UFC 241: Daniel Cormier, Stipe Miocic enter heavyweight title rematch with historic implications

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When Daniel Cormier defends his heavyweight title on Saturday at UFC 241 in a rematch against former champion Stipe Miocic, the result could have historical implications on the division. 

Cormier (22-1, 1 NC), the former UFC 205-pound champion who is 15-0 in his career at heavyweight, can certainly add fuel to the argument that he’s the division’s best fighter in promotional history should he exit the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, with a second straight win over one of its most decorated champions. 

Miocic (18-3) became the first UFC heavyweight champion to defend the title three consecutive times before losing his crown to Cormier by first-round knockout at UFC 226 in July 2018. A victory would not only make him just the fourth heavyweight to hold the UFC title on two occasions, it would likely set the stage for a trilogy fight. 

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The idea of two heavyweights squaring off in a rematch for the UFC championship has been a rare occurrence in the 22 years since Mark Coleman submitted Dan Severn at UFC 12 to win the inaugural heavyweight title. 

Cormier and Miocic, in fact, will become just the seventh pairing to meet a second time with the title on the line; ninth overall if you count the UFC Superfight belt, a precursor to the heavyweight championship that merged with the UFC Tournament title to originally form the belt being defended on Saturday. In addition, Cormier-Miocic II marks just the fifth time that a current UFC heavyweight titleholder entered a rematch against the former champion.

Let’s take a closer look at the history of rematches inside the Octagon with the promotion’s most prestigious title at stake. 

Royce Gracie draw Ken Shamrock (UFC 5, April 1995): One year after suffering his first pro defeat by tapping out to Gracie at UFC 1, Shamrock never received his much-hyped second chance at UFC 3 when injuries knocked both out of the tournament following early wins. Looking to take advantage of its first legitimate rivalry, UFC eschewed its traditional open-weight bracket system for this main event in Charlotte, North Carolina, to guarantee the rematch would take place. It did, in what officially went down in history as the first UFC title fight thanks to the inaugural Superfight championship being at stake. The fight, unfortunately, turned out to be a regrettable affair that failed to produce a winner as the longest fight in UFC history was finally stopped at 36:06, which included a five-minute overtime that was created on the spot. Because there were no judges assigned to the fight, which was originally signed for a 30-minute time limit, the marathon grappling bout was ruled a draw. 

Dan Severn def. Ken Shamrock via split decision (UFC 9, May 1996): Shamrock went on to rebound from the Gracie draw to submit Severn in just over two minutes at UFC 6 to become the first UFC Superfight champion. Ten months later, the final Superfight title bout took place in Detroit. Like Gracie-Shamrock II, this bout is remembered as one of the worst in UFC title history due to long periods of inactivity but for very different reasons. Nearly two-thirds of this 30-minute bout saw Severn and Shamrock circle each other and barely attempt any strikes, largely because of a legal battle spurred on by through a letter-writing campaign by Arizona Senator John McCain to have the “no holds barred” sport pulled from pay-per-view. Although UFC was ultimately allowed to stage the show, the fighters were warned beforehand that striking with closed fists could lead to an arrest.

Randy Couture def. Pedro Rizzo via TKO3 (UFC 34, November 2001): In his second reign as heavyweight champion, Couture made his first title defense seven months earlier by outpointing Rizzo over five exciting rounds at UFC 31. Because the fight was so good (and Couture’s unanimous decision being deemed a disputed one at best), they ran it back a second time in just the promotion’s second visit to the fight capital of Las Vegas. Couture, who would go on to hold the heavyweight title a record three times (along with two reigns as light heavyweight champion), made sure the rematch was a one-sided affair as he badly cut Rizzo in Round 2 before finishing him one round later. 

Tim Sylvia def. Andrei Arlovski via TKO1 (UFC 59, April 2006): Arlovski needed just 47 seconds to submit the 6-foot-8 Sylvia at UFC 51 when they met for the interim championship. One year later, after Arlovski was promoted to undisputed champion, Sylvia had won three straight fights to secure a second chance at both Arlovski and the title after having his arm broken against Frank Mir in their 2004 title bout. Sylvia gained sweet revenge this time in Anaheim when he got up from an early knockdown to stop Arlovski in the opening round. Three months later at UFC 61, the two embarked upon a trilogy bout with Sylvia claiming a unanimous decision to defend his title. 

Brock Lesnar def. Frank Mir via TKO2 (UFC 100, July 2009): In just his second pro fight and first in the UFC, Lesnar laid a beating on the former champion Mir before succumbing to a submission via kneebar just 90 seconds in. Losing in such an elementary manner created a chip on the former WWE champion’s shoulder. He wanted Mir (whom he claimed had “a horseshoe up his ass”) a second time and wanted him badly. After Lesnar knocked out Couture to claim heavyweight gold in 2008, he would get that chance in the main event of the promotion’s landmark centennial card. Lesnar handed Mir an even worse beating over two rounds and left him a bloody pulp to unify the title with Mir’s interim crown. 

Cain Velasquez def. Junior dos Santos via UD5 (UFC 155, December 2012): Velasquez’s initial title reign never quite got off the ground following his demolition of Lesnar at UFC 121. In front of a national television audience on Fox, Velasquez lost his title via 64-second knockout to dos Santos. The much-hyped rematch would take place 13 months later in Las Vegas, and Velasquez was nothing short of dominant by becoming the first UFC fighter to record triple digits in strikes landed and double digits in takedowns landed in a single fight. A somewhat rushed trilogy bout took place at UFC 166 in 2013. Even though dos Santos made the third bout a bit more competitive, he still absorbed tremendous damage before being stopped mercifully in Round 5. 

Cain Velasquez def. Antonio Silva via TKO1 (UFC 160, May 2013): Velasquez rebounded from his knockout loss to dos Santos in their first meeting by doing the same to “Bigfoot” in their non-title affair at UFC 146 in 2012. Velasquez went on to reclaim his heavyweight title against dos Santos while Silva quickly rebuilt himself as a legitimate title contender with a pair of stunning knockout wins over Travis Browne and Alistair Overeem. A rematch was set for Velasquez’s first title defense and the result was exactly the same as the first time. 

Stipe Miocic def. Junior dos Santos via TKO1 (UFC 211, May 2017): Before Miocic embarked on a record-setting title reign, he suffered a humbling 2014 defeat to the former champion dos Santos. The all-action bout went the five-round distance, but it was Miocic who slightly ran out of gas late to open the door for the Brazilian to take a decision. Turning the setback into a positive, Miocic rounded out his game and began a streak of five knockout wins which included a stoppage of Fabricio Werdum to win the heavyweight title. Two title defenses later, Miocic met JDS a second time and needed just over two minutes to finish him with a monster right hand. 

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