UFC 226 is now available on Amazon Prime.
Stipe Miocic can strengthen his argument as one of the all-time greats when he puts his Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title on the line against 205-pound titleholder Daniel Cormier in a champion-versus-champion main event superfight at UFC 226 on Saturday in Las Vegas.
The latest installment of The Film Room focuses on the Strong Style Fight Team cornerstone.
Like Cormier, Miocic got a late start in MMA but entered the cage as a Golden Gloves boxing champion and a former NCAA Division I wrestler. He made his professional debut in 2010 and just a year later was fighting for the UFC; Miocic won the heavyweight championship only six years into his career. Since coming to the UFC, he has proven himself as one of the biggest punchers in the division, with the wrestling chops to hold his own on the ground.
Miocic has genuine one-punch knockout power, with 14 of his 18 wins coming by KO or TKO. He does his best work with his right hand and can finish the fight on the lead or when working on the counter. He often sets up the right straight with a lead hook but will also throw it naked with the same effect. Miocic has never been known as a counterstriker, but he won the heavyweight title from Fabricio Werdum with a beautiful step-back counter right straight.
Miocic has the wrestling skills required to handle most heavyweights but usually relies on his hands. Against heavy hitters like Mark Hunt and Francis Ngannou, Miocic played it safe, went back to his wrestling game and reminded everyone just how good he is on the ground. He rarely leads with takedowns, preferring instead to duck under his opponents’ strikes and use their momentum against them.
Once the fight hits the ground, Miocic has some of the best ground-and-pound in the division. Instead of fighting for position and looking to pass guard, he will posture up and rain punches to the body and head. Fighters oftentimes get too caught up in passing an opponent’s guard, leading to a referee restart for inactivity. Miocic knows the power he possesses and realizes guard passes matter much less when he can knock out someone with a few short elbows or hammerfists from full guard.
A lot of Miocic’s game relies on walking down his opponents with one-twos and grabbing the clinch once they hit the cage. This could prove worrisome against a clinch-dominant fighter like Cormier, as the American Kickboxing Academy captain practically lives in the clinch and has some of the best dirty boxing in the UFC. It will be interesting to see if Miocic initiates the clinch or chooses to use his height and reach advantage to keep the fight at distance.
Miocic is often lauded for his boxing, but he has his issues. He shows flashes of brilliant skill and footwork, only to then run forward with wild hooks, hands down and head past his shoulders in an unsteady stance. He has been caught clean in the past and recovered well, but at 35 years of age and with 20 fights under his belt, it could be only a matter of time before his ability to eat shots and keep coming forward deteriorates.
Despite the holes in his game, Miocic does have moments of finesse rarely seen in heavyweight MMA. After being stunned by Alistair Overeem early in their fight, Miocic slowed the pace and intelligently cut the Dutchman to the cage. Once against the fence, Overeem covered up and allowed Miocic to patiently pick his strikes and land between his guard with impressive accuracy. Against Shane del Rosario, Miocic landed a wonderful one-two to lead uppercut and a right straight on the angle change.
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