(Photo via Esther Lin/MMAFighting)
By Elias Cepeda
Heavyweight Stipe Miocic came to the UFC in 2011 with an undefeated amateur and pro record and a penchant for knocking people out. Impressively, he continued his tear once in the world’s top MMA organization, winning his first three UFC bouts, two by stoppage, and earning a main event slot opposite Stefan Struve.
The fight was a step up in competition for the Ohio fighter but he appeared to be handling Struve well until the Dutch fighter staged a come back and TKO’d Miocic in the second round. Suddenly, the Croatian-American fighter’s hype-train was derailed and his undefeated streak snapped.
That was back in September of 2012. Miocic has not fought since then. This Saturday, however, he will be back in the Octagon at UFC 161.
“I took time to heal and then to improve,” Miocic tells CagePotato. “I definitely feel like I’m much better than I was back then.”
Miocic must feel that way because he’s taken on a heckuva challenge for his return bout — “Big Country” Roy Nelson, who is on a three-fight win streak. Nelson has stopped each of his last three opponents with strikes and would seem to be a rude reintroduction to the UFC for anyone.
Miocic says that he didn’t hesitate to take the fight when it was offered to him, however. “Not at all,” he tells us.
“Fighting a guy like Nelson is another step up and an opportunity to jump right back into and ahead in the division. I couldn’t turn that down.”
Per usual, Miocic has set up camp in his home of Cleveland, Ohio, with his Strong Style Fight Team. The stable has been churning out wins not just from Miocic but also from the likes of Jessica Eye and Forrest Petz.
His team may not be the most well-known, but Miocic has confidence that it has prepared him to take out Nelson. “I get great work with everyone here. Plus, we bring in outside guys for sparring.”
The heavyweight has a quiet confidence and, as the fight draws ever nearer, seems completely focused on the task at hand. “No one likes to lose,” he says.
“The last fight was hard. I was on a run and then had to deal with that. It set me back but I feel good now. Beating Roy will put me right back in there. I can’t wait.”