Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier face off in the final bout of their trilogy, vying not just for heavyweight gold, but bragging rights to the heavyweight GOAT.

Heavyweight is a barren division of talent at the best of times. Within the division, you have men such as Alexey Oleinik and Alistair Overeem, who seem to be a hundred years old (40 and 43, respectively) and show no signs of ever retiring during our lifetime. But for every thousand sloppy barroom brawls between the chunky bois, there is a rare match-up between two well-rounded, elite fighters who can justify the 265lb rankings. Daniel Cormier shocked the odds when he slept Stipe Miocic in the first round during their first showdown (ignoring the rampant eye poking). Stipe Miocic ripped the belt back from Cormier’s cold, dead hands, having endured three rounds of punishment, before launching a crusade for Cormier’s liver that secured the Holy Land. This final bout between the two is evenly poised and poses real questions: Will Cormier revert to his wrestling base and out-grapple Miocic? Will Miocic attack the body earlier and more consistently than in the previous two fights? Will Cormier stick to leg-kicking Miocic to keep him out of his boxing stance?

The co-main presents a fantastic fight too. Sean O’Malley is seemingly fast-tracked as the next Conor McGregor with his outspoken, brash personality and his glamorous, one-punch power within the octagon. Whether O’Malley can ever reach the lofty heights that the former double champ achieved is still up for debate, but his fight against Marlon Vera will certainly give an idea of his ceiling. Vera is criminally underrated: a granite chin, a constantly evolving skill-set, and preference to throw high volume combinations that flow from head to body. If O’Malley can stop Vera on the feet, then we may just be witnessing a star in the rising.

The rest of the card, for loss of a better word, is a bit doo-doo. There are a handful of respected names (JDS, John Dodson, Herbert Burns), but their match-ups just don’t inspire me with much excitement that we will witness stylistic barn burners. Also, for whatever reason, the UFC preliminaries resemble a regional card with about as much star power as modern-day Bill Cosby.

Dana White confirms Daniel Cormier vs Stipe Miocic trilogy fight ...
Miocic ducks under the high mummy guard of Cormier and lands at will on Cormier’s fleshy body during their second fight, 17 August 2019.

Main Event

Heavyweight Title Fight (265)

Stipe Miocic (19-3) vs Daniel Cormier (22-2-0)

Daniel Cormier, to the surprise of many, out-struck Miocic on the feet during their first fight before he knocked Miocic out cold from a hook thrown exiting the clinch. Cormier’s dirty boxing was used to great effect during their rematch as Miocic was consistently tagged by uppercuts and hooks on entering and exiting the clinch. Not just that, Cormier looked the more accomplished kickboxer for three rounds during their rematch. Cormier carries a huge amount of power and has to get his best work done early as a result of his age (41 years old), but has shown in the past that he can crack Miocic’s chin.

Miocic opts to out-box his heavyweight counterparts as he can effectively fight on the front foot (i.e. JDS) or the back foot (i.e. Fabricio Werdum). Despite a clean technique with little torque, Miocic has lights-out knockout power that seems to come from nowhere. Basing his striking around a constant ram-rod jab, it has looked one-dimensional at times against Cormier. Throwing a hard jab is the money-shot in boxing. An accurate jab breaks your opponent down as they are forced to reset themselves, allows you to dictate the range and pace, and steals the cards from the judges. But if you’re being beaten to the jab by the smaller, faster man, then you cannot throw a hard jab every time. Miocic needs to double or triple up the jab, pick away at Cormier’s stationary body, and feint the jab before throwing a hook of the same hand. Miocic is an excellent striker yet he has looked amateur for the most part during his exchanges with Cormier, only bailed out by his stellar chin in the second fight.

Another factor is the wrestling of both men. Cormier is the more accomplished wrestler (Freestyle Wrestling US National champion 2003-2008) and has rag-dolled opponents in the octagon before (i.e. Volkan Oezdemir). Miocic’s wrestling is nothing to turn your nose up at, wisely using it during his five-round dismantling of heavyweight boogeyman, Francis N’Gannou. Yet the levels between the two fighter’s wrestling ability was evident during the first round of fight number two. DC shot a single leg before hoisting Miocic high above his head, holding him for seemingly an eternity, before gracefully placing him on the mat and applying ground and pound for the remaining three minutes. Miocic looked lost at sea as Cormier maintained wrist control and a dominant top position. IF Cormier can take Miocic down early across rounds 1-3, then Miocic at the very least will be dropping rounds on the scorecards. Wrestling is exhausting, however, and at 41 years old, Cormier is going to want to finish the match early rather than be exposed in the championship rounds like their last fight.

Predicted Result: Miocic TKO Round 5

An extremely difficult fight to call, especially with the added incentive for Cormier that this will likely be his retirement match. Cormier can, as he has done in the past, finish this fight early with a knockout on the feet. More likely for Cormier, he can finish this fight early with the referee’s intervention on the ground, throwing gruelling ground and pound to set up a submission. I’m siding with Miocic in this trilogy based on momentum from the last fight, youth, gas tank, and his natural heavyweight composition.

