CLEVELAND -- Cleveland-based mixed martial artist Stipe Miocic has won his last three fights via knockout or TKO, including the previous two in the first round against former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholders in Andrei Arlovski and Fabricio Werdum.
And if it is up to Miocic, he is going to add another name to the list when he defends the heavyweight championship of the world against Alistair Overeem in the main event of UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Saturday night.
“My mindset is I’m going to smash him,” Miocic said recently. “I’m not giving up that belt. I worked too hard to get it, and I’m not letting anyone take it from me, especially beating me in Cleveland? No way. I want that belt. I got it, and now, I’m keeping it. I don’t want to let go of it.”
Although Miocic wants to finish the fight quickly, he is not looking past Overeem.
Miocic is well aware of the fact that Overeem is on a four-fight winning streak with wins over former UFC champions in Arlovski and Junior dos Santos. Three of those four victories have come via knockout or TKO in the first or second rounds of competition.
A former K-1 World Grand Prix Kickboxing Champion and former Strikeforce and DREAM heavyweight titlist, Overeem has defeated each of the last two fighters who have gotten the best of Miocic, dos Santos and Stefan Struve.
“He’s a good fighter. He’s a great fighter,” Miocic said. “He’s fought the best in the world, and is one of the best fighters of all time. He’s good on his feet. He’s a good kickboxer. He’s got good hands, has been putting people down. He’s on a good win streak right now.
“He’s pretty good on the ground. He’s a strong guy, but I’ve just got to watch out for everything. He’s a heavyweight, so anything can happen. We wear four-ounce gloves. It could be a quick night, which I plan on making it for him. I’m going to get my hand raised and walk out with the belt.”
Although everyone in the UFC heavyweight division is coming after Miocic and the heavyweight title, the champion is not taking anything for granted.
Miocic is constantly working on his craft, sparing two to three times a week and grappling at least once a week. During his every-day workouts, Miocic focuses on conditioning, strength and explosive speed work. Then, at night, he puts on the gloves, heads in The Octagon at Strong Style Gym in Independence and works on his punches and kicks.
“I love what I do,” Miocic said. “I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t. It’s still surreal. I think when I’m retired, old and fat, it’ll finally hit me being the champ, but listen man, I’m just scratching the surface. I know I won it. Now, I have to defend it. I’m here to turn heads and make a name for myself.”
Miocic definitely made a name for himself when he won the UFC heavyweight championship with a first-round knockout of Werdum in the main event of UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil, on May 14.
Miocic finished the fight after delivering a right hand to Werdum’s jaw. 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 champion.
That punch 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 rolling in Cleveland on Saturday night.
“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 One of our six-story series leading up to Miocic's UFC heavyweight championship bout against Overeem in Cleveland Saturday night.