Much was made in the buildup to UFC 252 from Stipe Miocic about Daniel Cormier’s errant extended fingers, which in their rematch, caused him to suffer a torn retina. And rightly so, after the eye injury played a part in keeping Miocic out of the Octagon for a year and suffered long-term vision issues.
In their third and likely final showdown, an eye poke yet again played a significant factor in the final result. After Cormier accidentally caught Miocic briefly in the first round, it was third-round eye gouge that rendered Cormier unable to see out of his left eye.
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Immediately after suffering the eye injury, Cormier complained to referee Marc Goddard, who told him to calm down, it was just a punch. In between rounds, Goddard saw the poke on replay and apologized to Cormier, but the damage was done. The injury opened him up to repeated heavy right-hand shots from Miocic and eventually helped the champion retain. It certainly wasn’t the only reason Miocic came out on top, as Cormier abandoned his ground game after the first round and fell victim to Miocic’s strategy of locking Cormier up and maintaining clinch control, continuing to score points from his feet.
After the fight, Miocic discussed what happened during the fight and how he continued to apologize to Cormier even during the bout.
“I felt bad, it wasn’t intentional. I told him like 45 times I’m sorry during the fight,” Miocic said. “He did it to me multiple times, whatever. He said it wasn’t on purpose, mine wasn’t on purpose. I honestly didn’t realize I poked him in the eye until I saw the replay and was like, ‘Oh, I totally poked him in the eye.’ That was my bad.”
Goddard also took to Twitter to apologize for the error.
“I practice what I preach & as a man I stand tall & head on,” Goddard wrote on Twitter (H/T MMA Mania). “If you accept plaudits then you must with mistakes too, that’s proof that you are listening, honest & implore improvement. Rough with the smooth, acceptance & ownership. Immediately after the fight when seeing the replay I apologised to Daniel Cormier & his team & I do so publicly & unreservedly for missing what I shouldn’t have – but I cannot call what I do not see. I don’t have replays & multiple angles, it’s a one shot take in real time.”
“I cannot convey just how much I have both lived & loved this sport for the past 20 years,” he concluded. “I truly appreciate all who understand.”
Sunday morning ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reported that Cormier had suffered a torn cornea and he will have to wait before they can determine if he needs surgery.
As for Cormier’s long-term fight prospects, he told Joe Rogan, “That’ll be it for me,” after his title fight Saturday night. At 41 years old, the ending certainly isn’t what Cormier wanted. But it might just have to be what he has to settle for.