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The UFC heavyweight title is on the line this weekend, as former and current champions collide in a trilogy match for the ages.
Their first meeting was at UFC 226, back in July of 2018. Moving back to heavyweight, then light-heavyweight champion, Daniel DC Cormier stepped up to face the reigning champion, Stipe Miocic.
Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier will fight for the UFC heavyweight title in the early hours of Sunday morning
At that time Miocic was the longest reigning heavyweight champion of all time, winning the belt and then defending it three times. His height and reach put him in good stead against the invading champion from the lower weight class. Cormier, typically undersized in his own weight class, against the likes of Jon Jones and lex Gustafsson, has the pace and wrestling to take on anyone, and closes distance on the bigger fighters very well.
In the early stages Stipe moved well and seemed to be using his reach intelligently, but low kicks from Cormier slowed him down and the challengers clinchwork and dirty boxing proved too much. Right before the end of the first round, Cormier cracked Stipe on the chin with a short right hook and dropped him on the spot.
The punch seemed to come out of nowhere, and for some of the shots Stipe has taken in the past, this was one he nor many watching expected to phase him. Shock and elation filled the arena as Cormiers broadcast colleagues yelled, there is a new heavyweight champion!.
The two have fought twice previously, winning one each and there is a lot on the line in this trilogy match
Before we fast-forward to the rematch, we have a brief stop off in November of 2018, where DC defends the belt against the knockout king, Derrick Lewis, with relative ease.
It wasnt until August of 2019 that we would see DC make the walk to defend his belt against Miocic. On that night, Cormier came in to prove the doubters wrong and solidify himself as the heavyweight champion. Up until the fourth round he was doing exactly that.
In the first he closed distance and spent more than half the round in the top position, raining down strikes. In the second it was a story of his dirty boxing again, as he stepped into range to grab Stipes wrists, punching through and around the guard.
He seemed to be slowly wearing Miocic down, peppering his face with fifty per cent power shots and keeping him on the back foot. Stipe had his moments but it looked by most people’s account he was losing the rounds.
Fourth round is ticking by, and out of nowhere Miocic lands a digging left hook to the body of Cormier. Immediately DCs posture changes hes hurt. Stipe walks him down, taking a few shots for his trouble, but the now faltering champion is struggling to hide his discomfort. As the pressure continues Stipe lands several more hooks to the body, forcing DC to drop his arms to protect and his chin exposed.
Cormier dropped the Ohio-native in the first round and knocked him out in 2018
Showing world class footwork, Stipe hits Cormier with a big right hand and pivots off to allow DC to begin falling towards the fence. In quick succession Stipe landed a barrage of punches as the waning champion slides down the fence, and into defeat.
Miocic is the champion once more. The nightmare 12 months had ended, and even though the celebrations were immediate, so was the realisation that they now owned one win each. There was no way Cormier was hanging up his gloves with the loss right behind him.
And almost 12 months to the day, here we are once more.
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This will be the most honest fight of the three. In the first one Stipe started fast, like he wanted to get DC out of there in the early rounds. He seemed too comfortable at every range, and also probably underestimated how much Cormier was able to hurt him with strikes.
In the rematch I feel like DC underestimated Stipes ability to rally, after losing rounds, to come back and find a way to win. He also approached Miocic in the fourth round as if there was nothing that could come at him which would be problematic. In his eyes he was running away with the fight and it was only a matter of time before Miocic broke under the pressure.
Now they both are aware what each other are capable of, and how deep they can dig in order to win a fight. This is Stipes opportunity to show that DC was never better than him, just bettered him on that night.
For Cormier it is the last fight in a long and storied competitive career. To almost win an Olympic medal in wrestling, then the disappointments in the light-heavyweight division around the Jon Jones rivalry. If Cormier were to lose twice to Miocic, I dont think he would be able to retire. That puts a lot of pressure on him, but it also gives him a clear finish line, if he can achieve his goal.
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Cormier knows he has beaten Stipe for the majority of time they have shared the Octagon. He also knows his routes to victory, as they are drilled and tested at the highest levels.
Stipe knows that if he is to lose to DC, it is a loss which he will never be able to avenge, because Cormier is almost definitely stepping away after a win here. It is so rare that we get a trilogy, especially one so closely contested going into their final bout. They will surely bring the best out of one another once more, and deliver to the fans what I expect to be a real war.
The stand out main event sits atop a very strong supporting main and undercard. In the co-main even we have rising star, Suga Sean OMalley, taking on the scrappy and aggressive, Marlon Chito Vera.
OMalley proving to be one of the biggest draws since Conor McGregor has distanced himself from competition, has a slick and accurate knockout style. Chito, in the other corner, is an opportunity-creator. Someone that will create a chaotic scramble to see if he can catch his opponent with a flying knee of type of strangulation. With a win here the hype will be justified for OMalley, and we will see him move very quickly through the ranks.
For an in-depth, detailed breakdown of this trilogy, please check out Dan Hardys War Room