UFC 252: Stipe Miocic, Daniel Cormier talk trilogy fight tactics
The fireman being ‘fireman-lifted’, oh how the the turn tables, 17 August 2019.

Result: Miocic def. Cormier // Decision (unanimous – 48-47, 49-46, 49-46)

Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

Co-Main Event

Bantamweight (135)

Sean O’Malley (12-0) vs Marlon Vera (17-6-1)

Firecracker of a fight. O’Malley secured an emphatic highlight-reel knockout of Eddie Wineland in his last fight, which did the rounds on social media. O’Malley is backed by a large casual audience as a result of his antics on Instagram, who are likely unaware of Wineland’s defensive issues that have plagued his entire career. Yet to be fair to O’Malley, the aesthetic manner of the knockout still reveals his power and calculated offence. Feinting an uppercut with the right, before coming over the top with the same right hand as a straight, it was poetry in motion. Finishing his fights early, O’Malley is a very dangerous striker who utilises his range well to mix up classic boxing one-twos with ridiculous spinning kicks.

Marlon Vera should currently be rising the featherweight rankings after a decision win over Yong SaDong. Unfortunately for Vera, he was the victim of stinky judges scorecards, and has been forced back to Bantamweight to fight the company’s next hyped prospect. Criminally underrated, Vera relies on his titanium chin to plough forward into opponents and land devastating leg kicks to set up clinch strikes. Moreover, if this fight is taken to the floor, Vera has vastly more experience and a healthy submission arsenal to keep O’Malley sweet.

Predicted Result: Vera Decision

I’m going controversial and picking the dog. O’Malley is a fabulous fighter, but he showed vulnerability in the Wineland fight as he was caught flush a couple times. Vera is a step-up from the veteran, possessing a better-rounded skill set, and the physical attributes to make this a long night for O’Malley. On Saturday, we will truly see if O’Malley is blessed with the McGregor knockout power.

VIDEO: Sean O'Malley ends Eddie Wineland's evening with textbook 1 ...
O’Malley stood next to the deceased body of Wineland, having sent his soul to the shadow realm, 7 June 2020.

Result: Vera def. O’Malley // TKO (elbows and punches) Round 1 4:40

Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

Main Card

Heavyweight (265)

Junior Dos Santos (21-7) vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik (10-1)

Dos Santos is a far cry from the former Heavyweight champion he once was. What used to be considered crisp boxing with a powerful kicking game, Dos Santos has fallen in recent years due to a sharp decline in speed. Moreover, Dos Santos has never rectified the glaring downfall of his game, which is his inability to prevent himself being backed up against the cage. You can possess all the power in the world, but if you find yourself flat-footed against a wall, you will not be able to generate the necessary power to sleep your opponent. JDS is still a fine gatekeeper for those wishing to break deep into the top ten of heavyweight, however. Finishing Derrick Lewis (a win that is ageing like a fine wine) and Tai Tuivasa (a win that is ageing like bad cheese) prove that JDS still holds a role in the UFC.

Rozenstruik is a difficult fighter to assess. Rozenstruik tore apart the abysmal unranked fighters of heavyweight with a strange reel of knockouts – a jab put Allen Crowder out, a comical ‘bonk’ on the head of Arlovski switched off his lights. Then suddenly, Rozenstruik found himself against an incredibly versatile monster in Overeem, winning by virtue of a jumping punch that somehow opened up a vile cut on Overeem’s lip that forced the referee to intervene. Slapped to death in a few seconds by N’Gannou in his last fight, Rozenstruik is a fighter that we know little about except that he holds power throughout all five rounds.

Predicted Result: Rozenstruik TKO Round 3

JDS is the better-rounded fighter, but the miles are beginning to show. He was hit regularly by Derrick Lewis, and looked in trouble at times, before he was able to finish the contest. Punishing losses to Francis N’Gannou and Curtis Blaydes may leave JDS on a three-fight slide if Rozenstruik is to be victorious.

Result: Rozenstruik def. Dos Santos // TKO (punches) Round 2 3:47

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ❌

Featherweight (145)

Herbert Burns (11-2) vs Daniel Pineda (26-13)

Quick note: Burns missed weight by a whopping three and a half pounds, ridiculous behaviour. Anyway. Burns is a fabulous grappler, perhaps better on the mat than his brother Gilbert, and is rising hot through the featherweight division. Dispatching Evan Dunham with ease in his last fight, Burns should be able to see off another UFC veteran in Daniel Pineda. Pineda has a decent counter-striking game, but his willingness to enter the clinch will be his undoing as he comes up against a fighter with an exceptional, and exciting, submission game.

Predicted Result: Burns Submission Round 2

There is a timeline that exists where both Gilbert and Herbert Burns are both champions in different divisions. Set up the super-fight now.

