By: S. Davis
Since this is the second iteration of this piece I wanted to wait until the event actually began before I posted it. Get well soon, Max Holloway. There isn’t much time to waste here so let’s take a look at the main event.
The ideal of what a superfight truly is seems to be superfluous depending on the marketing demands. This is a contest between two of the elite martial artists of their time with no clear contenders, currently, in either of their divisions. They both traveled a treacherous path leading to one another for the biggest prize in mixed martial arts; this is the one.
I’m not diving into GOAT discussions as I find them abhorrent in a sport currently in its infancy but it’s clear the winner at the end of the night will have a substantial imprint on the sport – even as they both are cemented as greats before a single punch is thrown. It’s exciting and will be fascinating to see how it unfolds.
Stipe Miocic wins if he can stay on his feet. I’m not making it out to be as simple as that since he’s facing Daniel Cormier. Don’t you have the feeling that if it’s a five-round grinder, there’s a good chance that Cormier walks away with another championship? That’s the way it seems. Miocic is a balanced athlete no matter if he’s a heavyweight or a middleweight. He moves crisply, stepping off, resetting and firing from all angles. His boxing and footwork – which I find to be equally, if not more impressive than his hands – are masterful. His best advantage is to deploy those tools along with his accuracy, range and power.
He’s no slouch as a wrestler either but it’s something he uses more when a change of pace is needed – and it’s a main factor why he turned away the promotion’s new crush in Francis Ngannou; Miocic just has a deep variety of tools of which to mine. I like him to retain if he dictates the fight whether in close, or at distance. If he elects to fire from range and keep Cormier trying to fight inside his reach, I feel strongly that Cormier will fall due to the volume that Miocic can turn on.
He could also go the opposite route and try to overpower the smaller, in height, at least, challenger. That would be a twist though. Imagine Miocic going to the grappling and using his physical advantages to (probably) confuse the challenger by meeting him on his terms. If the reigning heavyweight champion can keep Cormier at the end of his attacks and stuff the takedown he should have a successful evening.
Cormier wins if he dictates the terms. While being a small heavyweight sounds oxymoronic, it’s apt when referencing the challenger. During his career at heavyweight he’s had to outlast Josh Barnett, Frank Mir, Roy Nelson and Antonio Silva based on speed, precision and skill. The size advantage can’t be as wide as it was when he shared the cage with the aforementioned staples of the division. Miocic is lean for such a big man. According to the scale, Cormier is 246 lbs to Miocic’s 242.5. They’re three-and-a-half pounds away from one another. It’s close to being equal.
Also it can’t be overlooked that the light heavyweight champion has been fighting Cain Velasquez for years, for training. Yeah. His heavyweight run is a clean 13-0. He’s a true heavyweight and just manages as a light heavyweight.
I see the people picking Cormier are leaning highly on his wrestling as the key to victory. It is. However there’s a path to DC earning a knockout. He’s a good striker, he isn’t out of his element on his feet. There’s an avenue for an overhand shot that can stagger the defending champion. Every competitor that opposes Cormier has to worry about the takedown so he can fake a shot, have Miocic drop his hands and…
I also noted the two, nearly identical, ways he turned back Anthony Johnson with the takedown as a precursor to the rear-naked choke. Small nugget: Cormier has a tendency to duck his head to the right without protecting himself which was all the opening Jon Jones needed to close their last bout. Miocic doesn’t use head kicks often so I wonder if it’s a surprise he’s holding in case of emergency.
Lastly, I can’t help but mention the Jones and Brock Lesnar carrots that are dangling for the UFC executives to salivate over. The winner will have a slew of options after the event closes.
The rest of the card…
I wonder if Anthony Pettis will truly be labeled as a gatekeeper with a loss. While it’s been affixed to him for a while now I think this challenge from Michael Chiesa could alter his present and future. His weaknesses are evident: A great striker with bad defensive wrestling. He’s not unlike a large portion of the roster but his flaws are so evident that his opponents know if they can avoid the knockout or submission early in the fight they have a way to win in the later rounds. Derrick Lewis and Ngannou square off in a battle that could obviously stamp the next challenger for the heavyweight title-holder at the conclusion of the event. Don’t step away from the television for that one.
Picks: Gokhan Saki, Chiesa, Paul Felder, Lewis and Cormier.