Stipe Miocic has responded to his first defeat with back-to-back victories. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
As much as MMA is about sport and competition, everyone loves a good freak show fight every now and then. That is why Tito Ortiz’s recent win over Bellator MMA middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko drew the attention it did. While Bellator booked Ortiz-Shlemenko intentionally to help anchor the lineup of its inaugural pay-per-view, “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3” Finale headliner was borne out of necessity.
Stipe Miocic was originally scheduled to face former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos in the main event on Saturday at the Ibirapuera Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. When dos Santos bowed out with an injury, however, apparently the only suitable replacement the promotion could find on short notice was light heavyweight talent Fabio Maldonado. If Miocic does as he is supposed to and wins handily, do not expect a demonstration similar to the one put forth by Ortiz following his submission of Shlemenko; that is too much to ask of most anyone.
In addition, “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3” Finale will crown middleweight and heavyweight winners from the latest international iteration of the reality series. Here is a closer look at the card, with analysis and picks:
HeavyweightsStipe Miocic (11-1, 5-1 UFC) vs. Fabio Maldonado (21-6, 4-3 UFC)
The Matchup: Coming off back-to-back victories over Roy Nelson and Gabriel Gonzaga, Miocic has provided the stagnant heavyweight division with a much-needed fresh face. A matchup with dos Santos was to be Miocic’s most daunting task yet, but it also would have given the Ohio native the opportunity for a breakthrough victory. Instead, an injury to “Cigano” has placed Miocic in a lose-lose situation, as he squares off with Maldonado, a light heavyweight.
Maldonado deserves a lot of credit for stepping in to save the headliner of an event that is lacking in name value elsewhere on the card. He is also just the right amount of crazy to make this work, maybe not by pulling off an upset but by making the bout entertaining for as long as it lasts. The Brazilian is already something of a cult hero to MMA fans thanks in large part to his nasty close-quarters boxing and inhuman durability. The fact that he has won three straight fights after a 1-3 start in the Las Vegas-based promotion gives him some momentum at 205 pounds; he even had the temerity to request a pairing with the legendary Dan Henderson following his most recent win over Gian Villante.
Unfortunately for Maldonado, his courage in taking a heavyweight fight will be offset by a number of disadvantages. Not a particularly chiseled light heavyweight, Maldonado will struggle to combat the size and strength of Miocic. At 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, Miocic is not the division’s largest big man, but he is still considerably larger than his Brazilian opponent.
Maldonado is already susceptible to takedowns, as Villante had success grounding and controlling him in the opening round of their March encounter before tiring down the stretch. Against the more powerful Miocic, a former Division I wrestler with a solid gas tank and intelligent ground-and-pound, that deficiency automatically becomes more glaring.
Of course, Maldonado would prefer to move into the pocket and break down Miocic with his formidable body work. However, Miocic is a skilled boxer himself, with a crisp jab and a five-inch reach advantage. Maldonado is not nearly as dangerous at range, and Miocic, with long punches, kicks and use of movement and angles, has the ability to keep him away for extended periods of time.
Although his chin has held up well during his Ultimate Fighting Championship tenure, Maldonado’s lack of head movement could prove costly against a heavyweight. While Miocic is not the biggest hitter in the division, he is certainly more than capable of knocking out the former professional boxer.
The Pick: Miocic wins by KO or technical knockout in round two or three.
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