Who is the greatest Heavyweight in UFC history? Throughout the years, this answer to this question has changed seemingly by the year. Couture, Mir, Werdum, Overeem, JDS, Velasquez. All names who have held that spot in the fan’s eyes for a moment in time. All Legends who at one point or another, held the title of “Baddest Man on the Planet”. Fast forward to August 2020, 27 years after the conception of the UFC’s first division, we are left with two names. Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic.
The First Fight
The rivalry between these two future Hall of Famer’s began on July 7th, 2018, when Daniel Cormier moved up a weight-class to take on the most successful heavyweight champion the UFC has ever seen. Though a competitive affair as long as it lasted, Cormier (though not without controversy) picked up a first-round knockout to become the UFC’s 2nd ever dual division World Champion.
Though names were thrown into the discussion such as Lesnar, Ngannou, and Jon Jones. It was clear to the majority of fans who truly deserved the next crack at the Heavyweight crown. On May 4th, 2019 the news the MMA world stood still when the rematch between Daniel Cormier vs Stipe Miocic was confirmed to be taking place at UFC 241.
Once again, we saw a competitive affair. Though round 1 was seemingly quite dominant for the former LHW Champion, we saw DC seemingly abandon his wrestling heavy gameplan and opt to box with the former Golden Gloves champion. Though successful in the first two rounds, from the 3rd round onwards we saw Cormier tire and Stipe slowly start to take over.
The 4th round showcased a masterpiece of a gameplan switch by Stipe. From early in the round Miocic repeatedly found the opportunity to land left hooks to the body of Cormier. 13 liver shots later and the fight has been bought to a shocking halt as Daniel Cormier crumbled against the cage following a body shot, right straight combination from Stipe.
“STIPE EXACTS HIS REVENGE!” were the words Jon Anik bellowed following the violent stoppage.
Though the MMA world collectively stood in awe of the new Champion, thoughts quickly turned to one question.
Have we seen the last of Daniel Cormier?.
It didn’t take long for us to get our answer.
The fiercely competitive Cormier refused to leave behind the sport in which he has dedicated his life to on a loss. On June 10th, 2020 the MMA world once again got what it asked for, but this time with a caveat. Win or lose, this will be the last time Daniel Cormier steps inside the Octagon. August 15th will serve as DC’s swansong as he tries to reclaim the belt against another rival who many fans believe has his number.
Keys to Victory
The Body Shots
The most obviously effective tool that the Champion can bring into this contest is the body shots. As mentioned above they were Stipe’s key adjustment in the rematch that quickly led to a monstrous tide turn in his favor. It is almost a given that Stipe will incorporate them into his gameplan once again come August 15th.
Avoid the Takedown/Keep His Back Off of the Fence.
Another seemingly obvious adjustment Stipe would be wise to make in the fight would be to keep his back off of the fence. Easier said than done given the controversial decision to host the fight in a smaller Octagon than the previous two bouts. “DC” has made it clear, he is going to “single-leg, single-leg, single-leg” all night long. Though completely negating the former olympian’s wrestling completely may prove to be impossible, Miocic’s best line of defense will likely be to keep control of the center of the Octagon and avoid cage wrestling with DC.
Long Range Boxing
The question of who holds the boxing advantage between these two is a difficult one. DC has shown time after time his ability to box in the pocket with almost anyone on the roster. Miocic has showcased some of the best long-range boxing we have seen in the division. The consensus is that Stipe will be most effective at long range given his considerable height and reach advantage. A by-product of keeping the fight at range is that DC will likely find fewer opportunities for takedowns in the clinch. It’s a win-win for Stipe.
Boxing in the Pocket
As previously mentioned, Cormier is one of the best “phonebooth” boxers in the UFC. When in this range, he can generate considerable power alongside his (usual) strength advantage to bully his opponents. Not only will this open up opportunities from big shots for Cormier, but will also serve as a relatively safe method of pressuring the Champion against the fence.
“Single-Leg, Single-Leg, Single-Leg”
Cormier is one of the few wrestlers in the UFC who can effectively weaponize the single-leg takedown on a consistent basis. He gets works his way up the leg and often uses his own body weight to counterbalance the opponent’s movement to secure the takedown. We saw in the first round of the rematch that DC is capable of controlling Stipe on the ground. This will not only open up opportunities for DC to land big damage but also to steal rounds.
Leg Kicks (Surprisingly)
Though ‘DC’ isn’t exactly considered Jose Aldo’esque kicker, he has used leg kicks effectively against larger striker throughout his career. Miocic being one of them. By landing leg kicks against the boxing heavy Miocic, DC will slowly negate the power of the champion as the fight goes on. The lead leg is where much of the power of a strike is generated. By kicking it repeatedly, less weight can be placed on it by the puncher, negating their power tremendously.
By far the hardest prediction I think I’ve ever had to make for a UFC title fight.
Though Stipe has every tool necessary to win the fight, my gut tells me that DC will prevail again. A combination of his coaching, the small cage, and his wrestling heavy gameplan will be enough for him to grab the decision win.
Daniel Cormier via Unanimous Decision. (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
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