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    Best bets for UFC 252: Miocic vs. Cormier 3 👊

    Best bets for UFC 252: Miocic vs. Cormier 3


    The third matchup between Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic feels bigger than your typical heavyweight championship fight. In fact, UFC president Dana White has said the winner will be the greatest heavyweight in UFC history.

    Miocic (the current champ) and Cormier each have one TKO victory over the other, and will now face off again -- almost exactly one year after their most recent meeting. Cormier has said he intends to retire after this, and Miocic is also entering his twilight years.

    The trilogy will be complete with Saturday's fight. And it should be a highly competitive one, at least according to the odds.

    Prelims begin at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN, and the main card starts at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

    Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

    Heavyweight championship: Miocic (-105) vs. Cormier (-115)

    Tale Of The Tape

    Last fight weight class Heavyweight Heavyweight
    Age 41 38
    Height 71 76
    Reach 71 80
    Stance Orthodox Orrhodox
    Analyzed minutes 236 170
    Standup striking offense
    Total knockdown ratio (scored:received) 4:4 6:3
    Distance knockdown rate 1.7% 2.4%
    Head jab accuracy 41% 38%
    Head power accuracy 36% 41%
    Total standup strike ratio 1.1 0.9
    Striking defense
    Total head strike defense 71% 64%
    Distance knockdown defense ("Chin") 99% 98%
    Wrestling and grappling
    TD attempts per min standing/clinch 0.36 0.50
    Takedown accuracy 48% 38%
    Advances per takedown/top control 1.2 0.8
    Opponent takedown attempts 33 15
    Takedown defense 76% 73%
    Share of total ground time in control 97% 90%
    Submission attempts per trip to ground 0.21 0.00
    Having won the most recent meeting, Miocic opened as an ever-so-slight favorite over Cormier, but the odds have since flipped. It should stay close to a pick 'em, and either man could close as the favorite. We're unlikely to see much steady line movement one way or the other.

    What makes this matchup so close is the pairing of capable hands with a strong wrestling base, which each man possesses. Both have damaged the other while on their feet, but so far their wrestling skills have mostly canceled each other out. Neither landed more than one takedown in either of their prior fights. That could change, however, with at least Cormier hinting he may employ a more wrestling-focused attack. But that's not yet a proven strategy against Miocic, who has spent 90% of his ground time to date in control.

    One year ago, we leaned toward Miocic for the upset stoppage and he came through. But a highly motivated Cormier, wanting to leave MMA on a high note, means we should see him at his most focused. And when at his best, Cormier has the edge in a matchup that could turn into the type of grinder he welcomes.

    E+ recommends: Money-line lean on Cormier, pending weigh-ins.

    Best bets elsewhere on the card

    John Dodson used to be a guy always on the cusp of a title, a ball of energy who just needed an extra bit of luck or focus to be elite. But he's now pushing 36 years old, and ranked outside the top 10. And here comes Merab Dvalishvili, who is still under 30 and has recently pushed his way into the rankings, looking for a signature win.

    Dodson spends only 4% of his total octagon time on the ground, as he's one of the feistiest counter-wrestlers in the division. He'll definitely have the better hands in this matchup, but Dvalishvili displays a relentless pressure game that might benefit from the small cage. He'll look to wrestle early and often (as he always does), and even when he can't get the fight to the ground, he'll weigh heavily in the clinch along the fence to tire Dodson out.

    E+ recommends: Money-line play on Dvalishvili (-220).

    Livinha Souza is a seasoned Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, with a variety of submission wins in her career. She's facing a wrestler and grinder in Ashley Yoder, whose only finishes have come by way of submission much earlier in her career against lesser grapplers. Yoder won't be able to finish Souza that way, but Souza will be a constant threat against Yoder's top game if any opportunity opens up.

    E+ recommends: Lean, but potential pass on Souza (-155) assuming she remains a clear favorite.

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    UFC 252 Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier predictions


    Mark Coleman knows a thing or two about big heavyweight title fights. In 1997, he became the first man to hold the UFC heavyweight title when he defeated Dan Severn.

    And according to Coleman, a fight does not get any more significant than Saturday's UFC 252 main event when Stipe Miocic defends his heavyweight title against Daniel Cormier in a highly anticipated rubber match. Cormier knocked out Miocic in the first round to win the belt in 2018. Miocic regained it last August with a fourth-round TKO.

    "To me, it's the biggest fight in UFC history -- definitely by far the biggest fight in UFC heavyweight history," Coleman told ESPN. "The winner of that fight will be the best heavyweight of all time."

    Cormier (22-2, 1 NC) was only the second man to hold UFC titles in different weight classes at the same time. The Louisiana native, who lives and trains in California, has lost to only two men in his MMA career: Miocic and longtime pound-for-pound king Jon Jones. Cormier, 41, has said he will retire after this bout.

