LAS VEGAS — Daniel Cormier is looking to cement himself in the debate as one of the greatest fighters to ever live. Stipe Miocic wants to extend his record of most consecutive UFC heavyweight title defenses to four.
It’s been a long while since the historical stakes were so high for a UFC main event. Miocic will put his heavyweight belt on the line against Cormier, the light heavyweight champion, at UFC 226 on Saturday here at T-Mobile Arena. It is a true super fight between two of the baddest men on the planet — the men who preside over the two heaviest weight classes in MMA.
Cormier, 39, has a chance to put his legacy over the top with a win over Miocic. His inability to beat Jon Jones notwithstanding, the American Kickboxing Academy captain is already going to go down in the annals of MMA as an all-time great. He’ll be going for more than that this weekend.
Miocic, 35, has three straight title defenses at heavyweight, a record in the most volatile UFC division. Beating Cormier would be yet another feather in his cap, further evidence that he is the best UFC heavyweight champion ever. Though he remains unheralded by the mainstream audience, Miocic’s résumé is already hard to discount.
How will it all shake out? Who will get their hand raised and have the heavyweight title by the end of the weekend?
We asked many of the athletes competing at UFC 226 for their pick.
Michael Chiesa: “That’s about as big of a superfight as you can make in the UFC. It’s huge. I’m with ‘DC’ all the way, absolutely. I’ve been a fan of ‘DC’ since Real Pro Wrestling, back when I was like a junior in high school, so team ‘DC,’ 100 percent. That’s why I bought black and red Adidas combat speeds when I was in high school, because ‘DC’ wore them.”
Uriah Hall: “I mean, they’re both wrestlers. What do you think when two people who wrestle fight, man? But then again, they might respect each other’s wrestling. I think Daniel Cormier might have the edge more on the wrestling side, but we’ve seen Stipe against Francis (Ngannou) and Francis is a scary dude, especially with those small gloves. So, I don’t know, it’s going to be one of those where someone’s going to get knocked out. If it doesn’t go that way, then Daniel’s probably going to hug for f*cking 25 minutes or something.”
Lando Vannata: “I’ve gotta go towards ‘DC,’ man. I love Stipe, but ‘DC,’ man, what he did back in the Strikeforce Grand Prix against all the heavyweights, smoked them all when he was fighting at heavyweight, so I think it’ll be similar, but it’ll be fun. It’ll be real interesting to watch.”
Paul Felder: “You’ve got the heavyweight champ and the light heavyweight champ, and a guy like ‘DC’ who’s undefeated at heavyweight — it’s a superfight to me, man. I was telling everybody when we lost Max (Holloway) and (Brian) Ortega, I was like, ‘I’d still 100 percent be buying this pay-per-view.’ It’d be one of those things where I’d be like, ‘Goddamn, but I’ve got to see that fight.’ It’s one of those ones that, no matter what happened to this card, you’ve gotta know what happens with Stipe and ‘DC.’ You want to know. So, I think that makes it a superfight. But I’m not picking anybody. I’ve been stubborn this whole time, I like both guys and I’ve gone back and forth. I think I’ve said both guys in the past.”
Dan Hooker: “I doesn’t feel like it’s a superfight. I feel like Miocic’s just going to box him up. I feel like it’s a pretty straightforward fight for Stipe, I don’t feel like it’s a tough test. Cormier’s not going to be able to get him down. Stipe’s too big and his wrestling is too good, so they’re going to force each other to box, right? Who’s the better boxer? Stipe is a far better boxer, a bigger guy, longer reach, picking him apart. Easy night at the office, catch ya later.”
Curtis Millender: “You know, I’m a huge Jon Jones fan, so I always say I’ll never root for ‘DC.’ But in this fight, I kinda want to root for him. I also do like history being made. I do always love to see that. So I think for this one ... [I’m rooting for him] because of the shit he’s gone through with Jon Jones, man. It’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate to have to go through that, through so much.”
Khalil Rountree: “I’m running with DC. He’s taking a big change, going up to heavyweight, going for another strap. Why not? I support the guy. ... [He’ll win] the way he does all of his fights. Just being DC, man. He picks guys up, he slams them, he gets on top of them, he controls them, he throws some punches. He’s got knockout power. Just being DC.”
Max Griffin: “I’ve always counted out Stipe. Always. He’s not so good at one thing to me. His whole career, it’s like, oh he’s OK. He’s not gonna beat [Alistair] Overeem, he’s not gonna beat him, he’s not gonna beat them. Then he’ll win again and then he’ll win again. Then I’m like, you know what? I’m not betting against him. He has so much power and he’s such a hard worker. Stipe, man.”
Rob Font: “Don’t kill me, DC. But I’m gonna have to go with Stipe on this one. He just wins. He just finds a way to win. Even Francis [Ngannou] in Boston. You look at Francis and you’re like oh my god, ‘Who the hell is gonna beat this guy?’ And [Miocic] made it look not easy, but he had it controlled pretty much the whole entire fight. It’s tough to bet against him. But it’s hard, because you’ve got DC who comes in and does the same thing, too. The only hiccup he ever had really was Jon Jones and he’s one of the best out there. I’m gonna have to go with Cleveland on this one.”
Drakkar Klose: “DC, double champ. That’s my boy. I like DC. He’s a good guy. I think he’s gonna go out there, put the pressure on him, get him against the cage, wear him out and then submit him. I think he’s gonna take him down, take his back, pound him. Third round.”
Anthony Pettis: “Stipe did what he did to Francis, but DC’s wrestling, he’s naturally a heavyweight. I feel like that’s gonna be the factor. ... Striking, I give to stipe. But the pressure that DC puts, [Miocic is] not gonna be able to dip and move and get on top. if he can dip and move away of his strikes, there’s a takedown coming behind that and you gotta defend that. If I had to pick, I’d say DC. But Stipe is a talented guy.”