Greatness awaits when Stipe Miocic fights Daniel Cormier with more than simply the UFC heavyweight title on the line
It’s honours even in the pair’s championship rivalry - but UFC 252’s main-event winner will go down as the best heavyweight in the promotion’s history.
There have been some phenomenal fighters in the UFC’s heavyweight division.
Pioneers such as Mark Coleman, Randy Couture and Bas Rutten paved the way for the likes of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez to rule the land of the giants.
Even aside from those who lifted the belt, the likes of Mark Hunt, Alistair Overeem and Francis Ngannou will go down as greats among the hardest hitters in the sport.
But none of those names mentioned above come close to matching the legacy being laid out by both Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier.
Miocic, the reigning champion, is a two-time conqueror of the division who set the record for the most consecutive heavyweight title defences, at three, during his first reign on the throne.
He did so in destructive fashion too. Brutally knocking out Fabricio Werdum to claim the belt before stopping Overeem and Junior dos Santos inside the first round.
A dominant five-round win over the power-punching Ngannou only served to separate him further from the rest of the contenders – until Cormier entered the frame.
The stocky Louisiana native had campaigned for the majority of his career at light heavyweight, where he made three successful title defences as champion despite frequently struggling to make the 205lb limit.
There’s no part of me that is afraid of Stipe Miocic in any way, shape or form - even though he won the last fight
- Daniel Cormier
A move upwards seemed inevitable and when Miocic appeared to run out of worthy contenders, following his win over Ngannou, their meeting made immediate sense.
What few people saw coming however, was what happened next.
Cormier, the shorter man by some distance and a fighter revered for his wrestling, knocked out Miocic - a former national Golden Gloves contender - in the very first round at UFC 226.
A combination of injury and misfortune would see DC defend the belt just once, easing past the challenge of Derrick Lewis, before rematching Miocic at UFC 241 in August last year.
The Ohio firefighter enacted his revenge in pulsating fashion to reclaim the belt that night, surviving three torrid rounds before finishing an exhausted Cormier in the fourth.
It meant Miocic secured his legacy as a two-time champion of the division – something our very own Dan Hardy cited as the reason for crowning the 37-year-old as the greatest UFC heavyweight ever.
“He’s defended the belt more times than anyone else, he holds the belt right now – and we have to remember, in the modern day it’s always more difficult win a fight than it was back in the day,” Hardy explained.
“As good as the credentials of all the fighters that came before, the champion of the day is still the best fighter on the planet because they’re having to deal with the modern day game of mixed martial arts.
“Stipe is the man. Number one.”
But what of his former conqueror Cormier?
“To beat Stipe like he did was very impressive, but I don’t think he’s done enough to establish himself as one of the best of all time,” Hardy added, having ranked Cormier as the tenth best UFC heavyweight.
“I know he was the champ-champ – the thing that is just hanging over me is that I don’t feel like when he’s been champ, he’s been the best fighter on the planet.
“I can’t say that about Jon Jones and I feel that way about Stipe. Even though he lost against DC, I feel like Stipe is the better fighter.”
A win on Saturday night would certainly force Hardy to reconsider – and with Cormier calling it quits on an incredible career after one last Octagon walk at UFC 252, there will be no little motivation on his part to lift the coveted belt once again.
Speaking on the DC and Helwani show earlier this week, the 41-year-old was on a confident mood ahead of his final walk into combat.
“If this is a 25-minute stand-up fight, I have all the ability to beat him in that fight,” the Alabama man said.
“The first fight was a five minute stand-up fight and we were tit-for-tat. The second fight was a 20-minute stand-up fight and until the very end we were tit-for-tat - if not me winning the fight the majority of the time.
“I have the ability to stand with this guy. There’s no part of me that is afraid of Stipe Miocic in any way, shape or form even though he won the last fight. I still feel like I’m going to beat him.”
Will DC leapfrog Stipe atop the list of UFC heavyweight greats? Or will the stone-fisted champ cement his legacy once and for all?
UFC 252: Miocic v Cormier 3 is exclusively live on BT Sport 1 HD from 1am on Saturday night.