    Miocic (19-3) has successfully defended the heavyweight title three times, more than anyone else in UFC history. The Ohio native has one loss in the past six years, to Cormier. Miocic, 37, has beaten a who's who of great heavyweights of the era, including Francis Ngannou, Fabricio Werdum, Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem.

    Adding to the intrigue is that some believe the winner will gain the mythical title of greatest heavyweight in MMA history.
    ESPN asked several former UFC heavyweight champions, men who have fought Cormier and Miocic, and coaches who have cornered against the two legends for their predictions.

    Josh Barnett, former UFC heavyweight champion

    Lost by unanimous decision to Cormier in 2012

    I think what it really comes down to is Cormier. It's all up to him. He fought terribly last time, and I would tell him so. And what I mean by terribly, he set a certain tone and rhythm in his favor to start the whole fight off and then threw it all away for reasons that make no sense to me.

    Cormier's low kicks were landing flush and causing serious damage and Cormier just abandoned them, and his takedowns were stifling. Just from an outside source watching the fight, Cormier threw it away. So if he fights with a poor fight IQ this time, he will lose again.

    I'd like to think [Cormier's high fight IQ will lead to a comeback in this fight]. I would probably put my money on it, but seeing him switch from outright successful strategy to turning it into a sloppy slugfest with not the precision and execution he was doing prior -- and what he's known for -- it's just so strange.

    Not to dismiss Stipe at all, because his boxing and wrestling should be an excellent set of tools to carry him to a title defense here. It really depends on his application of it. It has to be key, because if Cormier's low-kick and takedown game get going, I don't see Stipe being able to come out of it.

    Mark Coleman, former UFC heavyweight champion

    Stipe and DC are both so well-rounded. They're both great athletes. Stipe was a three-sport star. DC has been to the Olympics. They both wrestle -- you know I love wrestlers. I have to. They have that wrestling grind. They know how to train.

    I got to work with Stipe for his first camp against DC. I went up to Cleveland once a week and put him through some wrestling stuff. He ranks right up there with anyone I've ever seen as far as how hard he pushed during that short period. I just know DC is the same way. He knows how to train hard, he's resilient. He has the complete package. DC is fast, he's quick, he's explosive, he's strong. Both these guys -- same thing. They're just great athletes.

    It's not going to come down to who wants it more. I think they both want it the same. It'll come down to who executes the game plan. Whomever executes the game plan best that night, that person is the greatest heavyweight of all time. I can't give a pick. Stipe is from Ohio and DC is my buddy.

    Tim Sylvia, former UFC heavyweight champion

    I don't think DC will beat Stipe again. Unless he just goes out there and wrestles for 25 minutes. That's the only way he can beat Stipe. Unless he catches him. I like DC as a light heavyweight. I'm not a fan of him as a heavyweight. I hope Stipe wins. I think Stipe will catch DC again and retain the title.

    Stipe has to keep the fight standing and maybe mix it up a little bit. Make DC think he's going to wrestle him, too. Stipe is good at holding someone down. When I trained with Stipe, I was impressed at how he was able to hold me down. He needs to mix some of that into it as well. Stipe needs to go to the body again. DC's core is not strong, especially at heavyweight.

    Ricco Rodriguez, former UFC heavyweight champion

    There is a heavyweight curse. You're in the lights with all the glamour and the whole nine yards. It has happened to Miocic, it happened to Daniel Cormier. It has happened to everyone at one time -- we've all gotten caught up. The heavyweight title is the hardest one to hold on to. People don't understand. You have to do PR, you have to train for a fight and you have to be able to hold yourself to a higher standard. Especially now with social media. It's like a job to have to constantly do PR. It's a lot of stress.

    I like them both. I'm rooting for DC, because he's older. Miocic has plenty of time left in his career. If DC doesn't take it within the first three rounds, then I give it to Miocic. Both men are great fighters and great athletes. I think this fight will lock in their legacy.

    Cain Velasquez, former UFC heavyweight champion

    I see DC winning and becoming the greatest heavyweight ever in the UFC. Yes, he is my teammate. But I think he wins however he wants to win. He has all the confidence. And he has every right to have all of it. He can win this fight however he wants to win the fight.

    Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, former UFC interim heavyweight champion

    I bet on Miocic. But I think it will be a very close fight. Cormier is extremely dangerous.

    Junior Dos Santos, former UFC heavyweight champion

    Split a pair of fights vs. Miocic

    I think it will be a very tough fight. Cormier probably will try to use his grappling game, keeping the fight close. But I see Miocic being mentally superior, so I think he'll win. Miocic keeps the belt and becomes the great fighter at heavyweight nowadays.

