The Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier Trilogy

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The Stipe Miocic (20-3) and Daniel Cormier (22-3-1) trilogy was decided at UFC 252 in Las Vegas. Miocic managed to use his boxing and wrestling defense to cinch up the 2-1 rivalry by decision. Now that the dust has settled, let’s examine one of the greatest series of matches in UFC Heavyweight history. We will take a trip down memory lane and discuss each fight that happened in the Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier trilogy.

Miocic vs. Cormier 1:The Birth of a Rivalry.

The first fight in the Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier trilogy set the stage for things to come. Miocic had success with early clinch work along the fence. Cormier did an excellent job of entering off of Miocic’s jab and giving up an underhook. “DC” would work to land punches over the top as Miocic would try to exit the clinch. Miocic honestly had no answer for this technique in the first fight but had some success landing at range and controlling the wrestling exchanges. Cormier began having more success with the left hook as Miocic exited out of clinch exchanges. However, Miocic was starting to find the target on Cormier with his 1-2’s.

The fight seems to be going without any incident until about 3 minutes and 50 seconds in Cormier lands the first significant eye-poke of the trilogy. We will go into more detail later, but eye-gouges are likely going to be the main story around this fight. Referee Marc Goddard gives Miocic time to recover before the action starts up again. The two men circle each other with Miocic, still trying to land the 1-2. Cormier ducks on the outside and uses his left arm to give the underhook. Miocic tries to exit the clinch again but is hit with the perfect right hook and is dropped and finished. In just a moment, Daniel Cormier becomes a two-weight world champ.

Miocic and the Waiting Game.

After the massive victory, Cormier needed to take time off. The right hook that won him the fight also broke his hand. At this point, Miocic was campaigning for a rematch. However, Brock Lesnar (5-3-1) was hinting at a return to MMA. Before the double champion matchup, the UFC told the public that the winner would face Lesnar. Cormier continued to rest his injured hand and campaigned for the Lesnar money fight. All this while the most successful heavyweight champion in the UFC was denied a rematch for his title. This refusal is what lit a fire under the rivalry and built the anger for the former champion Miocic.

The rivalry got worse when Derrick Lewis (24-7-1) was signed to fight Daniel Cormier for the double champ’s first Heavyweight defense. Miocic rallied for the contention spot at UFC 230. However, Cormier said that he could not fight someone of Miocic’s caliber on short notice. After a brief, one-sided grappling match, Cormier secured his first Heavyweight title defense. Shortly after, it was made apparent that Lesnar would not be returning to MMA. This was because of a failure to secure a guarantee of pay-per-view sales on the UFC’s part following the move to ESPN+. With Lesnar out of the picture, it was time for the long-awaited rematch between the two men.

Cormier vs Miocic 2: Miocic’s Revenge

The second match in the Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier trilogy was set for UFC 241. The respectful banter had shifted into a full-blown rivalry at this stage. Miocic’s anger over being denied a rematch was reciprocated by Cormier, who felt he should have done more to earn it. By this point, violence was the only way to settle the grudge. Early on, Cormier got straight to where he left off landing right hooks off of clinch exchanges. Miocic seemed to struggle more with the speed and had a hard time making reads. Cormier had a lot of success hand fighting Miocic.

Early on, Cormier got at Miocic’s hips and hit a high crotch slam. Lifting a 230lb man is no easy task, and Miocic made it more difficult by forcing Cormier to keep him down. Cormier started to have some success landing ground and pound and advancing position. Miocic continued to work to get out from underneath Cormier and succeeds. The next round was similar to the first with DC using his speed advantage and hand fighting to neutralize Miocic’s offense. However, as the round progressed, it was clear that Cormier was starting to slow down. It did not help matters that he tried to walk Miocic down with no regard for defense. Cormier hit Miocic with everything and the kitchen sink, but Miocic stayed standing.

Miocic Begins to Turn Things Around

By the start of the third round, Cormier’s fatigue had become apparent. Miocic was also starting to have success in the hand fight and exiting the clinch. Miocic denied Cormier’s most successful strike, the right hook, by keeping a hand on it as he exited the clinch. By denying Cormier’s offense, Miocic could work his own. He started having more success with his jab and started winning the wrestling exchanges. The momentum of the fight shifted, despite what the commentary booth led you to believe.

The fight moved into the fourth round with Miocic having answered Cormier’s main two lines of attack. Throughout the match, Cormier landed several eye-gouges, causing scratching and swelling around Miocic’s eyes. Cormier was looking gassed as he continued to press forward in the fourth. Miocic was having more success attacking the slower Cormier. Around halfway through the fourth round, Miocic landed a left hook to the body that hurt Cormier. Cormier has always been susceptible to body shots. Kicks on the open side are what rival Jon Jones (26-1-1) used to check Cormier’s conditioning and ultimately helped him finish Cormier in their controversial final match.

