Stipe Miocic shocked the world when he took down Fabricio Werdum in Curitiba, Brazil at UFC 198 in May. Now he'll get a chance to defend the title as the headline of Saturday's UFC 203 against Alistair Overeem.
Miocic has a 15-2 record and wasn't a massive underdog to Werdum, but he was still considered a bit too raw to handle Werdum, who was thought to be on another level. Overeem was a much-hyped fighter coming into the UFC after its purchase of rival organization Strikeforce, but he lost three of his first five fights in the UFC and was considered a big disappointment.
Fortunately, Overeem redoubled his focus on his training and he has won each of his last four fights. That includes wins over Stefan Struve, Roy Nelson, and former heavyweight champions Junior dos Santos and Andrei Arlovski. His most recent fight was the Arlovski fight, one that he won via TKO in the second round. He also downed dos Santosin the second round in December 2015.
Miocic bested Werdum via knockout, 2:47 into the the first round. But if there is one thing really going in Overeem'sfavor,it's the fact that Miocic's two losses are to fighters that Overeem has beaten: dos Santos, in December 2014 and Struve, in September 2012. The loss to dos Santos came via decision, while Struve won via TKO.
Saturday's match is very interesting from a style standpoint. Miocic is the better wrestler, but his route to dragging Overeem down to the ground is tenuous. Overeem is the better striker, and he's more dangerous in the clinch. Miocic has good technical boxing, but Overeem only really needs to connect once with his array of strikes.
Then again, even on his recent tear, Overeem hasn't been perfect. He's consistently looking for the killshot, and the people he's beaten on his four-fight win streak are not known for their stiff defense, save for dos Santos when he was at his best, something he has not been for awhile. Struve and Arlovski have a history of getting knocked out, Nelson is still undersized for a heavyweight and dos Santos hasn't looked like himself in a long time.
Meanwhile, Miocic's win over Werdum remains the most impressive either fighter has managed in recent history.
The question of who has the better gas tank can't definitively be answered, but that measurement would seem to favor Miocic. Overeem isn't known for having a big gas tank, while Miocic went for five rounds in a decision win against Mark Hunt in May 2015.
Miocic has really come into his own as an all-around fighter, and he has the power to put Overeem down. Overeem, meanwhile, has significantly evolved as a fighter and may be better now than he ever was. It's a difficult fight to call, though the heavyweight title has a tendency to change hands of late.