Take a look back at the career losses of UFC champ Stipe Miocic before he takes on the stiff challenge of Francis Ngannou.
UFC 220 features a big Heavyweight title fight main event as champion Stipe Miocic defends against Francis Ngannou. For this preview series, we’ll look at the career of the champ through the lens of his two career losses. All fight are on Fight Pass, so follow along and share your own thoughts in the comments.
THE OPPONENT: The Skyscraper was over 3 years into his UFC career at this point, and had put together a record of 8-3 inside the Octagon. He came in here on a 3 fight win streak. This was the peak for him though, as this win propelled him to a big fight with Mark Hunt where he got his jaw broken. It would be 3 years before his next win and Struve is just 3-4 since this fight.
WHAT HAPPENED: At this point in his career, Miocic had shown that he was clearly hittable. Philip De Fries had stunned him two fights prior, and Struve followed up on that here. Struve’s striking technique has frequently left something to be desired, but he’s on point here and excellently finds the gaps in Miocic’s defense. Miocic gets overwhelmed as the fight goes deeper, and he’s not able to tighten things up and stop the onslaught from Struve, who puts him down late in the 2nd.
LESSON: Defense. Plain and simple. Struve is fighting very well here – this is one of the only times he really uses his length to consistently land a great jab – but still, it’s Stefan Struve. And anyone looking to be a contender should not be getting outstruck by Struve. Miocic would need to tighten up that defense and get his offensive game going so that he’s not letting his opponent take charge.
DID HE LEARN?: Yes. His next fight was against Roy Nelson and was a superb technical striking performance. He avoided Big Country’s shots and had his own offense working perfectly. There’s a huge step in Miocic from the Struve loss to the Nelson win.
RELEVANCE TODAY: Some. He’s definitely improved, but the image of him being outstruck by Struve of all people remains a concern when you’re facing someone like Ngannou.
#2 – Junior dos Santos (16-3) def. Stipe Miocic (12-1), UD (48-47, 49-46, 49-46)
Dec. 13, 2014 – UFC on Fox: dos Santos vs. Miocic
THE OPPONENT: JDS was two fights removed from his UFC title run here and was coming in off a loss to Cain Velasquez in the two rivals’ third fight. He was also coming back from a 14 month layoff. He followed this win up with another year sidelined, and is 1-2 since, including of course the rematch loss to Miocic.
WHAT HAPPENED: For two and a half rounds, Miocic was in control (I don’t know what those two 49-46 cards were about). Then, JDS landed a bomb and the fight completely turned. Cigano woke up with that shot and turned the back half of the fight into a war of attrition. And in that war, dos Santos was the clear victor. He had the cardio edge, he refused to be taken down, and he shut down Miocic’s offense. The end result was a close fight contested all the way to the end, but one where the veteran pulled Miocic into deep waters and then took him under.
LESSON: You need a little something extra to win that 5 round war, and heading into this fight, Miocic didn’t have it.
DID HE LEARN?: Unknown. He’s only had one 5 rounder since, and that was only because it took him that long to finally break down the durable Mark Hunt. Certainly he learned how to beat JDS, but has he learned how to dig deep and win late? We don’t know.
RELEVANCE TODAY: With Ngannou across the cage, likely not much. I don’t see this being a long fight.
What cost Miocic against Struve was his striking defense and his ability to get hit. And what allowed dos Santos back in the game in that fight was, against, striking defense and Miocic’s ability to get hit. He has undeniably tightened this up over the years – there can be no doubt of that. But I don’t feel confident saying he has totally closed that gap. And against the extremely heavy handed Ngannou, that’s a bad thing.
Join us here at Bloody Elbow Saturday night for live fight night coverage of Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou at UFC 220.