Result: Pineda def. Burns // TKO (elbows) Round 2 4:37

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ✔️

Bantamweight (135)

John Dodson (21-11) vs Merab Dvalishvili (11-4)

Fans seem to be very hot on a) Dodson after he stopped prospect Nathaniel Wood, and b) Dvalishvili after he broke the UFC takedown record against Gustavo Lopez. This fight is going to be quite gross to watch, however. Dodson’s TDD is fantastic, and even if the fight is to hit the ground, Dvalishvili doesn’t spend much energy trying to keep his opponent on the mat. Dodson is the crisper striker and has serious knockout power, but Dvalishvili is a tough aggressive fighter who will make the exchanges ugly.

Predicted Result: Dodson Decision

Dodson often finds himself in matches way closer than they should have been, especially now he has lost a step of speed with age. Dvalishvili is too limited a fighter to get the upper-hand against Dodson.

Result: Dvalishvili def. Dodson // Decision (unanimous – 30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

Preliminary Card

Lightweight (155)

Jim Miller (32-14) vs Vinc Pichel (12-2)

Veteran Miller returns with his eyes set on securing the UFC record for most wins. A grappler who benefits from his natural strength and technical prowess, Miller can out-muscle Pichel in the clinch. A fairly even match-up, especially when considering Miller’s age, but the veteran’s savvy should see him through.

Predicted Result: Miller Decision

Miller by submission in the later rounds is also a possibility.

Result: Pichel def. Miller // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 29-27)

Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

Women’s Strawweight (115)

Felice Herrig (14-8) vs Virna Jandiroba (15-1)

Felice Herrig returns to the octagon after suffering a series of major injuries and an impromptu career as an amateur Instagram model. Entering mixed martial under the tag as a kickboxer, Herrig found most of her success in the UFC as a grappler. Two years out of the game, Herrig returns against Jandiroba, an even stronger grappler with less mileage on the body. Jandiroba is not physically strong, nor can she toss it up on the feet effectively, but on the mat her technique is exceptional.

Predicted Result: Jandiroba Decision

Herrig is a rugged fighter who will have some success on the feet, but will be exposed on the mat if/when she does engage in the clinch.

Result: Jandiroba def. Herrig // Submission (armbar) Round 1 1:44

Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

Featherweight (145)

TJ Brown (14-7) vs Danny Chavez (10-3)

TJ Brown is 0-1 in his UFC tenure, taking down Jordan Griffin often but failing to secure any control time before he was caught in a guillotine choke during the second round. Danny Chavez has a more well-rounded skillset, able to toss it up on the feet as well as the ability to grapple to the scorecards.

Predicted Result: Chavez Decision

Is this pay-per-view worthy?

Result: Chavez def. Brown // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

Women’s Strawweight (115)

Livinha Souza (13-2) vs Ashley Yoder (7-5)

Souza entered the UFC with a lot of hype as a grappling machine, but has unfortunately been unable to garner the traction or hype she wished to. Bullied by a stronger wrestler in Brianna Van Buren, Souza has only managed to best Alex Chambers and Sarah Frota in the UFC Strawweight division. Yoder is a volume striker who is resilient with tons of heart, but basic wrestling and striking technique. Souza is a more powerful striker, and should be able to dominate on the mat when the fight eventually crawls there.

Predicted Result: Souza Decision

Is this pay-per-view worthy?

Result: Souza def. Yoder // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

Heavyweight (265)

Chris Daukaus (8-3) vs Parker Porter (10-5)

Short-notice heavyweight fight… hmmm. Daukaus strikes in volume but is small in stature for the division and could likely trim down a bit to enter a lighter division. Porter is a slugger who eats one to throw one. Ugly fight, but kind of looking forward to it if it ends early.

Predicted Result: Daukaus TKO Round 3

Is this pay-per-view worthy? Maybe if there’s some heavyweight goofs and lols.

Result: Daukaus def. Porter // TKO (punches and knee) Round 1 4:28

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ❌

Featherweight (145)

Kai Kamaka III (7-2) vs Tony Kelley (5-1)

Kai Kamaka performed well in his last fight against Michael Stack under the LFA promotion. Combining punches and kicks, Kamaka has a fluid striking that is typical of the Hawaiian contingent that has entered the UFC. Kelley has only fought once since 2016, a first-round guillotine victory over a 2-5 opponent.

Predicted Result: Kamaka III TKO Round 2

Kamaka is a decision machine, but I do not think Kelley is of the quality to withstand the youth and experience (weird juxtaposition eh) of Kamaka.

Result: Kamaka III def. Kelley // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

Prediction Accuracy

UFC 252: Miocic vs Cormier 3

Winner: 8/11

Method: 6/11

Round: 5/11

2020 MMA Season

Winner: 77/124

Method: 63/124

Round: 52/124

Takeaway comments: Eye-poking ain’t for everyone.

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