Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated’s newest look at MMA. Every week, this column will offer insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.
Stipe Miocic wants to finish the trilogy
The greatest heavyweight champion in UFC history has one request.
He wants a rematch.
After dropping the heavyweight title to Francis Ngannou this past March, Stipe Miocic is hungry for another shot at the belt.
“That’s what I’m pushing for,” says Miocic, who holds the record for most consecutive UFC heavyweight championship defenses with three. “I have a meeting coming up with [UFC President] Dana [White] in September, and we’ll sit down and figure it out from there.”
After splitting the first two bouts, there is reason to believe that there will be a decisive third encounter pitting Miocic against Ngannou.
“People love great drama, and that’s what we have in this heavyweight trilogy,” says White. “I want to finish the trilogy.”
During their first bout in 2018, Miocic exhausted Ngannou through five rounds. He was unable to extend the rematch into the championship rounds, as Ngannou knocked out Miocic in the second round.
“I thought I could win [by extending it], but unfortunately, it didn’t go that way,” says Miocic. “He won the fight. I felt good, then he caught me with a good punch.”
After Ngannou won the belt, the post-fight narrative focused on the possibility of a Ngannou title defense against Jon Jones, while a rematch for Miocic was hardly mentioned.
“I’m used to it at this point,” says Miocic, a two-time heavyweight champ. “I always get shuffled to the side. But now we’re working on areas to improve. He took something that was mine, and I want it back.”
Miocic already has a full plate in addition to training for an eventual title bout. His wife is pregnant with their second child, and as proud as he is to be a champion fighter, Miocic noted that his most important role is being a parent.
“I love every second of it,” says Miocic. “I want to be the best parent I can be, though I’ve given myself anxiety asking myself how I can love anyone more than I love my daughter. But I can’t wait.”
Another important project for Miocic is teaming up with Modelo and UFC in their partnership with Rebuilding Together, committing to refurbish and reinvigorate the Revolution Fight & Fitness gym in Euclid, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland that Miocic calls home.
“I am so honored to give back to the community,” says Miocic. “I love giving back, and that’s why I am so proud to be associated with Modelo. They’re all about giving back, both here with the gym, as well as to first responders. It’s a perfect fit, and we share the same type of fighting spirit.
“And I want to get teens in the gym. This gives them something to do with organization, discipline and responsibility. A long time ago, when I started training for mixed martial arts, I couldn’t go out to the bar a lot of nights, or get in trouble, because I was too tired from training or too focused on my training. I was so proud of it, and it brought such purpose to my life.”
Miocic remains a key figure in the MMA world. Since his last fight, Ciryl Gane has emerged as one of the top heavyweights in the world. Although he wants his next fight to be against Ngannou, that hasn’t stopped Miocic from following Gane—the new interim heavyweight champ—during his 10-fight undefeated streak.
“He’s tough,” says Miocic. “He’s got a great skill set, and he’s a great fighter. He’s definitely going to be around for a while, and I think we match up very well.”
Last week, Miocic turned 39. He understands more road remains in the rear view of his MMA career than is staring in front of him, but he also believes his greatest moment is yet to happen, which is winning the heavyweight title for a third time.
“Whether it’s the first time or second time, winning the title is incredible, a feeling I can’t describe,” said Miocic. “Doing it for a third time would mean a hell of a lot.”
Can Jake Paul outbox Tyron Woodley?
The idea of Jake Paul defeating Tyron Woodley in boxing seems ludicrous.
But is it?
Woodley is a former UFC welterweight champion. He was a force in the Octagon, successfully defending his title on four straight occasions before dropping it to the great Kamaru Usman. And that was it for Woodley’s UFC success. Following the defeat to Usman, he lost his next three bouts, all in a convincing manner no less. Now, at the age of 39, he looks to make a statement in boxing. But that won’t be easy, especially against an opponent as hungry as Paul (3–0).
Woodley debuts this Sunday against Paul, who is 15 years younger and won each of his three bouts in stunning fashion. His most recent victory took place against mixed martial artist Ben Askren, and Paul would relish the chance to add Woodley to his growing list of knockouts.
The footage that has come out of Woodley’s training camp is discouraging. He looks stationary, leaving his guard open and appearing vulnerable. So even though this seems like a mismatch on paper, it could be perfect for Paul.
Paul could opt to box Woodley to a decision. He has the size advantage, and he is fighting an opponent with no boxing experience. Woodley’s explosive power won’t be exactly the same with boxing gloves, nor will his fighting style. While he did knock out Robbie Lawler and viciously dropped Stephen Thompson, this is years later and a completely different environment. If Woodley has holes in his defense and movement, Paul is in a prime spot to find them.
Suddenly, Paul defeating Woodley doesn’t seem so outlandish.
The Pick ’Em Section
Featherweight: Edson Barboza vs. Giga Chikadze
Bantamweight: Ricky Turcios vs. Brady Hiestand
Heavyweight: Kevin Lee vs. Daniel Rodriguez
Welterweight: Alessio Di Chirico vs. Aliaskhab Khizriev
Pick: Di Chirico
Middleweight: Makmud Muradov vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Middleweight: Andre Petroski vs. Michael Gillmore
Current record: 7–9
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