CLEVELAND -- It is not every day that a champion goes in search of redemption against a contender, but redemption is exactly what UFC heavyweight titlist Stipe Miocic has in mind when he defends against Junior dos Santos in the main event of UFC 211 in Dallas tonight.
Miocic last lost on December 13, 2014, and that setback came via a unanimous decision after a five-round slugfest against the very same man he will stand and trade with in Texas, dos Santos, a former heavyweight champion in his own right.
“I’m a totally different fighter than I was last time, probably the same as him, but I’ve definitely evolved more than he has,” Miocic said. “I’ve fought a lot more than he has, and so, nothing is going to change. The reign is still going to be me being the champ.”
Since the loss to dos Santos, Miocic has rattled off four straight victories, all by knockout or technical knockout, including the last three in the very first round.
After dispatching of a well-respected contender in Mark Hunt in a five-round battle in 2015, where he landed a UFC record 361 strikes, Miocic dominated former champion Andre Arlovski in just 54 seconds last January.
Following the win over Arlovski, Miocic demanded a shot at the heavyweight championship, and when given that chance, he made good by knocking out Fabricio Werdum in front of 45,000 fans in Curitiba, Brazil.
Miocic won the UFC championship after delivering a right hand to Werdum’s jaw in the main event of UFC 198 last May. Miocic added three shots to the downed Werdum before referee Dan Miragliotta jumped in-between the fighters to end the bout at the 2:14 mark of the first round.
Then, four months later, Miocic successfully defended the heavyweight championship with a first-round knockout win against veteran contender Alistair Overeem in the UFC’s debut show at Quicken Loans Arena, which marked the champ’s first Cleveland fight in six years.
After failing to lock in submission and take advantage of an early knockdown, Overeem attempted to throw a right leg kick when Miocic checked it and sent the challenger to the mat. After the takedown, Overeem pulled guard, but Miocic was not to be denied, as he postured up and landed a pair of right-handed hammer fists before throwing a left-right combination.
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 left in the first round.
“We’re just scratching the surface,” Miocic said. “Every fight, I’m a different fighter. I come out and I bring something new to the table. I have a different game plan. I go out and I show them why I’m the best in the world.”
And when he steps into The Octagon to defend against dos Santos, Miocic has one thing in mind, putting in a good day’s work, and no matter how long it takes, finishing the fight and returning to Cleveland as a champion.
“It’s going to happen,” Miocic said. “If it’s not the first, it’s going to be the second, third, fourth or the fifth. I’m going to win the fight. He’s going to get knocked out. I’m getting my hand raised.”
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