UFC 230: Cormier submits Lewis in history-making heavyweight title defense
Cormier submitted Lewis with a rear-naked choke hold midway through the second round, in a contest he had controlled from the outset through repeated takedowns as the fight played out as many had expected.
The defending champion, 39, had headed into the bout as strong favorite and with a remarkable 14-fight unbeaten career record at heavyweight.
He was meeting an unlikely challenger in the form of Lewis, 33, who was appearing on consecutive main cards, having faced Russia’s Alexander Volkov just four weeks ago at UFC 229 in Las Vegas, where he secured a stunning late KO win.
In the event, a clinical, controlled performance from Cormier meant he retained his heavyweight strap to keep alongside his light heavyweight version, and became the first man to defend belts in two weight divisions.
Cormier exerted his authority from the outset, with most of the opening action confined to the ground after the champ secured a takedown against a disappointing Lewis at the first attempt.
Lewis eventually managed to extract himself, only for Cormier to secure a second takedown and press the advantage by hammering away on the deck.
Lewis struggled free to survive the first stanza, although Cormier picked up where he left off in the second round, nullifying Lewis’ fabled punching power by securing yet another takedown before choking out the challenger, who in truth had offered little threat throughout.
The victory keeps up Cormier’s remarkable unbeaten career record at heavyweight, which now stands at 15 fights, and moves him to 22-1 overall, with 1 no contest.
Cormier will likely be stripped of his light heavyweight title later this year, but most of the talk is now on a potential heavyweight match-up next year against the returning Brock Lesnar - especially after Cormier has appeared cool on the idea of facing Jon Jones again.
Unlike at Cormier's last outing in July, the garrulous WWE star Lesnar was not cageside in New York on Saturday night, but in his post-fight interview Cormier again made clear his willingness to face him next year.
“Brock Lesnar! When you come, bring that brand new WWE title too, I feel like being a WWE champion too. Let’s go! Let’s go, Brock! Bring that belt with you if you come to my house,” Cormier said at Madison Square Garden.
For the hugely popular Lewis, meanwhile, an unlikely victory never seemed on the cards as his punching power and range advantage was expertly managed by Cormier.
‘The Black Beast’ slips to 21-6 overall (with 1 no contest), and saw a three-fight win streak snapped.
SOUZA STUNS WEIDMAN
In the co-main event, Brazilian veteran Jacare Souza stunned home favorite Chris Weidman with a third-round TKO win in their middleweight contest.
Coming in as a late replacement for Luke Rockhold, Souza proved too much for Weidman, who was making his return to the octagon after a 15-month lay-off.
After weathering Weidman’s jab and heavy damage to his nose in the first round, the Brazilian steadily exerted himself in a frantic contest, ending the action midway in the third round with a huge, short-range right-hand to Weidman’s head which put the American down before referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in.
The win for the veteran Brazilian, 38, will fuel calls for a title shot against the winner of the planned match-up between current middleweight champ Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum next year.
For former middleweight king Weidman, 34, it’s a further step back after he was looking to build on his win last time out against Gastelum, but now slips to 14-4 overall.