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Footwork was everything: UFC 161's Stipe Miocic talks defensive adjustments that helped him upset Roy Nelson

Stipe Miocic scored the biggest upset of last Saturday night's UFC 161 event in Winnipeg. Find out how he pulled it off below.


The Stipe Miocic turned a lot of heads when he fought Roy Nelson this past weekend (June 15, 2013) in the co-main event of UFC 161.

The Ohioan by way of Croatia has long been considered a special athlete in the heavyweight division, but up until his fight against "Big Country," he'd been deemed relatively hittable on the feet.

After all, he'd been scored upon with big strikes by everyone he'd faced thus far in his UFC career including the likes of Joey Beltran, Phil De Fries, Shane Del Rosario and most recently Stefan Struve, who'd handed him his lone career loss.

But that wasn't the case against Nelson. Miocic entered the fight as an underdog due to the fact that Nelson possessed otherwordly power. Having a reputation of not being too difficult to hit is a dangerous combination.

But that's not what happened, not one bit. For three straight rounds, Miocic employed fantastic defense, barely getting touched by The Ultimate Fighter season 10 winner while responding with a huge volume of strikes of his own to easily take home a dominant unanimous decision.

Miocic explained some of the work and gameplanning he did to help him score the biggest victory of his career thus far during an appearance on The Verbal Submission last night. One important subject was adjustments made from his first career loss.

"My coaches, man. That's what we worked on after that [Struve] fight. We really sat down, hatched out a plan on things we needed to improve and it showed. I knew we had to avoid the overhand right. He's got such a big right hand and his left hook is good too. I had to keep my hands up and I think I did that pretty good. I got caught up in stuff against Struve, believing some of my own hype a bit, but I settled down and it paid off."

It's no shock how Nelson is able to land his overhand right. Either he lunges forward and catches his opponents off guard, or he maneuvers them towards the cage and cuts off avenues of escape. Miocic was having none of that.

"He likes to back guys up against the cage and he came close a few times, but that was when I would run away, head back to the cage center and refresh it and that's what I did. I stayed composed, picked my shots and all that good stuff."

It wasn't just keeping his hands up. Part of avoiding a big strike is also positioning. If you're not there, he can't hit you and Miocic employed some excellent footwork against Nelson to help him pull off the upset.

"Footwork was everything. Yeah, I've always been working on that a lot these last nine months and I really appreciate the hard work my coaches have put in with me. They just drilled it in my head every day and it paid off. It got to the point where my movement against Nelson was pretty much instinctual and the only thing I had to keep in mind was to stay to the right. My movement gave me openings and I took advantage of those."

Obviously, it wasn't all about defense. You can't win a fight by avoiding getting hit alone. You've got to hit back, and Miocic did plenty of that, landing a ridiculous amount of significant strikes in combination. So how are his hands feeling after his big night?

"My hands are sore (laughs). I hit him hard and he's got a chin. Holy crap. He's ranked as one of the top heavyweights in the world for a reason. He's not afraid to trade shots and he usually takes one to give one and it usually works out for him in the end."

With the victory, Miocic could be a surprise inclusion in this week's top 10 UFC heavyweight rankings. It'll be interesting to see how the Croatian American continues to evolve as a fighter. He certainly opened some eyes on Saturday night.

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