Daniel Cormier on Saturday will return to the Octagon to defend his Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title for the second time, as he rematches former champion Stipe Miocic in the UFC 241 main event at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. “DC” has already cemented himself as one of the all-time greats, and at 40 years of age, he continues to add to his legacy with each appearance.
Cormer steps into the spotlight in this installment of The Film Room.
Something that does not get mentioned enough about Cormier is the fact that he did not start MMA until he was 30 years old, and just 10 years later, he already ranks as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in history. To put it all in perspective, American Kickboxing Academy teammate and current lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov turned 30 in September and started his career a year before Cormier. “DC” entered the UFC as one of the most decorated wrestlers to ever compete in the sport, and only one man in MMA has managed to defend his takedowns and negate his grappling prowess. Although he often likes to stand and trade with opponents, Cormier knows he can rely on his grappling when the going gets tough. Against Anderson Silva and Volkan Oezdemir, Cormier knew he had a clear advantage on the ground and took no chances on the feet, dominating both men with his wrestling.
As a short and stocky fighter, “DC” knew he had to develop his inside boxing to compete with the long and rangy strikers of the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. To negate the opponent’s reach advantage, Cormier became adept at leaping forward with a lead hook and using the same hand to grab a single-collar tie to initiate the clinch. Inside boxing and dirty boxing from the clinch is a lost art in MMA, but Cormier has perfected it for use inside the Octagon. He also uses lots of hand fighting techniques to keep the opponent in striking range. He will often trap the opponent’s lead hand and then immediately throw his right. Hand trapping is not widely used in MMA, but it is perfect for a fighter of Cormier’s size who has a hard time closing the distance and getting open looks.
Once in the clinch, Cormier will either keep the single-collar tie and fire off uppercuts with his right hand or use it to transition to double underhooks and look for a takedown. Something to note about his clinch game is his incredible strength with the single-collar tie. In most of these moments, it looks like the opponents could simply back up and break the grip, but Cormier’s undeniable strength forces them to exchange in the clinch, where “DC” is most comfortable on the feet. Cormier went five rounds with two of the best distance strikers in MMA but still managed to routinely grab the clinch and fire off uppercuts, all while taking away their length advantage and forcing them to fight in his wheelhouse. He did this by constantly pressuring them to the cage and throwing filler lead hands, forcing them to either exchange with him in the pocket or continue circling along the fence.
Of course, the clinch was where Cormier won the title from Miocic back in 2018. Miocic has the tendency to drop his hands when exiting the clinch and Cormier was trying to exploit this from the get-go. Early in the fight, he ducked under Miocic’s punches, grabbed an underhook and immediately threw a punch on the break. Later in the round, Miocic again dropped his lead hand when exiting the clinch and Cormier landed a perfectly placed right hook on the chin before finishing the fight with ground-and-pound.
If Cormier cannot achieve the clinch and is forced to strike at a distance, he does possess a beautiful overhand right that he sets up in a variety of ways. With the threat of the clinch and the single-collar tie, Cormier can feint his lead hand as if he were initiating the clinch before throwing a right hand over the top. Since Cormier is known for his clinch, opponents will often bite on this lead-hand feint, which allows him to sneak in the overhand right. The difference in this fight: Cormier will likely not have trouble getting in the pocket and grabbing the clinch since Miocic is generally an aggressive striker. In the first fight, he routinely fell into Cormier’s clinch as he overextended on punches. Expect more of the same in the rematch.