Scouting Report: Breaking Down Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier

#UFC252 Scouting Report: Breaking Down Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier #mma

UFC 252 is next in line and it has arguably the most important heavyweight fight in UFC history. After splitting their series 1-1, Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier are stepping in the cage again to see who is truly the best heavyweight of all time.

The first fight ended quickly as Cormier knocked Miocic out at 4:33 of round one. The second was a war for Miocic, and he got his L back. He put Cormier away with a series of body shots that crippled the champ in the championship rounds. Now, they settle the score. In this analysis episode, we talk about the first two fights and what caused their outcomes and how those two will play into the tiebreaker.

If you’ve missed our previous analysis pieces, read up!
The Evolution of Justin Gaethje
The Power of Francis N’Gannou
The Technique of Enho

UFC 226: Cormier Blasts Miocic

Coming into his matchup at UFC 226, Daniel Cormier was a champion but many heralded him a paper champion. DC was the reigning light heavyweight champion. But he had never really beaten the light-heavyweight champion, Jon Jones. DC had battled Jones to a decision loss in their first meeting and got blasted at UFC 214 by Jones. But due to the picograms incident, the bout was ruled a no contest and DC was awarded the belt again. DC was never a real champion, plain and simple. He was only the champion when Jon Jones wasn’t around. His defeat of Stipe Miocic at UFC 226 was the first time DC was a true UFC champion.

While the fight was marred in controversy due to eye pokes from Cormier, there’s still a bit to be learned in the first round knockout fight on both Cormier and Miocic’s side.

First thrown strike in the fight was a naked leg kick by Cormier that was nowhere near the mark and the momentum made DC stumble back slightly to the fence. Instead of letting Cormier meet him back in the middle, Stipe Miocic didn’t give Cormier room to breathe and had his back against the cage early on. You can also see Miocic throw a feint and DC ducks leaving his head open, the same mannerism that got him knocked out by Jones at UFC 214.

In the very next exchange, Miocic looks to use his reach and position advantage to land on Cormier. DC, who has a hard time figuring out reach quickly, does the same head dip and grabs for the clinch to which Miocic promptly exits. Unfortunately, it’s this same clinch that would be his undoing near the end of the round for Miocic.

Third exchange is very similar to the first from both Cormier and Miocic. Stipe steps in for a one-two to which Cormier dips his head to the right, but this time he has his hand somewhat up. He grabs for the back of Miocic’s head and reaches for the waist, and Miocic backs out. Here is where DC began to actually analyze Miocic and put into practice what he’s done in camp. Miocic left himself open on the first exit, so on the second exchange, Cormier fires an uppercut that looks to hit Miocic somewhat.

Stipe Miocic enters with a leg kick here. Then he pumps the left hand a couple times to get a reaction out of Cormier. It’s the same exact reaction from Cormier: duck down to the right and grab for Miocic. Cormier lands another uppercut on Miocic’s unguarded exit a second time.

Another straight right from Miocic here and DC does the same thing again. Miocic mixes things up this time, probably tired of getting caught with an uppercut leaving the clinch, one of Cormier’s go to shots on an exit. He pushes DC against the cage and rests there, making Cormier work to get out of the position.

DC gets up and leaves himself open for a couple pitter-patter shots from behind. DC has had some trouble with defensive wrestling in MMA. Jones, Rumble and Gustafsson have all managed to get the Olympian to the mat. Perhaps it’s the height difference that troubles DC against Miocic.

After about a minute in the clinch against the fence, DC and Miocic separate. But Miocic continues to pressure him. Miocic fires another 1-2 but this time DC doesn’t duck. He gets hit pretty square. Cormier shrugs and throws his hands like, “Is that it?” as if to let Stipe Miocic know that he wasn’t fazed by the shot. But it was pretty obvious that after being in the clinch for a while and then getting hit pretty square, the fight was on the verge of getting away from Cormier. It’s this moment that Daniel Cormier changes up the game plan, knowing he will be finished if he doesn’t do something different. Cormier stops looking to clinch and starts stretching out his hands and throwing more punches. He is fond of the jab and overhand right here and makes it tough to hit Cormier with power shots.

Cormier doesn’t start to march down Miocic. He just throws a couple shots. This, along with Miocic successfully taking down Cormier not long ago, causes Miocic to be more confident in the clinch. Instead of Cormier needing to go to Miocic, Miocic comes to him, which plays right into the hands of Cormier.

