One champion further solidified his reign, while another was crowned to usher in a new era in the co-main events of UFC 187 on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden
Chris Weidman retained the middleweight belt with a first-round stoppage of Vitor Belfort. Weidman won the title from Anderson Silva in 2013, then the rematch later that year. He has now defeated former champions in Lyoto Machida and Belfort to cement his legitimacy at the top of the 185-pound division.
Daniel Cormier captured the light heavyweight belt that was stripped from Jon Jones last month with a third-round submission over Anthony Johnson. Jones had held the title since 2011.
Weidman might have been a bit overaggressive early, as he ran across the cage after Belfort stumbled and caught a punch as he approached. Belfort tried to capitalize, but Weidman covered up.
When Belfort slowed his attack, Weidman backed off and eventually got a takedown.
The fight was essentially over from there. Weidman postured up and unloaded a series of punches until the referee saved Belfort at 2:53 of the first round.
“Stop doubting me, it’s enough! Stop doubting me. Join the team,” Weidman yelled to the crowd after the victory. “There’s still time to come aboard, but this will be my last invitation.”
Weidman insisted he was never in danger and instead just letting Belfort wear himself out.
“He hit me with some good shots, but I was just covering, covering, covering and waiting to come back,” Weidman said.
Cormier was dropped by a right hand seconds into his fight with Johnson but quickly recovered. He worked Johnson to the cage and eventually got him to the ground. He also took Johnson down again early in each of the next two rounds. Johnson wore down and succumbed to a rear naked choke midway through the third round.
Cormier, who lost a unanimous decision to Jones in January, had just one message before walking out of the cage.
“Jon Jones, get your (expletive) together,” Cormier screamed. “I’m waiting for you.”
Johnson, like Cormier a successful collegiate wrestler, just ran into an elite athlete who was a two-time Olympic wrestler.
“Nothing surprised me. He did exactly what I thought he would do,” Johnson said. “Daniel’s a beast. He talked a lot and then he backed it up. I have no excuse. He was just a better man.”
On a card with two title fights, heavyweight Andrei Arlovski almost stole the show.
He blitzed Travis Browne and wobbled him on several occasions in the first round in what might have been the best round of the year. Browne, standing against the cage with his knees buckling, somehow managed to connect with a wild right hook that dropped Arlovski.
Browne, however, was too spent and disoriented to take advantage. Arlovski regained his footing and went back to work, stopping Browne with a barrage against the cage moments later in the round.
“Man, I was tired. I almost quit,” Arlovski said. “There were so many punches being thrown, and I was so tired.”
Donald Cerrone won his eighth straight fight with a second-round knockout of John Makdessi in a lightweight bout.
Cerrone appeared to break Makdessi’s jaw with a kick. Makdessi slowly backed away and attempted to signal for a timeout, which prompted the referee to stop the fight.
“I had no idea what happened. I thought maybe I poked him in the eye or something. I was blown away,” Cerrone said. “I don’t know what’s next. My manager probably won’t let me take another fight before I get a title shot, so I guess we’ll just wait and see.”
Flyweight Joseph Benavidez kicked off the main card with a unanimous decision over John Moraga.
Benavidez took control early, landing several right hooks and finishing a takedown. Each time Moraga tried to mount a rally, Benavidez had an answer. He’s 7-2 since dropping to 125 pounds, with both losses coming to champion Demetrious Johnson.
Benavidez might have to wait to get another title shot because top flyweight contender John Dodson returned after almost a year out of action because of injury to win a unanimous decision over Zach Makovsky in the featured undercard bout.
Dodson hopes the victory will be enough to warrant a rematch against Johnson this year.
“I’m not excited about my performance. I looked like a guy coming off a long layoff,” said Dodson, who lost a decision to Johnson in 2013. “I threw a lot of punches and tried to hit him as hard as I could. I just wasn’t firing on all cylinders. I’m still happy I got the win and hope a title shot is next. I’ll be a totally different fighter against Demetrious Johnson, and I will throw everything at him.”
Middleweight Rafael Natal was awarded a split decision over Uriah Hall, and welterweight Dong Hyun Kim submitted Josh Burkman midway through the third round.
Las Vegan Mike Pyle dropped a unanimous decision to Colby Covington in a welterweight bout.
On the untelevised portion of the undercard, Islam Makhachev submitted Leo Kuntz in the second round of a lightweight bout, and flyweight Justin Scoggins won a unanimous decision over Josh Sampo.
Nina Ansaroff was forced to pull out of a scheduled women’s strawweight bout against Rose Namajunas after contracting the flu Saturday morning. Ansaroff had missed weight by four pounds Friday.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.