Stipe Miocic is a fighter who rolls with the punches.
Now you can look at that statement and think about his in cage performances, but in this context it has more to do with the recent change of opponents where he went from facing the No. 1 heavyweight in the world to a bloated 205-pound fighter stepping up to take the fight on short notice.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos was the fighter Miocic was supposed to face this weekend in Brazil, but just a couple of weeks ago the top ranked competitor suffered a broken hand forcing him out of action for a couple of months.
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With seemingly every other named heavyweight fighter either already booked or injured, the options were limited and the UFC ended up going with light heavyweight Fabio Maldonado, who called the matchmakers and begged for a chance to face Miocic in Brazil.
While there was certainly some wind taken out of his sails, it didn’t take Miocic long to say yes to the new opponent because at the end of the day he wanted to go to Brazil, fight and get paid and all of those things are still happening on schedule.
I definitely can (finish him). It doesn’t matter if I get a decision or a submission, even better, but no matter what I’m going to win the fight
— Stipe Miocic on Fabio Maldonado
"I found out on social media and they told me about, and then they said Fabio Maldonado for sure, so you’ll still get to fight, get to go to Brazil and check it out so I’m excited. I wanted to fight Dos Santos because I would have got a better shot if I would have beat him, but Fabio’s no slouch, he’s a tough guy, he comes to fight," Miocic told FOX Sports.
"He’s a good boxer, good standup guy, he’s pretty good on the ground. We sat there and talked about it, me and my coaches, and decided to take the fight. There was nothing much to it, just go and take the fight."
It might be easy to look at Miocic accepting the fight and to think that’s what every fighter is supposed to do when an opponent gets injured and the promotion finds a replacement. There’s so much more to it in this situation, however, as Miocic went from an opponent who potentially could have earned him a title shot to a fighter who isn’t even from his weight class.
The risk versus reward scenario should probably be weighed before every fight, but with this dramatic of a change, there was no doubt Miocic was stuck in a difficult position. The roles are now reversed where instead of being the underdog looking to take out the former champion, he’s the hunted with a target on his back facing a fighter with absolultely nothing to lose.
"Anyone’s dangerous but especially in this situation, there’s no question," Miocic said.
The bright side of this fight is how Miocic matches up with Maldonado inside the Octagon. Miocic is a 245-pound legitimate heavyweight with bricks disguised as hands, and he’s facing a fighter who loves to use his head as his best defensive weapon.
Throughout the course of his UFC career, Maldonado has absorbed 384 significant strikes in seven fights with a 54-percent average defense. He’s also going to be giving up five inches of reach to Miocic, who uses his range and jab quite often to damage an opponent before landing the knockout punch.
Of course, Miocic is well aware of Maldonado’s sponge-like ability to take punishment round after round only to dish it back out after his opponent’s exhaust all of their energy trying to finish him.
Miocic knows all about this strategy because he faced a similar fighter in Roy Nelson, who probably has the best chin in all of MMA and different than Maldonado, packs one of the deadliest punches in the entire sport. For those with short memories, Miocic pummeled Nelson for three rounds on his way to a lopsided unanimous decision victory.
The Ohio native believes he can do the same and more to Maldonado.
"The name of the game is being patient. Look for my opportunities and hit him when I can," Miocic said. "I definitely can (finish him). It doesn’t matter if I get a decision or a submission, even better, but no matter what I’m going to win the fight."
And when this fight is over, assuming he comes away with a win, Miocic would love to circle back around to the fight with Dos Santos. The bout would still carry just as much weight as last time and Miocic knows it’s the fastest path towards an eventual title shot.
"Of course, that would be great," Miocic said about a fight with Dos Santos. "That would be my ultimate goal."