UFC

Stipe Miocic v Daniel Cormier: The story so far ahead of Vegas trilogy at UFC 252

By Sports Desk August 14, 2020

Daniel Cormier remains adamant this weekend will be his final fight and there is no finer way to sign off a legendary career than with a trilogy bout against UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic.

After taking Miocic's title away from him in July 2018, the belt went back to his opponent – after one successful defence against Derrick Lewis – 13 months later to leave this rivalry locked tantalisingly at one victory apiece.

Cormier has enjoyed a storied UFC career, holding belts in two divisions, and only Jon Jones and Miocic have claimed wins over the all-time great.

Now, he is going out with a decisive rubber against Miocic at UFC's APEX facility in Las Vegas on Saturday and with that in mind we have profiled the story so far.


WHAT'S THEIR STORY SO FAR?

Cormier further enhanced his status as one of the greatest fighters of all time when he defeated Miocic with a first-round knockout at UFC 226 in July 2018, meaning he had won belts in two divisions.

A crunching right hand sent Miocic to the canvas and a flurry of unanswered blows brought an end to the contest, after which Cormier called out Brock Lesnar.

But a fight with Lesnar did not come to fruition and a little over a year later Miocic regained the strap with a stunning fourth-round win at UFC 241.

In a title thriller, Miocic was behind on the cards but hurt the champion with a shot to the liver before a series of power punches floored Cormier and saw the belt return to his opponent.


WHY DO WE WANT TO SEE THEM GO AGAIN?

First and foremost because this is a great rivalry that deserves a conclusion.

And also because Cormier has again insisted this will be his last fight, so what better way than for a legend of the MMA game to go out with such a huge bout with the heavyweight title on the line?

Many fans clamoured for Cormier to have one last dance with Jones, but unless 'Bones' stepped up a division that never truly looked a realistic prospect.

Cormier and Miocic have a great history of their own and one last fight between the two is a fitting sign-off if this is truly the end.


HAVE THEY FOUGHT SINCE?

No, neither man has been in action since their last showdown, with the focus purely on securing a trilogy bout.

Miocic suffered a nasty eye injury in their second fight that he needed to fully recover from before getting back to work, while Cormier was quite clear the next fight is his last.


WHY IS IT HAPPENING?

The smart money was always on these two dancing for the third time.

Cormier and Miocic both spoke about the desire for a rubber match, which was slightly held up by the torn retina sustained by the latter in his victory last August and partly by the coronavirus pandemic.

With one win apiece, there is unfinished business and the only way to settle it is by mixing it for one last time inside the Octagon.


WHO WILL WIN?

If ever there was a 50-50 question in the MMA game then this is it. There are those with the school of thought that say Miocic was able to stop Cormier last time around and nothing has really changed to say he cannot do the same again.

Cormier, though, is one of the best to ever get in the Octagon and has an incredible fighting IQ, which may just give him the slightest of edges.

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    Akil Baddoo is the name on everyone's lips.

    Baddoo has shattered records from his very first pitch in MLB this month amid an incredible rise from unheralded Rule 5 pick to the biggest sensation in baseball.

    The 22-year-old Detroit Tigers outfielder is already the first player in modern MLB history (dating back to 1901) to hit a grand slam, another home run and a walk-off hit in his first three career games.

    But Baddoo's story is one of perseverance. Let's rewind back to May 2019. He was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery.

    If sitting out the 2019 campaign was not bad enough, he missed last season when the minor leagues were shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    During the winter's Rule five draft in December, Baddoo was taken by the Tigers, having initially been drafted out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in 2016.

    The Rule 5 draft aims at preventing franchises from stockpiling too many young players on their minor league affiliate teams when other clubs would be prepared to play them in the major leagues. If chosen, a player must be kept on the selecting team's major league active roster for the entire season.

    "If you think about it, he's gone through so much," Baddoo's mother Akilah said. "And then this opportunity came, and it was like, 'This can't be a joke. There's a plan for you. You got to know that'."

    In the least likely of places, the Tigers appear to have landed a gem, and Baddoo is making the most of his opportunity, immediately becoming a cult hero in Detroit.

    Baddoo had 233 career minor leagues games to his name, but none above Class A as he earned a place on the Opening Day roster after hitting .325 in Spring Training with five home runs. However, the Maryland native looked like a man for the big stage.

    In his opening at-bat on April 4, Baddoo homered in a memorable maiden outing for the Tigers, driving to left field in the bottom of the third inning against the Cleveland Indians.

    "I'm just living in the moment," Baddoo said post-game after becoming the ninth player in Tigers franchise history to hit a home run in his first major league at-bat and only the second to do so on the first pitch, following George Vico in 1948. "I got a good pitch to hit, and I was able to hit it in front of my family and everyone."

    If that was not enough, Baddoo continued the fairy-tale week by hitting his first career grand slam against the Twins the following day. He became the first Tiger to homer in each of his first two MLB games and the first player in major league history to homer out of the ninth spot of the batting order in his first two career games. Baddoo was also the first player in franchise history to hit a slam within his opening two games.

    Baddoo has continually showed maturity beyond his years as the rookie adds to his growing legend. Taking over Motor City, he then delivered a walk-off shot to sink his old team the Twins 24 hours later.

    His game-winning hit saw him become the first Detroit player with a walk-off shot within his first three MLB games since 1998.

    Baddoo is yet to drop off, his history-making season continuing with a homer against the Houston Astros on Tuesday. Through eight games, he took his tally to four home runs, a double and a triple. According to Stats Perform, his slugging percentage at the time – 1.043 – was the highest in American League (AL) history after eight games.

