The final chapter in one of the UFC's most intriguing trilogies plays out Saturday night.
Cleveland's Stipe Miocic (19-3) and San Jose's Daniel Cormier (22-2) have traded the UFC heavyweight championship in their past two fights. They're scheduled to settle matters at UFC 252 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, which will be held without fans in attendance due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Cormier was the UFC light heavyweight champion when he moved up in weight to challenge Miocic -- who had been the only fighter ever to successfully defend the belt on three consecutive occasions -- in their first fight in July 2018. At UFC 226 in Las Vegas, Cormier knocked out Miocic late in the first round, making him the second fighter ever to simultaneously hold two weight-class titles.
The rematch came 13 months later. Miocic, who to this day maintains a full-time job as a firefighter in Independence, Ohio, in addition to his fighting career, took everything Cormier could dish out in a violent encounter. Miocic turned things around in the third round, then finished him in the fourth to reclaim the gold.
Neither fighter has competed since. Both are complete products at this stage, with Cormier at 41 and Miocic to turn 38 on Wednesday. Don't expect many surprises.
Cormier, who has hinted this could be his final fight, mixes an Olympic wrestling pedigree with deceptive punching power. Miocic's 15 knockouts among his 19 career victories tells you all you need to know about what he brings to the table. Chances are, this bout isn't going all five rounds.
The marquee bout is the major draw on what frankly isn't the deepest pay-per-view offering the UFC has ever put forward. But the co-feature fight is worth a look, as it featured the next step in the progress of a potential star.
Sean O'Malley (12-0), a 25-year-old bantamweight out of Montana with a knack for flashy strikes and highlight-reel knockouts, takes on Ecuador's Marlon Vera (15-6-1), the sort of cagey veteran who should force O'Malley to give an accounting on just how far he has progressed.
--Field Level Media