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On Saturday 15th August we’re back at the APEX in Vegas. Small cage, big fight. PPV MAIN CARD Stipe Miocic vs Daniel Cormier - Heavyweight Title Sean O’Malley vs Marlon Vera Junior Dos Santos vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik John Dodson vs Merab Dvalishvili Magomed Ankalaev vs Ion Cutelaba ESPN+/FIGHT PASS PRELIMS Livia Renata Souza vs Ashley Yoder Felice Herrig vs Virna Jandiroba Ike Villanueva vs Jorge Gonzalez Herbert Burns vs Daniel Pineda TJ Brown vs Danny Chavez That’s some card, isn’t it? It’s top heavy, not massively into the prelims they’ve announced so far (with one exception) but there’ll be more added yet. That main card is a banger though. All 5 fights could’ve been my ‘one to watch’ there. I like that it’ll be at the APEX as well in the smaller cage. These fights would be good in any cage but I think we’re getting the absolute best out of them at the APEX. Stipe Miocic vs Daniel Cormier 3! The big one. For all the marbles. The trilogy decider. The war to settle the score. Finally. This feels like it’s been a long time coming. And from what I can gather, win or lose, this is most likely going to be DC’s swansong. His initial plan was to be retired by the time he hit 40, so March 2019, but injuries and different obstacles delayed it. This is what he said earlier this year... “You ever see a carton of milk and there’s an expiration date? Mine was supposed to be last year. So I’m sour, man, I’m sour. You don’t wanna drink me or put me on your cereal. You know, I just wanna fight the guy, get my belt back and be done. That’s what I wanna do.” - Daniel Cormier So that’s that. I’m glad we’re getting this rubber match first though. It’s been quite a series so far but it‘s 1-1 and needs settling. I’m going back to the beginning on this bitch. It’s been a long hard road to the top for both men. Cormier was born in 1979 in Lafayette, Louisiana. From very early on in life, he had it tough. When he was just 7 years old his Dad was shot and killed. In high school he got into amateur wrestling and excelled at it. His record when he left school was 101-9 with 89 by pinfall. He continued to succeed as a wrestler to the point where in 2001 he was a Division I All American and was only denied the gold medal because Cael Sanderson was standing across the mat in the finals. He did win gold at the Pan American Games in 2002 and 2003. He then represented the USA at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, coming 4th, and was also part of the US Olympic team in Beijing in 2008. Olympic gold eluded him but he had quite a career as an amateur. As if losing his Dad as a kid wasn’t enough tragedy, in 2003 his 3 month old daughter Kaedyn was killed in a car accident. This clip of Cormier talking about it on that ESPN Documentary (that I’ve just realised I still haven’t watched) is heartbreaking; Can’t even imagine. 3 months old. I genuinely think it would finish me if something like that happened to my daughter or my boy. After a disastrous 2008 Olympics where he couldn’t compete and almost died from kidney failure due to weight cutting, he decided his days as an amateur wrestler were over and focused his attention towards MMA. He joined the American Kickboxing Academy and started training under Javier Mendez and Bob Cook alongside top MMA fighters of the time like Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, Mike Swick and rising Heavyweight prospect Cain Velasquez. 😂 Stipe Miocic was born in Ohio in August 1982. The son of Croatian immigrants. He got into sports at a young age and was a pretty decent baseball player from the sounds of it. As he got older he trained in boxing and wrestling and did well in both. He became a Golden Gloves champ, which Bobby Heenan would dismiss as “amateur punk stuff”, and was a NCAA Division I wrestler. He seemed to be one of those athletic guys who could turn his hand to any sport he set his sights on. It just so happened that, with his success in boxing and wrestling, giving MMA a shot obviously seemed like a good idea. 2009: Cormier makes his MMA debut on a Strikeforce Challengers card in his old stomping grounds of Oklahoma, and TKOs some fucker called Gary Frazier in the second round. 