He vowed to reclaim his gold, insisting DC’s knockout win during their previous encounter last July was a lucky one. So despite losing all three previous rounds, Stipe stunned Cormier with a barrage of punches before standing victorious in defiant fashion on Sunday morning.
This fight had a very different feel to it than main previous UFC cards before it: featuring two likeable men in the main event.
Daniel Cormier, 40, had stressed his plans to retire long before Cormier-Miocic II was even a possibility. So with that and an admission he ignored his coaches’ instructions mid-fight in mind, perhaps this knockout defeat shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
Despite the overconfidence on show in the Octagon, the fact he was winning ultimately didn’t matter. Facing a determined Miocic keen to reclaim his gold, DC surprisingly not reverting to his wrestling style after a cagey first round meant Stipe could relish a stand-up battle.
In fights, especially those at heavyweight, anything can happen. One split second can be the difference between winning and losing. You could hear furious shouting at Cormier to keep his hands up, as if to suggest his coaches knew what was on the horizon if he didn’t remain weary of Miocic’s ever-present threat. He did not and paid the ultimate price.
“I was hitting him and could see him getting marked up. I think you fall in love with the visuals of a guy’s face [like that]. They were begging me to wrestle and that’s probably the most disappointing, I didn’t do what I trained to and I feel like I let my coaches down.”
Cormier in reflective mood during the post-fight presser
The bout itself was back-and-forth with both landing quality strikes. Cormier was pushing the pace and Miocic proving reluctant to target DC’s legs with kicks – understandable given the takedown opportunities – but was clearly behind on the scorecards.
Despite DC’s striking, he never appeared to be closing in on a knockout victory and as time wore on, it looked increasingly likely that we’d see a win by decision. Miocic switched up his gameplan after achieving more success deep into the third round, targeting Cormier’s midsection and forcing him into uncomfortable situations.
Those powerfully placed body shots clearly hurt DC so despite his best efforts to present pressure of his own, Stipe persisted with body punches. Taking advantage as Cormier’s hands began to drop lower and lower, he landed some stinging punches to the face and rocked Cormier into a corner. Flying in with some ground strikes, it was all over.
“I knew I was hurting him, he was dropping his hands. I knew I just had to keep working and he would leave something open so I started coming over with the right hand. DC’s a tough motherf–ker, I’m going to give it to him. It’s a fight, anything can happen.”
Miocic after his fourth-round victory
Elsewhere on the main card, there were wins for Derek Brunson and an impressive first-round TKO victory for Sodiq Yusuff. Nate Diaz returned with a win against Anthony Pettis after his three-year hiatus, while Paulo Costa won by unanimous decision in a Fight of the Night showdown with Yoel Romero.