Our six-part look at the careers of both Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier picks up as the heavyweight division gets set to crown a new king.
Stipe Miocic: Part I can be read here
Losses often define the careers of great fighters. Mental strength and the ability to persevere, adapt and improve often are the makings of future champions. And while Stipe’s decision defeat at the hands of Junior dos Santos wasn’t a brutal KO or a dominant loss, he still found himself pushed back in the heavyweight queue.
It was a call from the judges that really could have gone either way in truth but regardless, Miocic was now 3-2 in his last five and had fallen short in his first shot against a true top contender in the division.
He didn’t exactly lose too much of his shine with that loss but was forced back to the drawing board nonetheless.
The fifth-ranked Mark Hunt was next in line for Stipe – about six months removed from his war with JDS. Already established as a legend of the sport, Hunt was fresh off of an interim-heavyweight title defeat to Fabricio Werdum and as patchy as his record was, remained a constant in the upper echelon of the division.
Heart, punching power, a lifetime of kickboxing experience and a granite chin defined Hunt’s skillset but against the in-form Stipe, he was completely unable to get his game going.
Miocic beat the brakes off of the Super Samoan for the entire five-rounder before finishing him late to seal the deal. It was a real testament to the improvements he had made since both his first loss against Stefan Struve as well as his most recent setback against dos Santos.
Hunt was swept to one side and up next was a man who was on a truly remarkable late-career resurgence.
Andrei Arlovski brought with him a six-fight win-streak that had seen him collect the heads of some of the biggest heavyweight names on the planet such as Frank Mir, Antonio Silva, Travis Browne, and Brendan Schaub. Ranked at second in the division, many had billed this fight as an unmissable spectacle – a showdown of two of the most gifted strikers on the roster.
With the champion Werdum waiting to face the victor, both men stepped up at UFC 195 with a shot at the belt on the line.
Miocic needed less than a minute to get the job done.
KO’ing him practically before the fight had even started, Stipe ran towards UFC president Dana White, repeatedly shouting that he wanted his shot at the belt before joining Joe Rogan for an interview in which he more calmly expressed his belief that he should be next.
They say ‘ask and you shall receive’ and sure enough, when the time came for the UFC to chose their next heavyweight title-contender, the Cleveland native got the call.
The reigning champion Fabricio Werdum had wins over two of the greatest to ever do it on his resumé, Fedor Emelianenko and Cain Velasquez. Facing Miocic, he was picked by many to retain his title. His stellar BJJ and highly underrated striking seemingly would be enough to allow him to avoid running into too many problems.
Unfortunately for ‘Vai Cavalo’, he quite literally ran directly into a deft Stipe counter.
It was an odd one, in truth.
Werdum was chasing Miocic far too much from the get-go. You would have thought running into a hard counter once would be enough for the Brazilian but after catching a rough shot from his opponent after rushing, he continued running towards Stipe before being slept with a vicious right-hand.
A bizarre finish no doubt but still, a new champion was crowned and if you thought Stipe was animated following his victory over Arlovski, his reaction to winning the belt in the manner he managed to top it.
Few would have suspected there and then exactly how long and successful a reign Stipe Miocic would eventually have.
And with that, Miocic was crowned as the baddest man on the planet. On Saturday we will conclude our look at the heavyweight champ with the road that led him to UFC 226 but not before finishing Daniel Cormier’s story with his most memorable time in the sport – a time that included his second clash with his greatest rival of all.
Each edition of this series will be linked below as they are published.
Stipe Miocic – Part I
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena