Stipe Miocic is of the opinion that bigger is better.
Speaking recently to ESPN, Miocic acknowledged that he’d lobbied for a larger octagon to be employed in the upcoming bout at UFC 252 between him and Daniel Cormier. It’s the third leg of a trilogy of fights between the two combatants, with Miocic’s UFC world heavyweight championship belt on the line.
The contest will be conducted inside a 25-foot octagon at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Aug. 15th. Given his druthers, Miocic would’ve preferred to see the fight staged in a 30-foot cage.
“A bigger cage is better of course,” Miocic said. “It is what it is. I’m not going to cry about it. I definitely tried to get a bigger cage, but it wasn’t in the cards.
“What are you gonna do? I’m not worried. My [gym’s] cage is the same size, and I’ve been working on everything.”
Grappling With Downsizing
There’s been mixed reviews over the combat that takes place inside the downsized octagon. Proponents of it believe that the smaller area creates less opportunity for escapism, thus leading to more sustained action in bouts.
Critics believe the lessened circumference offers a distinct advantage to those mixed martial artists who are especially skilled in the discipline of wrestling.
A senior U.S. national champion every year from 2003–2008 who was an All-American wrestler in college at Oklahoma State and who finished fourth in the 96 kg weight class of freestyle wrestling at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, reigning UFC world light-heavyweight champion Cormier (22-2) is certainly of the belief that the 25-foot octagon plays right to his strengths.
“That ole leg is gonna be right in front for me to grab,” said Cormier in a June 22 interview with ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. “If you wanna see a 25-minute standup fight, that’s not what you’re getting.
“It doesn’t matter because I’m going to take him down. I’m going to go wrestle him. I hope Stipe has his wrestling shoes because with the small cage — single leg, single leg, single leg.”
Miocic (19-3) is frank in admitting that the dimensions of the cage would appear to lean in the favor of someone like Cormier who’s main background is as a grappler.
“There are a lot more angles and stuff, and getting pushed against the cage, you don’t have that extra five feet,” Miocic said. “It’s a little bit different.”
That reality has also led to some alteration in Miocic’s prep work for the upcoming fight.
“We’ve definitely been training wrestling more,” Miocic said. “He said to bring my wrestling shoes, so he’ll definitely try to wrestle me, but every fight starts standing, don’t forget that.
“We’ll see. Take me down then. We’re wrestling? I thought we were fighting, but whatever.”
Though known for his punching power from his time as a champion Golden Gloves boxer, Miocic isn’t exactly a neophyte when it comes to wrestling. He was the Division I state runner-up at 215 pounds in high school in Ohio. He was an NCAA wrestler at Cleveland State.
The Rubber Match
UFC president Dana White has described the third Miocic-Cormier bout as the fight that will determine the greatest heavyweight in the promotion’s history.
Online sportsbooks are at odds when it comes to determining a favorite in the rubber match of this trilogy. MyBookie is calling the fight a literal toss up in the Las Vegas UFC odds, offering the same betting line of -110 on both combatants.
Miocic reigned as UFC heavyweight champ for a record 785 days from May 14, 2016 until he was knocked out by Cormier in the opening round of their first meeting at UFC 226.
With that victory, Cormier joined Conor McGregor as the only UFC fighters to ever hold simultaneous world titles in different weight classes. His double reign ended at UFC 241 when he suffered a fourth-round TKO at the hands of Miocic in their rematch.