Of all the fighters who are still in the UFC, Stipe Miocic is often cited as the best heavyweight fighter around. Throughout his long career, this Cleveland Golden Gloves champion is known for his hard hits and his ability to throw people around with ease. Today we’re looking at how Stipe started his MMA career and where he is today.
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Having started out playing collegiate baseball, Stipe Miocic got into MMA in 2005 by Dan Bobish. It only took him eight months of training to start his career in the MMA industry, though his past as an NCAA Division I wrestler and Golden Gloves champion at Cleveland State University certainly helped.
Miocic’s association with the UFC then started in 2011 and his first fight was October 8th of that year, where he beat Joey Beltran by unanimous decision at UFC 136. His next fights were against Phil De Fries, where he won Knockout of the Night, Shane del Rosario, and then Stefan Struve, where they both won Fight of the Knight after Miocic lost to a TKO.
The last fight where we could consider Miocic as an up-and-coming fighter was at UFC 161. This was where Miocic, after some card reshuffling, faced Roy Nelson. Miocic was the obvious underdog and this was reflected in the betting odds at the time. Miocic beat Nelson via unanimous decision, proving himself as one to watch.
Fight Night Feats
The next notable fight of Miocic’s career happened at UFC Fight Night 65. On May 10th of 2015, Miocic faced Mark Hunt. This was a long but one-sided fight that ended through TKO in the last round. That night, Miocic set a record for the most strikes landed during a fight and the largest margin between strikes landed by fighters. Miocic landed a stunning 361 of his strikes while Hunt landed just 48.
A few months later, Miocic would drop out of Fight Night 76 after injury. To make up for the action, Miocic was rebooked against Andrei Arlovski at UFC 195. He won with a short but explosive TKO just 54 seconds into the first round. It certainly left an impression, since he won a Performance of the Night award for it.
The Heavyweight Championship
Having established himself, Miocic turned his ambitions toward the UFC heavyweight champion title. He was given his shot at UFC 198 on May 14th, 2016, where Miocic faced Fabricio Werdum. Not only did Miocic walk away with the title after a clean right hook counter, but he also got another Performance of the Night award. This was Werdum’s first loss in five years.
Then came the title defenses. First, he faced Alistair Overeem and Junior dos Santos, though his first bout against Francis Ngannou is the most notable. This was at UFC 220, in January of 2018, and there was some bad blood going into the bout after Miocic felt that Ngannou received more promotion from the UFC’s marketing. Miocic won by unanimous decision, breaking a record for consecutive title defenses for the heavyweight division.
Miocic V Cormier
Next was “The Superfight” where light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier put an end to Miocic’s reign. As the smaller fighter, Cormier was the underdog going into the bout but pulled a slick first-round knockout on Miocic. The fight was tainted by the referee warning Cormier of eye pokes during the fight.
A year later, Miocic would face Cormier in a rematch at UFC 241. This time, Miocic won by TKO and yet another Performance of the Night by hammering Cormier’s head after getting him down in the fourth round. Miocic suffered retinal damage from eye pokes when the fight was over.
This trilogy of bouts would end at UFC 252 where Miocic won by unanimous decision. Unsurprisingly, both Miocic and Cormier received eye pokes in the fight.
At the start of 2021, Miocic would lose the heavyweight championship to Ngannou in a rematch. He was knocked out in the second round and there are little doubts that the nearly 40-year-old fighter is feeling the wear and tear. At the same time, the temptation to hit back and take the title from Ngannou must be strong.
As of writing, Stipe Miocic is recorded at #9 in the UFC’s official pound-for-pound rankings and second in their official heavyweight rankings after Francis Ngannou.