Rivalries: Stipe Miocic

By Brian Knapp Jul 28, 2020
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Stipe Miocic has history in his crosshairs.

The reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder will defend his crown when he completes his trilogy with Daniel Cormier in the UFC 252 headliner on Aug. 15 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Miocic split his first two meetings with Cormier, falling by first-round knockout in July 2018 before avenging the loss with a fourth-round technical knockout of the American Kickboxing Academy captain a little more than a year later. A win in the rubber match with “DC” could secure Miocic’s place among the all-time greats.

In advance of his third confrontation with Cormier, a look at a few of the other rivalries that have helped light the way for Miocic:

Stefan Struve

Struve stopped the previously undefeated Miocic with second-round punches in the UFC on Fuel TV 5 main event on Sept. 29, 2012 at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham, England. The 6-foot-11 Struve closed it out 3:50 into Round 2. Miocic did some excellent work in the first round, as he ripped rights and lefts to the head and body of the towering Dutchman. The blows to Struve’s midsection might have paid serious dividends had the fight lasted longer. However, momentum abandoned Miocic in the second stanza. Struve looked like a different fighter, as he assumed a far more aggressive approach, with the right uppercut as his chief weapon. He had Miocic on the run more than once. After the Strong Style Fight Team lynchpin slipped near the cage, Struve unleashed two hellacious right crosses that permanently altered the direction of the bout. A series of uppercuts followed, and one final left hook was enough to force referee Herb Dean’s hand as Miocic slumped.

Miocic took the heavyweight crown from Werdum in dramatic fashion. (Photo: Getty Images)

Fabricio Werdum

Miocic silenced a throng with one swing of his hammer, as he knocked out Werdum to become the undisputed heavyweight champion in the UFC 198 headliner on May 14, 2016 at Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil. An unconscious Werdum hit the canvas 2:47 into Round 1, an eerie hush enveloping the 40,000-plus fans in attendance. The two men traded punches and kicks before Werdum made his move—and his mistake. He charged forward and walked right into a counter right hook from the backpedaling Miocic. His lights were out before he landed on the mat, his reign atop the heavyweight division and six-fight winning streak at an end.

Miocic scored a first-round stoppage of dos Santos in their rematch. (Photo: Getty Images)

Junior dos Santos

The Strong Style Fight Team cornerstone avenged one of his two career defeats and knifed through dos Santos to retain the heavyweight title in the UFC 211 main event on May 13, 2017 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. Miocic finished it 2:22 into Round 1, bouncing back from his 2014 decision loss to the Brazilian. Dos Santos enjoyed some early success with a series of kicks to the champion’s lower leg. Though he did so with a limp, Miocic shrugged off the damage, backed the Brazilian to the fence and let his heavy hands do the rest. The Euclid, Ohio, native sent dos Santos crashing to the canvas with a clubbing right hand and picked his bones with follow-up ground strikes.

Miocic dominated Ngannou in the UFC 220 headliner. (Photo: Getty Images)

Francis Ngannou

Miocic maintained his stranglehold on the heavyweight throne with a clear-cut unanimous decision over the consensus No. 1 contender in the UFC 220 main event on Jan. 20, 2018 at the TD Garden in Boston. All three cageside judges scored it 50-44 for Miocic, who became the first fighter in history to successfully defend the heavyweight title on three consecutive occasions. Ngannou cracked the champion more than once with right hands in a compelling first round, but his wild swings did not net the desired result and instead came at a high price. By the start of Round 2, the challenger was badly fatigued and far less explosive. Miocic turned to takedowns and clinches from then on, drowning the Cameroon-born Frenchman with the rinse-and-repeat tactic. Ngannou’s situation went from bad to worse to downright nightmarish, with Miocic either feeding him ground-and-pound or forcing him to carry his weight on all fours. The championship rounds offered little in the way of intrigue, as Ngannou had difficulty with the most rudimentary of movements, his 10-fight winning streak dying with a whimper. Advertisement
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