    Brandon Gibson, JacksonWink MMA striking coach

    I think Stipe's key early on will be level changing with his striking, whether that be establishing leg kicks or body kicks early on, high-low, high-low boxing combinations. I think Stipe will look to set up some traps against DC -- get him lowering his hands, get him guarding his body, get him level changing.

    But I think DC is going to learn from the mistakes he made in the second fight. I think DC had a lot of opportunities to win in the second fight and also opportunities to adjust, which he didn't. I feel like there was a stubbornness in DC in the second fight, getting finished the way he did. I don't think he'll carry that same sense of ego into the trilogy. I think we're going to see DC use all of his mixed martial arts skills. DC is going to be throwing speed with his hands, looking to clinch. I can see him really finding that high-crotch takedown he's known for and getting a ground-and-pound finish.

    I think it's going to look similar to DC's fight against Josh Barnett in Strikeforce. I think we're going to see that kind of DC -- fast hands, into his wrestling, into his ground and pound. I think that's where DC is at his best. I think we're going to see the trilogy capped with DC getting his belt back. I think he can get a ground-and-pound finish in this fight.

    I've cornered some rounds against DC myself, eight of them to be exact. His hand speed, especially in the clinch, is terrifying. He's able to generate a lot of power real quick. When he decides to stop boxing and body lock or high crotch, nobody is more explosive.

    Eric Nicksick, Xtreme Couture MMA coach

    During quarantine, through the eyes of us trying to fight the winner of this with our fighter Francis Ngannou, I just wanted to be ahead of the game, so it led me to breaking down their past two fights. The biggest thing to me, I think, was Stipe really has won only one round against Cormier in the two fights.

    Early in the second fight, Cormier mixed in his wrestling. He was chopping that lead leg and doing a lot of things to mix stuff up that are going to be very important in this fight as well. I think I would go to a lot of that early. I'd go to the wrestling early, go to the lead leg early. And then obviously where you saw Stipe change the rhythm of the fight was through the body shots. That is something, I think, that will still be there for Stipe. The question is how does DC combat that as far as his defense goes and how does he return punches defensively off of that? If he gets hit to the body, he has to return with something right away. Just like a leg kick, you don't want those to be unanswered strikes.

    I feel like Cormier has more paths to victory than Miocic. I feel like the second fight, Cormier had so much stuff going on that there were distractions and injuries that took away from his training. Now, it's all hands on deck. There is nothing left for him to do -- there's no stone left unturned for him. When I look at this fight as a whole, Cormier is going to be in there with all cylinders firing.

    I think this fight is going to be a lot of chest-to-chest, Greco-Roman infighting. Things of that sort. I think this is going to be a grimy fight, right in the middle. I think that's right in Cormier's wheelhouse. I think Cormier is balls to the wall right now. You're talking about legacy and talking about one of the biggest competitors we've even known in this sport. I talk to my fighters about not leaving any crumbs. And crumbs are regret. This dude is not going to leave a speck of crumb on his plate whatsoever. He's going to burn the boats. He's going to do everything he needs to do.

    Would it be a surprise if Miocic wins? No. But this is Cormier's swan song and I think he's going to get it done.

    Sayif Saud, Fortis MMA head coach

    I think you have to look at the fact that DC was winning the striking. Not as much in the first fight, because it was so fast. But in the second fight, DC was winning pretty well there for a few rounds. I feel like he has a speed advantage with the hands. If he utilizes that boxing and utilizes a lot more wrestling, it could be hard for Stipe.

    The issue is, Stipe has pretty good cardio and to finish Stipe is not going to be easy at all. I don't see DC taking him down and pounding him out. It doesn't work like that. The real question is how can Stipe deal with the wrestling, shut it down and take DC to the place where he gets tired? To me, that's what happened in the last fight. DC got tired. The body shots hurt him, too, but he got tired.

    This is going to be one where if DC can implement his gas tank and sustain that against the bigger man, he has more tools, because he has such great wrestling. And the striking is there for him as well. Stipe also has a really great team. They've been with him his whole life. They know him in and out. Those guys are all dedicated to him. They're definitely going to have a few tricks up their sleeves as well. DC's coach Bob Cook is a really underrated coach, too.

    This is really a -110/-110 pick 'em fight. There are so many different factors. Stipe took Francis Ngannou down over and over and over. Ngannou is a huge guy. Stipe doesn't get tired. He's going to be ready and in shape. It's about who can impose their will. Two great champions facing off one final time. Everyone wins here -- the fans win. It's a huge fight. I can see the argument for both.

    Contributing: ESPN Brazil and Roman Modrowski