UFC 252 - Miocic vs Cormier 3 - Important takeaways

While things ended bitterly for Sean O'Malley in the bantamweight bout, Stipe Miocic starred with a win over Daniel Cormier to defend his heavyweight title.

Daniel Cormier (R) announced his retirement following the defeat to heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 252.   -  AP

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) witnessed the final chapter of a storied rivalry at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday. The trilogy between heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and challenger Daniel Cormier was complete and the latter hung up his boots.

UFC 252, which took place behind closed doors in Nevada, also included a surprise in the co-main event. Sean O'Malley, who is considered as one for the future, was injured in the first round of his bantamweight bout against Marlon Vera, thereby losing a glorious opportunity.

Here's what the future could hold for some of the fighters who competed at UFC 252.

- MIOCIC GETS BRAGGING RIGHTS AS CORMIER RETIRES -

Stipe Miocic (left) dominated the opening exchanges but Daniel Cormier (right) clawed back with a takedown.   -  ap

 

One of the highly-anticipated trilogies in combat sports history concluded in Las Vegas as Stipe Miocic defended his crown and justified the tag of 'the greatest heavyweight champion of all-time' even further.

The main event of UFC 252 didn't disappoint as both the champ and his nemesis stretched each other to their limits. At the end of the night, Miocic defeated Daniel Cormier by unanimous decision after five rounds, with the judges' scorecard reading 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47 in his favour.

"It's not just me but all of us, my team and family. Because if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here holding the belt. It's a team effort," Miocic told after retaining his title.

He had dominated the opening exchanges at the UFC Apex, showcasing his striking prowess. But once Cormier found the right opportunity, he pounced on Miocic and completed a takedown. The titleholder got back to his feet quickly but was held against the fence for a brief period. Towards the end of the first round, both the veterans exchanged some hard blows.

Cormier looked to have the second in the bag as he dominated Miocic for three minutes. But Miocic recovered and connected perfectly with a right hand to send Cormier down. He followed it up with a series of elbows and jabs until the end of the round.

Miocic got the better of a tired Cormier in rounds three and four. The champ upped the intensity and pushed his rival onto one corner of the Octagon. In the third, a bad poke on Cormier's left eye affected the challenger's chances even more. He was very upset with it as referee Marc Goddard didn't notice the incident.

UFC 252: Miocic retains heavyweight crown with decision over Cormier  

Cormier also complained to his corner that he was unable to see through his left eye as it was black. But he had no other choice but to continue with the disadvantage.

The two fighters threw caution to the wind in the final round. A slugfest ensued and both the men seemed to have contributed equally to it. After coming to know of his loss at the end of the encounter, Cormier, 41, announced his retirement from the sport.

"I'm not interested in fighting for anything but titles. I don't imagine there's going to be a title in the future, so that will be it for me. I've had a long run. It's been great. I just fought my last fight for a heavyweight championship. It was a pretty good fight," said Cormier during the post-fight interview.

On the other hand, the 37-year-old Miocic has now strengthened his claim as the best heavyweight ever. So what's next for him? A fight with #2-contender Francis Ngannou is the right way to move forward but a dream bout against light heavyweight champion Jon Jones would keep fans across the world on the edge of their seats.

- VERA ENDS INJURED O'MALLEY'S UNDEFEATED STREAK -

Marlon Vera celebrates with the Ecuador flag after beating Sean O'Malley.   -  Twitter Marlon Vera

 

Hardly anyone gave Marlon Vera a chance when he took on one of the most-hyped MMA artists in the current UFC roster, Sean O'Malley, on Saturday. But the Ecuadorian bantamweight fighter overcame the odds to hand the American on a hot streak the first loss of his career.

O'Malley, ranked #14 in the division, was the clear favourite heading into UFC 252. But it took only four minutes and 40 seconds of the first round for Vera to claim the stunning victory in the co-main clash.

After the first half of the opening round, O'Malley looked to have suffered an injury to his right foot as he fell to the ground and got up immediately. A few moments later, he dropped to the mat once again after receiving some decent blows.

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Vera, to capitalise on the situation, got down and threw a few heavy elbows as referee Herb Dean had no other option but to stop the bout and award Vera the technical knockout (TKO) victory.

"When he was throwing kicks to me, he landed one calf kick and I checked it and made adjustments. If you are going to kick with a kicker, you better be careful. Say something now. For real, a lot of people have opinions but that doesn't matter. I'm ready for anybody in the top-10 now," said a furious Vera after the referee raised his hand.

"He has a big right hand and he doesn't throw numbers. I was taking the first round to see what he got. He doesn't have the dog I have inside. I say it again and again, the dog I have inside is bigger than the other guys," he added.

Vera has now set his sights on a contest with a top-10 bantamweight fighter after beating O'Malley. He might be pitted against #10-ranked Rob Font, who hasn't fought since December last year, next.

O'Malley's leg injury is rumoured to be the same as the one he suffered against Andre Soukhamthath at UFC 222 in March 2018. He had managed to pull out a win back then after fighting on one foot for most of the third round.

Complete details on the extent of the injury can only be revealed after the UFC doctors receive the CAT scan results, according to the promotion's president Dana White. However, a considerable amount of time on the sidelines is expected for O'Malley.

- ROZENSTRUIK TAMES DOS SANTOS TO MOVE UP THE LADDER -

A bout with #4-ranked Derrick Lewis is a major possibility for Jairzinho Rozenstruik.   -  twitter Jairzinho Rozenstruik

 

Putting aside a loss to Ngannou at UFC 249 in May, Jairzinho Rozenstruik claimed a second-round TKO win over former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos in Nevada.

Rozenstruik who was ranked a spot below his UFC 252 opponent at #6 in the heavyweight division will now move above him. This victory has also taken him closer to a potential title eliminator.

Dos Santos had begun the first round aggressively, landing some right hands on his adversary. Rozenstruik looked happy to defend and connect with the occasional left hooks.

However, the tables turned in the following round. Dos Santos, in an attempt to breach the guard of Rozenstruik, loosened up and exposed himself.

The latter, utilising the opportunity, threw an uppercut and a powerful punch to send his rival to the floor. Dos Santos managed to rise but was dropped back down by Rozenstruik, who continued with a barrage of clean strikes to seal the deal via referee stoppage at three minutes and 47 seconds of round two.

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"It feels great. I wanted to fight as soon as possible as soon after I lost. I went back to the gym right away. Me and my team, we discussed things and just got right back at it. I needed this win," the 32-year-old Rozenstruik said after his victory.

At this moment, he is ready to face any opponent in the division as long as he keeps fighting. A bout with #4-ranked Derrick Lewis is a major possibility, while a title eliminator against #3 Curtis Blaydes would be a dream.

Meanwhile, Dos Santos, 36, is on a three-match losing streak currently, with defeats to Ngannou and Blaydes before Saturday night. Ahead of UFC 252, he wanted to face Ngannou, who beat him in June 2019, again.

“Everyone knows me as the best boxer in the heavyweight division, and now he (Ngannou) is saying he is because he knocked me out. He is far away from having good technique. He has power but no excellent skills as we could see in his last fight he was just throwing heavy punches. I can’t wait to fight him again,” he had claimed.

But now a fight with a lower-ranked heavyweight opponent looks most likely for Dos Santos next up.