CLEVELAND -- Cleveland-based mixed martial artist Stipe Miocic is set to defend the UFC heavyweight championship against top-ranked contender Alistair Overeem tonight in the main event of UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena.
Here are five reasons why Miocic will retain his UFC championship and continue what has been a very successful sports year for Cleveland and its athletes.
Miocic won the UFC championship after delivering a right hand to the jaw of Fabricio Werdum in the main event of UFC 198 at the Arena Atletico Paranaense in Curitiba, Brazil, on May 14. The former champion was chasing Miocic around 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 former titlist.
But rather than falling into the “banquet circuit” trap that many champions and award winners experience, Miocic quickly got down to the business training for his first-ever UFC title defense, and did so with an even more intense hunger than he had as a challenger.
“He’s on,” said Bob Kaleal, Miocic’s performance coach. “He trains regardless. That does not get in the way. Stipe’s mindset has never changed.
“His mindset with the way his schedule is and the craziness of the media and all the special events people want him to go to do after he won this belt, you could imagine the media tour and the stuff that people wanted him to do.”
When Miocic steps into The Octagon, he is focused on one goal, earning a victory over his opponent.
But along with the overall goal, Miocic has several other objectives he must accomplish in order to be successful on fight night, and one of those includes knowing when and how to use his punching power.
“We don’t want to waste any punches at all,” said Alex Cooper, Miocic’s striking coach at Strong Style MMA Gym in Independence. “We want to make sure that every, single punch he throws is going to end the fight, so not wasting punches, not being overaggressive.
“A lot of these guys know how to play possum. They know how to pretend to be hurt and take advantage of someone who comes rushing in. We’re not going to do that. He’ll know if he’s really hurt, and he’ll take care of him if he really is, but we’ll wait for that one shot, the one shot that will do it.”
COMMITMENT TO CRAFT
The title bout was announced in the middle of a Cleveland Cavaliers NBA playoff game in May, and Miocic had to travel to Las Vegas to attend and take part in events surrounding UFC 200 back in July. Even though Miocic travelled across the country for UFC 200, he continued to show a commitment to his craft.
“He took me to Las Vegas with him,” Kaleal said. “We trained two times a day. He came in at 4:30 in the morning the day we left just to train, and then, when we got there, we went outside and did a 30-minute run in 105-degree heat.
“His mindset is greater now in maintaining this belt and holding this belt and letting people realize that as long as he’s this champion, you’re going to have someone to reckon with, day-in and day-out. He’s coming mentally, emotionally, psychologically, physically, nutritionally ready to roll.”
Miocic is from Cleveland, and he has always been proud of that fact. Those who train with Miocic on a daily basis believe he will once again represent the city of Cleveland in a championship-like manner and send the hometown fans home happy.
“Stipe Miocic, he’s an amazing champion,” said Jessica Eye, Miocic’s Strong Style teammate and UFC women’s bantamweight fighter. “He’ll be champion of the UFC for a long time, and I’m so thankful that he did what he did because it shows that Cleveland is made of some really hard-working people.”
FIGHTING FOR RESPECT
By knocking out Werdum in May, Miocic set in motion a run of success for Cleveland athletes, as the Lake Erie Monsters swept their way to the Calder Cup and the Cavaliers fought back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors and win the NBA Championship for the first time in franchise history.
And Miocic plans on keeping the good times in Cleveland rolling tonight.
“I’m going to stop Overeem in the first round,” Miocic said. “I’m going to drop him. I know I can knock him out and he’s going to get knocked out. It’s going to happen. It’s inevitable once I touch him with my hands. He’s going to go to sleep. I’m going to walk out and we’re going to have a good time in Cleveland that night.”
This is Part Seven of our series leading up to Miocic's UFC heavyweight championship bout against Overeem in Cleveland tonight.