UFC 252: Miocic vs. Cormier 3 Preview

The next pay-per-view instalment for the UFC heads back to Las Vegas, Nevada and the now familiar UFC APEX this Saturday. The card as a whole sees what will be the (alleged) final chapter of a heavyweight rivalry. Let’s take a closer look at that fight and the rest of the UFC 252 card.

The Trilogy

Current champion Stipe Miocic and former champion Daniel Cormier look set to write the final chapter on their rivalry this Saturday night. The saga began at UFC 226 when DC made the decision, while already light heavyweight champion, to try the jump back up to heavyweight. He was awarded an immediate title shot against Miocic who at the time held the record for most title defences in a row at heavyweight. The record which stands at four fights still stands today.

DC came into that bout the smaller man in all aspects, something he would not have been used to at that time, despite fighting the rangey Jon Jones on two occasions. That being said he was no stranger to the heavyweight division having already picked up the Strikeforce HW Grand Prix crown and fought at the 265lbs limit multiple times inside and outside of the UFC. Whatever expectations the fans had going into the bout, there weren’t many who would have predicted the outcome.

Cormier marched forward giving zero respect to Stipe, a man who had already picked up multiple KO victories in his career. Heavy shots were landed by both fighters in the opening stages of the bout. It was DC’s tactic of marching forward into the clinch range to utilise his dirty boxing which would prevail. Just a little over the halfway point of the first round Cormier landed a sweet overhand right when exiting the clinch that clipped Miocic perfectly and put him down. DC followed up with some ground and pound to earn the TKO win. Cormier became only the second fighter in UFC history to hold two belts at the same time, history was made.

The new champ went on to defend his title at UFC 230 when he defeated Derrick Lewis. That set up a rematch with Miocic at UFC 241. Stipe has not fought since he has been on the receiving end of a knockout in their first fight. Not many people gave Miocic much of a chance going into the rematch.

Looking back at the second fight it has to be said overall it was a fantastic fight. Both fighters gave it their all but Cormier looked in control for the majority of the encounter. A back and forth first round was close until DC managed to get in on a single leg and take Stipe down to the mat. He controlled Miocic and landed some pretty heavy shots towards the end of the round.

That would be the last time we would see DC going all in for a takedown in that fight. Rounds two and three were Cormier marching forward putting a lot into his punches. He was trying hard to separate Miocic from his senses. The former champ stood firm taking those big shots while landing some heavy shots of his own. Both fighters were hurt multiple times throughout the rematch.

Things were not looking good for Stipe. DC looked to be quicker with his combinations and was doing visible damage to his opponent. Miocic did well to stay out of trouble in the clinch this second time around though as you could see DC trying to land that overhand right again, the same punch he used to win the belt. He found some success with that technique but it wasn’t enough to put Stipe away this time around.

Going into the championship rounds Stipe was down in the fight. He needed a finish if he was to take back the heavyweight title. DC marched forward showing very little regard to the power of Stipe and that would be a decision he would soon regret. While trying to control Miocic’s hands in the clinch DC left his body wide open. Stipe caught onto that and started to unleash brutal left hooks to the body. Stipe kept going back and DC was visibly hurting from the impact of the shots. So much so he crumbled after eating one to many of those body shots. Miocic took the opportunity to take back his heavyweight crown with a finish that seemingly came out of nowhere in the 4th round. Once again we had a new champion.

This third bout poses many questions. How is DC meantally approaching this bout with the idea of retirement in the back of his head? Fighters that have one foot out the door have not given the best account of themselves. We’ve seen that time and time again. Will DC use his supposed retirement as motivation? One last push, the last hurrah and a bid to finish off his legacy as champion.

We know for sure that Stipe doesn’t care about those sentiments. He has a legacy of his own to protect. He knows he’ll have to make improvements as will DC. Miocic made some adjustments in the rematch as he kept away from the clinch as much as he could and fought a long game. He threw heavy combinations of 2, 3 and 4 punches at a time and they were landing, but he still looked second best for most of that fight.

It was the switch up to the body that was the game changer. I found it strange that he left it so late to start landing heavy to the body. In hindsight you could call it a stroke of genius. If it’s not broke don’t fix it so you can expect some more body work again from the current champion. That’s a problem that Cormier will have had to figure out in his camp in the build-up to this fight. He has been hurt to the body before. At UFC 200 Anderson Silva hurt him with a kick to the body on the very same side that Miocic did the damage.

