Stipe Miocic will defend the UFC Heavyweight title against 3rd ranked Alistair Overeem at UFC 203 in Cleveland. The UFC made the announcement official on Wednesday.
— #UFCVegas (@ufc) May 26, 2016
Breaking The Curse
With Cleveland longing to celebrate a sporting championship of any kind in the last 52 years, Miocic stepped into Brazil at UFC 198 and knocked out hometown hero Fabricio Werdum with a sensational right hand in the opening round of their five round bout. The victory earned Miocic the UFC Heavyweight title, giving Cleveland its first major world title in any pro sport since 1964 when the Cleveland Browns won the NFL National Title.
Cleveland rejoiced Miocic’s triumph but now they will have the opportunity to cheer him on as he makes his first title defense on September 10th at the Quicken Loans Arena, the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers and NBA superstar LeBron James, who are still in search of their own first ever NBA title. Miocic made the historic announcement to Cavs’ fans:
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) May 26, 2016
As the champ said, UFC 203 will mark the first time the UFC sets foot in Cleveland and it’s only fitting that its biggest MMA star and the UFC’s newest champion will headline the event.
The Demolition Man
Facing Miocic will be Dutchman Alistair Overeem who himself is coming off a sensational 2nd round TKO win over teammate Andrei Arlovski at UFC Fight Night Rotterdam last May. The former Strikeforce and DREAM Heavyweight champion is riding high on a four fight winning streak and will be making his first ever title fight appearance in the UFC. He was slated to challenge for the UFC title at UFC 146 in 2012 but was suspended for a failed drug test. Overeem struggled to a 1-3 record after his suspension until late in 2014 when he knocked out Stefan Struve to win the first of his current four consecutive wins.
Miocic Opens As Favorite
Miocic has opened as the slight favorite over his challenger at -170 against +140. Miocic, who still works as a fireman in Cleveland, was facing heavy odds when he challenged Werdum. Not only was he a betting underdog then, he was up against 45,000 Brazilians who were cheering for Werdum. Against Overeem, the roles have been changed. Miocic will have the support of the Cleveland faithful who have long waited for a champion to cheer. But like Werdum, he will have the added pressure to deliver before the hometown fans.
Historically, no champion has defended the UFC Heavyweight title more than twice. But after Cleveland’s 52-year title wait, Miocic intends to keep it in Ohio a little longer.