Stipe Miocic outworked Daniel Cormier to remain the heavyweight champion at UFC 252 on Saturday at the Apex in Las Vegas.
Miocic and Cormier had met twice before. Cormier won their first match-up, surprisingly knocking Miocic out at UFC 226 on July 7, 2018, to become a two-division champion. Miocic turned the tables with a TKO stoppage at UFC 241 on Aug. 17, 2019, reclaiming the heavyweight belt.
Their trilogy fight at UFC 252 was widely considered the battle to determine who is the greatest heavyweight mixed martial artist of all time. It was Miocic that would ultimately be able to stake that claim at the end of the night.
Cormier took the center of the Octagon early, but Miocic immediately moved forward to stick his jab in the former champion’s face. Cormier eventually took Miocic down, but the champ was quick to his feet, though caught in a Cormier headlock.
Miocic separated with the two men trading shots for the remainder of the round, though the fight was stopped briefly when Cormier poked Miocic in the eye.
The striking ramped up for both men in the second frame. It was a fairly close round until Miocic cracked Cormier with a right hand late in the round. He went down and Miocic followed, but Cormier held on until the end of the round.
Miocic began to pull away in the third round. Though both men were landing with a lot of firepower, Miocic was the busier fighter and seemed to land more of the crushing blows.
The thing he really did to separate himself in the final half of the fight, however, was clinching with Cormier and pressing him into the fence. Once there, Miocic drove knees into Cormier’s thighs and body and peppered his jaw with shoulder punches.
Unfortunately, late in the third round, Miocic returned the favor from Cormier’s earlier eye poke, sticking a finger straight into Cormier’s left eye, though the referee didn’t see it. By the opening of the fourth round, Cormier’s eye was badly swollen.
“I couldn’t see the rest of the fight,” Cormier told Joe Rogan after the fight. “I can’t see anything out of my left eye. It’s black. I just can’t see out of my left eye.”
Though Cormier continued to return fire in the final two frames, he couldn’t find an answer for Miocic’s combination of clinching and striking. He fought on despite his damaged eye, throwing everything he could at the champion, but Miocic continued to outwork him until the final horn.
The judges scored the bout 49-46, 49-46, and 48-47.
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It wasn’t an easy win for Miocic, who admitted that he had to recalibrate several times throughout the fight.
“I was at plan 8.7-0.5. I had no idea at one point what I was doing,” he said.
Even after the fight, Miocic doesn’t know what he’s doing, at least as far as his career goes.
“My game plan is getting up early as s—t tomorrow, go see my baby girl. I missed her all week. Gonna heal up and we’ll figure it out. Enjoy the rest of the summer.”
Cormier, however, knows that he is finally going to walk off into the sunset. He surely didn’t want to go out on a loss, but he gave it his all and that’s all any of us can ask of him.
“Being on the losing end of two big fights, it’s a very sad position to be in, but I’ll deal with it the way I have dealt with things in the past,” Cormier stated.
“I’m not interested in fighting for anything but titles and I don’t imagine there’s gonna be another title in the future, so that’ll be it for me. It’s been a long run. It’s been great. I just fought my last fight for a heavyweight championship and it was a good fight.”