ESPN – In the main event of UFC 226, light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier will challenge heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic for his title. This will be only the third time in UFC history that an active champion will get the chance to challenge for two belts at the same time. Despite representing different weight classes, the fighters are very similar from a statistical standpoint. However, there are a few key differences, and those differences could end up determining the winner on Saturday.
The following is a look at the statistical categories that highlight those factors.
Both of these former wrestlers have developed respectable striking skill. However, Miocic has proven himself to be the more powerful striker. Miocic averages 0.41 knockdowns per 15 minutes, while Cormier averages only 0.25. On top of that, Cormier has been knocked down in three of his past six fights. Considering those fights were at light heavyweight, Miocic should have a large power advantage in this heavyweight fight.
In terms of striking differential, which is significant strikes landed per minute minus significant strikes absorbed per minute, Miocic and Cormier have rather similar numbers. Miocic’s striking differential stands at 1.87, while Cormier lags a bit behind at 1.37. Despite the statistical concurrence, there is variance when it comes to where they have success from a striking perspective.
Like almost all fighters, both land a majority of their significant strikes at distance, which FightMetric defines as standing and not in the clinch, 65 percent for Miocic and 52 percent for Cormier. However, Cormier does a lot more of his work in the clinch. During his UFC and Strikeforce career, 26 percent of his significant strikes have come in the clinch. On the other hand, Miocic’s proportion for the position was only 12 percent. If Cormier is able to initiate the clinch, he might have the striking advantage. On the other hand, Miocic’s opponents have not been successful with that strategy to this point. During his UFC career, only 7 percent of his absorbed significant strikes have come in the clinch.
While there is some divergence when it comes to striking position, another key differentiation comes in terms of striking target. They both share the same primary target, their opponents’ heads, but Cormier is much more of a headhunter with 72 percent of his significant strikes landing to the head, while Miocic has landed to that target with only 56 percent of his significant strikes.
Miocic’s biggest secondary target has been his opponents’ legs, with 31 percent of his significant strikes landing to the legs. That might play a key role in this fight. The heavyweight champion is 5 inches taller than his light heavyweight counterpart, and he will have an 8-inch reach advantage on Saturday. If Miocic can use his leg kicks to score at range, he might be able to win a striking battle against Cormier.
Miocic and Cormier still rely on their wrestling base. The heavyweight champion landed 2.35 takedowns per 15 minutes of fight time at a 37 percent rate, while Cormier lands 1.89 takedowns per 15 minutes at a 42 percent rate. It is very likely that both fighters will at least attempt takedowns in this fight, but dragging either opponent to the ground will likely not be easy.
During his UFC career, Miocic has successfully stopped 75 percent of his opponents’ attempts, and he has been taken down only three times. Cormier has stopped 80 percent of attempts against him and surrendered only six takedowns. It is possible that the wrestling will cancel itself out and make this a striking contest, but someone ending up on top could have a significant impact on the fight.