The Great Debate: Stipe Miocic vs Junior dos Santos

UFC 211 is so stacked that we decided to do something big for the Great Debate series. We have decided to do a Great Debate for all five of the main card fights. We also wanted to invite other members of the media to be part of the fun. So we will have five staff members of The MMA Takeover go head to head against five members of the MMA media world. Each day we will debate a different fight.

We have already debated all the main card fights, and now it’s time to debate the main event. A rematch between champion Stipe Miocic vs Junior dos Santos. The founder of the MMA Takeover Keith Shillan takes on the host of the Loaded Joes MMA Podcast, Blake Stephenson. Keith will be arguing for the champion, Stipe Miocic while Blake will be on the side of the former champion, Junior dos Santos.

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Why Stipe Miocic Will Win by Keith Shillan:

Out of everyone in this five-part series, nobody has done more Great Debates to me. I have won some, I have lost some. I have some that I have been on the fence and others where I was extremely confident. This one is different than all of them. That is because I have never been as confident in a Great Debate pick yet then I am in picking Stipe Miocic. You ask why? All you have to do is look at their first fight. Miocic fought dos Santos in his first marquee fight and first UFC main event. Miocic came in as a big underdog and in main people’s eyes won the fight (I scored it 48-47 for dos Santos). Ask yourself who has improved since then and who has declined?

Ask yourself who has improved since then and who has declined? Since that fight, knockout’s Santos has gone a measly 1-1 while winning by decision and lost by knockout.  Miocic has won the title, has gone 4-0, and won all 4 fights by knockouts. Let’s not even mention that he knocked out the man (Alistair Overeem), who knocked out dos Santos.

I might be the only person seeing this, but Junior dos Santos is not the fighter he was in his prime in 2011. The former champion had the perfect combination of speed, power, technical boxing skills and a rock hard chin. However, that is greatly gone. I believe that this is gone based on the beating he received Cain Velasquez. dos Santos might have lost a decade of his life from the Velasquez. Having a war against Miocic and being knocked out by Overeem doesn’t help either. Don’t believe those skills of dos Santos are gone? Let’s look deeper at them.

dos Santos has always been known as the fastest heavyweight in history (though Fedor Emelianenko and Bas Rutten might disagree). Look at his last two fights. dos Santos hands speed has slowed so much that in almost two complete rounds he landed only 11 strikes. Sure he looked better against Rothwell, but Big Ben has always been a slow lumbering heavyweight. He was the perfect foe for dos Santos.

Don’t think his power isn’t gone? He hasn’t had a knockout in the last four years. His chin isn’t gone? He was rocked in every round with Miocic, was knocked out by a single punch by Overeem, and was even hurt in the first round by “stuck in the mud” Rothwell.

I know dos Santos does have some great technical boxing skills (we already established his hand speed is gone). He throws a great uppercut and left hook. He also does some of the best bodywork in history. However, he has never been a good defensive boxer. They way to beat dos Santos is to back him up. He lacks head movement and doesn’t circle away from punches. He moves straight back. Cain Velasquez showed this. Let’s not mention this is what Miocic is good at, and he had his best moments in the first fight by pressing dos Santos.

Miocic will work his way into the midrange, where he can land his powerful straight right and short hook. He will try an occasional takedown attempt to just keep dos Santos guessing. I expect him to land a big shot on dos Santos and either finish him off with a combination while dos Santos attempts to escape by moving back. If dos Santos fires back once hurt, Miocic will see the slowed down punches, and simply does his best move. Short step back away from the shot and land his own devastating punch. dos Santos chin won’t help him survive this time. I predict Stipe Miocic by late first round knockout. 

Why Junior dos Santos Will Win by Blake Stephenson:

Although I know Junior dos Santos will win, and I know Keith will be crying in a corner of his house wrapped inside of his favorite patriot blanket because he will have made the wrong pick, let me tell you, in greater detail, why Junior Dos Santos is about to be the heavyweight champion again.

