Two undefeated heavyweight forces will collide this Wednesday night (February 15, 2012) as knockout specialist Stipe Miocic battles submission ace Philip De Fries on the UFC on Fuel TV main card in Omaha, Nebraska.
Miocic entered the UFC after knocking out every opponent he had faced (although one was a submission to strikes) in the first six fights of his professional career. He defeated the battle-tested Joey Beltran in his debut and is hoping to make a major impact, capitalizing on his first taste of significant national exposure against De Fries.
Philip De Fries, like Miocic, entered the UFC in 2011 with an undefeated record and after having stopped every one of his opponents in his seven prior victories, although they were all via submission. The four stripe Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt also went to a decision in his UFC debut, handily defeating Rob Broughton. He'll be hoping to showcase his skills to a greater degree against Miocic.
Will Miocic be able to showcase his technical Strong Style stand-up skills? Or will De Fries' submission repertoire be on full display? How does each man keep their records unblemished on Wednesday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 7-0 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Joey Beltran (UFC 136)
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Stipe Miocic is an athlete, plain and simple. He was a successful collegiate wrestler and baseball player while attending Cleveland State University. After becoming a fireman/paramedic, he was requested to help train with Dan Bobish to prepare the MMA pioneer for an upcoming fight and he never looked back once he'd gotten a taste of MMA.
The former Golden Gloves boxer started his professional career in 2010, winning by knockout in all four of his fights while competing primarily for NAAFS in Ohio. His 2011 got off to an equally impressive start, winning two more fights with his strikes before getting the call to the UFC.
The Croation-American made his promotional debut at UFC 136 on the preliminary card against brawler Joey Beltran. Miocic utilized strong kicks and overall technique while mixing in takedowns to earn a unanimous decision against "The Mexicutioner."
He'll be pitted against a fellow undefeated fighter on Wednesday night when he takes on Philip De Fries in Omaha.
How he gets it done: Miocic has a respectable wrestling background and he utilized it pretty well against Beltran in his debut whenever he got in a rough spot, but he's going to have to entirely rely on his striking against De Fries on Wednesday.
Expect to see him keep his distance early, working his powerful leg and body kicks while trying to avoid letting De Fries get too close and work for takedowns. Once Miocic gains confidence, he's likely going to be looking to unleash a torrid assault of strikes whether they be punches, kicks, knees or elbows.
Miocic is a solid technical striker, so he might take a few minutes in the Octagon to loosen up, especially against someone who likely won't be looking to engage him much in De Fries, but once he does, he's going to be coming with a full fury. He'll be looking to use his wrestling in reverse, "sprawl and brawl" style to keep this fight standing. If he can accomplish this, he should have no problem outlanding De Fries and winning either by knockout or decision.
Philip De Fries
Record: 8-0 (1 no contest) overall, 1-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Rob Broughton (UFC 138)
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Philip De Fries has been a grappler in the heavyweight division from the beginning. The 6'5 Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt trains under Rodrigo Cabral and began his professional career in 2009, competing four times in the Strike and Submit promotion, winning all four bouts via submission.
After a no contest against Dave Wilson, De Fries moved on to score three straight submissions in 2011, notably tapping out fellow top prospect Stav Economou with a second round rear naked choke at Ultimate Warrior Challenge 16.
De Fries earned an invite to the UFC with the impressive showing and battled Rob Broughton on the UFC 138 undercard, outgrappling "The Bear" and scoring a unanimous decision victory. He'll be facing perhaps his stiffest career test this upcoming week in Miocic.
How he gets it done: Plain and simple, De Fries needs to take this fight to the ground at all costs. He's not at a level yet where he can afford to stand and trade with legit strikers, especially heavyweights as talented as Miocic, for extended periods of time. He must close the distance early whether it be with takedown attempts or at least the clinch where he can work for trips or attacks against the fence.
De Fries needs to pull out all the stops against Miocic in his efforts to get this fight to the canvas, even pulling guard if he must. His opponent is a competent wrestler so he's going to have to be extremely aggressive and willing to chain different takedown attempts together in order to perhaps overwhelm the Strong Style fighter.
If he can get Miocic down, expect him to work a top game while threatening submissions just like in his fight with Broughton. The Sunderland native has some terrific guard passes and is capable of putting a stranglehold on just about everyone once he wears them down or surprises them. He'll need to keep very strong hip pressure, though, if he wants to keep his explosive opponent down.
If he can accomplish this, he can definitely at least win a decision if not win via submission.
Fight X-Factor: These are two completely different fighters. One is a knockout artist and wants to keep the fight standing while the other is a submission specialist who wants it on the ground. This an obvious one, but the biggest X-Factor for this fight is who can impose their will on their opponent.
If Miocic forces De Fries to fight in his world, he's got a terrific shot of scoring a knockout. If De Fries can put Miocic on his back, he could score a submission. It's all about who is better at getting (or keeping) the fight where they want it. That's what makes this fight so interesting.
Bottom Line: I'm not sure what to make of this fight. It's interesting because both fighters are so strong at their specific specialty, but neither fight is likely looking to engage their opponent in their strong suits either. Miocic is not looking to scramble on the ground with De Fries just like De Fries is not looking to test his kickboxing skills against Miocic. This fight has the possibility of being very awkward or very one-sided for either man. If De Fries can't score a takedown, he might flop to his back repeatedly or spend a large majority of the fight stalling in the clinch. The good news is there's also a possibility of a highlight reel knockout for Miocic or an awesome submission from the UK fighter. This bout is a complete wildcard.
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