At UFC 203 this Saturday, Stipe Miocic looks to defend his UFC title for the first time in front of his Cleveland home crowd. Miocic came into the UFC back in 2011 and had a background including wrestling at a Division I college and winning a Golden Gloves boxing title. He would fight his way to the heavyweight title for the next four years, all while working as a firefighter in his hometown in Ohio. Here are the top five UFC moments for Stipe Miocic.
5. Miocic vs. Joey Beltran (UFC 136)
Miocic was picked to make his UFC debut against tough opponent Joey Beltran back in October 2011. Miocic was undefeated at the time, having finished all six of his opponents. Beltran was known as one of the grittiest fighters on the UFC roster, undersized at heavyweight but had only ever been finished one time. Miocic would come into the fight very raw but the counter-heavy boxing he would utilize later in his career could be seen in flashes. He would attack Beltran with heavy leg kicks, wearing down the stance of Beltran and taking some of the power off of his punches. Miocic would also use his takedowns and clinches to wear down Beltran, utilizing his control to work patient and effective ground and pound. The fight would end in a unanimous decision for Stipe and would be the first UFC win for the future champ.
4. Miocic vs. Shane del Rosario (UFC 146)
At UFC 146, an event where the main card was filled with heavyweight standouts, Miocic was paired against dangerous kickboxer Shane del Rosario. Despite being a boxer, many wondered if Miocic would try to stand and trade with del Rosario, who was undefeated with eight KO wins. Del Rosario would begin the fight at range, throwing body and leg kicks. Miocic would fire right back, using his boxing to push del Rosario backwards and keeping him off balance. Del Rosario would go on to hurt Miocic with his power left kick to the body and keep the pressure on for the rest of the first round. After arguably losing the first round on the scorecards, Miocic would utilize more movement in the second round until he managed a single leg takedown. After gaining top control, Miocic would stay on del Rosario and never let up, finally dropping a barrage of elbows to finish del Rosario and win the fight via TKO in the second round.
3. Miocic vs. Roy Nelson (UFC 161)
Following a TKO loss to Stefan Struve, Miocic would return to fight arguably his most famous opponent at the time, Roy Nelson. Nelson was on a three fight win streak with all the wins coming via knockout. Nelson was known for his big power right hand and having never been finished in the UFC. Miocic would come into the fight and utilize a stick and move strategy rather than the brawling he used in his loss to Struve. Miocic would continuously circle away from Nelson’s power punch and picked away at Nelson from range. When Nelson would chase down Miocic to land power blows, Miocic would utilize a stiff jab-cross to force him backwards. Miocic’s sharp boxing and enduring cardio would serve him well, leaving Nelson winded and swinging at air. In the end, all scorecards were for Miocic by unanimous decision.
2. Miocic vs. Mark Hunt (UFC Fight Night 65)
In May 2015, Miocic was coming off of a Fight of the Night decision loss to Junior dos Santos and Mark Hunt was coming off of a competitive KO loss to Fabricio Werdum. Both fighters were matched up for a main event in Australia that would have Miocic fighting deep in enemy territory. Hunt was a power puncher who had become a fan favorite since debuting in the UFC and was famous for his walk-off knockouts. Miocic would come into the fight utilizing the same strategy he had used against Nelson and would also work in his takedowns and ground and pound. From the top control position, Miocic would set a UFC record, outstriking Hunt 361 to 48. In the fifth round with Hunt winded and clearly hurt, the referee would finally wave off the fight in Miocic’s favor.
1. Miocic vs. Werdum
The fight between Miocic and champion Fabricio Werdum would actually take some time to finally make happen. Werdum was scheduled to defend his title in a rematch against Cain Velasquez in February 2015 but Velasquez would pull out of the fight due to injury. Miocic was rumoured to take his place in the title fight. A day after the change in opponent, Werdum would announce that he was also pulling out due to injury. Miocic would take to social media to call out Werdum for supposedly ducking him and being afraid. The fight was finally rescheduled for May 2016 at UFC 198. Werdum would defend his title at a soccer stadium in Brazil in front of over 45,000 fans. The fight would begin with both fighters throwing punches and kicks to establish range. Werdum started to mix up his strikes and Miocic worked a stiff jab to keep Werdum just beyond his range. Werdum followed Miocic with a flurry, chasing after him. Werdum was tagged once while chasing and continue to run down Miocic. Swinging wild, Miocic circled out and threw one right hand, catching Werdum right on the chin. Werdum dropped and the fight was over, just like that. Miocic hopped the fence and was mobbed by his whole team as he pronounced to the crowd that he was now the world champion.
CHECK OUT THIS TOP FIVE LIST TOO: Alexander Gustafsson’s Top 5 UFC Moments including Cormier, Jones, Silva, Shogun
(Matthew Peterson is an MMATorch contributor who has been a fan of MMA since he first watched UFC 100. He currently resides with his wife in St. Cloud, Minn. He believes that Chris Lytle was God’s gift to fight fans and Cowboy Cerrone comes in at a close second. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @mattpete1088.)