CLEVELAND — Ah, the wounds of battle.
Cleveland native Stipe Miocic took a lot of strikes to the face on his way back to the UFC heavyweight championship, but he withstood the barrages of heavy-handed punches from defending titleholder Daniel Cormier in the first three rounds and used a flurry of his own to reclaim the belt.
Miocic landed nearly 100 fewer strikes than Cormier, including 60 fewer significant ones, but when it counted, he finished with a whirlwind offense and reclaimed the heavyweight title with a technical knockout victory in the main event of UFC 241 at Honda Center in Anaheim, California Saturday night.
Following the bout, Miocic tweeted a photo showing the damage taken from Cormier’s 230 strikes landed.
After struggling to find his range in the first three rounds, Miocic picked his spots during the fourth frame and was sticking and moving, engaging with punches, including several left hooks to Cormier’s ribs, and getting out of the pocket before the defending champion could respond.
Then, after a lead hook to the body, Miocic landed a straight right hand to Cormier’s chin. That wobbled Cormier and Miocic moved in for the finish. Miocic landed three right hands before connecting on three short lefts while putting Cormier against the cage.
As Cormier slumped to the canvas, Miocic alternated right and left-handed punches and forced the referee’s stoppage with 52 seconds remaining in the fourth round.
It was the first time in Cormier’s career that he was knocked out in a heavyweight fight, and Miocic’s comeback victory earned him a $50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonus.
The record-holder for the most consecutive successful defenses of the UFC heavyweight championship, Miocic improved to 19-3-0 in his professional career with the victory over Cormier, including a 13-3 mark since joining the UFC in 2011.