There’s an old maxim that “good things come in threes”, which anyone who has sat through the third part of the Back to the Future, Rocky and The Godfather trilogies will have solid ground to disagree with. But just occasionally triple headers can deliver the goods, and the hope is that Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier’s third encounter adds to that pantheon.
The Heavyweight Championship will be on the line when the two are scheduled to meet at UFC 252 on August 15 in the UFC’s APEX production facility in Las Vegas, but there’s much more than just gold and bragging rights at stake here.
This one is for all the marbles. 1-1, both knockouts but great fights, I can’t wait to fight this dude again!! Now it’s time to work as hard as I ever trained. #weareaka #zinkinsportsmanagement #2xheavyweightchamp 2xlightheavyweightchamp pic.twitter.com/BvyhectS4X
— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) June 9, 2020
Cormier has already confirmed that this will be his last fight before retirement, and while defeat would not tarnish his reputation nor harm his chances of being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, there is the pride of signing off with victory. Without that luxury, some over-the-hill retired fighters always have that nagging voice telling them ‘just one more match’ – we see it sadly all too often in combat sports.
As for Miocic, he too has spoken of possible retirement, but at 37 he has a bit more gas in the tank. Managing your workload – Miocic has only fought four times since the start of 2017 – also helps, and you wonder if, secretly, he might be eyeing a second money-spinning contest with Francis Ngannou at some point in 2021.
Either way, this is a fascinating contest for what’s at stake both inside and out of the Octagon for both men, and to make matters all the more mouth-watering the sportsbooks can barely split them. In the Miocic vs Cormier UFC markets from Betway, Cormier is the slight favorite at 1.80 – at the time of writing on July 8, at least – with Miocic a narrow underdog at 1.90. Those prices confirmed what we already knew, that these two heavyweight sluggers are equally matched and ready to go to war in this decisive trilogy battle.
Splitting the Difference
Like all good sporting trilogies, this one stands at 1-1 heading into the third and presumably final chapter. While it would be unfair to suggest that Cormier’s victory over Miocic in their first bout back in July 2018 was surprising, you have to remember that the Croatian-American had successfully defended the heavyweight strap on three prior occasions – the first man in history to do so, and he headed into the fight on the back of a huge decision win over the dangerous Ngannou.
Cormier, giving away four years in age, six inches in height and seven inches in reach, had also been campaigning for the prior four years at light heavyweight, and it’s not beyond the pale to suggest his KO triumph over Miocic was one of the great shocks in UFC history. The Olympic wrestler held his own against the bigger man’s stand-up style, and the knockout blow – following through a punch with an elbow strike – came after Cormier admitted he had been studying videos of how Miocic exits clinches.
The scene was set perfectly for the rematch, which took place in California in August 2019. This time, Miocic was able to utilize his extensive boxing background to land some hurtful body shots on his opponent, and this softened Cormier up to the extent that the 37-year-old was able to lock in to a ground-and-pound to regain his title.
A Contrast of Styles
One of the surprising aspects of the two fights so far is just how willing Cormier has been to stand toe to toe and exchange fists with Miocic. He is a skilled striker, no mistake, but this is where Stipe is most comfortable, and after switching his attack to the body in the second fight he looked a far more dangerous puncher.
Ahead of the second contest, you suspect that Cormier will be working hard on his cardio and scouting ways to get in close to Miocic, taking him down to the canvas and allowing his superior wrestling skills take hold. He did so early on in the second fight before surprisingly changing his tactics – a move the 41-year-old would later label as a ‘mistake’.
What is interesting about Miocic is that he is a part-time firefighter and EMT as well as being a UFC champion, and lately he has been working more and longer shifts with the emergency services. How comprehensive will his training for this trilogy fight have been? There are knowns and unknowns about Miocic vs Cormier III, but what is guaranteed is another edge-of-the-seat war with so much at stake.