Post-Fight Thoughts: Stipe Miocic -vs- Daniel Cormier
Capping off a UFC 226 fight card that served up a mix of both the brutal and the bizarre, the heavyweight tilt between the divisional champ Stipe Miocic and light heavyweight kingpin Daniel Cormier managed to exceed the already lofty expectations placed upon it. The fight was brief, with both men opting to have a boxing match in 4 ounce gloves; neither made any concerted attempts at taking the other down. The battle seemed fairly even, with Miocic pressuring well in the opening minutes — and landing some quality punches in the process. To his credit, Daniel Cormier maintained his composure, kept looking for openings of his own and returned fire when possible. It seemed like this fight was in the beginning stages of what would surely be a protracted, multi-round war of attrition.
Then Cormier got into range and, on the exit from a clinch, landed a devastating right uppercut that crumpled Stipe Miocic to the mat like he'd just been shot. The heavyweight champion lay prone, and Cormier followed up with a few more shots that went completely undefended before referee Herb Dean waved the contest off with 27 seconds remaining in the first round. It was a surreal moment to behold; regardless of which fighter one picked, I don't think many people had Cormier by first round KO as their expected outcome. Even in my pre-fight write-up, I discounted a (T)KO as being the least likely — although still very possible — way this fight would end. Even in scenarios where I had Miocic winning the fight, I did not envision a first round stoppage.
Now, it is worth noting that Cormier poked Miocic in the eye, earlier in the fight. It is impossible to know precisely how much that affected Miocic's vision, possibly making him more susceptible to the sort of close-range short uppercut that Cormier ultimately starched him with. I'm not going to dismiss it entirely, but I think the reality is that Daniel Cormier hits extremely hard and put himself in a position to throw that shot — it wasn't an accident or a stroke of good luck. Miocic wasn't blindly stumbling around, defenceless, when the finishing sequence occurred. Eye pokes are a serious concern in MMA, and are difficult to fully recover from during a fight, but I personally felt the finish was uncontroversial in this specific instance.
Following the announcement of the winner, and Daniel Cormier receiving his second UFC title in as many weight classes, he proceeded to call out Brock Lesnar. The hulking WWE performer stormed to the cage, grabbed the mic and accepted Cormier's challenge as best he could with his meagre charisma. The segment was a little awkward, but the best one could hope for given that this is MMA and having Paul Heyman, his on-screen manager in WWE, cut his promos would be ridiculous. Brock did what he needed to do, he came out and reminded us how terrifyingly huge he is, and issued a callout that was at the very least coherent. The particulars of when and where Cormier and Lesnar will meet are unknown, and I am not sure what Lesnar's status with USADA is but it looks like the UFC finally has a big-time fight on the horizon — something they've been chasing in the absence of Conor McGregor.
Many have already claimed that the Lesnar / Cormier encounter looked staged, and I don't see what that has to do with anything. When they step into the cage, provided Lesnar doesn't
accidentally slip in a puddle of steroids
again, the contest will be as real as it gets — who cares about a bit of pre-planned press? MMA fans are weird
some times in that we rightly chastise the UFC for
not properly marketing fighters and events, and then we turn around a criticise any attempt to do exactly that. Whether you're a fan of him or not, Brock Lesnar is a mega-star who brings
exposure and pay-per-view buys with him, I think the UFC did a fine job in lighting the kindling of this superfight. And given how bereft of title contenders both light heavyweight
and heavyweight are, Cormier fighting Lesnar isn't holding up either division — no one else has strong claim to either belt at the moment.
Does Brock Lesnar deserve to waltz back into the UFC and cut to the front of the line? I think the better question is why, in the year 2018, with all the available evidence, would you still be under the impression that the UFC is a meritocracy that concerns itself with rankings and records? Those are, at best, incidental things; the UFC is cocnerned with generating profit. By this token, Brock Lesnar can do whatever he damn well wants — despite not fighting for the past 3 years, Lesnar will be Cormier's biggest payday by a wide margin. You don't have to like it, but to pretend this is some sort of shocking development is to be some mix of náive and / or disingenuous.
Provided this fight comes together, I would expect that fighting Lesnar will be the capstone on Cormier's fighting career. Yes, things can always change in the face of huge paydays, but Cormier seemed very sincere when he said that he would be retired by his birthday in March of 2019. There remains little else for Cormier to accomplish in his career, save for possibly fighting Jon Jones for a third time, although that seems incredibly unlikely as this juncture. Even if he doesn't fight Brock Lesnar, the rest of Daniel Cormier's resumé is already a list of MMA legends: Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, Frank Mir, Josh Barnett, Alexander Gustafsson, Anthony Johnson and now Stipe Miocic. The only thing Cormier did 'wrong' was exist in the same timeline as Jon Jones. The debate as to who is the Greatest Of All Time is a boring one to me, but if forced to nominate someone then I would pick Cormier on account of his achievements and his ability to compete consistently and stay out of trouble.
As for Stipe Miocic, I'm not sure what's next for him. After defending the heavyweight title a record-setting number of times, Miocic was unceremoniously KO'ed in the first round of this fight. Since this is heavyweight, this doesn't set Miocic back too much in terms of earning another shot at the title; in this weight class, everyone is 2 fights, tops, away from a title shot it seems. If the Lesnar fight falls through, I'm not sure if Cormier would bother with an immediate rematch or even if he UFC would book one. I am going to assume this doesn't happen, so Miocic's next best option would be probably Alexander Volkov, depending on how schedules work out. This is a setback, obviously, but I see a lot of life left in Miocic's fighting career and a loss to Cormier is far from an embarrassment. I fully expect the former heavyweight champ to rebound from this loss and continue to stay at the top of the division.
For such a brief fight, the amount of discussion fodder and slow-boiling interest generated in its wake has been considerable. Daniel Cormier cements his legacy as one of the very best fighters to ever compete in MMA, and becomes only the 5th fighter to win titles in two divisions. It's hard to not be happy for Daniel Cormier, an affable fellow who fully lives up to his new unofficial moniker, The Daddest Man On The Planet. I have nothing but respect for Stipe Miocic as well, a true professional and an elite fighter in his own right — this outcome enhances Cormier's legacy but it doesn't diminish Miocic's in the process. As a fan of both fighters, it was unfortuante that one had to lose, but that's how the fight game works — it's the thrill and uncertainty that keeps us coming back.
Published: July 8th, 2018.