Notes From the Combat Underground: Clash of the Titans

Clash of the Titans – Stipe Miocic takes on Daniel Cormier for Heavyweight Glory

Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic are undeniably two of the most under-appreciated champions in the UFC. Neither have been huge pay-per-view draws, and the new breed of MMA fans have eschewed them in favor of a bunch of dudes that wear leather jackets without shirts and dark glasses. They’re just just not those kinds of guys. Miocic, to this day, is an active firefighter in Cleveland and has a no-frills, lunch pail approach to fighting; he just shows up, kicks ass and collects a check.

DC, though he has tried to play the heel at times, can’t really pull off the “bad guy” persona. Couple that with his dual losses against Jon Jones and there has been a debated asterisk next to his status as “undisputed champ.” If it was 2008, both of these guys would be much bigger draws. In the “golden age” of the UFC, fighters like Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell were superstars. The sport of MMA was marginal and still a fringe attraction.

A few months ago, at UFC 220, both Miocic and DC competed in matches that were built up as their respective downfalls. Miocic waged a one-sided domination war against Francis Ngannou, a fight where he was the betting underdog.

Going into his fight, there were many naysayers when asked about DC’s chance against Volkan Oezdemir. In both cases, the doubters were silenced. It was most poignant with Miocic; the whole build up for his meeting with Ngannou was focused on what a wrecking machine Ngannou was, with relatively little said about Miocic.

After both champions cemented their claims, Miocic actually set a new record for consecutive heavyweight title defense. The UFC is pitting them against each other in a Super Fight. DC is going up to Heavyweight, a weight class where he is undefeated, to contest for Miocic’s crown.

DC has nothing really to lose; his Light Heavyweight title will remain intact if he loses to Miocic, but if he is successful, his name will be added to the short list of Two Division Champs. If Miocic wins, it’s pretty much business as usual. He gets very little in return for putting the most on the line.

The two champions are also going to be the coaches on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC’s long-running reality show that has been on a steady decline over the past several years. Ironically, the show allegedly saved the promotion back in 2005 and put the sport of MMA on the map. TUF 1 featured Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell as the coaches. The season finale featured the legendary fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar which UFC VP Dana White often credits as “saving the UFC.”

DC, who stands the most to gain from this, is on the verge of retirement, so becoming a two-division champ would put an exclamation point on his legacy as one of the all-time greats in the sport.

He told ESPN, “I’ve been pretty vocal about it, that you’ll never see me at 40. We may be going into my last year in 2018. And I’m completely at peace with that.”

The Prediction: This is the swansong for Daniel Cormier. He does The Ultimate Fighter season with Stipe Miocic and we get a deep introspective look into his life and the level of inspiration he provides to younger fighters. The fight with Miocic is scheduled for July and–win, lose or draw–we see DC ride off into the horizon and into the next phase of his career. He’s been moonlighting behind the desk providing fight commentary and analysis, so it makes sense for him to transition into this as a full-time career path.

There are also stirrings from Cain Velasquez, longtime friend, training partner and fellow member of the AKA fight team. After being sidelined for over a year-and-a-half with injuries, he currently doesn’t have a fight on the books, so there is much conjecture as to what his next move is going to be.

After the UFC announced the DC / Miocic heavyweight title fight, Velasquez shot out a cryptic tweet stating that “Once he [Cormier] wins, things could get interesting,” which many have construed as the two training partners meeting in the octagon.

As a follow-up, both fighters were call-in guests on the MMA Hour podcast and addressed the mysterious tweet. Neither really shed any light on it, nor did they offer any clarification. Both fighters have have stated many times that they would never fight each other. As a matter of fact, DC’s move to lightweight was partially motivated by his unwillingness to fight Velasquez, who was currently the champion in that division. Most likely, this is all part of the ramp-up for promoting the fight.

If DC wins and gets the second belt at Heavyweight, he retires and vacates both titles, leaving room for the return of Cain Velasquez. If he loses, he still retains the light heavyweight belt.

What about Jon Jones? The one black mark on DC’s impeccable career is his pair of losses to Jon Jones, who is currently staring down the barrel of a 4-year suspension after testing positive for anabolic steroids. Jones is 30 years old and 4 years out of the octagon may be too much, even for him. Dana White has gone on the record stating that he is optimistic that Jones will fight in 2018, but the jury is still out.

Jones maintains that he did not knowingly take a PED. To prove his point, he passed a polygraph test that he contracted on his own, independent of the UFC and USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency). Most likely, this will be inconclusive since it wasn’t done under an official direction. In reality, any of White’s claims that Jones will return are purely speculation and overly optimistic.

The Prediction: Jones and Cormier never fight again.

As for the actual fight between Cormier and Miocic, it’s a difficult call.  Both men are dangerous competitors. As mentioned earlier, Cormier is undefeated at heavyweight with wins over Josh Barnett and Frank Mir, both former champions. He held the Heavyweight Championship in Strikeforce before he joined the UFC. He is probably the best wrestler in the entire UFC and fights a suffocating, grinding style of hand-to-hand combat. Miocic is the current champ, has the record for most consecutive title defenses and has recently defeated Francis Ngannou, the heavyweight boogie man that everyone was avoiding.

The Prediction: Daniel Cormier defeats Stipe Miocic by unanimous decision. Cormier retires, vacating both the Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight belts.