Here you can see Cormier starts to lead the exchanges, often coming forward and going first. He knows Miocic has no respect for his clinch anymore and plans to take advantage of that.

You can see now that Miocic is more eager to trade closer to Cormier having wrestled with him against the cage. Compared to the beginning of the fight where Miocic was staying at range at all costs, this is a stark difference in just a couple minutes time.

We get a slight break in the action when Cormier pokes Miocic in the eye. Cormier has a bad habit of holding his hands out with his fingers out stretched, perhaps looking for something to hold on. While this sucked for Miocic, I don’t think it changed the outcome of the fight. The end was already being headed towards with what transpired in the fight.

In the final exchange, we see Miocic step in and when Cormier grabs for the clinch, Miocic doesn’t have the urgency to get away anymore. Miocic was landing more shots on Cormier, often in bunches of two and three. But when Cormier hit Stipe, it counted. Miocic also no longer respects the wrestling of Cormier. As explored earlier, Miocic leaves the clinch exposed either up the middle or, in this case, over the top. Daniel Cormier blast a right over the top and dribbles Miocic’s head against the canvas. Cormier was no longer second best and became a true champion in a manner in which every fighter dreams.

Takeaways from Cormier-Miocic 1

After the first bout, many wondered exactly how hard Cormier hit. He flatlined the tough Stipe Miocic. What we can learn from that fight is that Cormier is strong in the clinch but only if initiated. When Miocic pressed against the fence, Cormier was ineffective and Miocic did what he wanted.

Miocic also abandoned his game plan very quickly. Stipe Miocic planned to respect the strength of Daniel Cormier and to fight at a distance. When he got a taste of what he perceived as him being superior, he started to lose focus of that game plan. In the end, it was this on-the-fly adjustment that cost Miocic his title.

Round 2: Stipe Strikes Back

The second fight between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier had much more substance to it. Cormier was not only the champion, he also defended the belt once against Derrick Lewis. Miocic and Cormier fought a hard battle and in the end, Miocic took back his belt and delivered one of the best mid-fight adjustments: those fourth round body shots. But those body shots would not have worked in the first round. Let’s get into how the fight unfolded!

Round One: DC Dominates

Round one was all Cormier. Early on the two fighters exchanged leg kicks something Daniel Cormier does quite well. His kicks were folding over Miocic a good bit and I thought this was the fight Cormier was going with. He abandoned it pretty quickly, however.

The very first real exchange, Cormier shows shades of the same game plan as the first fight. He dips his head to the right on an entry with the jab, which Miocic slips. Cormier then grabs the back of the head and looks for the clinch. But Miocic escapes and wants none of that and promptly escapes.

First big moment in the fight was the takedown from Daniel Cormier in round one. Many people point to this as a pivotal moment that will come into play in the third fight. But if you look at the gif above (you’re eyes are not wrong, it’s sped up to fit it in a six second clip), Cormier had to work really hard to get this takedown. It is a 20 second attempt in real-time. Cormier shoots and Miocic does a good job staying on his feet for a while as Cormier gets the high crotch. Then Cormier ultimately picks up Miocic and holds him on the back. Miocic has his hands around the waist of Cormier preventing him from a clean throw. Eventually, Miocic let’s him go and gets slammed. But, the effort that went in to securing that takedown, hoisting up Miocic, and holding him on DC’s back was a big taxation on the gas tank of Cormier.

Even when Cormier had Miocic on the ground, Stipe did a good job making him earn everything offensively. Pushing on the back of the head, trapping the arm, and holding Cormier’s head down were all tactics Miocic used that payed into his hands later in the fight. Sure, Cormier was winning the round, but in the long game, this played into Miocic’s favor. You can see more of Miocic’s stalling tactics in the next gif. While I’m not saying Stipe Miocic had some master plan to make Cormier tired, I am saying that the some of the events in the early rounds worked in the favor of Miocic even though he was being soundly beaten.

The end of the round was almost the end of the fight. Cormier had great ground and pound and Miocic held on for dear life. For some reason, Cormier stopped hitting Miocic and complained to the referee which let Stipe start moving again, allowing him to get up and out of his control. Regardless of the blunder, it was all Daniel Cormier in round one.

Round 2: Minute Adjustments

Daniel Cormier dominated round one and likely felt the fight was in the bag. Round two was more DC, but this time, he did the job standing. Cormier adopts the “reach out with his fingers extended and fire when Miocic gets close enough” method once again . This theme was pretty repetitive from the second round on, and ultimately, is what cost Cormier the heavyweight title.