In their first battle in Dec 2014 these gigantors flat out beat each other up, there’s not another way to say it. As I sat and re-watched the fight I noticed the fight was really a battle of Miocic brute and forceful straight right vs the powerful and well-timed left hooks of Junior dos Santos. For me, this is a theme of their careers. Miocic being a brute, bully, imposing his will on his opponents with sheer power til either they crack or make a mistake because of the pressure Miocic brings. Junior dos Santos on the other hand, is an adaptive, calculated, power puncher, boxer who targets technique mistakes made by his opponents based on a set ups or traps he creates, rather than forcing the opening. This is not saying dos Santos hasn’t been a brute on occasion but he prefers a more calculated approach the majority of the time, and the same is true with Stipe he can be more calculated at times). This is how dos Santos won the first fight against Miocic and this is why he will do it yet again.

Now while Stipe Miocic (4-0 in his last 4 with his last loss at the hands of dos Santos) is one of the best heavyweight champs the UFC has had there are plenty of reasons to point to that say he will lose this fight. Let’s start with Miocic’s last 4 opponents, 2 weak chinned guys (Arlovski and Overeem) and 2 old guys (Hunt and Werdum). Now while Overeem had the most success (we will dig into that in a bit) and while I am over simplifying his opponents with blanket statements for the sake of my argument, the simple fact is the last time he fought someone younger who could take a shot, he lost. While there may be critics saying, “he didn’t lose”, the fact is he did and dos Santos was that guy he lost to. Now on a more technical level let’s look at Miocic’s, I don’t wanna to say Kryptonite, but perhaps the punches that impact him the most especially left jabs or straights, and left hooks. Overeem had success in their last fight plenty of times with 4 hard lefts that landed flush at 1:01, 2:09, 3:00, and 3:45 of the fight. While ultimately it had no bearing on the outcome of the fight, but, it is, however, a major hole that was prevalent. It was also prevalent in Miocic’s first fight with dos Santos . Miocic was knock downed by dos Santos when the Brazilian used a check left hook on Miocic that bombarded him in the 3rd rd, and similar he experienced much success with the left hook throughout the entirety of the fight. This helped dos Santos set up heavy right overhands in the 4th and 5th and was even present in his other loss to Struve.

I want to give some credit to Miocic though, he is a great fighter, his moments of success come when he is coming forward with punches bullying his opponents back against the cage crowding their offense, and as they strike back to create space, he is successful with counters at the end of his opponents exchanges and moments of chaos he creates in the first place as a direct result of his pressure. He prefers to fight close and tight and wins many exchanges/fights in the short distance range. This is quite interesting because it would seem Stipe is the longer reach fighter who prefers/ has great success when fights short range, where on the opposite side we have dos Santos with the shorter reach fight who prefers/ has great success when fights at a mid-long range. As we see in many fights dos Santos is a calculated blitz boxer who is in and out and cover distance explosively usually leading with a left hook or overhand missile of a right hand.

According to Merriam-Webster Stipe is “a usually short stalk of a plant or fungus”, and I see Miocic as that fungus that must be removed from the top. As someone who loves Alistair Overeem as a fighter, I’m still salty from the Miocic loss, if you can’t already tell, and I hope dos Santos makes him pay. While I am fully aware a fight in the heavyweight division means, any fighter is one strike away from victory at any point in the fight I will make my prediction that dos Santos wins by ko in the 3rd, maybe the second. If this fight goes into the later rds don’t let the fact dos Santos face gets cut easier then Miocic sway you. Let’s just say for the sake of simplicity St. Pierre and dos Santos have similar skin on their face, where its almost allergic to the strikes that hit it, in the sense, they just bruise and cut easier than other fighters. His ability displayed in his last fight, against Ben Rothwell, highlighted the fact he can be a patient, calculated risk taker, using blitz attacks when necessary, and can “matador” his way to victory yet again against a bull. All of these things used in unison are the major keys that, I believe, dos Santos will rely on to re- beat Stipe, and in the words of Forest Gump “that’s all I have to say about that”. Junior dos Santos by 3rd round TKO. 

We would like to thank Blake for contributing to our series. Make sure to check out his show the Loaded Joes MMA podcast in ll your podcasting outlets and like his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/theloadedjoesmmapodcast/ and Follow him on Twitter: @loadedjoesmma

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