CLEVELAND — CLEVELAND – “The baddest man on the planet” has a new title to be proud of, Cleveland’s Professional Athlete of the Year.
After regaining the UFC heavyweight championship with a fourth-round technical knockout victory over Daniel Cormier at UFC 241 in Anaheim, California this past summer, Stipe Miocic was named the Professional Athlete of the Year at the 20th Greater Cleveland Sports Awards at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel Wednesday night.
Miocic won the honor, presented by Fox Sports Ohio, over Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb, Cleveland Indians catcher Roberto Perez (a Gold Glove Award winner/Wilson Defensive Player of the Year) and Cleveland Cavaliers star guard Collin Sexton.
A Cleveland native and graduate of Eastlake North High School, Miocic always has remained loyal to Northeast Ohio, continuing to train at Strong Style MMA Gym in Independence, and it has paid off with one of the most prolific heavyweight careers in UFC history, highlighted by his regaining the championship.
For much of the final quarter of 2018 and early months of 2019, Miocic looked like he might not get a desired rematch with Cormier for the UFC heavyweight championship, but when other plans fell through, that is exactly what the Cleveland native got.
Despite a slow start to the rematch after a 13-month hiatus from UFC competition, Miocic made good on his opportunity and avenged only the third loss of his professional career with the technical knockout win over Cormier.
Miocic took a lot of strikes to the face on his way back to the UFC heavyweight championship, but he withstood Cormier’s barrages of heavy-handed punches in the first three rounds and used a flurry of his own late in the fourth round to reclaim the belt.
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 left 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 that Cormier 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.