Cormier starts looking for the clinch to either replicate the first fight’s knockout finish or to initiate another grappling exchange to get the fight to the ground. Stipe Miocic wisely wants none of it. The fight continues as DC and Miocic play paddy cakes and see who can eat the most punches.

Cormier is content on playing this game with Miocic as he gets the better of these exchanges and is busting up Miocic pretty bad. Miocic knows he has to do something different. Instead of coming up the middle where he had been getting hit, or over the top where Cormier wants him coming from, he comes underneath with an uppercut on the dip of Cormier. He then comes over the top and then fires a left hook, an actual combo that threw off Cormier. The reason that initial uppercut was there was the outstretched hands of Cormier leaving his defense susceptible to body shots and uppercuts, a sign of things to come.

Stipe Miocic recognizes this and on the very next exchange, throws another uppercut and whiffs on a big miss. But the punch is there. He came over the top first in this exchange as opposed to firing the uppercut first as Cormier thinks “dip.” One small adjustment could make this fight for Miocic, which eventually he would make.

Cormier manages to get inside on Miocic and presses him against the cage to bring the fight to the ground where he had such an advantage in the first round. At this point, Miocic is the more fresh fighter. He circles out and just tractors Cormier against the fence where Cormier, again, stands there just wrapping up hoping Miocic doesn’t do too much damage or makes a mistake where he can capitalize. Miocic manages to hang on Cormier on the fence for 20 seconds, making anything DC does very tough.

Miocic takes one more crack at the uppercut in round two and it misses again, but he is on to something. Cormier does a good job pressing the pace and firing first on the longer Miocic.

Round 3: Turning Tides

Rounds one and two were all Cormier. Stipe Miocic showed some signs of good gameplay adjustments but just couldn’t get things working just yet. Round three was where the tide started turning for the former champ. Miocic came out the much fresher fighter after sizzling instruction from his corner in between rounds. Miocic comes in firing first the moment Cormier raises his hands to Miocic’s face. He also mixes things up better this round. The first two strikes he throws are a jab and a teep to the body of Cormier. He throws in a leg kick in there as well for good measure.

In addition to the mixing up of strikes, Miocic shoots for a single leg takedown as well. Cormier gets out of but not with a little bit of effort. While Cormier may know what to do, he is still at a disadvantage in conditioning. Once Cormier gets free of the attempt, he throws a high kick, another energy taxing move, putting the cardio disparity even further apart. To counter Miocic firing off quicker, Cormier pushes the pace even faster turning the exchanges into what the second round was for the most part.

To slow this down and prevent damage, Miocic presses to the fence after a while. As we’ve seen, Cormier doesn’t do well against the fence with Miocic. He hangs out where he knows he shouldn’t. This time, Miocic keeps Cormier on the fence for 45 secondswhich is more of Miocic making life hard for Cormier. As seen below, Cormier is tired and grasping at straws.

Upon Miocic’s exit, he throws a spinning back elbow. While it would be nice for this to land for Miocic and is a big waste of energy, it does show another look to Cormier. Now in the round, Miocic has shown a bunch of new looks at Cormier and makes him think, “What else will he have for me?”

Miocic moves around the cage well and has a good bounce in his stance, something else new to the fight. You will notice in the last two minutes of the round, DC no longer comes with his hands up at Miocic. Miocic has forced Cormier to box with him, where Miocic gets the best of him. Cormier knows this will not work and goes in for the clinch.

Now, Miocic goes full Greco-Roman and gets DC to the ground with a body lock and a slick trip. Cormier is already very tired and a little nudge was all that Miocic needed to get DC down. Now, Stipe Miocic has Cormier on the ground.

While Stipe Miocic doesn’t do much offensively on the ground, he is on top of Cormier, another energy taxing effort. Miocic fires in a knee to the face that lands on the exit. The conditioning disparity is starting to snowball in Miocic’s favor at this point.

Now Cormier is down three and a half minutes in the round due to the take down. He has to get the takedown back. He immediately presses Miocic to the fence and shoots a single. It’s hard to see how Miocic got free in the camera angle, but the important thing to note is that he did get free. Cormier not only uses energy to attempt the takedown, but now he needs to work extra to get away from Miocic reversing the attempt. Cormier now pushes the pace even more in a round lost unless he knocks down Miocic. The amount of output from DC was exciting for fans but should be concerning for his corner. He still has two rounds to fight and he’s clearly the more tired fighter. It is also worth noting that Miocic abandoned the uppercut from round two completely in this round.