2010: Stipe debuts in February for a local promotion in Cleveland called NAAFS. By December he’s already 4-0 with 4 knockouts. Cormier fights 5 times and finishes all 5 opponents, all in the first round. Most notable among them being former UFC and Pride fighter Soa Palelei and the boxer Lucas Browne who you’ll probably know from the time he got flattened by Dillian Whyte on Sky a couple of years back. 2011: A big year for Stipe. He wins 2 more fights in the NAAFS promotion, becoming their Heavyweight champion. And from there he got his big break. The UFC came calling. His Octagon debut went down in October at UFC 136. He fought Joey Beltran that night and won a unanimous decision. I remember seeing him for the first time and liking him solely because he wore the old Cro Cop shorts. Nothing else really stood out about him at this time though. DC had a bit of a breakthrough year himself. He beat Devin Cole in January and then veteran Jeff Monson in June in a reserve bout for the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. But he got a lucky break when Alistair Overeem pulled out of his semi final fight with Bigfoot Silva and, as the reserve, Cormier got the spot. He was giving up a lot of size and experience, not to mention he took the fight on short notice. But in the end it didn’t matter. He knocked Bigfoot out in a round and advanced to the finals. 2012: The year starts off really well for Stipe. He finishes Phil De Fries in just 43 seconds in February then stops Shane Del Rosario in May. But in September, he suffers his first career setback when Stefan Struve TKOs him in Nottingham. Cormier only fights once but it’s a big ‘un. The Strikeforce GP came to a conclusion as Cormier took on Josh Barnett. It turned out to be a gruelling 5 round battle and Cormier came out on top. This was the real turning point for me becoming a believer in DC. Of course, the Bigfoot KO was impressive but going 25 minutes with Josh Barnett and winning convincingly was big at the time. That fight answered some questions on Cormier. Going into 2013, Miocic is 9-1, Cormier is 10-0. 2013: Stipe only fights once but he’s back to winning ways with a clear cut points victory over Roy Nelson. Cormier has one more fight in Strikeforce, a TKO over Dion Staring, but the UFC was taking over by then and DC was Octagon bound. He fights twice in the UFC by the end of the year, racking up decisions over Frank Mir and Roy Nelson. 2014: Miocic gets 3 fights in. Outpoints Gabriel Gonzaga in January and batters Fabio Maldonado in a complete mismatch in May. Then in December he goes 5 rounds in an absolute war with Junior Dos Santos on FOX. Seriously, it’s kind of forgotten now but it was a fucking great fight. Close one too. But on the night, JDS got the nod, handing Stipe his second loss. For Cormier, he breezed through Patrick Cummins in about a minute in February and submitted Dan Henderson at UFC 173 in May. The story of DC’s 2014 wasn’t in the cage though. It was where the Jon Jones rivalry really began. They’d actually taken a disliking to each other after initially crossing paths backstage at the Velasquez vs Lesnar fight back in 2010. Then they took jabs at each other in interviews occasionally. But it never really got heated until the summer of 2014. Alexander Gustafsson had pulled out of his scheduled rematch with Jones and DC got the call to replace him. You know the rest. One media face off later and all hell was breaking loose. “Hey pussy are you still there?” - Jon Jones From that day on they were arch rivals. 2015: Once again, Stipe rebounds impressively from defeat. He only fights once but he totally dominates Mark Hunt and gets the late TKO. The Cormier and Jones clash took place in January and, although very competitive in spells, in the end Jones won pretty clearly. But Jones being Jones, managed to cock it all up and got himself stripped of the title. In his absence, DC bounced back in style and the rest of his 2015 was some of his best stuff. In May he weathered the Rumble Johnson storm, survived a knockdown and came back to break and submit Rumble to become the new UFC Light Heavyweight champion. Then in October, he beat Gustafsson in a 5 round classic. Another tremendous fight that seems to be forgotten now. Well worth a look if you’ve got Fight Pass and you’ve never seen it. Trust me. 2016: Super Stipe arrives. He takes just 54 seconds to knock out Andrei Arlovski in January. Then in May he gets the opportunity he’s been working towards his whole career. A UFC title shot. Only problem was he’d have to face champion Fabricio Werdum, in his backyard in Brazil. No bother for Stipe. Werdum ran right at Stipe and less than 3 minutes later he was on his arse asking the ref what just happened. Stipe was the new UFC Heavyweight champion. If you didn’t already know that, him repeatedly bellowing “I’M THE WORLD CHAMP!” after the fight should’ve clued you in. He followed that up with another spectacular knockout in his first title defence against Overeem in September. A massive year for him. Looking back, it really feels like he turned a corner with that 5 rounds against JDS. He was on fire after that and seemed to grow in confidence each time out. Cormier only fought once in 2016. He was supposed to rematch a returning Jones at UFC 200 but Jones fucked it all up again and DC ended up blanketing Anderson Silva in a bit of a snoozer on the yellow canvas. 