The UFC loves to hype its big fights. Sometimes there’s trash talk, sometimes there’s bad blood, and sometimes that’s necessary to make the fight a must-watch clash in the eyes of the fans. But this fight is different.
On Saturday night, the main event of UFC 241 in Anaheim, California has a different type of fight to some of those we’ve seen recently. The trash talk between the pair is minimal. The bad blood seems restricted to their sporting rivalry, rather than anything personal. Yet it’s a fight that looks set to capture the imagination of MMA fans around the world.
That’s because it’s a battle for the biggest prize in the sport, the undisputed UFC heavyweight world title, and it sees one of the pound-for-pound all-time greats of the sport – reigning champ Daniel Cormier – take on the most dominant UFC heavyweight champion of all time – former belt-holder Stipe Miocic – in a hotly anticipated rematch.
Their first meeting came back at UFC 226 in the main event of the UFC’s International Fight Week show in July last year, as Cormier got up close and connected with a clubbing short right hand that dropped Miocic to the ground. Two big shots later, it was all over, as Miocic was stunned in the first round and Cormier celebrated becoming a two-division world champion.
Now the pair will face off for a second time for the gold in a bout that will, for one of them, cement their legacy as the greatest heavyweight world champion in UFC history.
Statistically, that crown belongs to Miocic. He’s the only fighter in history to win the heavyweight title, then defend it three times. But his stunning knockout loss to Cormier immediately catapulted the former light heavyweight champ to the top of that list, alongside Miocic.
Cormier competed at heavyweight before dropping down to 205 pounds to allow his friend and training partner Cain Velasquez to rule the division. But, after injuries saw Velasquez drop out of active competition, Cormier took the option of moving up to challenge Miocic last summer, and scored a historic victory. He remains unbeaten at heavyweight, and looks an even better fighter when he’s operating at the UFC’s biggest weight class, despite often finding himself conceding height and reach to his opponents.
Now they will meet again, a little older, a little wiser and fully aware of each other’s capabilities. Will it be a repeat for Cormier, or redemption for Miocic?
Prior to their first meeting, Cormier insisted that the only way Miocic could defeat him was by knocking him out, while DC himself had an array of ways to beat the Ohio native. And while most pundits believed standing and trading with Miocic would be a dangerous tactic for Cormier, he did just that as he stepped inside the taller man’s power punches and connected at close quarters to score a career-defining knockout and win the title.
The question now is whether Miocic has made the adjustments needed to keep the fight in his realm, at range and in the stand-up. If he can keep Cormier on the outside, the advantage should swing dramatically in his favor. But if Cormier can control the distance and get up close and personal with the former champion once again, a similar result could be on the cards.
It’s a fascinating matchup, an historic matchup and one that brings the best of mixed martial arts to the fore in a welcome departure from the over-the-top trash talk and drama of some of the previous fights we’ve seen in the UFC.
Put simply, Cormier v Miocic 2 is what it is – a battle between the UFC’s two greatest-ever heavyweights that will determine the UFC’s heavyweight GOAT.
Sit back, enjoy it… and don’t blink!
By Simon Head