COMMENTARY | Stipe Miocic's MMA career couldn't have gotten off to a better start.
The former Golden Gloves champion, who started his professional mixed martial arts career three years ago, racked up a 6-0 mixed martial arts record fighting in small promotions, and he didn't miss a step when he finally got a chance to fight on the world's premier proving ground for MMA fighters, the UFC's Octagon.
Stipe (9-1-0, 7 KOs) swiftly compiled a 3-0 record, knocking out two of his three opponents, quickly establishing himself as one of the rising stars in the UFC's heavyweight division.
Unfortunately for Miocic, things didn't go so well for him when he squared up against Stefan Struve at "UFC on Fuel TV 5."
Stipe actually got off to a good start against Struve, getting the better of the striking exchanges during the first round of their 2012 encounter. Miocic seemed to be in control early in the second round as well, until a kick to the groin changed the momentum of the fight.
Referee Herb Dean gave Miocic a moment to recover from the blow, but he wasn't the same afterwards. Miocic was a lot more tentative following the break, and Struve capitalized on his diminished output, hurting him with a couple of uppercuts before finishing him off with a barrage of punches.
It was a humbling loss for the rising star, as many MMA fans saw it as proof Stipe wasn't ready to face the top contenders in the heavyweight division.
Gone, at least for the immediate future, was the possibility of big-name fights, as Miocic was subsequently relegated to the UFC 161 undercard, originally scheduled to take on Soa Palelei on June 15.
Fortunately for Miocic, the MMA gods smiled upon him once again when Antônio Rogério Nogueira, who was set to fight Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 161, pulled out of the bout due to a back injury. Unable to find a suitable opponent for Shogun (Chael Sonnen tried to step in, but visa issues squashed that possibility), the UFC decided to pull the Brazilian off the card as well, while bumping Miocic up to the co-main event spot against Roy "Big Country" Nelson.
A win against Nelson would instantly reestablish Miocic as a force to be reckoned with in the UFC's heavyweight division. That reality isn't lost on the Ohio native.
"A win over Roy Nelson… will be huge," Miocic said on 'Countdown to UFC 161.' "It will bump me up to where I need to be [on the rankings].
Even though Nelson could cause serious problems for Miocic if he's able to get the fight to the ground, it's likely that the vast majority of their UFC 161 encounter will be spent standing given the latter's solid wrestling background.
Nelson seems to have more power behind his punches, but Stipe's technique is a bit cleaner. Miocic will also enjoy a 7-inch reach advantage come fight time, so utilizing his range will probably be his key to victory at UFC 161.
One thing's for sure, even though the oddsmakers favor Nelson to emerge victorious at UFC 161, confidence isn't an issue for Miocic.
"I will defeat Roy Nelson," Miocic declared.
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