2017: Stipe’s reign continues as he avenges his loss to JDS emphatically with a vicious first round TKO. Cormier weathers yet another Rumble Johnson storm and submits him again in April. Cormier vs Jones 2 finally happens at UFC 214 in July. And after a 2 round battle, Jones kicks his head off in the third. Go on, David. Have your moment. It would eventually get overturned to a No Contest because picograms. But nobody is going to remember that years down the line are they? Everyone saw the kick and the tears. Regardless of the USADA mess after, it’ll always be looked at as a straight KO for Jon the Bastard. 2018: The year kicked off with UFC 220 in Boston. And both Stipe and DC were on the card. Cormier put away Volkan Oezdemir in the co-main. And then Stipe would close the show... ...against Francis Ngannou! I’ll never forget the hype going into this one. Dana at the press conference laying it on extra thick. “Francis Ngannou has the world record for the most powerful punch. His punch is the equivalent to 96 horsepower, which is equal to getting hit by a Ford Escort going as fast as it can. And it’s more powerful than a 12lb sledgehammer swung full force from overhead. HOLY SHIT!” - Dana White Stipe’s face when he said this was class. The Ngannou hype was overblown but understandable. Ngannou had looked terrifying going into this one and was fresh off uppercutting Overeem’s head into space just weeks prior. But you know the score. Stipe schooled him. There were some scary moments early on. Fractions of inches difference and they could’ve been scraping Stipe up with a dustpan and brush. But he was too slick, too smart and just too good. He really outclassed Big Francis over 5 rounds. Credit to Ngannou, he lasted the whole 5 rounds. Most don’t with Miocic. But it was one way traffic with 50-44s across the board on the scorecards. That led to the big Superfight. MIOCIC VS CORMIER 1 UFC 226 July 7th 2018 Las Vegas, Nevada The phrase ‘Superfight’ was really getting chucked around willy nilly around this time but this fight actually warranted it. It was the first time in UFC history that the Heavyweight champ was facing the Light Heavyweight champ. I think most felt like Cormier was in over his head going in. He was getting up in age, he’d suffered that heavy knockout headkick from Jones just a year earlier and he was always a small Heavyweight anyway. Going up against Stipe who’d been blasting through top Heavyweights for fun seemed like a recipe for disaster. I know I didn’t fancy Cormier’s chances. But by 4:33 of the first round, it was all over. DC had done it. It wasn’t without controversy, the eyepokes were a big part of the story and a rematch seemed inevitable. But Cormier left Vegas that night with 2 belts. He capped off a successful year by stepping in and getting an easy win over Derrick Lewis at MSG in November and that was a wrap for 2018. 2019: Both men only fought once. And it was against each other. The rematch was on. CORMIER VS MIOCIC 2 UFC 241 August 17th 2019 Anaheim, California This was a completely different fight to the first one. This time it wasn’t over quick. What we got was a real battle of attrition. I’ll have to rewatch it over the next few weeks but, as I recall, Cormier did well early on with his wrestling but I felt like he started slowing down as the fight wore on and holding Stipe down became more difficult. Then Stipe started really going to town on the body and it sapped whatever DC had left. He started wilting and Stipe swarmed all over him. TKO in the 4th for Miocic. I remember it being an incredible fight, one of the best in Heavyweight history, but I haven’t seen it since. I’ll have to give it another look before this rubber match, I think. 2020: And here we are. Part 3. Got to say, I’m favouring Stipe here. It’s weird because when you look back at their 2 fights, Cormier was most likely winning for the bulk of the time they were in the cage together. But unless he can stop Miocic early again, I struggle to see him implementing a game plan to beat him over 25 minutes. People say ‘well he’ll wrestle him this time’ as if he deliberately chose not to last time. But he tried to wrestle. He was wrestling the fuck out of Stipe early and he couldn’t sustain it. Stipe’s a big old lump and he knows how to wrestle. He wasn’t the pure amateur wrestler DC was but he’s good enough to where it’s going to be a struggle for DC to hold him down for long spells. I just see Stipe either catching him early or doing similar to last time and putting him away when he’s fading. DC’s great but he’s also 41, not in the best of shape and is half out the door already and thinking about that retirement life. I just think he’s up against it here and it’s going to be too steep a hill to climb. Sean O’Malley vs Marlon Vera has been bumped up to co-main event. Not sure about that myself. I like O’Malley but I can’t help feeling like they’re going to rush him. As a fight though, you can’t go wrong with this. Love the matchup. O’Malley is really starting to catch on now. 25 years old, unbeaten at 12-0 with 9 