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UFC 226: Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier Toe-to-Toe Preview - A complete breakdown

Phil and David breakdown everything you need to know about Miocic vs. Cormier for UFC 226, and everything you don’t about dadbod danger.

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier this July 7, 2018 at the T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada.

One sentence summary

David: It’s still on?

Phil: Cormier comes out from under the long shadow of Jon Jones to attempt to cement a legacy against one of the UFC’s most underappreciated champions


Record: Stipe Miocic 18-2 Daniel Cormier 20-1-1 NC

Odds: Stipe Miocic -220 Daniel Cormier +200

History / Introduction to the fighters

Phil: Stipe Miocic has made it to a high-end superfight, and people are still not... all that jazzed? We’ve mentioned it before, unsurprisingly, but he seems a victim of the expectations of heavyweight. People want freaks, and they want the king of the heavyweights to be king freak. Instead he’s gone the other way, being almost invisibly well-rounded and turning away all comers with a skillset that makes you go. Yes. That is objectively good and solid. He can pressure, he can counter, he can wrestle and he hits really hard. In many ways he’s MMA’s Vladimir Klitschko.

David: When it comes to heavyweight, everybody loves a freakshow of all degrees. Whether it’s a freakshow of gruesome excess, like Jose Canseco, or the more organic variety that comes from being the division of human buildings, like Hong-Man Choi. This the world Stipe Miocic occupies, and for that reason, he’s not that interesting. He’s the Wayne Chrebet of MMA. We’re all impressed. We all respect him. We’re just not in awe (of course; not all of us).

Phil: Daniel Cormier is the man who did everything right, has a genuinely incredible MMA career, and still has a major shadow over him. Tragedy has always been laced through his life, from the death of his father and daughter, to his failure at the Olympics, to his two losses to Jon Jones. Now he’s struggling to get out from underneath the image of himself as the caretaker of the division that Jones left behind. Wins over Volkan Oezdemir weren’t going to do that. So is this going to be the apex of Cormier’s career, or the final act of the tragedy?

David: The biggest story in hockey this past season was the run of the Washington Capitals, and Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin was typically tarred and feathered by a Canadian hockey media that has traditionally been hyper-critical of Russian players; a habit that’s as old as Don Cherry’s xenophobia. “A Russian could never win the big one!” they said, as Ovechkin propelled the Capitals toward the Stanley Cup, and won the big one. My point is that since we’re kneedeep in non-MMA sports analogies, I think there’s a real opportunity here for Cormier to turn into the Alex Ovechkin of mixed martial arts. There’s also real opportunity to crystallize himself as its Dan Marino.

What’s at stake?

Phil: People have said that with a win, Cormier should be in contention for greatest of all time... but they are dumb. The Jones losses are tainted, but they’re still there, and if we didn’t count any losses or wins which included steroid usage, then this sport would look sort of empty. Also light heavyweight sucks. Heavyweight sucks, too. Sorry, y’all.

David: Damn. That’s harsh bro. But also true. Still, everybody’s got sympathy for a dadbod.

Where do they want it?

David: Miocic flipped the switch directly after his loss to Stefan Struve. There was an immediate improvement with his movement, and positioning. At his best, Miocic is a trash compactor of punch glitter. Huh? Let me try that again. At his best, Miocic is a trash compactor of standardized violence. He’s comfortable at range, keeping a heavy, erect stance to jab, and fire one-two combinations going forward, or going back. That’s the real difference between Miocic and most fighters; not just heavyweight. He’s got silly power, but his power isn’t just relevant with a single punch, or with a single style. It’s relevant for opponents trying to land offense, where he’s able to counter, and when opponents are trying to avoid offense, where he’s able to probe forward and chain takedowns. This basic mechanical process tells you a lot about heavyweight MMA: if you can land a hard punch from more than one angle, you’ll win more than you lose, regardless of size or talent.

