After weathering an early storm to finish “Rumble” Johnson, Cormier showed his ability to go all five rounds as he went toe to toe with Swedish contender Alexander Gustafsson in a classic title encounter at UFC 192.
The matchup represented Cormier’s first title defense, and he was pushed to the limit by Gustafsson, who gave as good as he got over five highly-competitive rounds.
Cormier looked relatively comfortable in the first round, as he used his wrestling to good effect against the taller, rangier Gustafsson. But the Swede adjusted well after the break and the fight ended up contested on the feet for the majority of the remaining four rounds.
After five breathless rounds at Houston’s Toyota Center, Cormier earned the split-decision verdict with scores of 47-48, 48-47, 49-46 as he used his staying power to retain his title.
“Thank you, Alexander Gustafsson,” he said after the fight. “You made me a better man and fighter tonight. I will forever be indebted to you and your performance tonight. Alex, thank you.”
Cormier went on to defend his title twice more, in a rematch against Johnson, then against Volkan Oezdemir, while his rematch with Jones ended in a no-contest after his knockout defeat was wiped from the record after Jones’ failed drug test.
He later took the decision to move up to heavyweight, with the goal of becoming a UFC “champ champ.”