Who is the baddest man on the planet?
This Saturday, undisputed UFC Light-heavyweight champion Daniel ‘DC’ Cormier will challenge undisputed Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic for his title. Never before have reigning Light–heavyweight and Heavyweight champions consented to fight. This historical event has all the makings of a timeless classic.
Cormier’s road to the top has been exceptional, if rocky. His background is freestlye wrestling, having taken fourth place at the 2004 Olympic Games. After he failed to make weight for the 2008 Games, his life took a severe downturn. Eventually he found MMA and broke out into the limelight when he entered the second round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix as an alternate and won.
When the UFC acquired Strikeforce, Cormier fought twice more at Heavyweight before dropping down to Light-heavyweight to avoid a clash with friend Cain Velasquez. Cormier blew through his competition at Light-heavyweight and was undefeated heading into a title bout with the great Jon Jones. Cormier lost a competitive but decisive five round decision, but eventually won the title when Jones was stripped due to an arrest.
As champion, Daniel Cormier cleaned out the division, beating back top challengers Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafson. Jones returned in 2017 and the two had an even more competitive and exciting clash. Jones prevailed again, this time by third round KO, but immediately tested positive for the anabolic Turinabol and was again stripped. Cormier reclaimed the title and soon defended it against novice Volkan Oezdemir.
With his retirement at the age of 40 looming and teammate Cain Velasquez sidelined with injury, Cormier now elects to move up to Heavyweight, where he is undefeated, and challenge the greatest Heavyweight of all time, Stipe Miocic, for the belt.
Miocic has had a grinding path to the top. The son of Croatian immigrants excelled in combat sports at a young age, winning Golden Gloves in Cleveland and wrestling Division 1 at Cleveland State. There were no expedients on his path through the UFC- he fought and beat the who’s-who at Heavyweight, only dropping one two losses, the most recent of which was four years ago. Now, as champion, he has defended the heavyweight belt 3 times, an unprecedented feat which has earned him the status greatest Heavyweight of all time. Like Cormier, Miocic has no obvious top challenger, and this superfight represents an enormous opportunity in money and legacy.’
Analysis and Prediction
This fight will likely be decided by a combination of 3 questions:
1. Can Miocic hurt Cormier with the right hand?
2. Can Cormier take down Miocic?
3. Who will tire first?
1. Cormier relies on a high work rate and forward pressure. This style worked well against Jon Jones who is not known for powerful hands. Against Rumble Johnson, a wild but powerful puncher, Cormier got dropped but recovered well. Stipe is a complete Heavyweight boxer, who can use foot work and land consistent power. If he can hurt Cormier and threaten the forward pressure, Cormier’s primary tactic will be in jeopardy.
2. Cormier loves to punch his way into takedowns, particularly his single-leg and high-crotch variations on the left side. Most likely he will look to run the pipe on Miocic or tilt him down rather than hitting his signature lift. In a five round fight, high impact lifts are expensive moves. If Daniel can use his Olympic caliber wrestling and put Miocic on the ground consistently, he can control pace and steadily damage Miocic.
3. Takedowns and damage both contribute to the great X-factor in this fight: endurance. Cormier is certainly used to a higher pace, but he has gained a significant amount of weight preparing for this bout, and that could be a serious problem. Stipe is used to moving forward, but Cormier ALWAYS does. If Cormier can impose his pressure and Stipe is uncomfortable countering on the back foot, the bigger man could tire rapidly. It’s likely that this fight makes it into the later rounds, and it’s likely that the man who retains his energy will find a finish there.
If Stipe wins, he will extend his Heavyweight title defense record to 4 and further cement himself as the Heavyweight GOAT. If Cormier wins, he will make a claim for p4p GOAT status, and much of what Jon Jones has left on his legacy will be washed away.