Back on July 7, 2018, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Stipe Miocic was trying to extend his record-setting heavyweight title defenses to four. But instead of facing another contender from the Heavyweight Division, Miocic decided to face the UFC Light Heavyweight champion Daniel “DC” Cormier. Five months before this fight, both Miocic and Cormier were on the same card defending their belts. Miocic was defending the heavyweight belt against Francis Ngannou and Cormier was defending the light heavyweight belt against Volkan Oezdemir. Both Miocic and Cormier won their fights, setting up their first match at UFC 226.
Stipe had already set the record for the most successful title defenses in UFC Heavyweight history with three of them. He defeated Alistair Overeem at UFC 203 in Cleveland at The Q (although now its called the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse), next he defeated Junior Dos Santos at UFC 211 in Dallas at American Airlines Center and then defeated Francis Ngannou at UFC 220 in Boston at TD Garden. Meanwhile, Cormier was coming off losing the Light. Heavyweight belt to Jon Jones at UFC 214 but then got it back after it was revealed that Jones had failed a drug test and then Cormier defeated Oezdemir in the co-main event of UFC 220.
So now that you have a little bit of background, let’s do a quick recap of what happened in the main event of UFC 226. Cormier started off slow as he usually does, meanwhile, Miocic came out somewhat strong and he hit Cormier with some strong punches, but as the fight got deeper into the 1st round, Stipe kept engaging Cormier in the clinch, which is not something you want to do with DC. That’s because DC wants to close the distance and be close to his opponent so that he can dirty box with them and possibly score a takedown.
So, they were in the clinch and unfortunately, Cormier was able to land a big right hand that knocked Stipe Miocic out, but Cormier followed him to the ground and put the finishing touches on the victory. After defeating Miocic at UFC 226, Cormier would vacate the Light Heavyweight belt and focus squarely on the Heavyweight belt. He would defend it for the first time against “The Black Beast” Derrick Lewis in the main event of UFC 230. Meanwhile, after losing to Cormier, Stipe decided to take a year off and not accept any other fight except a rematch against Cormier.
Having defeated Lewis at UFC 230, it looked like Stipe was going to get passed over by Brock Lesnar who came into the octagon during the octagon interviews at UFC 226. But a deal never came together and eventually, Lesnar retired from the UFC to focus on the WWE. Meanwhile, Cormier underwent back surgery and he needed to take some time off. Which brings us to the main event that happened last night at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
In the first round, Cormier dominated the fight. He even scored a massive takedown that seemed to shake Stipe. It was very clear from the very beginning that it was Cormier who was dictating the fight, he was landing many strikes and most of them were in the significant strikes department. It felt like Stipe was waiting for Cormier too much instead of trying to attack and make something happen.
This same kind of pattern happened throughout the second and third round. Although in the third round, Stipe scored a takedown and he started to create his own offense, but Cormier had definitely won the first rounds and by pretty big margins.
In the first round, I scored it as 10-8 in favor of Cormier, and in the second round, I also gave it to Cormier 10-9. But, as, I said, the third round is where Stipe started to find his groove. He wasn’t waiting on Cormier to throw something. Instead, he was landing more punches and he was mixing in some leg kicks, although I would have liked to see Miocic use more leg kicks. But from my perspective, Stipe was landing more punches so I gave him the third round but not by much. I scored it 10-9 in favor of Stipe.
In between the second and third round, they showed both fighters’ corners, so that the viewer could hear what the coaches were saying to their fighter. So in between the second round, third round and the fourth round, one could hear Cormier’s coaches telling him to use his wrestling but for some reason, he didn’t. Although part of the reason Cormier couldn’t use his wrestling was that Stipe was able to maintain the distance and use his footwork.
During the coaches’ corner between the third round and fourth, one of Cormier’s coaches said and I quote: “Would you please keep your damn hands up!” Cormier also asked his coaches if he was long because another one of his coaches told him that this was the total opposite of how they wanted the fight to go. In the fourth round, Stipe made the adjustment of attacking the body and you could tell that DC didn’t like it. According to Stipe, this wasn’t something his corner told him to do. Instead, it was an in-fight adjustment and you could tell that it was bothering Cormier. Then, towards the end of the round, with about 55 seconds left, Stipe closed the distance with Cormier against the fence and let the punches fly and the referee had no choice but to step in and end the fight.
As a result, Stipe regained the Heavyweight belt and he handed Daniel Cormier his first Heavyweight loss. Also, Stipe adds his name to the shortlist of heavyweight fighters who have held the heavyweight belt on two separate occasions.
Now, the last time that Stipe won the Heavyweight belt in 2016, it set off a championship reign in Cleveland as the Monsters and Cavaliers proceeded to also win championships. But as I’ve said before, even though Stipe doesn’t have Cleveland in his name; I believe Miocic brought the first championship to Cleveland in 2016. Also, when Stipe won the belt in 2016, it brought the octagon to Cleveland for the first time, so maybe the octagon will come back to Cleveland since Stipe has the belt again.
But the other question I have is this: Stipe set off the 2016 championship reign, so with Stipe winning the belt again does it mean that big things are coming for the Indians and Browns?