Stipe Miocic Holds Off Daniel Cormier to Retain Heavyweight Crown in UFC 252 Headliner

By Brian Knapp Aug 15, 2020

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The eternal bragging rights belong to Stipe Miocic.

The Strong Style Fight Team representative retained the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title with a unanimous decision over Daniel Cormier in the UFC 252 headliner on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. All three judges sided with Miocic (20-3, 14-3 UFC): 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47. He completes his historic trilogy against Cormier with a 2-1 edge in their head-to-head series.

Miocic controlled long stretches of the fight in the clinch along the fence, where he stalled and frustrated the American Kickboxing Academy captain. He nearly finished Cormier at the end of the second round, as he chased down the Lafayette, Louisiana, native with sweeping right hands, dropped him at the base of the cage and moved to a crouched full mount, at which point he unleashed his ground-and-pound. Had a few more seconds been on the clock, Miocic might have ended it.

Cormier (22-3, 11-3 UFC) had his moments. He staggered Miocic with clubbing right hands in the first and fourth rounds, snapped back the champion’s head with stiff jabs and mixed in a few leg kicks. However, he suffered a horrendous third-round eye poke that left him with compromised vision for the remainder of the fight. Miocic steered clear of danger in the fifth round by pinning “DC” to the fence, scoring with shoulder strikes and running out the remaining time.

Vera Slows O’Malley Ascent

Team Oyama’s Marlon Vera disposed of the previously unbeaten MMA Lab prospect Sean O'Malley with punches and elbows in the first round of their bantamweight co-main event. Vera (16-6-1, 10-5 UFC) brought it to a close 4:40 into Round 1.

O’Malley (12-1, 4-1 UFC) leaned on his length and kept “The Ultimate Fighter Latin America” semifinalist at bay with powerful kicks to the body and leg during their initial exchanges. However, he took an awkward step forward midway through the first round, rolled his right ankle and retreated in visible distress. He was never the same. An off-balance O’Malley lost his footing later in the round, collapsed to his back and absorbed a volley of punches and elbows that necessitated the stoppage.

Vera has posted six wins across his last seven appearances.

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Rozenstruik Rebounds, Blasts Dos Santos

Jairzinho Rozenstruik bounced back from his 20-second knockout loss to Francis Ngannou in May, as he brought down American Top Team stablemate Junior dos Santos with punches in the second round of their featured heavyweight pairing. Rozenstruik (11-1, 5-1 UFC) drew the curtain 3:47 into Round 2.

Dos Santos (21-8, 15-7 UFC) probed for openings throughout a tepid first round, fired off intermittent overhand rights and kept the dangerous Surinamese kickboxer on his back foot. The middle stanza took on a similar tone—until Rozenstruik connected. A two-punch combination floored dos Santos at the base of the cage and set the stage for the finish. Rozenstruik flurried with punches and dropped the Brazilian a second time when he attempted to stand, prompting referee Dan Miragliotta to act.

The 36-year-old dos Santos has lost three fights in a row, all by knockout.

Pineda Dominates, Upsets Burns

Former Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder Daniel Pineda returned to the UFC for the first time in more than six years and did so in spectacular fashion, as he put away Herbert Burns with sustained ground-and-pound in the second round of their featherweight showcase. Burns (11-3, 2-1 UFC) succumbed to blows 4:37 into Round 2.

Pineda (27-13, 4-4 UFC) overwhelmed the Sanford MMA rep in the first round, where he connected with power punches to head and body, delivered a takedown and applied damaging ground-and-pound. Still, Burns had his chance. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt opened a cut on Pineda’s left eye with an overhand right early in Round 2, executed a takedown of his own and eventually progressed to full mount. However, Pineda scrambled into top position, trapped the DWCS graduate in a topside crucifix and cut loose with a merciless stream of elbows until the job was done.

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Surging Dvalishvili Handles Dodson

A suffocating clinch, a few takedowns and surprisingly effective standup carried former Ring of Combat champion Merab Dvalishvili to a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter 14” winner John Dodson in a three-round bantamweight feature. Dvalishvili (12-4, 5-2 UFC) swept the scorecards with 30-27 marks from all three judges.

Dodson (21-12, 10-7 UFC) could not match the Serra-Longo Fight Team standout’s pace. Dvalishvili moved forward with relentless purpose, trapped his counterpart along the fence and hammered his thighs with knee strikes. The 29-year-old Georgian connected with a spinning backfist and right hook in the second round, troubled Dodson with takedown attempts and maintained control of the narrative through the entirety of their 15-minute encounter.

Dvalishvili will ride a five-fight winning streak into his next assignment.

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