LAS VEGAS — In their first fight on July 6, 2018, at T-Mobile Arena, heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic controlled most of the early action.
In their rematch in the main event of UFC 241 in Anaheim, California, on Aug. 17, 2019, Cormier, as the champion, was ahead on the scorecards after three completed rounds.
Miocic made an adjustment, went to Cormier’s body, and scored a fourth-round KO to regain his title.
So it’s probably an astute move that bookmakers at the MGM Grand have the bout at pick ’em as fight night nears for their bout at UFC 252 on Saturday at Apex. Bettors now have to lay -110 to win on either man at the MGM Grand.
There are several factors, though, that make this bout more difficult to pick than the other two.
First, Cormier has announced it’s his last fight, win or lose, and so there is bound to be more emotion than normal.
Second, the bout will be contested in the 25-foot cage, which tends to favor the grappler. Miocic’s team went so far as to look at the blueprints of Apex and do its own measurements to see if it were possible to fit the 30-foot cage that was used in their first two bouts.
The expanded width of the 30-foot cage means the lighting grid at Apex won’t fully cover the bigger cage and it would cost several million dollars to change it.
So Miocic was forced to accept fighting in the 25-foot version. That’s an advantage for Cormier, who said when the bout was announced that Miocic “should bring his wrestling shoes.”
Cormier’s game plan last time was to mix striking with wrestling, but he got away from wrestling as he was doing well, much to coach Javier Mendez’s consternation.
Miocic began going to the body in the fourth round of UFC 241 and that slowed Cormier a great deal and led to the fight-ending sequence.
For Miocic to retain the title, he’s going to have to do what worked early in their first bout: use his height and physical strength. He was effectively able to bully Cormier and set up his shots in the opening minutes of that bout.
Cormier will need to vary his attack in order to win. He’ll need to confuse Miocic and deliver damage each time he gets him on the ground. It’s unlikely that Cormier, who has good submissions, would be able to finish Miocic, but he could wear him down by dropping elbows and hammer fists on him.
At the end of the day, though, the winner may come down to which man takes the other’s shots better. Both have good chins, but have also been shown to be vulnerable.
The guy who can protect his chin the most could turn out to be the one who not only wins the heavyweight title but is finally proclaimed as the greatest heavyweight in the sport’s history.
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