UFC 241: Profiling Stipe Miocic

John Locher/AP

Stipe Miocic attempts to become a two-time heavyweight champion at UFC 241.

The most successful and the consensus best heavyweight in the history of the UFC returns this weekend at UFC 241 in Anaheim, California. Ohio striker Stipe Miocic re-runs his clash with Daniel Cormier in the main event, as he attempts to become a two-time heavyweight champion. With three consecutive title defenses, Miocic entered the UFC 226 clash against the then light heavyweight champion Cormier, as a considerable favorite. In a later opening round collar tie-up, Cormier landed a short left hook which dropped Miocic. The longest heavyweight title run in Octagon history was over.

A possible factor to consider when examining the late knockout is the earlier eye pokes sustained by Miocic. A quite nasty eye poke during a first-round exchange resulted in a halt to the action. Referee Marc Goddard warned Cormier on three separate occasions to keep his hands closed before engaging. The only time we’ve seen Miocic hurt in the last couple of years, excluding the Stefan Struve loss, was the somewhat flash knockdown he suffered against Alistair Overeem. Miocic recovered quite quickly and managed to himself stop Overeem via strikes. Below, I examine the fifteen fight UFC career of Stipe Miocic.

The Early Days:

Establishing himself as a certain knockout artist during the opening year of his career, Miocic stopped four opponents in 2010 alone via strikes. A year later, Miocic had signed to the Ultimate Fighting Championship off the back of two more knockout stoppages. Making his Octagon debut against the well-traveled Joey Beltran in Houston, Texas, Miocic went the distance for the first time in his professional career against the Californian, picking up a unanimous decision win. Just four months later, Miocic claimed his first UFC knockout and subsequently a Knockout of the Night accolade, as he stopped Philip De Fries inside the opening minute of the bout. Miocic also made light work of the debuting Shane del Rosario to move to 3-0 in the promotion.

Making his main event bow across the pond in Nottingham, Miocic met Stefan ‘The Skyscraper’ Struve in a five-round main event. Despite landing some decent jabs and overhand rights in the opening round, Miocic struggled with Struve’s sheer height in the second and ate some punishing uppercuts against the fence before the referee stepped in.

Road To The Title:

After his first professional loss, Miocic returned against the dangerously heavy-handed Roy Nelson in a short notice clash. In a huge scalp for Miocic, he claimed a 30-27 unanimous decision as a considerable underdog, earning the first of a three-fight win streak over some big names. A second straight decision followed, this time against the incredibly talented grappler Gabriel Gonzaga. Fellow Brazilian Fábio Maldonado was also dispatched by Miocic, as he landed a first-round flurry knockout. A monstrous showdown with former heavyweight champion Junior ‘Cigano’ dos Santos followed in late 2014. In the closely contested affair, Miocic suffered his second professional blemish, this time via a unanimous decision loss. After the loss to JDS, Miocic would remain undefeated for the next four years. With two knockout victories over former interim title challenger Mark Hunt, and former undisputed champion Andrei Arlovski. Miocic was finally drafted into a championship tilt against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu standout Fabrício Werdum.

I’m A World Champ, I’m A World Champ.”:

Miocic traveled to hostile territory for his first professional championship tilt as he clashed with Fabrício Werdum in Curitiba, Brazil at UFC 198. A very aggressive and forward pushing Werdum was stopped inside the very first frame as he recklessly charged down Miocic. Backing away, Miocic planted a counter right hand on Werdum, dropping him before finishing up with ground and pound. Miocic wheeled away in celebration, scaling the Octagon fence, shouting “I’m a world champ, I’m a world champ.”

Offered a home town title defense against perennial contender Alistair Overeem in Ohio, Miocic accepted and headlined UFC 203 against ‘The Demolition Man’. In a tentative opening couple of exchanges, Overeem exploded with a straight left hand, dropping Miocic. Jumping straight to a guillotine attempt, Overeem sunk in on his back with Miocic eventually managing to free his head. With less than a minute remaining in the round, Overeem attempted a front leg oblique kick which Miocic countered, and from a stacked guard, began laying down ground and pound, forcing Marc Goddard to step in as Overeem lay unconscious. Speaking with UFC color-commentator Joe Rogan afterward, Overeem explained how he felt Miocic tap during his earlier pull guard guillotine attempt. Rogan and the UFC production team attempted to isolate the apparent tap in multiple replays but were unable to.

Record Setter:

After overcoming adversity to stop Alistair Overeem, Miocic was booked to rematch Junior dos Santos, in an attempt to avenge only his second career defeat. Blitzing out the gates early, Miocic landed heavy and flush often, despite dos Santos landing unchecked leg kicks, Miocic marched forward and stopped JDS inside the opening round via a right hand and follow up ground and pound. Meanwhile, a formidable force was brewing and plodding his way through the heavyweight division. Cameroonian power-puncher Francis ‘The Predator’ Ngannou had just stopped the aforementioned Arlovski in the first round and even more impressively, flatlined Alistair Overeem with a left hook to earn a title opportunity.

Entering the main event at UFC 220 as the favorite, the challenger had yet to be taken down in his Octagon run and had decimated each and every opponent who made the brave decision to trade with him. Despite taking some of Ngannou’s best shots early, Miocic managed to set an early blueprint on how to beat Ngannou, as he scored six takedowns over five rounds and comfortably outpointed him with two-hundred odd strikes. Taking an incredible 50-44 on all three judges scorecards, Miocic had set the record for consecutive title defenses at three, taking out three of the most decorated and formidable strikers in mixed-martial-arts past, present or future.

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