Daniel Cormier defended his light-heavyweight title in a split-decision victory over Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 192.
“He made me better,” Cormier said after the five-round fight. “Thank you, Alexander Gustafsson. You made me a better man and fighter tonight.”
Cormier body-slammed Gustafsson in the first round before the Swedish Mauler cut him in a close second. The challenger enjoyed his best moment in the third frame when he dropped the champ with punches immediately following a knee. But Cormier controlled the action and landed more punches than his bloodied opponent in the fifth to maintain control of his belt.
“I talk a lot,” Cormier explained after the grueling battle. “It’s my job to sell these fights. But I expected that Alex. I expected that warrior and a guy I left part of myself in this Octagon with. I just wanted to prove I wasn’t one dimensional and I can stand with the best strikers in the world.”
Gustafsson, who believed he won the fight, conceded, “He can strike and he’s a good boxer and standup guy. He’s the champ.”
Cormier’s first title defense sets up a possible fight with a surging Ryan Bader, who swept the scorecards in a dominant performance over Rashad Evans to extend his win streak to five. The more intriguing bout for fans remains a rematch with former champion Jon Jones, who defeated Cormier in January. Stripped of his title after he fled from an accident that injured a pregnant woman, Jones cleared up his criminal case last week by receiving community service and probation. Should he wish to return to mixed-martial arts, a title fight appears his for the taking.