Stipe Miocic regained the heavyweight championship in the main event of UFC 241, after making a smart adjustment and implementing a great game plan.
Miocic survived the grappling-heavy offense of Cormier for ten minutes, before slowly gaining the advantage in the third round as his opponent began to tire. In the fourth round, he gave up on his strategy of focusing solely on head strikes.
Laying left hooks into the portly Cormier’s body, Miocic seemed to find the perfect tactic. Realizing that the compact fighter’s power came from inside, he knew there was no real counter strike that could threaten him if he worked the body strategically.
He kept doing that, and eventually followed one of those digging liver shots with a right cross. The combination stunned Cormier, and Miocic overwhelmed him against the cage with strikes afterward. Dancing in the middle of the Octagon, Miocic had regained his throne and reclaimed the title of Baddest Man on the Planet.
He got his strategy from one of Cormier’s former opponents – no, not Jon Jones.
Cormier had faced former middleweight champion Anderson Silva years ago after Jones was pulled from the fight on short notice. Silva didn’t have much of an answer for Cormier’s wrestling, but he did visibly hurt him late in the fight with a body kick. The studious Stipe Miocic picked up on that and used it to perfection in the title fight.
“My coaches were talking to me and I said, ‘let’s attack his body’. He leaves it really open and nobody takes advantage of it. I remember Anderson Silva hit him with a body kick and that hurt him a little bit, so I thought of attacking him there, and it worked.”
The strategy worked for Silva and worked even better for Miocic thanks to his size and power advantage. Oddly enough, he came into this fight lighter than the first. Maybe it helped him be a little quicker and more agile, which was valuable for dodging the bombs Cormier was throwing at him.
Cormier’s only losses have come from opponents scouting his flaws – though there aren’t too many to scout. When he lost to Jones the second time, Cormier was undone by his tendency to dip his head to the side. Jones exploited that by firing off a picture-perfect head kick that ended Cormier’s night.
Miocic and Cormier could potentially have a trilogy fight, though there is speculation Cormier may walk away. He was also considering a trilogy fight with Jones, but that fight may not materialize now either. Miocic could end up in a rematch with Francis Ngannou, or he could even face Jones should the light heavyweight king finally make the move up.
One thing is for sure – Miocic made the adjustments all champions must make. He found a way to win and did so when everything was on the line. Who should he face next? Should Cormier stick around, or call it a career?