation. Izzy Martinez is very connected to the wrestling community. He said, ‘Everywhere I go, all the tournaments, everyone is rooting for DC. The whole wrestling community is against you. We have something to prove, Jon.’ ”

Jones scored the first takedown of the fight, when he caught a Cormier kick and turned it into an outside trip. Cormier popped immediately back to his feet.

Neither fighter really dominated any one position. Cormier wanted an inside fight, but at times would eat knees to the stomach and short elbows to the head. Any time they were at a distance, Jones would go to work with side kicks at Cormier’s legs, which at times left him vulnerable to Cormier closing the gap again.

“I can’t say enough about his grit and determination,” Cormier said. “I pushed him and I went after him. I fought him. He did a great job. I’ve had to rebuild myself numerous times. People can’t even imagine. I’m going to stand across the cage from that man again and I will believe, just as I did tonight, and I’ll take the fight to him again.”

Jones’ face started to swell in the second round from Cormier jabs and hooks. Cormier bloodied his nose as well. Jones fought a composed fight, however, backing Cormier up at times with straight lefts and surprising him with occasional takedown attempts.

Ninety seconds into the third round, Jones clipped Cormier in the eye accidentally, causing referee Herb Dean to briefly stop the action. Eye pokes have been an issue for Jones throughout his career, but Cormier recovered quickly and it did not appear to affect his performance the rest of the way.

Cormier’s activity started to slowly diminish in the fourth round, as he found himself trapped against the fence carrying Jones’ weight. Jones dropped for a couple takedowns from the position, dumping Cormier on his butt. The takedowns might have been more symbolic than anything else, as Cormier quickly rose back to his feet, but it was a statement by Jones.

Cormier nearly scored his only takedown of the fight in the final round — and it was nearly a big one. He picked Jones’ frame clear off the mat and somersaulted through the air and on to his back before losing his grip, and then couldn’t keep him down after the fact.

Jones won the fifth round on gas tank alone, pushing Cormier against the fence and landing short shots.

Ranked the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world by ESPN.com, Jones moves into third place on the UFC’s record books in consecutive title defenses. Former middleweight champion Anderson Silva holds the current record at 10. Former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre defended his title nine consecutive times before vacating it in late 2013.

Jones will likely turn his attention to the winner of a bout between Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson on Jan. 24.

Cormier, a former heavyweight, suffered his first professional loss. Fighting out of American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, he dropped to the 205-pound division with the goal of challenging Jones in early 2014.

On the undercard, Donald Cerrone proved too strong and too experienced for Myles Jury in earning a unanimous decision.

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