Croatian bruiser, Stipe Miocic, is set to scrap with former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) title challenger, Mark Hunt, this Saturday night (May 9, 2015) inside the Adelaide Entertainment Centre in Adelaide, Australia.
Since entering UFC back in 2011, Miocic has proven himself to be a top contender. After stringing together three straight wins -- including a clear victory over Roy Nelson -- Miocic was matched up with former champion Junior dos Santos.
Though Miocic ultimately lost to the Brazilian, he impressed with his heart across five full rounds. Now, Miocic will look to regain some momentum by taking out Mark Hunt, his second dangerous boxer in a row.
Let's take a closer look at his skill set and see if he has what it takes.
Miocic is a very talented boxer, finding success as an amateur and winning the Golden Gloves competition. While Miocic can certainly finish fights with a single punch, he usually chooses to focus more on volume and keep a high pace of quick punches.
For the most part, Miocic boxes from long range. In this area, Miocic's attack is quite effective if not particularly complex. Capitalizing on his reach, Miocic slams jabs and straights into his opponent. In addition, Miocic will occasionally close the distance, slip his head off the center line, and dig a hook into his opponent's body.
While Miocic is on the outside, he's active with his footwork and feints. For a good-sized heavyweight, Miocic is quite mobile and keeps himself in perfect range to land his punches. Plus, he's constantly feinting his straight punches, waiting to counter any punches that these feints draw out.
Additionally, Miocic possesses some very dangerous low kicks. The boxer will knock his opponent out of his stance with an inside low kick and brutalize his opponent's thigh with a roundhouse kick. Prior to his UFC debut, Miocic actually finished one of his opponents via low kicks.
In his last fight, Miocic really switched up his attack. It was a wise choice, as standing at the end of punches from "Cigano" likely would've resulted in a quick knockout loss. Instead, he adopted Cain Velasquez's strategy of using takedowns to force dos Santos into the fence and punished him from there.
While it was not a perfect impersonation, Miocic did a number of things well. For example, Miocic consistently battered "JDS" with a right hand on the break of the clinch. He also used his right to counter dos Santos' jab pretty frequently.
In addition, Miocic often punished dos Santos for lazily circling. When dos Santos was put on the fence, he would often circle away with his hands low. Miocic would then nail dos Santos with a straight right as the Brazilian circled into it, then followed the strike up with a series of right hooks from the Southpaw stance.
Defensively, Miocic is not the tightest fighter. He doesn't always keep his hands high as he pushes forward, which got him nailed by plenty of counter punches by "Cigano.' In addition, Miocic commonly throws low kicks without any setup, which has put him on the wrong end of some heavy punches.
Miocic is a former Division-1 wrestler and has largely been successful in implementing his wrestling inside the Octagon. That said, Miocic mostly uses his wrestling in reverse, preventing his opponent from escaping his punches.
Usually, Miocic will drop down for a single leg in the center of the Octagon. After securing the leg, Miocic will attempt to run the pipe. He usually catches his opponent off-balance, allowing him to easily dump them. If his opponent stays standing, Miocic will transition into a double or abandon the takedown altogether and throw some punches.
Miocic will often mix half-hearted takedown attempts into his offense. As mentioned, he's usually happy to keep the fight standing, but it's still a good idea to keep his opponent off-balance.
Plus, when Miocic does secure top position, he's pretty violent with his ground strikes. He really showcased this against Shane del Rosario, as he repeatedly slammed elbows into the kickboxer's jaw from half-guard.
In his last fight, Miocic switched up his wrestling style quite a bit. Rather than a few well-timed single legs, Miocic was frequently driving through double leg takedowns. Though dos Santos stuffed the vast majority of them, Miocic was able to force the fight into the clinch and work from there.
For the most part, Miocic's takedown defense is quite solid. Even when he is taken down, he's pretty quick to scramble back to his feet. Thus far, none of his opponent's have found consistent success in taking him down, though he's yet to face a real wrestling specialist.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
Miocic has yet to be put on his back long enough to really display any submission game. Offensively, Miocic has never submitted any of his opponents nor even really attempted to.
However, Miocic has proven to be a strong guard passer. In his bouts against Shane del Rosario and Joey Beltran, Miocic was able to slice through their guard, achieve dominant positions, and maintain top position. While Beltran is not exactly a jiu-jitsu specialist, del Rosario was known for having a dangerous bottom game, but Miocic nullified it.
Unfortunately, there's not a lot of footage of Miocic grappling inside the Octagon, which makes it difficult to draw any real conclusions or pick up habits.
Best chance for success
Miocic is faced with an interesting challenge in Hunt, as both men have the skills to capitalize on the other man's weakness. While Hunt has the technical striking, patience, and power to make Miocic pay for his defensive flaws, Miocic has the size, wrestling, and low kicking game to ruin Hunt's day.
Ultimately, it's up to Miocic to ensure the fight takes place at the end of his range or in the clinch. Otherwise, he's in for a rough time.
From the very edge of his reach, Miocic should look to establish his straight punches and slam his shin into Hunt's thigh. With his power, it will only take a few clean leg kicks to affect Hunt's mobility. Plus, from that distance, Hunt's attempts to counter should be fairly readable.
At this point, Hunt's takedown defense is pretty damn solid, so shooting early on would probably be a bad idea. However, if Hunt is looking to jump into range with punches, Miocic could level change and come up into the clinch. From there, he could land small strikes until Hunt breaks away. Then, he could back away and return to his range.
In addition to keeping him safe and potentially opening up takedowns, this will tire Hunt out.
Will Stipe Miocic out-maneuver the kickboxer, or can Mark Hunt return to the win column with a knockout?