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Tim Graham on UFC 210: Anthony Johnson rumbles off into sunset with surprise retirement

This young man insists he will no longer rumble.

Anthony "Rumble" Johnson stunned the mixed-martial arts world Saturday night in Buffalo, where he announced his retirement.

Light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier victimized Johnson with the dreaded rear-naked chokehold in the UFC 210 main event at KeyBank Center. Johnson then grabbed the microphone and told everybody he was done fighting.

"It's been a fun ride," Johnson said. He turned 33 last month. "It leaves you kind of speechless. You just don't know what to say really."

Didn't matter whether he won or lost, he said.

And he's certain that would be the last match, he said. Although he later mulled the possibility of someday returning for the elusive match with legend Jon Jones that never transpired.

Johnson never got to be UFC champion but is listed among the world's top three light heavyweights. He has been considered one of the few men who could beat Jones.

"It really does suck," Cormier said. "I don't feel like he should walk away.

"It will hurt the weight class because he's a fun guy to watch. People enjoy watching him fight. He's always knocking people out."

Johnson claimed to have something else lined up, but refused to say what his new career would be. He emphatically denied he was joining the Los Angeles Rams, a talking point after the match because his Twitter account featured a large picture of the Rams' helmet and two Rams references in his thumbnail bio.

"It's just business," Johnson said at a news conference early Sunday morning. "I want to do something besides going to the gym every day, punching and kicking and rolling around with another dude. That gets old, you know what I mean?

"I've been doing this for so long. I've been in sports since I was 8. It's just time to move on to something different."

For Johnson to know Saturday night would his career finale, you had to wonder how he could keep his emotions in check for his final pre-fight news conference, final weigh-in, final ride to the arena, final hand taping, final walk into the octagon.

"I knew what I needed to do," Johnson said, "but I did my best just to focus on the fight and not worry about what was going to happen after.

"I hadn't checked out or anything like that, but when it's over, it's over. My emotions weren't too dramatic."

Johnson won the first round Saturday night. He broke Cormier's nose with his shin and landed a few big punches.

"You still saw Rumble out there, trying to knock heads off," Johnson said.

But Cormier dominated the second round. They went to the mat, where Cormier caught him with several punches to the head before applying the finishing chokehold.

Cormier won their first showdown by submission, too, in May 2015.

Johnson was supposed to fight Jones that night, but a month earlier the UFC stripped Jones of the title for a felony hit-and-run incident. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in July 2016 banned Jones a year.

So Johnson never got the chance to fight Jones.

"I'm an alpha male; he's an alpha male," Johnson said. "I wanted to see what I can do against him. I'm pretty sure he wanted to see what he could do against me because you guys hyped it up so much that I was supposed to be the guy to beat him.

"I'm more disappointed for the fans because I know they really wanted to see it. Maybe if I decided to come back one day we can fight at heavyweight or something like that."

UFC President Dana White wished Johnson well and didn't lament the announcement much. Perhaps that's because White has been around fighters too long and expects Johnson to reconsider.

"I really hope he does not retire," Cormier said. "He has so much more to offer to the sport."


Cormier's long-running feud with Jones remained entertaining.

With Jones seated ringside, Cormier taunted him from the octagon and told the former champ to get his act together if he ever wants to fight him.

And maybe because Cormier said it at about 2:40 a.m. Saturday, but I found this mixed metaphor quite amusing.

Cormier failed to make weight the first time he stepped on the scale Friday. On a second try he appeared to brace himself against the towel being used to shield his nakedness from onlookers.

Jones called it "blatant foul play" and "one of the dirtiest things I've seen in sports."

Cormier was asked about Jones' remarks.

"You take a table and put a whole bunch of kitchen appliances, right?" Cormier replied. "And at the end of one side there's a pot. And at the other side there's a kettle, and you're dirty, while you're sitting there with a steroid needle. That's my opinion on that.

"You sit over there, pot, with your Cialises or whatever that's called. Sit over there, pot, in detention, Cialis Boy."

Ah, yes, that old saying about the pot calling the kettle an impotent steroid user.

Much love

Patrick Cote took a lopsided beating, but the Montreal welterweight was my favorite fighter of the night.

Thiago Alves won every round of their bout, scoring the only knockdown, the only takedown and gashing Cote's forehead with an elbow.

But in the final minute, a smiling Cote went after Alves with Sugar Ray Leonard aplomb, theatrically winding up for haymakers and landing a couple shots, purpling Alves' left eye. Cote knew he'd lost, but went out an entertainer.

We soon found out why he was so spirited in defeat.

Cote, 37, unstrapped his gloves and placed them on the mat, the traditional symbol of retirement. He tearfully announced whether he'd won or lost it was to be his last performance.

Can't stop, won't stop

Veteran UFC referee Dan Miragliotta had a rough night. He erroneously ruled Gegard Mousasi illegally kneed former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman in the head, but was overruled by replays.

Miragliotta also took his sweet time stopping a gruesome, one-sided onslaught earlier on the card.

Myles Jury was Mike De La Torre's executioner, blasting him with an unrepentant barrage of head shots that stained the canvas and each other over the bout's 3:30 duration. De La Torre, pinned on his stomach, couldn't defend himself and showed little capability of getting up.

Above average

Gregor Gillespie, from Webster in suburban Rochester, needed nine strikes and 21 seconds to knock out Andrew Holbrook in their lightweight match.

Gillespie's reaction before he left the octagon:

"It's almost like a dream. It hasn't even soaked in yet. This was my first knockout in front of a crowd that was roaring. This is such a special feeling, and it's as good as it gets right there."

Gillespie was a Division I wrestling national champion for Edinboro at 157 pounds.

He decided to pursue MMA rather than the Olympics because he'd need to beat Jordan Burroughs of Nebraska. Burroughs won a gold medal at the 2012 London Games and, by the way, married former Buffalo News journalist Lauren Mariacher.

Thoughts and prayers

In a blood sport, even the victors can be losers.

Light heavyweight Patrick Cummins and featherweight Shane Burgos each won but could not attend their post-match news conferences because they were taken to the hospital.

Cummins won a splattery unanimous decision over Jan Blackowicz. Burgos was losing on the scorecards after two rounds but knocked out Charles Rosa in the third.

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Insta-Graham: Daniel Cormier chokes out Anthony Johnson in UFC 210 main event, calls out Jon Jones

Insta-Graham: Chris Weidman suffers controversial defeat to Gegard Mousasi at UFC 210

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