CLEVELAND -- The wait is almost over for UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.
After a nine-month break since his last fight, the Cleveland-based mixed martial artist will defend his championship against the No. 4 ranked heavyweight contender in the world, Junior dos Santos, in the main event of UFC 211 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, tonight.
Here are five reasons why Miocic will successfully defend the UFC Championship for the second consecutive time.
REDEMPTION IS AT HAND
It will be a chance at redemption of sorts for Miocic, who last lost on December 13, 2014, in a five-round slugfest against dos Santos at UFC Fight Night: Dos Santos vs. Miocic in Phoenix, Arizona.
Although Miocic landed fewer strikes in the losing effort, he was the more accurate of the two fighters and held control for almost twice as long as dos Santos, who earned the unanimous decision victory from the judges.
Miocic landed 102 of his 206 strikes, 89 of which were considered significant, according to FightMetric, while Dos Santos connected on 140 of his attempts.
LONG BREAK HELPS
Miocic kept up a hectic fight schedule since joining the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2011, and after three bouts in 2016, including a title win and subsequent defense, the veteran needed some time away from the sport.
Following his successful title defense at Quicken Loans Arena in the main event of UFC 203 last September, Miocic requested and was granted an extended break from fighting. However, the break is done, and time has come for Miocic to defend against dos Santos.
“It’s a layoff I wanted,” Miocic said. “I asked them for a couple months. I’ve never gotten to enjoy the holidays before, so I asked if I could have the holidays and take a couple months for myself, and they were okay with that. Now, I’m ready for May 13, Dallas, UFC 211.”
Miocic is 4-1 in his UFC career in fights that follow a break of more than four months. The lone loss came against dos Santos.
LEARNED FROM MISTAKES
In his first title defense, Miocic overcame a knockdown and guillotine choke attempt from Alistair Overeem early in the first round.
Then, Miocic checked a right leg kick from Overeem and sent the challenger to the mat. After the takedown, Overeem pulled guard, but Miocic was not to be denied. Miocic landed a pair of right-handed hammer fists before throwing a left-right combination to Overeem’s face, which opened up the challenger’s defenses.
Following another left hand, Miocic landed four straight rights to Overeem’s jaw, knocking out the challenger and forcing the referee’s stoppage with just 33 seconds remaining in the first round.
“When he put me on my butt, I wasn’t ready for that, but I was fine,” Miocic said. “It was a flash knockdown. He got me in a guillotine. It was tight, but I knew exactly what was going on. I got up and I was like, ‘There’s no way this dude’s taking me out in front of my home crowd like that. I do not care.’ I got up and I went into ‘Zombie Mode,’ and was like, ‘All right, you’re done. I’m going to get you somehow, some way.’ I got him down and I knew he was finished.”
HUNGRY FOR MORE SUCCESS
Despite riding a four-fight winning streak and accomplishing the goal of winning the UFC title, Miocic is hungry for more success.
Miocic aims to hold onto the belt as long as possible, and he is not slowing down in his training. If anything, winning the title has given him more motivation to get through difficult workouts because of the payoff that comes with being successful in the cage.
“That’s one thing that keeps me hungry,” Miocic said. “I work too hard. I’m not giving some guy an opportunity to take my belt. I work way harder than any of those guys. I know I do.”
PATIENCE IS KEY
From past experiences, Miocic has learned that patience is an important key to success.
Miocic won the UFC championship after delivering a right hand to Fabricio Werdum’s jaw in the main event of UFC 198 last May.
The former champion was chasing Miocic on the outer rim of The Octagon, and left his chin exposed. Despite backing away from Werdum’s pursuit, Miocic threw a powerful right hand that floored the champion.
Miocic added three shots to the downed Werdum before referee Dan Miragliotta jumped in-between the fighters to end the bout at 2:14 of the first round.
“When he fell and I knocked him out cold, it was actually awkward because all I heard was myself screaming, my coaches screaming and my wife screaming,” Miocic said. “She hurdled like five rows to get to me, but it was awesome. It was just a great thing. I worked so hard and people don’t understand that they put a lot of sacrifice into me, and I’m just so happy I can reward them.”
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