An epic trilogy concludes at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on August 15 as Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier have their long-awaited rubber match that is as much a legacy-definer as any fight in UFC history. Before that fight finally goes down, though, a pair of bantamweight matchups provide tough tests for fast-rising prospects, and a pair of heavyweights jockey for a chance to get closer to whatever the next chapter of the division is after the main event is finished.
To get a better idea of what might happen on a stacked night of fights, we dove into the stats to see where the bouts might go once the cage door closes.
(All stats according to UFC’s Record Book and Fight Metric as of August 11, 2020, and only include active athletes in their respective division unless noted otherwise)
Key Stats: 4.95 strikes landed per minute (6th all-time among HW), 52% significant strike accuracy (6th), 73% takedown defense
What It Means: Cleveland’s Stipe Miocic rode a strong boxing base and solid wrestling en route to the most heavyweight title defenses in UFC history. He often uses his jab, cross and footwork to adapt and dictate the pace of the fight, either keeping his opponent at bay or pressing the action. He moves smoothly for a man his size and doesn’t need to overextend himself in order to find a knockout shot. He is a strong wrestler who won’t be overwhelmed from a grappling-based approach either.
Key Stats: 5.88 strikes landed per minute (4th all-time among HW), +2.73 striking differential (3rd all-time among HW), 44% takedown accuracy
What It Means: Daniel Cormier is a uniquely built heavyweight with real quickness in his striking and grappling exchanges. He likes to keep fights inside, either with single-collar ties where he loves to dig with a right uppercut or by grabbing his opponent’s hands and beating them to the punch from there. An Olympic-level wrestler, his technique is as beautiful as it comes in the Octagon and can really outhustle his foes when they scramble.
Trilogies are special in that both fighters have plenty to adjust to and learn from. In their previous two fights, Cormier had a lot of success in dirty boxing exchanges, often beating Miocic to the punch. That persisted three rounds into their rematch, but Miocic turned the tide with smooth left hooks to the body. Cormier has said he plans to wrestle much more in the third act, and if that’s the case, the window between grappling scrambles could be where either man lands a decisive blow.
Key Stats: 6.86 strikes landed per minute, 58% striking accuracy, 66% striking defense
What It Means: Sean O’Malley loves a methodical and relaxed approach to his striking, where he takes advantage of his long limbs and great vision. He is as adept at countering with the right shot as he is feinting and setting traps for later. He prides himself in his vision on the feet, and once he makes his reads, he presses with a frenetic, but disciplined, attack.
Key Stats: 1.51 submissions per 15 minutes (2nd), 3.7 strikes landed per minute, 42% takedown accuracy
What It Means: Marlon “Chito” Vera is as tough and dynamic as they come, with a nasty submission game to go along with powerful striking. Vera can mix in a submission attempt almost out of nowhere during a striking exchange, and his chokes are lethal. He also is a skilled and diverse kicker with long legs, often striking with front kicks to the body, oblique kicks to the legs and a high kick if his opponent is caught napping.
This fight projects to be a fun matchup and a good litmus test for Sean O’Malley. Marlon Vera is right on the edge of the top 15 and can finish a fight in a variety of ways. He is particularly strong when he can land a few strikes and keep his hands on his opponent, and nobody has really grappled O’Malley effectively. The “Sugar” show has often dictated the pace and tempo of his fights, but Vera likes to stay in his opponent’s face and turn up the pressure. This is a high-level, all-action type of bout in the ever-talented bantamweight division.
Key Stats: 58.4% significant strike defense (3rd), 4.66 strikes landed per minute (8th all-time among HW), +1.53 striking differential (9th all-time among HW)
What It Means: For almost a dozen years, Junior Dos Santos has stayed atop the heavyweight division as one of the most devastating and diverse strikers the weight class has seen. He moves as well and as smoothly as any, and the former champion continues to confound and rattle his foes. His kickboxing is as well-rounded and adaptable as anyone’s in the division, and he continues to redefine what the term “knockout artist” can really mean.
Key Stats: 1.89 knockdowns per 15 minutes (3rd all-time among HW), 6:22 average fight time (4th shortest), 3.84 strikes landed per minute
What It Means: Jairzinho Rozenstruik became one of 2019’s breakout mixed martial artists when he scored four knockout wins in four UFC appearances, including a buzzer-beating KO win over Alistair Overeem. Rozenstruik’s kickboxing is tight and technical, and he has shown that his power is the kind that doesn’t require much of a wind-up at all. If he makes solid contact, that usually means the end is coming soon for his opponent.
This matchup features a pair of heavyweights who aren’t necessarily wild but know how to properly turn up the aggression when they sense a finish. Junior Dos Santos is most dangerous right when he can get a sense of his foe’s timing and move around that, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik almost seems to catch people off guard with how hard he hits without telegraphing his shots. JDS is, by far, the most polished striker Rozenstruik has faced in the Octagon, and this fight could turn into an entertaining, technical striking fight with the potential for an explosive finish.
Key Stats: 1.72% bottom position (8th all-time among BW), 80% takedown defense, 3.3 strikes landed per minute
What It Means: A two-time flyweight title challenger, John Dodson remains one of the toughest outs at 135 pounds. Having never been finished, Dodson provides an almost-annoying challenge for his opponents. His well-rounded skillset, fast footwork and ability to evade strikes and scramble well during grappling exchanges makes him a tough person to put in a bad position. Eventually, opponents get frustrated, and that’s when Dodson can find a tide-turning strike as he showed against Nathaniel Wood.
Key Stats: 39 takedowns landed (1st all-time among BW), 48.4% control time (2nd all-time among BW), 45.4% takedown accuracy (7th)
What It Means: Merab Dvalishvili’s game plan isn’t going to change. He wants to wrestle his opponent and keep them down, essentially grinding them into a proverbial pulp. As his UFC career has developed, Dvalishvili has improved his striking enough to keep his opponents honest long enough to lower their defenses, and even if his first takedown attempt doesn’t render desired results, his pace is relentless.
John Dodson is as experienced as they come, and how he decides to handle the pressure Merab Dvalishvili likes to put on his opponents will be interesting. A longtime flyweight contender, Dodson has that frenetic scrambling ability often seen in 125-pounders, but few at bantamweight are as persistent in their wrestling as Dvalishvili. The Georgian is also down to throw some wild strikes in the brief moments when the fight isn’t taking place in the clinch, so if he gets overzealous or sloppy, Dodson is more than able to punish him.