Round 4: Miocic Reclaims the Belt

We all know the fourth round is where the fight was finished and Miocic became a two time heavyweight champion. Cormier comes out with his hands down but still tries marching Miocic down. The two don’t really fire off any shots yet but there is a lot of tension from both fighters in this round. Miocic adds on pressure, keeping Cormier on his heels. To counter that, Cormier starts having his hands out again.

At two minutes into the fourth round, this fight was over; Stipe Miocic found the hook to the body. This one may not have looked like much, but Miocic poured them on and it is how he secured the knockout. As a matter of fact, I’m going to take this moment to do a body shot montage for your viewing pleasure.

The round is pretty much just that. Cormier walking hands up at Miocic and Miocic firing a body shot that makes DC visibly wince. While the first shot was where it all started to end for Cormier in the round, it wasn’t until the second one that Miocic really started to spam the left hook to the body. DC’s face on that second shot really says it all.

It’s pretty well known that the body shot is Cormier’s weakness. At UFC 200, he decided to stand up with Anderson Silva after wrestling him at will. It was a kick to the body where Cormier decided that he wasn’t chancing it and went back to the ground. Jones also took advantage of the body shot in both fights against Cormier. But in the Miocic fight, there was not enough in the tank to get Miocic to the ground and he kept doing the thing that got him punched in the liver: walk at Stipe with his hands up. Shot after shot lowered Cormier’s hands and his spirit. Miocic was breaking Cormier. DC is now firing punches from the hip.

The finishing sequence is a culmination of all the work put in by Miocic the entire fight. The clinch against the cage, minute adjustments in rounds two and three and the pressure and body shots in round four all led here. Miocic launches one final shot to the liver of DC. With Cormier’s hands low, Miocic throws a very fast 1-2 that lands on the chin of DC. With the combination of Cormier being tired and the body shots having his hands in there, Miocic lands the wobbling punches that spelled the end of DC. Miocic knows this.

To finish the fight, Miocic throws two straight rights on Cormier that land and put him against the fence, even more dazed. Cormier reacts automatically and dips to his right and reaches for the clinch in a Hail Mary. Having seen the dip in two fights now, Miocic throws the same left hook to the body but this time with the dip, it connects to the head of Cormier. Miocic piles on the shots as Cormier crumbles. Miocic has become champion once again.

The Keys to The Trilogy

UFC 252 will mark the final chapter in not only the Miocic-Cormier trilogy, but also Daniel Cormier’s career. Not to mention, Stipe Miocic has had retirement rumors go around as well. Both fighters are planning on going out on top. I love both and wish both fighters would win. Unfortunately, that is impossible. So how do both Miocic and Cormier win?

Keys for Stipe Miocic

For Stipe Miocic, he will need to mix up his striking. It clearly showed in round three of the second fight that mixing it up begets success for Miocic. Firing a 1-2 every time Cormier comes with his hands up will only result in him getting bust up by Cormier again.

Secondly for Miocic, make the fight grueling. Cormier will not go away easily. He’s going to come to wrestle, especially in the smaller cage. You have to make him work for every takedown, every pass, and every clinch. Nothing should come easy to Daniel Cormier. Miocic needs to make Cormier not want to be in there with him anymore.

Last for Miocic, kick the lead leg of Cormier. Instead of firing a jab and straight when DC comes with his hands stretched out, kick the hell out of his leg. If your hands can touch, you can kick the leg. This will deter Cormier from coming out with his hands up again looking to dirty box. It will also make wrestling a lot harder once there is some damage on the leg.

Keys for Daniel Cormier

With cardio being such a concern for Daniel Cormier, his weight is his number one issue. In the first fight he came in at 236 pounds. The second, he was up to 242. To improve his cardio, DC should look at actually cutting a little weight and come in lighter. He might not have better cardio than Miocic, but a little bit more would help him get out of bad situations and pay off later in the fight.

Wrestling early is the second point of attack for DC. He has to wrestle early and ground and pound. In the second fight, Cormier almost had a finish and let up a little bit and it let Miocic get up. Wrestling and making Miocic work will keep the cardio close and make the fight more manageable. He needs to also be a little stronger wrestling too. He let Miocic escape a little too easy in the clinch as well.

Third point for DC is being cardio conscious. Cormier got to a point where he was throwing high kicks and haymakers head hunting Miocic. He should be patient and not go full Francis N’Gannou looking to put Miocic’s head in orbit.

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