UFC 252: Miocic and Cormier Battle for Ultimate Bragging Rights

Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier, UFC 252
Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier, UFC 252 Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

Reigning heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic looks to add to his already historic reign, but Daniel Cormier is hoping to ride off into the sunset with gold around his waist as the two finish their trilogy at UFC 252.

Not since Georges St-Pierre and BJ Penn fought in 2009 have two champions with such stellar resumes been matched up with championship gold on the line.  What started out as a competition between two cordial champions has now become personal with a grudge match that will end on Saturday.  One man will be going home with not only the bragging rights but also a huge feather in their cap towards their argument for pound-for-pound greatness.

Let’s start with the proud firefighter from Cleveland who has enjoyed a UFC career that saw him enter as a durable contender and develop into arguably the most dominant heavyweight champion ever seen.  Stipe Miocic climbed through the ranks by dispatching the likes of Mark Hunt and Andrei Arlovski before besting Fabricio Werdum to win the title and recording title defenses against Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos, and Francis Ngannou in a historic run.  No UFC heavyweight champion, especially in the modern era with more talent than ever before, has ever won the belt and defended it three times.  Miocic not only did it, but he accomplished the feat by making some of the best contenders of the last decade look mediocre by comparison.

Enter Daniel Cormier, the former light heavyweight champion whose resume includes victories over legends like Dan Henderson and Anderson Silva and a title run that saw him turn away Anthony Johnson twice, Alexander Gustafsson, and Volkan Oezdemir.  That is not to mention the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix victory that saw him claim tournament gold, as an alternate no less.  Previously dropping down in weight out of respect for his teammate Cain Velasquez, Cormier goes into the rubber match with the most to prove.  After winning the first bout with a spectacular knockout in the first round, Cormier lost the second fight in the fourth round due to a barrage of body shots in a bout that he had been winning handily until then.  He has already expressed that this will be his final fight, and a second victory over Miocic to be able to ride off into the sunset as a champion would be a feat few have ever accomplished.

The two are extremely familiar with each other by now and the rematch boils down to two points: Can Cormier implement his wrestling? If Miocic can defend the take-downs, can he out-strike Cormier?  For starters, Cormier has not used his Olympic caliber wrestling much in both contests.  In the first fight, it ended quickly and was unnecessary.  In the second, Cormier stated that he struggled with a back injury and the fact that he was winning on the feet led to him deviating from using his wrestling.  He has already said that his plan is to get Miocic down.  If he is successful, he does figure to have a significant advantage on the mat.  On the feet, Miocic has lost four out of the five rounds that they have fought on the feet.  That said, many see keeping the fight standing as the key to recording another victory over Cormier.  Not allowing himself to get pushed to the fence and keeping the fight at mid-range will be paramount for the reigning champion to defend his title.

Any number of options await Miocic with a victory, with a rematch with Francis Ngannou being the most likely but names like Jon Jones, Curtis Blaydes, and Derrick Lewis could also be in play.  Daniel Cormier has said this is his last fight regardless of the outcome, and a victory for him could make things even more complicated as the future could see any number of combinations with the aforementioned names be matched up for the vacant title.