This weekend sees the UFC present one of the biggest shows of the year, as UFC 241 goes down from Anaheim, California. Unlike some of the earlier pay-per-views this year, UFC 241 only has one title fight – the Heavyweight title rematch between champ Daniel Cormier and former titleholder Stipe Miocic – but the undercard more than makes up for that.
With two highly anticipated fights – Paulo Costa vs. Yoel Romero and Nate Diaz vs. Anthony Pettis – to look forward to prior to the main event, as well as the presence of contenders like Raphael Assuncao and Derek Brunson and prospects like Sodiq Yusuff and Manny Bermudez, this should be awesome.
Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC 241: Cormier vs. Miocic II.
#1 Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic
Despite the fact that the pay-per-view it headlined – UFC 226 – did a less-than-stellar buyrate in the end, the original fight between Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic just over a year ago was one of 2018’s biggest and most memorable moments.
A champion vs. champion fight with the Light-Heavyweight kingpin Cormier stepping up to face Heavyweight champ Miocic, the fight ended in stunning fashion as Cormier knocked out his bigger opponent in the first round to become a UFC double champion.
Interestingly enough, this rematch was never originally on the cards. Cormier always planned to retire before his 40th birthday and wanted his career to end with a big “money fight” against former UFC champ and current WWE superstar Brock Lesnar.
Instead, though, he beat an overmatched Derrick Lewis at UFC 230 and when Lesnar chose pro-wrestling over a return to MMA, the UFC decided to put this fight together despite Miocic not taking a single fight in the interim.
It’s an odd situation clearly thrown together by the Lesnar issue, but really, it’s hard to complain. Miocic was a dominant champion after all and probably deserved a rematch, and the top contender right now – Francis Ngannou – can afford to wait a little longer.
With that said, if Cormier wins and chooses to retire – which may well happen – a fight between Miocic and Ngannou for the vacant title sounds disastrous to me as you’d have a guy coming off a loss against a guy he already beat comprehensively. That’s looking too far ahead into the future, though.
So how do these two match up? It’s quite an interesting fight really, mostly to see whether Miocic’s been able to make any adjustments since last year. I actually picked him to win the first fight, thinking his size and likely strength advantage would negate any technical wrestling advantage held by Cormier. That was totally wrong, though, as Cormier clearly spotted a bit of a weak spot in the then-champion’s armour.
Essentially, he realised he could probably outwork Miocic from the clinch, rather than attempt to wrestle him in the traditional manner with takedowns. And so he began a pattern of clinching, wrestling Miocic from there before looking to land big combinations as the two separated.
Eventually, that paid off in dividends as he caught Miocic with some huge punches late in the first round and was able to outright knock him out.
Can Miocic avoid the same thing happening again? Well, I guess he could try to ensure that he protects himself coming out of the clinch, but I’m not sure that he’s got the right style to be able to have much more success, to be honest, now that it’s clearly been proven that he’s not much, if at all, physically stronger than ‘DC’.
After all, the only two opponents to ever give Cormier issues have been Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson – two much longer strikers. And while Miocic does have an 8” reach advantage on him, he’s never really been the type to snipe at an opponent from the outside.
Even doing that isn’t a guarantee of a win – Gustafsson had success but was unable to keep Cormier from grabbing hold of him, and while Jones obviously knocked him out in their second fight, he relied on his own clinch work to win their first meeting and only turned to range kickboxing when Cormier began to outwork him from close quarters in the rematch.
Miocic’s problem is that his own bread and butter is strikes from close range mixed with ground-and-pound; it’s how he pretty much beat up Junior Dos Santos in their first fight and then KO'ed him in their second, it’s how he took out Alistair Overeem and Francis Ngannou too.
He did catch Fabricio Werdum with a beautiful counterpunch to take him out, but Cormier’s chin is far stouter than the Brazilian’s and he isn’t likely to run forward with no defense, either.
For me unless Father Time has suddenly and dramatically caught up with Cormier – and there’s honestly no reason to believe it has just yet – then stylistically this is just a bad match for Miocic based on the first outing, and given he hasn’t fought since, I can’t imagine him being able to make the correct adjustments to be able to win.
I think this goes maybe longer than the first meeting, but ends in the same fashion.
The Pick: Cormier via third-round TKO