finishes, always rocks up with a different look, has a real likability. He seems to have everything covered. Like anyone else, he’s got his detractors but I like him so far. Weird sod but seems a good guy behind the rainbow fro and silly clothes. And it’s anything but a laughing matter when the cage door closes. There he is wiping out Eddie Wineland at UFC 250 in June. Mega impressive. Not only for the aesthetics of how clean a KO it was, but also that he put away a durable and experienced guy like Wineland in that manner in under 2 minutes. Jose Alberto Quinonez got similar treatment in March. O’Malley’s been gradually stepping up in opposition, slowly but surely, and so far he’s passing the tests with flying colours. So it’s only logical that he’s getting another step up here. Marlon Vera is no joke. He dropped a decision to Song Yadong in his last fight but before that he’d stopped his last 5 opponents in a row. On top of that he has a submission win over Brian Kelleher, a TKO over Brad Pickett and he’s survived 3 rounds of John Lineker and lived to tell the tale. Tough little bastard. Should be fireworks however long it lasts. I fancy Suga Sean to catch him at some point but I think Vera can at least test him and maybe put him in some bother. Junior Dos Santos vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik is ending with a bang one way or the other. I’m torn on this one because I’m a huge fan of JDS and could never root against him. But at the same time, I don’t want to see Jair lose two in a row either. You all know the score with JDS by now. Former Heavyweight champ, full time lovely bastard. Battered a who’s who on the way up the ladder from Werdum to Gonzaga to Cro Cop to Nelson to Carwin. Put Cain on his arse in a minute to win the strap in 2011. Bashed Frank Mir about. Stopped Mark Hunt. Had that 5 round war with Stipe. He’s given us so many great moments and highlights over the past decade or so. But the beatings have also piled up. The Cain ones were some of the most brutal I’ve ever seen this side of Drago vs Creed. And up to present day, we’ve just seen him get stopped by Ngannou and Blaydes in his last couple of outings. Not good. He’s still always dangerous but he’s also slower to react, slower to evade and more vulnerable these days. Rozenstruik is coming off his first MMA defeat. He got ran over by the Ngannou Express in 20 seconds in May. Before that he was 10-0 with 9 knockouts, 7 inside a round. And he has a Kickboxing record of 76-8-1 with 64 knockouts! Nowhere near the bum Big Francis made him look. This is most likely ending with someone horizontal. Probably JDS sadly. John Dodson vs Merab Dvalishvili is OK. I just really never get up for a Dodson fight unless I know there’s a very high chance he gets twatted. Annoying little shit. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get twatted often because he’s an awkward, slippery little fuck. He’s 35 now and 21-11. Not the force he once was. At one point he was a top tier contender and probably would’ve had a turn with the Flyweight strap if he didn’t come along during Mighty Mouse’s reign. He’s had his moments though. TUF winner, knocked out Dillashaw, gave DJ a good fight in their first meeting. He’s fallen off big time in recent years but he showed in his last fight that he’s still dangerous when he stopped rising contender Nathaniel Wood. Dvalishvili is Georgian, 29 years old and trains with the Serra-Longo crew in Long Island, New York. Solid little fighter with a 11-4 record and he comes into this one off 4 straight wins. Couple of decent ones over Casey Kenney and Brad Katona but he’s definitely nowhere near as tested as Dodson has been. Feels like old vs new but as the Wood fight showed us, Dodson can still catch these up and comers on a good night. Magomed Ankalaev vs Ion Cutelaba 2 is just about the perfect fight to open up the PPV with. This is 252’s ***WAND’S ONE TO WATCH*** and if you’ve ever seen these two fight before, you know why. Buckle up for this bastard. Their first fight in February only lasted 38 seconds but it was 38 seconds of utter mayhem. You know some mad shit is about to go down when security have to step in during the Bruce Buffer intros, for fuck’s sake. Then the fight started, they were both throwing with serious heat and bad intentions, Ankalaev buzzed him with a couple of headkicks and referee Kevin McDonald jumped in and waved it off with Cutelaba still on his feet. I’m all for fighter safety being the main priority and Cutelaba was wobbly, but I felt like the ref didn’t really give him much of a chance, the fight had just started and Cutelaba was firing back when he stepped in. You’d always rather a ref steps in too soon than too late, of course, but I’m glad they’re running it back. Should be some ruck this. Ankalaev is 14-1 and even the loss was a fight he was winning until literally getting subbed in the last second of the fight by Paul Craig. Had he held on one second longer, he’d still be undefeated now. And Cutelaba is a wild fucker. He’s 15-5-1 and he’s one of those nutcases who’s aggression works against them sometimes. But Christ, he’s fun to watch. Just a ball of intensity and brute power. Got a feeling this is going to be full on chaos. Livia Renata Souza vs Ashley Yoder is just filling a slot on the card. Nothing special. I recall Souza being half decent actually. 