    After his RBI double against the Astros on Wednesday, Baddoo has now driven in at least one run in seven of his first nine career games, the second Tiger in franchise history to do so, following Dale Alexander in 1929.

    Since 1920, only George Shuba (eight) managed more RBIs in his first nine career games across MLB, according to Stats Perform.

    As it stands, Baddoo's slugging percentage stands at .963 (which ranks eighth all-time through first nine career games since 1901) with 11 RBI. If you combine his RBI and SLG percentage, he is one of four players to have 11-plus RBI and a 900-plus SLG over his first nine career games, after Trevor Story (13/.974 – 38/39 in 2016), Taylor Teagarden (12/1.000 – 29/29 in 2008) and Dave Kingman (11/1.105 – 21/19 in 1971).

    Baddoo was rated as Detroit's fifth outfielder before the start of the season, so how does he compare to his team-mates?

    Counting only plate appearances while playing outfielder, Baddoo's .370 average, .379 on-base percentage, .963 SLG, 1.342 OPS, four homers and 11 RBI are more than the team's other outfielders combined –.190 AVG, .277 OBP, .330 SLG, .607 OPS, three home runs and nine RBI.

    As for the team who left their prospect unprotected, Minnesota's outfielders have tallied a .263 AVG, .331 OBS and .474 SLG so far this season – numbers surpassed by Baddoo.

    Baddoo is flying the flag for Rule 5 picks – Roberto Clemente is the only player out of that unheralded draft to earn Hall of Fame honours.

    Following an 18-season career, Clemente – who died in a plane crash at the age of 38 in 1972 – was a 15-time All-Star, two-time World Series champion, 1966 National League (NL) MVP, World Series MVP and 12-time Gold Glove winner.

    Is Baddoo destined for a Hall of Fame career?

    At the same stage of their careers, Baddoo trumps Clemente in all categories: AVG (.370 to .316), OBP (.379 to .325), SLG (.963 to .500), OPS (1.342 to .825), home runs (four to one), RBI (11 to six) and runs (five to three).

    "Obviously he has the talent to do a lot of different things, I knew he'd give me everything he's got," Tigers manager AJ Hinch has said previously. "That was evident from the beginning."

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    Liverpool, April 2018:

    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hasn't scored for three months since he smashed home a long-range strike against Manchester City.

    Pep Guardiola's Premier League champions elect are back at a bloodthirsty Anfield and Mohamed Salah already has the Reds in front, so why not have a go?

    Oxlade-Chamberlain larrups it beyond Ederson and before the half hour Sadio Mane has made it 3-0.

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    Guardiola talked himself into a half-time red card when Leroy Sane had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside before UEFA were using VAR. The competition the Catalan threatened to make his own at the start of the decade had already become a nagging irritation.

     

    London, April 2019:

    After losing three consecutive semi-finals at Bayern Munich, not to mention two out of four on the occasions his Barcelona didn't win it under his leadership, Guardiola is wary of a pressure-cooker Champions League night.

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    Lisbon, August 2020:

    No away goals to bother City this time, as the pandemic-delayed final stages of the Champions League take place as one-off matches in Lisbon.

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    They fall behind to a Maxwel Cornet goal, their attack disjointed. De Bruyne, who appears to be fighting a lone hand, equalises but Gabriel Jesus and Sterling miss glorious chances and Ederson is culpable as Moussa Dembele's brace ensures City's biggest European humiliation to date.

    Phil Foden, so impressive in the second leg against Madrid, looks on as an unused substitute.

     

    Dortmund, April 2021

    The last time Guardiola won the Champions League, his present tormentor was seven years old.

    Jude Bellingham's slick footwork and cool 15th-minute finish at Signal Iduna Park is the sort of thing City players do quite a lot but not on these occasions.

    Here was the fear, it was happening again. Everyone just stay calm… no, Kyle Walker, don't shoot from all the way over there in Gelsenkirchen.

    De Bruyne is in no mood for stage fright to kick in and tears at Dortmund, rattling the crossbar. Ruben Dias, unscarred by City's previous failures, is colossal in neutering Erling Haaland. Still, at half-time they are going out.

    The big occasions do strange things to even the most seasoned performers, but Emre Can deciding to break out an elephant impression while heading a cross clear is a new one.

    Handball. Penalty. VAR. Still a penalty.

    Oh God, a penalty. City don't tend to be great at these, as Aguero showed at Tottenham.

    Up steps Riyad Mahrez. Remember the Anfield loss? Well, the next time Guardiola's men visited the red side of Stanley Park, the Algeria winger put one into orbit from 12 yards.

    Not this time. Having fought long and hard to become one of his manager's go-to attackers, Mahrez emphatically clatters home.

    Nerves are dissipating but have never been a problem for Foden. They never are, as he showed with the winner after Dortmund equalised in Manchester last week. He and Bellingham might have a very exciting future together in their national team.

    The boyhood City fan draws back his left boot to send home the decisive blow and makes a beeline for Guardiola in the dugout, grabbing his boss' head. It feels like an exorcism.

    After sharing a post-match chat with the man of the moment, Haaland now towers in Foden's rear-view mirror. PSG and Kylian Mbappe are up next. Foden arguably belongs in their conversation, as an individual good enough to dominate for a decade.

    Of course, such dominance is easier forecast than achieved. Guardiola's quarter-final problem is no more. Now, how is his Champions League semi-finals record?

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