Image licensed from USA Today Sports
In what looks to be one of the most intriguing title fights in the history of the heavyweight division, dominant champion, Stipe Miocic, takes on challenger, Daniel Cormier, to determine who is the baddest man on the planet.
The Road to Redemption
Soundly defeating all contenders in the UFC’s light heavyweight division (other than Jon Jones who was caught using a banned substance), Daniel Cormier is a glistening example of how a decorated wrestling career can be used as the foundation for an elite mixed martial artist. Devastated by his losses to Jon Jones, Cormier can still achieve immortality in the history books if he’s able to move up a division and take out the current heavyweight champion.
While Cormier is 39-years-of-age, it’s important to remember he made his MMA debut at age 30. He doesn’t have two decades of gym scars and head trauma like most fighters his age. Gifted with freakish athleticism and relentless pace, Cormier does not look like an aging fighter who is a few clean punches away from retirement. While most athletes in the UFC use wrestling as a means to an end, Cormier uses his wrestling as a cardio-draining weapon. You can visibly see his opponents wilt as they’re smothered, suffocated and forced to carry Cormier’s body weight.
Because of his short stature as a heavier competitor, Cormier has needed to become proficient at cutting off the octagon and pressuring taller, rangier fighters. In his rematch with Jon Jones, he was at a 5-inch height and 12-inch reach disadvantage - but was still able to get on the inside and land plenty of punches before he was eventually caught in the third round. Giving up 8 inches of reach against Miocic, it’s essential Cormier applies pressure from the first bell to avoid being punished on the outside.
The World’s Toughest Firefighter
Stipe Miocic may not have the grandiose personality of other UFC champions, but, without a doubt, he’s one of the best heavyweights of all time. While Miocic is known for his terrifying power and boxing-centric attack, he went back to his NCAA Division I Wrestling roots in order to grind out highly touted knockout artist, Francis Ngannou.
Against a stocky Olympic wrestler in Daniel Cormier, you have to figure Miocic will want to use his range and boxing combinations to keep his opponent at bay. Against jiu-jitsu ace, Fabricio Werdum, Miocic repeatedly stung his opponent with a crisp jab. This frustrated Werdum and caused him to become over-aggressive, allowing Miocic to land a clean counter which put the Brazilian ex-champ to sleep. Expect to see Miocic fire off his jab repeatedly as a range management tool against Cormier.
Take the Value
Could Miocic fight long and land the cleaner strikes against Cormier? It’s definitely possible. However, Miocic is not a paragon of outside fighting like Cormier’s previous opponent, Jon Jones. Despite his reach, Miocic often achieves the best results with his mid-range punches.
Perhaps because of his world-class wrestling, Cormier’s boxing is underrated. He’s never had a problem getting on the inside against rangier opponents and Miocic is not a defensive wizard. After being dropped by Dutch kickboxer, Alistair Overeem, Miocic would have lost his heavyweight belt if he had received a few follow-up strikes on the canvas. Unlike some of Miocic’s opponents, Cormier is not going to be easy to put away. Cormier survived a knee from Swedish striker, Alexander Gustafsson, that would have knocked out a silverback gorilla.
Whether he likes it or not, Miocic could be in for a war of attrition against Cormier - and he won’t be able to fall back on his wrestling as he did when things became dicey on the feet against Ngannou.
While I’m not sure who is going to win, I anticipate this to be a highly competitive fight. Given that one fighter is a sizeable underdog, it’s clear where the value lies.
Pick: Cormier +220
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