I don’t like it, and the strange thing is that I am not alone. Most people seem to not like this fight. These are the two best heavyweights by far, and their first two fights were compelling, competitive, and entertaining. This would most certainly qualify as the best trilogy in MMA history. But there is a reason for this fight not being quite as popular as it should be, and I think it boils down to a lot of fans realizing that beating Stipe does not do much to enhance DC’s legacy, whereas losing to him again does much to hurt his legacy. That’s why we don’t want the fight.
Of course it’s far from a foregone conclusion that DC loses a third fight. He won the first one, and he was winning the second fight before Stipe started lighting up DC with body shots in the fourth round. At the end of round 3, Cormier was leading on every scorecard, and one of the judges had him ahead of three rounds to none.
But history does not favor the daddest man on the planet. In trilogies, the guy who won the second fight tends to win the third one. Winning the second fight after losing the first indicates that some good adjustments were probably made, and Stipe’s adjustments were on full display in the fourth round of DC-Stipe 2. Stipe is also younger than Cormier, which further stacks the odds against DC.
Another thing that concerns me is how DC assessed his performance in the second fight.
“I think when you start finding success and landing things, you kind of fall in love with it. It feels like the [Alexander] Gustafsson fight all over again when I wrestled a lot in the first round then for the last four rounds I just didn’t and they were begging me to do it then.”
He talks as if his problem was simply one of falling in love with his hands; that he got too complacent as a result of his success in battering Stipe with his boxing and clinch work. But this assessment ignores an important point.
At the risk of sounding like Paulie Malignaggi, we, the MMA fan community, really don’t understand much. We know DC is a great wrestler because he has a piece of silver that attests to it, and because he takes people down a lot and keeps them there. But every wrestler’s style is unique. Absolutely no one is a master of every takedown (although Khabib comes close); in a live situation with a resisting and skillful opponent, everyone favors a few techniques and builds their game around those, finding different ways to set them up.
After watching Cormier throughout his illustrious career, we can only come to the conclusion that he simply does not have a good double leg. He doesn’t have the explosiveness for it, at least not since coming into MMA. He can score a double leg if he is significantly stronger than the other guy…
But other than that, I don’t remember him ever having much success with it. Even his single legs are not so clean, and he generally uses them as a set-up for his more preferred takedowns. So how does he like to take guys down? Well he’s really at home in the over-under…
And from there he loves to do various trip takedowns. Sometimes he’ll get this ouchi-gari-looking thing. (It’s Japanese. Look it up.)
Those are really energy efficient. But he can’t always get those. And in such cases, he will end up doing a back throw, or a fireman’s carry, or some other thing that requires him carrying all of his opponent’s weight.
He is a master of these takedowns, but they are not very efficient. They require a lot of strength, and if DC doesn’t get the guy to the ground, he will have tired himself out in vain. At this stage in his career, he is more than comfortable just using the threat of these takedowns to go to work in the clinch and winning through dirty boxing.
Anyway, Miocic is really big. He’s 240lbs or whatever. That’s a lot of weight to carry for the aging Cormier, who just recently had back surgery. It is, thus, very energy-consuming for him to try to implement a wrestling-heavy game plan against Stipe, a former D1 wrestler who also happens to be bigger and younger than himself. This is especially true in the later rounds. It’s not reasonable of us to expect DC to do this against Miocic at this age.
Thus, standing with Stipe was not merely a conscious choice. Cormier was compelled to do so because of the limitations of his 40 year old body. As much as we like to talk about game plans, the fact of the matter is that most fighters will revert to what they are most comfortable with. This is true even of hall of famers like DC who know exactly what they need to do to win. Cormier famously predicted the exact way in which Jones would beat him at UFC 214, nearly three years before the fight even happened. His knowledge of his own vulnerabilities (and the possible methods by which his opponents could take advantage of them) ultimately didn’t help him.
Cormier will move forward, clinch up, and work in strikes from there while presenting the constant threat of the takedown. This is how he fights, and this is how he has succeeded for years and years. It is not reasonable to expect this to change.
So I don’t want to see this fight, not because it’s not compelling, but because it just is not necessary. I don’t think the odds are in his favour that he wins, and I don’t think him winning would enhance how we view his career anyway. His performance in the last fight was impressive enough; he has nothing else to prove and no reason to fight again.