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Diggin’ Deep on UFC 252: Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier 3 - Main event preview

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Dig into the most important heavyweight contest in UFC history as Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier collide for the third time to determine the Baddest Man on the Planet in the main event of UFC 252.

Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

While it may be a stretch to say the contest between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier will determine the greatest heavyweight in MMA history, it isn’t that much of a stretch. It would be more accurate to say it will determine the most dominant heavyweight champion in UFC history as the division has been devoid of a long-reigning dominant champion, despite it being their longest existing division.

Regardless of how one chooses to look at this contest in its historical context, it creates a lot of back-and-forth on who is going to take the rubber match. The good thing about a rubber match for an analyst like me is there are two other contests to analyze and draw conclusions from when making a prediction. So, let’s get to it!

UFC 252 Miocic v Cormier 3 Press Conference Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

In the first contest, Miocic wasn’t shy to clinch up with Cormier. He tried leaning on him against the cage in hopes of wearing him out. Cormier was more than happy to have Miocic voluntarily close the distance as Cormier didn’t have to expend energy necessary to do that. It allowed Cormier to exploit the advantage he held in his hands too. That’s how Cormier was able to put Miocic to sleep in that contest as Miocic didn’t see the short hook coming.

In the second contest, Miocic wasn’t nearly as excited to engage. He kept his distance from Cormier, selectively picking his shots, almost all of them power shots with the exception of his low kicks. Cormier took advantage of that by outworking him with constant jabs - double and tripling up on the jab - and short combinations. Initially, it threw an already tentative Miocic further off. However, none of those shots put Miocic away and throwing that much volume takes a LOT of energy. Cormier began slowing down, didn’t have the energy to close the distance anymore, and Miocic found a home for his left hook to the body, eventually leading to the downfall of Cormier’s reign.

So what did we learn from those fights? Cormier is faster, but his frame also requires him to expend more energy to land the more effective offense. If Cormier is going to win, it will be from his early work. That could be a stoppage in the first half of the fight or him outworking Miocic in the first three rounds to take a decision.

Cormier claimed he’s been in camp for this fight since April, indicating he’s doing everything in his power to make sure he doesn’t slow down like he did in their last meeting. Then again, Cormier is 41 and has been involved in intense physical competition his whole life. Father Time could begin taking its toll, if it hasn’t already. Against someone like Miocic, even if it’s just a small slip, it could be the difference.

Many have come back to Cormier’s wrestling being the difference. He did get an early takedown in their second contest, but wrestling also expends a lot of energy. Provided Miocic can minimize the damage Cormier would do on the ground early, it’s possible Cormier would be playing right into Miocic’s hands they way he did in their second bout. It’s worth noting Cormier acknowledged he expended too much energy in his attempts to take down Jon Jones in their first contest. Don’t expect Cormier’s wrestling to play a huge role. He’ll nail a takedown it it’s there, but Miocic is unlikely to give him anything easy.

Miocic doesn’t have to put as much oomph in his punches in order to generate KO power. That allowed him to have more gas in his tank in their second contest. However, it would be foolish to think Cormier and his team won’t make any tactical changes. It’ll be a shock if that left hook to the body is available as frequently as it was last time… at least early on. That wasn’t open until late when Cormier was tired. Fatigue doesn’t just affect the body, it affects the mind too. If Cormier tires, the left hook could be open for Miocic again. If it isn’t, there’s a good chance Miocic will find something else to continually attack.

No one should feel confident in their pick. There’s a reason this series is tied at one. Both have an impressive enough resume that they’re in the conversation for the all-time greatest heavyweight, thus the promotional push. Given Cormier’s age and the strong adjustments Miocic made last time have me leaning in the direction of the defending champion to get another late stoppage. I acknowledge there are an infinite amount of directions the fight can go, but the way the second fight played out appears to be the most common way this series would play out if they were to fight for the rest eternity. Thus, I’ll put my eggs in that basket. Miocic via TKO of RD5