UFC 241 prediction: Can Stipe Miocic exact revenge on Daniel Cormier?

Kevin IoleCombat columnist

In each of his five previous heavyweight title fights, Stipe Miocic never weighed less than 241 or more than 246 pounds.

On Friday, he hit the scales at a somewhat stunning 230 pounds for his rematch with heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier in the main event of UFC 241 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

Cormier, who knocked out Miocic in the first round of their bout at UFC 226 last year, also came in lighter. Cormier weighed 236½ on Friday, compared to 246 when he defeated Miocic to claim the belt. Miocic was 242½ at UFC 226, compared to weights of 246 for UFC 220, UFC 211 and UFC 203 and 241 for UFC 198.

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Miocic wasn’t available for the media following the weigh-in, so the reason for the drastic drop in weight will remain a mystery at least until after the fight.

[Related: Cormier-Miocic heavyweight title fight preview, breakdown]

But it seems that it could be an attempt to increase his quickness, which was clearly an edge for Cormier in their first fight. In a lengthy interview with Yahoo Sports at his training camp in San Jose, California, earlier this month, Cormier said that when he moved from heavyweight to light heavyweight, he was no longer way quicker than his opponents.

Quickness was an edge he’d always had on most heavyweights, and to a large degree he lost that when he dropped to light heavyweight.

“When I went down from heavyweight initially to 205 [pounds], I was like, ‘Whoa,’” Cormier said. “I was like, ‘Everybody’s like me,’ because at heavyweight, I was just running circles around these dudes. Like for as good as Josh Barnett was, I felt like I was controlling every engagement. Frank Mir, I felt like I was controlling every engagement because I felt like they were a little slower. When I went down to 205, when Anthony Johnson hit me, I felt like I’d had a second [but I didn’t]. I thought I had that second.

“Even Dan Henderson, who was one of the slower guys I’ve ever fought, he was able to touch me. It’s a difference. I truly believe for me personally, heavyweight isn’t as hard as light heavyweight. … But I think those guys [at heavyweight] are a little slower and they’re not as athletic. Their feet don’t move as fast and they get tireder.”

(L-R) Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic face off during the UFC 241 media day at the Hilton Anaheim hotel on Aug. 15, 2019, in Anaheim, California. (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
(L-R) Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic face off during the UFC 241 media day at the Hilton Anaheim hotel on Aug. 15, 2019, in Anaheim, California. (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

So Miocic’s decision to come in so svelte may have something to do with trying to negate that advantage Cormier had in the first fight.

The fight ended in an instant, as Cormier landed a right to the jaw from in close that dropped Miocic. Cormier was on top of him immediately going for the finish and didn’t give Miocic that extra second or two of recovery time that may have saved him.

Miocic was doing well in the fight up until the moment Cormier connected with the fight-altering right, so it’s not like he was outclassed.

If a heavyweight hits you clean on the chin, chances are good that you’re going to be in serious trouble.

So for Miocic to win the rematch, he’s going to have to do what was working for him the last time. He should try to use his size and range and keep Cormier at a distance. Cormier has the better wrestling and when he’s in the mid-to-close range, he has the option of going for the takedown or striking on the inside. But if Miocic keeps him at a distance, it wouldn’t be as easy for Cormier to get his offense going.

Cormier, who is among the best in the sport at game-planning and breaking fights down, said he saw Miocic make the same mistake repeatedly and he was able to exploit it.

“When you look at Stipe Miocic, he’s a good fighter, but I don’t know why but there are some habits that he has that are glaring,” Cormier said. “They’ve been there since Day 1. That was one of them. We worked on pulling him into the clinch, getting him close and finding a way to find that short shot. … For as good a fighter as Stipe is, there are a lot of weaknesses and glaring holes in his game.”

Miocic scoffed at Cormier’s words and insisted he’s not concerned that Cormier may have discovered the key to beating him.

But he came in lighter for a reason. It seems reasonable to think that he’s going into the bout thinking of pushing the pace, of forcing Cormier to fight when he doesn’t want to and slowing it down when he does. Expect to see Miocic move a lot, pump his jab and at least threaten the takedown.

He figures to work his angles and punish Cormier as he wades in.

Cormier’s plan probably isn’t going to be appreciably different than the first fight. By coming in lighter himself, he should be able to handle a grueling pace better than he may have done last time.

It’s likely to be a more tactical fight, and if it involves more wrestling and grappling, that favors Cormier.

Cormier is a minus-150 favorite at the MGM Grand sportsbook and that seems to be about the right number. Figure Cormier by decision in a less explosive and more tactical fight than their first bout.

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