Body Work Catches Bodies

Miocic, seeing Cormier’s difficulty with the body shots, pressed the advantage and continued to land more. Once he had Cormier conditioned to defend the body, he went up top and landed sharp shots. The former double champ got rocked and stumbled back. Miocic went wild against the cage and finished Cormier. Miocic danced in the center of the ring and was crowned the UFC heavyweight champion of the world for the second time.

Following the second fight, Miocic needed eye surgery to fix the damage to his retinas caused by eye-gouges. This meant the final fight to decide the trilogy would have to wait until 2020. And we know how that turned out. Ohio, Miocic’s home state, shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Miocic was unable to train during this time, and so the fight could not be booked. Miocic is also a part-time fireman and paramedic for his local fire department.

A Double Standard

Miocic did not want to return during the pandemic as he felt responsible for helping his fellow firefighters. UFC president Dana White threatened to strip the champion, accusing him of holding up the division. White never threatened to strip Cormier despite him waiting for a money fight. Blatant disrespect to a sitting champion aside, the match was eventually booked for the 15th of August at the Apex Center.

The narratives around the fight were focused mainly on Cormier’s gas tank, wrestling, and if he would have an answer for the body shots. Q

In reality, it was unlikely that Cormier ever planned to use much of his wrestling. Miocic proved to be a difficult man to hold down in the second fight, and Cormier’s cardio had begun to wane as he reached the twilight of his career. Prolonged wrestling exchanges would only serve to hurt Cormier, even if he were to gain a dominant position. What was more compelling would be his answer to the body shot and if Miocic could provide a solution in the clinch.

Stipe Miocic vs Daniel Cormier Three.

Miocic and Cormier met for the third and final time on the 15th of August. The fight was a combination of the first two matchups. Cormier had success with entering the clinch by ducking under Miocic’s 1-2. Miocic began having success with his jab as DC attempted to guard his body. Cormier came on strong in the beginning, tagging Miocic. However, Miocic started to switch targets from the head and the body.

Cormier had a difficult time knowing what to defend. Miocic began lighting Cormier’s body up. Cormier was still having success in the clinch and with his speed. He managed to get a decent front headlock on Miocic and nailed him with a hard knee. Miocic was edging the round on output. Cormier tried to control his energy while looking for shots. Miocic was having success picking Cormier apart on the outside. Cormier landed a solid right hook that wobbled Miocic at the end of the first round.

Miocic recovered at the beginning of the second round and committed to the head and bodywork. Cormier struggled to find a response beyond his right hook and uppercut. Cormier started taking a beating as the round went on. Miocic managed to rock Cormier and landed in his mount. The bell saved Cormier as the second round came to a close. Cormier came out for the third visibly wobbled. Miocic started to press his advantage before they wound up in the clinch up against the fence.

There Miocic made his most significant adjustment in the final fight. Miocic decided to maintain double underhooks when Cormier initiated the clinch. This way, Miocic could neutralize Cormier’s offense and exit the clinch safely. Despite having a rocked and gassed opponent, Miocic allowed Cormier to rest in the clinch for most of the third round.

The Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier Trilogy: Let’s See who Goes Blind First.

Towards the end of the round, Miocic started to land some damaging headshots. Cormier’s left eye started to take damage as Miocic landed shots, however, towards the end of the round Miocic eye-gouged Cormier badly. Referee Marc Goddard failed to see the infraction, believing it to be a legal strike and instructed both men to fight on. Cormier complained as the round ends. Setting up for the fourth, Cormier seemed to collapse mentally. He had sustained severe damage to his eye and was exhausted and beat up. Cormier went out and took the initiative from Miocic, trying to finish the champion. Miocic showed true grit and managed to stall Cormier against the cage. Miocic was also able to land right hands at will on Cormier’s blinded side.

Cormier was able to have limited stints of successful offense, but the rest of the fight was mostly controlled by Miocic, grinding DC against the fence and landing right hands. The greatest heavyweight trilogy in UFC history went out with a whimper. Miocic was crowned the victor, and the rivalry is over.

The Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier Trilogy: The Conclusion.

Miocic has now proven who the better fighter is. Cormier certainly did an excellent job representing himself but ultimately could not come up with a solution to Miocic’s boxing and wrestling game. One thing that ruined the Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier trilogy is the eye-poke controversy. My two cents is that the outcomes of each fight would probably be the same despite the eye-gouges.

Miocic proved in each match that he just does not have the clinch defense to deal with Cormier. The second fight Miocic won despite the eye pokes, and the final match had the writing on the wall by the time the eye-gouge was a factor. The UFC definitely needs to fix the eye-gouge problem. However, while this trilogy was marred by eye-gouges, I don’t think they affected the fights as much as people think.

Stipe Miocic emerged as the greatest UFC Heavyweight champion in history. Let’s hope the UFC finds a way to market the most successful Heavyweight, who also works as a fireman and paramedic, is incredibly likable, and wins most of his fights by knockout.

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Sam Ancer is a South African writer and MMA fanatic, he has spent several years training Sanshou, as well as Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

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