Phil: Miocic can do a bit of everything. He can fight moving forwards and backwards, and is one of the best wrestlers and strikers in the division. I think the thing that impresses me the most about Stipe is his eyes. Especially in his recent fights, he’s someone who is always looking to see exactly where the opponent’s head is going. He’ll push people out of position with jabs, then cuff them with short hooks or uppers, or just smash them with the big overhand. This seems like it should pay dividends against Cormier’s somewhat suspect defense. If there’s a hole in Stipe’s game, I think it’s in the clinch. He’s a fairly inert striker there, and can be caught on the exit, and I don’t think his favoured single leg is going to work on DC.

David: Cormier’s style has always been a cookie cutter blend of wrestling meat and punch potatoes. That makes it sound awful, but as we all know (and love), Cormier just has little to no equal when it comes to grinding through opponent pressure, and maintaining his own. It’s what separates Cormier from the pack. He’s tough, determined, and talented. He’s wrong about Popeye’s chicken (admittedly I don’t eat fast food, but I once had respect for their cajun mashed potatoes and biscuits), but that’s beside the point. His whipping punches, kick traffic (that’s sometimes creative), and attrition tactics in the clinch and on the ground make him the model modern Dan Severn.

Phil: I’m interested to see how DC’s speed translates back at heavyweight. There was a reason why people called him “Black Fedor” and “The Dark Emperor” when he first came up, and it’s because that blend of blazing stocky energy was reminiscent of Emilianenko at his best. His offensive striking and punch-kick series have improved greatly as of the second Jones bout, but in less stylistically troublesome fights, it mostly serves to get him into the clinch. Here he locks up on the single collar, pummels with the other hand, and works for his trademark go-under and crotch-lift takedowns. His issue remains his defense, which is... not good. In open space, DC often displays decent head movement and was notably good at heavyweight at slipping the strikes of slower men. Once he gets hit, though, he has some consistently terrible defensive reactions, where he tends to lean away with his feet planted, or push blindly with one hand, or some kind of flaily combination of the two.

Insight from past fights

David: With so much footage, we already know what’s there and what’s not there. The biggest factor here is the clinch. Cormier doesn’t have the straight away speed to lock in a double leg, so he’s gonna have to (ugh...) “embrace the grind.” Trouble is, Miocic is actually pretty savvy in the clinch. Cormier is a fighter of inches. He needs to dominate the clinch to keep accruing advantages in the long run, and that just won’t happen against Miocic.

Phil: I think the first JDS fight and Ngannou illustrate that Stipe’s clinch game is largely wrestling, so I think DC can get head pressure and work for his hockey punches to rack up points. The issue with looking at DC’s fights is that he’s been hurt in every one of his recent fights. Oezdemir buzzed him, but every single other fighter he’s been up against (including Anderson Silva with the body kick) had him in some kind of trouble at some point. At 39 years old, I’m not convinced his durability is holding up.


David: The cable, obviously. I don’t even know where to begin at this point. Just a word of caution to you Phil. If Cormier gets injured in the middle of our previewing because someone from the production team truck dropped their coffee on Cormier’s lap, resulting in third degree burns — I want you to have totally expected it.

Phil: That was some Final Destination shit right there. I know Devon Sawa is a fan of the sport, so he needs to tell us if he’s getting any salient visions of falling light rigs, or the cage collapsing.


David: There are ton of reasons to favor Miocic. He’s the bigger man, the more powerful man, and one of the most rawhide toughest SOB there is. Conversely, Cormier is slowing down (not terrible significant, but still). But I’m picking Cormier. With just my heart? No. I think Miocic has benefited in some ways from fighting big, heavy guys who didn’t force him to move much. Cormier will force enough movement to pull off the impossible. And yes, despite what I said, this is a heart pick. Daniel Cormier by Decision.

Phil: I can’t see how Cormier takes shots and happily pick him against a hitter like Miocic. Stipe isn’t Gustafsson- he’s not going to abandon his footwork and run if DC presses him (I think). DC’s typical strategy of absorbing damage until he can wear the guy out in close just seems like it will leave him looking at a major offense differential, if not getting actually knocked out. I think Stipe staggers or drops him a couple of times, but Cormier survives to the end of a rough fight to find himself on the wrong side of the scorecards. Stipe Miocic by unanimous decisions