The debate over who is the greatest heavyweight fighter in mixed martial arts history has long raged. That discussion might be over, at least for now.
Stipe Miocic defeated Daniel Cormier via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 48-47) to retain the UFC heavyweight title in the main event of UFC 252 on Saturday night in Las Vegas. Miocic broke his own record of most title defenses in UFC heavyweight history (4) with the victory. This was the third fight between the two men and Miocic broke the tie, winning the trilogy.
UFC president Dana White said coming in that Miocic-Cormier III would decide the greatest heavyweight in MMA history. Miocic, on paper, certainly has the best résumé out of anyone to ever compete in the sport’s most prestigious division.
Miocic is tied with Randy Couture for the most UFC heavyweight title wins ever (6). He outlanded Cormier 115-105 in significant strikes, per UFC Stats.
Cormier said repeatedly heading into the bout that this would be the final fight of his illustrious career.
“I’m not interested in fighting for anything but titles,” Cormier said in his postfight interview. “I don’t imagine there’s going to be a title in the future, so that will be it for me. I’ve had a long run. It’s been great.”
UFC president Dana White said in his postfight news conference that he’s not as certain that this will really be the end, but said if that’s what Cormier wants to do, “I’ll be happy for him.”
“He’ll say he’s not going out like that — that’s my prediction,” White said of Cormier.
Cormier won the first meeting with Miocic via first-round knockout at UFC 226 on July 7, 2018. Miocic returned the favor in the rematch, stopping Cormier via fourth-round TKO at UFC 241 on Aug. 17, 2019.
Saturday’s bout took place in front of no fans at the UFC Apex, a facility across the street from the UFC’s corporate campus in Las Vegas.
“He’s a hell of a fighter,” Miocic said. “I wish him nothing but the best. God bless him. … He’s an amazing champion, an amazing ambassador. Love the guy. I have no ill will toward him. I know we had our little [beef] for the trilogy, but I think that makes it better.”
Entering Saturday, ESPN had Miocic ranked as the No. 4 pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world and Cormier at No. 6. At heavyweight, Miocic is No. 1 and Cormier is No. 2. Both men are surefire future UFC Hall of Famers.
Cormier struck early in the fight. After a solid first round by Miocic, Cormier wobbled Miocic with a right hand. It was a technique Cormier used repeatedly in the bout, drawing Miocic into a clinch, leaning down and to the left, then firing with a hard right hand.
In the second, Cormier had more success with that tactic. But Miocic was able to get Cormier against the cage in a bad position late in the round and land hard right hands. Cormier dropped and Miocic got into mount against the fence. Cormier was able to survive the round, but Miocic had momentum going into the third.
Coming out of the corner for the third, Cormier’s left eye was clearly compromised. He told his corner he couldn’t see out of it. Miocic landed an accidental eye poke in that round, which surely didn’t make things better for Cormier. Coincidentally, eye pokes were an issue on the flip side in the previous two fights — with Miocic needing surgery to repair a torn retina last year due to Cormier eye pokes.
Miocic had a strong third round, but Cormier rallied a bit in the fourth round, despite not being able to see out of his left eye. It was a very close round and it could have very well been two rounds apiece heading into the fourth. In the final two rounds, Miocic was able to push Cormier against the cage to nullify Cormier’s clinch boxing and wrestling, which proved to be very effective. With both men clearly spent after nearly 25 minutes of fighting, Miocic was able to land hard rights and a timely knee in the fifth to seal the victory.
“How tough are both of those guys?” White said. “Both guys got poked in the eye. Both guys got rocked. Both guys fought their hearts out. … It was one of those heavyweight championship fights that felt big and everybody was watching. It was fun.”
Miocic (20-3) is a two-time UFC heavyweight champion. The Ohio native has won eight of his past nine bouts, with his only loss during that stretch coming to Cormier two years ago. Miocic, 37, first won the UFC heavyweight title by knocking out Fabricio Werdum in May 2016. Miocic has beaten the likes of Francis Ngannou, Alistair Overeem and Junior Dos Santos.
Cormier (22-3, 1 NC) became only the second UFC fighter to hold titles in two different weight classes at the same time when he stopped Miocic in 2018. He was also the only man to defend one of those titles while holding both. The Louisiana native, who lives and trains in San Jose, California, was the UFC’s light heavyweight champion from 2015 to 2018.
Cormier, 41, has lost to just two men in his MMA career: Miocic and longtime pound-for-pound king Jon Jones. He lost twice to both men.
“It’s a very sad position to be in, but I will deal with it like I’ve dealt with things in the past,” Cormier said.