The main event of Saturday’s UFC 252 is the trilogy fight between heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and former champ Daniel Cormier. The winner of this rubber match will be regarded as the greatest heavyweight in UFC history. Compelling reasons exist for why each man could win this fight, but both face questions.
Let’s break them down.
Stipe Miocic (-105 at William Hill) vs. Daniel Cormier (-115), heavyweight (265-pound) championship
Cormier had been dominating world-class freestyle wrestling talent from the time he was in the NCAA to 2009, when he set his sights on mixed martial arts.
Like a bulldozer, Cormier won 15 straight before losing to Jon Jones. He then ran through six other top challengers before moving from the light-heavyweight division to heavyweight and dominating there. Were it not for two defeats to Jones, Cormier’s sole loss would be his latest bout, when Miocic regained his heavyweight strap.
Cormier’s wrestling gives him an advantage against anyone except Jones, and that holds true here. Cormier thinks he got a little punch-happy in the second fight with Miocic and has vowed to make this a wrestling affair. Should he, at 41, be able to execute that plan for five rounds, he would win this fight as well as stump Father Time.
With a 25-foot cage, a totally focused Cormier is vowing to wrestle Miocic. He has had a full camp to train for one thing and one thing only — his legacy. A highly motivated Cormier is something this handicapper respects.
Unrelenting pressure wrestling consumes abundant energy. It usurps strength and may greatly affect one’s endurance. So the question for Cormier’s camp is: At his age, will he be able to execute a plan of effective wrestling against Miocic, who has sound wrestling ability and a more refined precision striking game?
Miocic enters this fight looking to defend the title he took back from Cormier last August. Miocic is younger and taller with an 8-inch reach advantage. After two bouts, he knows he has a great edge if he can keep this fight standing and at range. He needs to measure the early rounds when Cormier comes at him hard, then take this fight deep, where his opponent’s older legs may begin to flail.
Cormier will sell out in this small octagon to take Miocic to the ground and keep him there for a seven-course meal of ground and pound. Wrestling and the mat are keys to Cormier’s success outside of a one-punch power shot, which Cormier must not rely on.
For Miocic, it’s stick and move and make the portly wrestler utilize precious energy, then take the fight into Rounds 4 and 5 and transition into a more power striking game. Miocic’s biggest problem is that Cormier has shown he can take Miocic down as well as stay in top position.
Cormier has been living with his championship loss and has been using it to fuel him, for he has shown in every test that he is of championship mettle. He has had more than a full camp without distraction, and I know Saturday we’ll get the absolute best he has.
For Miocic, it’s simple: Stuff the takedown attempts from Cormier and stay on the move and at distance, especially early. Make Cormier use his energy. The longer this fight goes, the more Cormier will telegraph his strikes, and the more one-dimensional he’ll become in his attempts to take down Miocic.
There’s where Miocic’s opportunity lies — catching Cormier coming in.
This fight opened Cormier -120 to Miocic +105, went to pick ’em, and now Cormier is again a slight favorite.
The total is 2.5 rounds (Over -163).
If Cormier is to win, the Under seems to correlate. Those thinking Miocic has the advantage may side with the Over.