13-2 record, former Invicta Strawweight champ and was on a solid little 4 fight streak before losing to Brianna Van Buren in her last fight. She’s been inactive for a whole year now for whatever reason. Nothing is jumping out in the memory about Yoder. She’s 7-5 and coming off a split decision loss to Randa Markos. Nothing remarkable about her from my hazy memory of her. Felice Herrig vs Virna Jandiroba isn’t doing a great deal for me either. Herrig’s been around a while now. Back in the days when women’s MMA was just the occasional novelty fight chucked in the middle of an EliteXC card. She’s 35 years old now and between MMA and Kickboxing, she’s had 50 fights. Never been a fan myself. Especially after her stint on TUF years ago. Seemed a right twat. She does have some skills though, obviously in the striking but she’s also shown a decent submission game at times. She’s coming into this one off points losses to Michelle Waterson and Karolina Kowalkiewicz though. A third loss on the bounce could possibly see her getting her walking papers. And Jandiroba seems quite a formidable test. She’s a former Invicta Strawweight champion, BJJ black-belt, 15-1 record with 12 submissions. And on top of that grappling game she trains under Luiz Dórea, the man credited as being behind the boxing of JDS for the first few years of his run. Ike Villanueva vs Jorge Gonzalez isn’t likely to be pretty. Don’t expect a technical masterclass here. It’s most likely going to be a low level Heavyweight slobberknocker. And I won’t hear a word said against it. Villanueva made his UFC debut in May and lost to Chase Sherman. Like I said, low level, but it was a fun as fuck slugfest all the same. He’s 16-10 now, he’s got no business in the big leagues and I doubt he’ll be there long. But he should be good for a couple more brawls yet. Of his 16 wins, he’s got 13 finishes. And of his 10 losses, he’s been finished 9 times. So for all his faults, we’re probably getting a finish one way or the other. Never seen Gonzalez. He’s 16-5 and all his wins have come inside the distance. So yeah, the judges can probably pop out for a Tip Top or something during this one. Herbert Burns vs Daniel Pineda is probably the highlight of the prelims so far. If you don’t know by now, Herbert Burns is the younger brother of top Welterweight contender Gilbert Burns. He has a MMA record of 11-2 with 9 finishes and, like Gilbert, he’s a beast on the ground. He got on the UFC’s radar last summer with a submission win over Darrick Minner on DWCS. Since then he’s gone 2-0 in the Octagon with first round finishes over Nate Landwehr and Evan Dunham. He looks the real deal so far. Looking forward to seeing him back in there. Pineda’s name rung a bell when I saw it but I couldn’t remember why. Turns out he had a stint in the UFC between 2012 and 2014. Wasn’t the most successful but he didn’t do too badly outside the UFC after his release. He went 8-2 in his next 10 fights and became the Legacy FC champ along the way. Most recently though, he got himself caught up in a bit of controversy. He was in PFL’s Featherweight tournament last year and finished his Quarterfinal and Semifinal opponents on the same night, only to go and pop for a banned substance. So he’s coming back to the UFC off 2 No Contests and with a big cloud over him. Bit of an odd time to bring him back but I guess the UFC just need to fill these cards up. I’m guessing Burns sends him on his way with a big fat L anyway but it should be exciting however long it lasts. TJ Brown vs Danny Chavez. Haven’t seen enough of Brown to have a real educated opinion one way or another. He was on Dana’s Contender Series, I know that much. 14-7 record so not the best win/loss ratio. Got submitted by Jordan Griffin in his UFC debut but I kind of rate Griffin, especially on the ground. One thing I’ll say for Brown though, he goes all out for the finish. 13 of his 14 career victories have come inside the distance and a lot of them in the first round. Never seen Chavez before. Looking him up, he’s 33 years old, Colombian and has a record of 9-3 with only 2 finishes. Not a lot out there on him. That’s it for now. I’ll edit this as more fights get added and whenever COVID forces a zillion changes. It’s a really good card. It’s taken a few hits and I don’t like it quite as much as the original lineup. Losing Edgar vs Munhoz and Manel Kape’s debut has taken a little bit of the shine off for me. But it’s still a hell of a card.