Stipe Miocic returned to the top of the heavyweight heap by stopping Daniel Cormier in the UFC 241 main event on Saturday in Anaheim, Calif.
The early rounds of the fight looked like Cormier was going to roll over the former champion, but Miocic eventually shifted gears.
Cormier didn’t waste any time putting the pressure on Miocic. While logic would dictate that Miocic should stay on the outside, Cormier darted in and attacked the taller fighter’s lead leg with brutal kicks from several angles.
After landing a few punches, Cormier changed levels and shot a single-leg takedown. He scooped Miocic high into the air and slammed him to the canvas, where they spent the second half of the round, Cormier working Miocic over with a relentless ground-and-pound attack.
Having a successful first round, Cormier showed little respect for Miocic’s punching power in round two, walking through many of Miocic’s punches, eating several, but landing many more of his own at a much higher output.
Miocic threw some leg kicks early in the first frame, but gave up most of his kicks in round two, allowing Cormier to disregard any danger from kicks and simply plow forward with his much quicker punch combinations, rocking Miocic on several occasions.
The former champion wasn’t out of the fight, though, as he landed several powerful punches, but not with the same frequency, particularly in combination, as Cormier.
Miocic picked up the pace in round three, but Cormier countered by sticking his jab in his face with greater frequency.
Miocic scored a brief takedown midway through the round, but Cormier was quickly back to his feet, attacking Miocic’s lead leg with kicks and pumping his jab into his face, frequently following it with a hook.
Both fighters fought at a much more measured pace for the opening minutes of round four. But midway through the round, Miocic started to connect with some big hooks to the body and Cormier couldn’t find a way to avoid them.
Instead, Cormier kept walking forward, pressing with his striking attack, although with a much lower frequency than he had earlier in the fight.
Miocic continued to dig shots into Cormier’s ribs, sapping his power and stamina.
As the clock wound down, Miocic hit Cormier with a body shot that made the champion wince. He followed with a right hand to the head that staggered Cormier and then poured it on. Relentless, Miocic continued to unload on Cormier as he slid down the fence to the floor, forcing the referee to step in and wave off the fight at the 4:09 mark of round four.
Slightly more than a year since he lost the belt, Miocic defeated the man that took it from him, reclaiming his position atop the heavyweight division.
Cormier had initially intended to retire earlier this year, but has delayed it because of fights like this one. While he was extremely emotional following the loss, he wasn’t yet quite ready to address whether or not he will now sail off into the sunset or press on with his UFC career.
“You don’t make decisioned based in emotion. At 40 years old, I need to speak to my wife and we need to make an educated decision as to what we’re going to do.”