October 8th will be the one year anniversary for Stipe Miočić in the UFC. His first fight was a unanimous decision against Joey Beltran. His second fight came in February when he knocked out Phil De Fries. We picked up the story of the Cleveland-raised fighter prior to his third fight against Shane del Rosario in May when he TKO’d him with elbows. I was with Miočić’s friends and firefighting family in Independence that night and became hooked on the story. I’d been a UFC fan prior to that fight, but the love and energy in the room watching Miočić’s friends cheer him on was special. Despite Miočić dropping his first fight in the UFC over the weekend to Stefan Struve, that feeling of love obviously remains, but so does the excitement.
The fight earned “Fight of the Night” honors from Dana White which meant bonus cash for Miočić even in a loss. That’s probably of little consolation to the Cleveland fighter with dreams of a UFC heavyweight championship run. I haven’t spoken with him, but from talking to his close friends, Stipe Miočić is taking this fight in stride and hoping it will serve as a learning experience. Any fight fans know that it is pretty much impossible to go undefeated in the UFC. Even the fighters who get chances at the belt and ultimately put it around their waist usually take some losses along the way. That’s not to say you’d ever prefer to have a loss, just that a loss doesn’t necessarily spell the end of a run at the title.
Miočić must at least feel he had the fight in his grasp as he won the first round handily. Miočić spent the entire first round peppering the giant seven-foot tall Struve with body shots and overhand rights. He seemed to be playing a game plan out perfectly as he took his customary standing (never seated) break between rounds.
Then, in the second round, the long reach of Stefan Struve started finding its way through via the jab. Miočić was taking punishment, but was consistently fighting back by firing shots, some of them just missing with devastating intentions. Then, as Miočić was hobbled for the last time, he slipped on the canvas giving Struve the opening he needed to finish the fight. But even as Stipe Miočić was stopped by referee Herb Dean, he barely even hit the canvas with a knee or elbow let alone laying on his back counting the lights.
There’s no doubting that Miočić took some punishment. There was certainly no doubt from inside Murphy’s Ale House in Valley View where I watched the fight with Miočić’s firefighting family and many of the members of the Strongstyle gym he fights out of in Independence. While never wavering from their supportive stance, the crowd on hand was stunned into silence as Herb Dean called a stop to the bout over in England.
It took until his tenth fight for Miočić to taste defeat, and it also took that long for his friends too. As the party broke up, the room was much quieter, but everyone seemed more interested in encouraging parting words than bemoaning the loss. That’ll be an important trait to carry through to the fighter and it is a good indication that his support structure is as focused on moving forward as you would imagine he would be.
Additionally, around the UFC, the reaction from the bout has been amazing. From what I read on Twitter, it seems people are still very excited about Stipe Miočić and want to see him fight again. Beyond the road to the title shot, in the MMA world, that’s a very good thing. That means the Clevelander will still be up for some good, exciting fights that could lead to his goal of a title shot.
One of Stipe’s friends summed it up for me after seeing that the fighter was back to his goofy, joking self today despite the loss. Even with the obvious disappointment, he said, “I seriously can’t wait for the next one. Feel bad for his next opponent.”