UFC 203: Miocic v. Overeem
Quickens Loans Arena
September 10, 2016
Reporting LIVE from cageside: Ted Zep
It has been a long, hot, memorable summer for the citizens of Northeast Ohio. While most would point to the Cleveland Cavalier’s Game 7 NBA Finals win in June as the kickoff of this newfound energy in the region, it actually occurred just over four weeks earlier in the unlikely location of Curitiba, Brazil. It was there on May 14 that a fireman from Independence, Ohio knocked out Fabricio Werdum to become the UFC Heavyweight Champion of the World. Hungry for a hero, the citizens of the area embraced the affable slugger. Stipe Miocic was just what they had been looking for. He was one of them.
Shortly thereafter, it was announced that Miocic’s first defence of his crown would be in September against the extremely talented Dutch fighter, Alistair Overeem. Equally adept at striking and on the mat, Overeem is notable for simultaneously holding championships in kickboxing and MMA. He has victories over six former UFC champions. This was not going to be a walk in the park. And oh yeah, the fight will be held in Cleveland.
And oh yeah, the fight will be held in Cleveland.
The summer flew by for Miocic. He trained and upheld the various publicity obligations that are required of a fighter in his position. Though distractions were surely incalculable, Miocic kept his eye and mind on one thing: September 10.
UFC 203: Cageside
The bouts start promptly at 7:30.
Welterweight Yancy Medeiros ended Sean Spencer’s night early in the second round with a rear-naked choke.
Drew Dober stopped Jason Gonzalez by TKO in 1:45 of the first round in matchup of lightweights.
Fighting at a catchweight of 158 lbs., Nik Lentz clobbered Michael McBride, who held on until 4:15 of the second round. This one was a bit of a scramble until Lentz started swarming McBride.
Middleweight Brad Tavares bested Caio Magalhaes by split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28). The crowd got antsy at times. The infamous “Woooo!” of legendary professional wrestler Ric Flair was being done by fans in the audience who were, assumably, attempting to entertain themselves. The crowd livened up a bit, however, at the beginning of the third round.
A women’s bout was next. It pitted Bethe Correia against Jessica “Evil” Eye. Eye was born in nearby Barberton and briefly attended the University of Akron before pursuing fighting full-time. The crowd was firmly behind the bantamweight. Eye was scrappy and motivated throughout the bout but it wasn’t enough to down Correia who won by a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28). The crowd was irate as the result was read. Correia taunted the angry audience.
Jessica Andrade defeated Joanne Calderwood by submission in the first at 4:38.
Bantamweights Jimmie Rivera and Urijah Faber went the distance. Riviera beat the uncharacteristically-off “California Kid” by unanimous decision.
Welterweight Mickey Gall defeated former professional wrestler CM Punk by rear-naked choke submission in 2:14 of Round 1. However, the story of the match isn’t that the 37-year old first-time fighter entered the Octagon and was choked out. Not by a long shot. Two years ago the Chicago-native quit a lucrative, high-profile gig with the WWE because he wasn’t happy. He felt stagnant and unappreciated by the company. Figuring that it was now or never, he left professional wrestling to follow the dream he had to fight in the UFC. He trained hard for two years and… he did it. After the fight, Punk gave an impassioned speech encouraging children to take chances in life. It’s a very touching and honest moment.
Scanning the audience, I noticed model and daughter of professional wrestler Mick Foley, Noelle Foley sitting in the front row.
Former Heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum defeated Travis Browne by unanimous decision. Things got heated after the bell when Werdum tried to kick one of Browne’s trainers. It felt like a major melee between the two camps was narrowly averted. If Miocic retains later it would seem that Werdum is due a rematch.
The Main Event
Up to this point, the evening had been about either exhibition or spectacle. The tone changed when it was time for the main event. This was about the city and people of NE Ohio, through Miocic, proving themselves on their home turf.
Boos rained down on the hulking challenger as he sauntered to the ring. Gaining the support of this crowd, in this building, on this night was an impossibility for Alistair Overeem.
The faithful took to their feet as they waited for the champion to enter. They erupted as the opening notes of rapper and Cleveland-native MGK’s hood anthem “Till I Die” began to play.
Miocic strode confidently to cageside. A deafening chant of “STIPE!” greeted Miocic upon entering the ring. The energy level at the Quicken Loans Arena was volcanic.
The bout almost ends as quickly as it starts when Overeem scores early with a body kick. He follows with a punch that staggers the champion. Overeem attempts to sink in a guillotine choke on the champion.
The breath collectively leaves the bodies of the 18,000 plus in attendance.
If you have lived in the area for any amount of time you quickly learn to expect the worst. No good things ever happen here. THIS was about to end.
And then it didn’t.
Miocic wiggles free and begins the assault.
Overeem backs up as he eats the champ’s fists. The challenger is unable to dodge the combos and uppercuts headed his way. Overeem continually tries to run away as he is stalked.
But then Miocic gets a takedown and starts dropping bombs. In the midst of the barrage, one of the shots knocks Alistair Overeem out cold.
The referee stops the fight.
Miocic has won.
Cleveland has won.
This isn’t a dream.
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