In the rematch I was surprised DC didn’t implemented a more wrestling heavy gameplan. Especially after his success in the early stages of the second bout. I felt DC loaded up on his punches a little too much in the rematch and that may have caused him to burn a little too much cardio too. Stipe caught onto that and body shots to a tired opponent hurt a hell of a lot more.

It will take something special to defeat Stipe Miocic and Cormier produced that in the first bout. The rubber match between these two warriors is a bout I can see going all the way to the judges. It’s a super exciting fight and it’s very hard to pinpoint how the bout will go. With a heavyweight fight all it takes is one minor slip up and it could be all over for either fighter. If DC wins I wouldn’t be blowing up the balloons or writing the retirement cards just yet with a certain Jon Jones lurking in the distance. That bout would certainly perk up the ears of the current champion Miocic too if he were to defend his title once more.

The Undercard

The co-main event showcases one of the UFC’s potential future stars. The Suga show returns as Sean O’Malley (12-0-0) faces of against UFC veteran Marlon Vera (17-6-1). A hot topic doing the rounds lately is how the UFC is matching up newcomers and potential stars upon entry into the promotion. That can not be said about O’Malley who has not been drip fed poor opposition but has been matched up with challenging but winnable bouts. This is certainly the case for this fight. Vera is a very well rounded opponent and a 14 fight UFC veteran who currently comes off a loss over Song Yadong and won’t want to drop two losses in a row.

‘Suga’ Sean is coming off his most impressive victory to date over Eddie Wineland. His 2 year layoff seems to have done him wonders and may have been a blessing in disguise for the potential star. A win here for O’Malley will surely see him bag a top 10 opponent in his next bout. He should not look past Vera that being said. The Ecuadorian is a very good fighter and a worthy adversary to O’Malley.

Former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos (21-7-0) looks to bounce back from two KO losses. He steps in to face Jairzinho Rozenstruik (10-1-0) who himself is coming off a devastating KO loss to Francis Ngannou. It’s a certainty that there will be heavy leather thrown in this bout. Also on the main card John Dodson (21-11-0) plays gatekeeper once more when he fights Merab Dvalishvili (11-4-0). The Georgian is coming in on a four fight win streak and will look to add another W to his record in facing former flyweight title challenger Dodson. Dodson broke English hearts last time out when he beat anothet rising prospect Nathaniel Wood by TKO.

Prelims

Jim Miller (32-14-0) vs. Vince Pichel (12-2-0) headlines the prelims section of the card in a fight that will have very little implications on the lightweight division but will be entertaining to watch. Herbert Burns (11-2-0), brother of welterweight contender Gilbert Burns, faces Daniel Pineda (26-3-0) in what will be Pineda’s second stint inside the octagon and will have his work cut out facing a prospect like Burns.

Another fight that stands out on the prelims is WMMA veteran Felice Herrig (14-8-0) vs. Virna Jandiroba (15-1-0). We’ve not seen Herrig since 2018 where she had two losses on the bounce against Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Michelle Waterson. Jandiroba, is 1-1 inside the octagon losing her debut to Carla Esparza and then picking up her first UFC against Mallory Martin in her last bout.

UFC 252 takes place in the UFC APEX facilitay this Saturday, August 15. The full card can be seen below.

Stipe Miocic (c) vs. Daniel Cormier
Sean O’Malley vs. Marlon Vera
Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Junior Dos Santos
Merab Dvalishvili vs. John Dodson
Magomed Ankalaev – vs. Ion Cuțelaba(Fight cancelled, Cutelaba tested positive for Covid)
Jim Miller vs. Vinc Pichel -110
Livia Renata Souza vs. Ashley Yoder
Parker Porter vs. Chris Daukaus
Virna Jandiroba vs. Felice Herrig
Herbert Burns vs. Daniel Pineda
TJ Brown vs. Danny Chavez

Ian O'Neill is a Kilkenny man living in Canada. You can catch him on Twitter most of the time talking all things MMA. Follow me on Twitter and on Instagram @ioneillmma.