LAS VEGAS — Yes, Daniel Cormier needs to use his wrestling, which he abandoned early in their second fight, to defeat Stipe Miocic in their rubber match Saturday and end his illustrious career at UFC 252 at Apex as the heavyweight champion.
Cormier is a two-time Olympic wrestler and was the captain of the U.S. Olympic team in Beijing in 2008.
If he takes Miocic down, it enhances his chances of success significantly.
But Cormier pointed out that it’s not simply as easy as saying, “Oh yeah, now is the time I need to wrestle.” Miocic’s wrestling isn’t on Cormier’s level, but he wrestled collegiately at Division I Cleveland State.
“I thought it was a fight, not a wrestling match,” Miocic said.
For Cormier to win, he needs to mix his attack, control the distance in the stand-up and not allow Miocic to touch him at range.
Cormier did well in the first part of UFC 241 last year by using his wrestling, but as he had success in the striking game, he opted to stick with that. It ultimately cost him as Miocic rallied and stopped him in the fourth to reclaim the title.
So yeah, Cormier needs to wrestle. But there is much he needs to do to set up his shots.
“Everybody talks about, ‘Oh, you’re an Olympic-level wrestler, go take this dude down,’” Cormier said. “Dude knows how to wrestle. He knows how to wrestle. I felt it immediately when I grabbed his leg. Understand that he has the skills to defend takedowns; he took me down.
“It’s not as simple as I just go take him down. I do believe that if I can get to his legs and extend the wrestling sequences, then I’ll come out on top because I feel I can do that against anyone. But I want to fight him. I don’t want to wrestle him.”
During the stand-up, Cormier needs to be all the way in, where he’s right in Miocic’s face and thus neutralizes the champion’s 8-plus-inch reach advantage, or all the way out, where Miocic can’t reach him.
In the first fight, Cormier got inside and turned over a short right that dropped Miocic which led to the fight-ending sequence.
Both men are elite fighters with well-rounded games, but the biggest difference between them is in the grappling. Cormier has good submissions and has the advantage as a wrestler.
If he is busy in the clinch, counters Miocic’s body shots and is able to get the fight to the ground, he’ll have more opportunities to win.
I believe Cormier may submit Miocic, knocking him down in the standup and then catching the champion with a rear naked choke, as he did to Anthony Johnson.
But the odds are short on Cormier to win and that’s appealing. Cormier is -115 at the MGM Grand Sports Book, while Miocic is -105. I’ll lay the $115 and bet Cormier with the hope of winning a $100 profit.
Other betting plays for UFC 252
• Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Junior dos Santos are two of the hardest punchers in the UFC. Between them, they have 24 knockouts combined in 39 fights. Rozenstruik was knocked out by Francis Ngannou at UFC 249 while dos Santos has been kayoed in each of his last two fights and five times in his career.
At the MGM, fight will start Round 3 is +145 while it won’t start Round 3 is -175. I’ll lay the $175 that it won’t start Round 3 and hope to make a $100 profit.
• John Dodson is a significant underdog against Merab Dvalishvili. Dvalishvili is -240, and Dodson is +200. Dodson is trending the wrong way, but I like the value at +200 so I’ll play $100 on Dodson to win with the hope of making a $200 profit.
• I think Virna Jandiroba will submit Felice Herrig, so I’ll bet $100 on the fight not going the distance with the hope of making a $160 profit.
• Sean O’Malley faces the toughest test of his career as he takes on Marlon Vera. The line is tough, as O’Malley is a -300 favorite and Vera is +240. I was tempted to take Vera because of his experience and submissions, but I have a feeling O’Malley is special and will put on a big performance in this spot. I’ll lay $300 on O’Malley to win with the hope of making a $100 profit.
In my five plays, I’m risking $790 with a potential profit of $660.
Last week, I was 2-2. I won my first two plays, earning $100 on Chris Weidman winning by decision over Omari Ahkmedov and making $100 on Beneil Darisuh to win over Scott Holtzman.
But I made two plays on Aleksei Oleinik in the main event against Derrick Lewis. I bet $100 on him to win at +165, so that was a loser. I also bet $100 on Oleinik to win by submission at +250, which was also a loser.
Thus, I broke even, winning $200 on Weidman and Dariush and losing $200 on Oleinik.
More from Yahoo Sports: