Written by Jack Zampillo (@Jack_Zampillo15) — August 12th, 2020
The UFC’s illustrious heavyweight division is familiar with greatness. With names such as Cain Velasquez, Randy Couture, and Junior Dos Santos as predecessors to the throne, the expectations of being the heavyweight champion have never been higher. On August 15th, Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier, two of the most storied heavyweights in history, will compete in their highly anticipated rubber match to determine who truly is “the baddest man on the planet.”
A trilogy over two years in the making, the storyline surrounding this fight couldn’t have played out any better. UFC 226, coming off of an extremely impressive unanimous decision victory over Francis Ngannou, Miocic fell victim to a vicious knockout blow from Cormier. Following that fight, questions arrose whether or not Stipe was inching towards the end of his career. Fast forward to UFC 241, those doubts were silenced when Miocic stopped Daniel Cormier in round 4 of their rematch, setting the stage for one last dance. Can Cormier stamp a fairytale ending on his career, or will the champion send him into retirement without gold?
Stipe Miocic ©
When assessing which heavyweight has made the most impact on the division since its birth, Stipe Miocic is the first name that jumps off the paper. Fighting out of Euclid, Ohio, the 9-year UFC veteran has been locked in the cage with some of the scariest men in the world, neutralizing and defeating almost every threat that has stood in his way. Holding a record of 19–3, Miocic possesses a resume filled with some of the best heavyweights the UFC has offered. Mark Hunt, Fabricio Werdum, and Alistair Overeem have all fallen victim to a Stipe Miocic knockout. Francis Ngannou, a man who can take out anyone with one punch, tried for 25 minutes and failed. So, what is it about Stipe that makes him so damn good? He’s not the most chiseled, powerful heavyweight champion we’ve seen. What gives him the ability to withstand and beat these monsters the UFC puts in front of him?
An unbreakable will to win and unmatched grit are what make Stipe Miocic the heavyweight champion of the world. Let’s take a look at the aforementioned UFC 241 scrap with Daniel Cormier. Cormier did an outstanding job of landing strikes from the outside and roughing Stipe up with his dirty boxing prowess early on. It seemed as though Miocic was falling into the same traps he did the first time around. Cormier was quicker to the exchanges, found the target at a higher rate, and looked like the fresher fighter.
Something I will preach until the day I die is the importance of adapting throughout a fight. Being able to use your opponent’s game plan against them proves to be a significant skillset. Miocic exploited the holes in Cormier’s game and neutralized his game plan in the latter rounds. Cormier, who tends to fight with his hands high, fell victim to some brutal body shots; the beginning of the end for the former champion. Stipe’s versatility allows for him to find the weaknesses of his opponent no matter what they may be. A polished kickboxer with a questionable ground game? Miocic’s ground-and-pound is lethal. Just ask Alistair Overeem. A wrestler with overwhelming pressure? Miocic holds a 73% takedown defense. While that percentage is nothing to drool over, when considering the level of wrestling Miocic has seen, I’d say that number is pretty damn impressive. Point being, Stipe Miocic is a problem for anyone, wherever the fight may go. So the question remains, can Daniel Cormier handle everything Stipe has to offer at 41-years-old?
I’d be fibbing if I told you I was able to dive into this fight without taking the fact that this is Cormier’s last into consideration. Decipher that however you’d like, but there are some questions that surround the fact for me. First and foremost, will Cormier’s age play devil’s advocate? At 41, he is considered to be far past his physical prime. While known for having a surprisingly large gas tank, how long can that tank hold for? I’m not going to sit here and tell you Cormier will tire after 10 minutes. He lasted over 20 just a year ago. What I will present to you is the possibility of father time coming into play. On the other end of the bill, what if we see the best Daniel Cormier we’ve EVER seen? Call me crazy, but think about it. Daniel Cormier has always been a stand up guy who handles his business and shakes hands afterwards. However, this one has a different feel to it. Stipe seems to have ignited a fire, a fire that just may have enough flames to burn Miocic to the ground. Imagine the scene: Daniel Cormier, one of the greatest all-around people we have ever witnessed come through the UFC, winning his last fight and leaving the undisputed baddest man on the planet. That image is enough to get anyone out of bed in the morning. A motivated Daniel Cormier is a scary Daniel Cormier. This one isn’t about the money, the fame, or the limelight. This is about legacy.
So what is the path to victory? What does Daniel Cormier need to do to leave Las Vegas the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world? It starts with leg kicks. Stipe Miocic thrives off of movement around the cage using his swift footwork to set traps and throw strikes at angles. The key is to hinder Stipe’s movement. By implementing heavy inside leg kicks early on, Stipe will be hesitant to pressure knowing the pain coming back. Secondly, Cormier needs to find ways to engage in the clinch and use his dirty boxing. A kickboxing match at distance won’t end well for the Lafayette product. Consistently getting in the champion’s face and throwing him off of his distance is the key here. We all remember the last time Cormier got ahold of Stipe’s head and used dirty boxing, right? If you don’t, as a reminder, Stipe went to bed early that night. Most importantly, Daniel Cormier must threaten his offensive wrestling. Let’s not forget what made Daniel Cormier who he is: Powerful takedowns, suffocating ground-and-pound, and a sneaky submission game. It’s easy to fall in love with the knockout, but not when it’ll get you knocked out! If Cormier implements wrestling into his game plan, it could be a very long night for Stipe. Maybe I should be a coach….?
This is one of those fights that is incredibly hard to pick, yet incredibly easy at the same time. These two are so evenly matched and we have seen both shine bright atop the highest mountain. If I choose correctly, I look good for picking the winner of an insanely close fight. If I’m wrong, it’s pretty much picking the wrong side of a coin flip. These kinds of fights don’t come often.
My emotional side may or may not get the best of me here, but I’m going with Daniel “DC” Cormier. Do not sleep on the old man! Even in his 40’s, Cormier was able to knock Stipe out cold in their first fight and win the first three rounds of the second fight. Cormier also has more ways to win. He’s the better wrestler, more polished against the fence, and he’s outstruck Stipe for 4 out of the 5 rounds they have fought! If you look past the fact that Cormier is twice my age, the statistics are there. You heard it here. Daniel Cormier will leave Las Vegas on Saturday night the heavyweight champion of the world.
Daniel Cormier by decision.