Fighting Cormier in the clinch could spell doom for Miocic at UFC 241

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The clinch a major X-factor in Cormier vs. Miocic 2 (1:41)

Tyron Woodley and Dominick Cruz display how the clinch game could play a big role in Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic 2. Order UFC 241 here https://plus.espn.com/ufc/ppv. (1:41)

UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier will put his title on the line against Stipe Miocic in the main event of UFC 241.

Going into their first fight at UFC 226, Miocic seemed to have the advantage in a variety of statistical categories, and that's the case once again. On that night Cormier stopped Miocic in the first round and claimed the heavyweight belt. Will history repeat itself on Saturday, or will Miocic live up to his statistical prowess and take back his title?


Striking differential

The first fight at UFC 226 really showcased where both fighters are strong in the striking game. Early in the fight, Miocic used his length and reach to land at range. As the fight went on, Cormier began to take control by closing the distance and striking in close range. He eventually caught Miocic with a huge shot as they separated from a clinch and finished the fight. Will Cormier be able to manage the distance and score with power once again, or will Miocic be able to keep the fight on the outside in the rematch?

For his UFC career, Miocic has landed 4.76 significant strikes per minute, which is the fourth-best rate among ranked heavyweights. Thanks to that offensive volume, he's been able to maintain a strong striking differential despite being rather hittable. Even though he has allowed his opponent to land 2.96 significant strikes per minute against him, his +1.8 striking differential is third best among ranked heavyweights.

Cormier lags well behind Miocic in terms of landing strikes, but he is slightly better when it comes to defense. He has landed only 3.84 significant strikes per minute, while allowing his opponents to land only 2.46 significant strikes during his UFC/Strikeforce career. Despite the lower offensive output, his +1.38 striking differential is above average for a ranked heavyweight (+1.12). While that is a respectable number, it does not tell the whole story. The only fighter to escape defeat against Cormier in the UFC and Strikeforce has been Jon Jones. Cormier's two rough outings against the light heavyweight champion have severely impacted his striking numbers; excluding those two fights, Cormier's striking differential rises to +1.98.


Striking accuracy/Striking defense

Both fighters come from a wrestling background, but both have also developed into quality strikers. Miocic has landed 51% of his significant strike attempts, which is currently fourth best among ranked heavyweights. Cormier is not very far behind at 49%. While those numbers are similar, there is some divergence when drilling down into the numbers.

Cormier's success in terms of accuracy relies heavily upon his work in the clinch. In that position, he lands 70% of his significant strike attempts. At distance, he lands only 39% of his attempts. Miocic is much more accurate at distance, where he lands 45% of his attempts.

During his UFC/Strikeforce career Cormier has spent a lot of time fighting in the clinch. His wrestling background allows him to hold position and land strikes from a favorable area; 24% of his total landed significant strikes have come in the clinch.

Miocic has been much more focused on striking at a distance. In the UFC, 66% of his landed significant strikes have been at distance. His ability to retain impressive accuracy while striking at range is a testament to his development as a striker. Miocic has also proven to be tough to hit at distance, where he successfully avoids 64% of his opponents' attempts.

Despite these tendencies, the first fight did not really follow the script. When the fighters went to the clinch, Miocic was the one who seemed to be the one holding position, and he scored a momentary takedown along the cage. While the then-champion looked good working from distance early, Cormier ended up landing 61% of his distance strikes compared to only 45% for Miocic. It will be interesting to see if the accuracy numbers for both fighters revert to the career norms, or if it will ultimately be a repeat of the UFC 226 match.


Striking power

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Flashback to Cormier knocking out Miocic

Take a look back to UFC 226, when Daniel Cormier beat Stipe Miocic to win the heavyweight title. Watch the rematch at UFC 241 here on ESPN+ https://plus.espn.com/ufc/ppv.

Cormier defeating Miocic was not really a shocking result. At the time, he was already the light heavyweight champion and had already defeated some of the best heavyweights of this generation. However, many were surprised that Cormier was able to finish the fight with strikes. For all of his accolades, the heavyweight champion has never really been a power striker. The finish was only his third stoppage due to strikes in the UFC. The knockdown that put Miocic on the floor was his first knockdown since 2014.

For his UFC/Strikeforce career, Cormier has averaged only 0.31 knockdowns per 15 minutes of fight time. He has stopped eight total fights with strikes and averaged 116.25 landed significant strikes per KO/TKO.

By all metrics, Miocic seems to be the more powerful striker. He has averaged 0.5 knockdowns per 15 minutes of fight time and 90 significant strikes per KO/TKO. However, the career power striking numbers favored Miocic heading into the first bout as well, and Cormier left the cage with the stoppage victory.


Takedowns

Wrestling did not really play a factor in their first encounter. Miocic scored an early takedown from the clinch, but Cormier bounced back to his feet almost immediately. Few expected Miocic to have any wrestling success against the two-time Olympian, and yet, after early success he did not attempt another takedown for the rest of the fight.

Takedowns are an essential element of Miocic's style. He lands only 38% of his takedown attempts, but he attempts 6.25 per 15 minutes of fight time. The former Cleveland State wrestler has attempted at least seven takedowns in five of his 15 UFC fights. Due to this volume, he is able to land the fourth-most takedowns per 15 minutes among ranked heavyweights (2.38).

Cormier's offensive takedown numbers are quite similar. He attempts fewer takedowns, but lands them with a bit more accuracy. Over the course of his UFC/Strikeforce career, he has attempted 4.52 takedowns per 15 minutes and landed 45% of those attempts for a 2.04 takedown rate.

Despite Cormier's wrestling pedigree, the reigning heavyweight champion has allowed seven takedowns in his past nine fights. Miocic may be able to bridge the wrestling experience and skill gap with his size advantage and put Cormier on the floor. If he is able to work from the top, it could force Cormier to work from an unfamiliar position -- but this could turn out to be a risky strategy. Miocic has seemingly run out of gas in several of his fights, and if he looks to wrestle early in the bout, he could be depleted if the fight ends up going into the championship rounds.