The UFC 203 main event for the most prized possession in all combat sports – the UFC heavyweight championship – features two fighters looking for a storybook kind of night.
Stipe Miocic makes his first title defense in his hometown of Cleveland just four months after knocking out Fabricio Werdum, whom many were starting to proclaim as the greatest heavyweight ever.
With a four-fight win streak in tow – three by knockout – Alistair Overeem makes his 57th walk as a professional mixed martial arts combatant. “The Demolition Man” has captured titles in Strikeforce, Dream, K-1 and Pride. He has taken out some of the top names in the sport’s history, including Werdum, Brock Lesnar and Vitor Belfort.
Overeem made his intentions clear when he signed with the UFC back in 2011: He wanted the belt. A win over Miocic completes the dream for “The Reem.”
But taking out the newly crowned champion won’t be an easy task for Overeem, who has been nearly unstoppable since moving to Jackson/Winklejohn in Albuquerque.
Miocic holds the third-highest striking rate in the history of the heavyweight division (4.93) behind only Cain Velasquez and Todd Duffee. He has a penchant for quick knockouts, too. He is one of only five fighters in UFC history to record three or more sub-minute KOs (Belfort, Mike Swick, Johny Hendricks, Anthony Johnson).
While Miocic is great, there is an argument to be made that Overeem is even better. The 36-year old Dutchman has the highest striking accuracy in UFC history. He has never landed fewer than 62 percent of his significant strike attempts in any of his nine UFC bouts.
Miocic vs. Overeem is the No. 1 reason to watch UFC 203 live on Pay-Per-View Saturday, Sept. 10.
2 – Browne desperately seeks redemption in rematch
The last time Travis Browne was about to fight Fabricio Werdum in April 2014, he was on a three-fight winning streak and arguably one victory away from a title shot.
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But Browne ran into a faster, more diverse striker on that night in Werdum, falling by unanimous decision in a one-sided, five-round affair.
This time, Browne is coming off a loss and has managed just two wins in his last four. But it’s the heavyweight division. When it comes to the big boys it’s all about what have you done lately.
Werdum is the former UFC champion and widely considered one of the best to ever do it in the heavyweight division. A win for Browne on short notice would be just what he needs to get back into the title picture.
3 – Want him to win? Want him to lose? Everybody wants to watch CM Punk
Whether you love him or hate him, not many fighters have caused as big a stir as CM Punk has since announcing his switch from the squared circle to the Octagon.
Against Mickey Gall, Punk is going to try and answer the question that fans have been debating for the past two years: Can he fight?
The former WWE standout moved to Milwaukee from his hometown of Chicago to find out. The evolution of Punk has been well documented and now comes the payoff.
The fun part of Punk’s debut is the multi-faceted dynamic to his participation. How will his striking look? What if he gets taken down? What if he wins? What if he loses?
The intrigue plays out only on Pay-Per-View Saturday night. Whatever happens, you’re not going to want to miss it.
4 – Faber keeps on truckin’
Urijah Faber has never been one to get discouraged. A heart-breaking championship loss to longtime rival Dominick Cruz at UFC 199 couldn’t keep Faber out of the Octagon for long.
Next up is Jimmie Rivera, which is going to be another huge challenge for “The California Kid.”
Rivera is undefeated in three UFC fights and at 27 years old is just coming into his prime as a fighter. Faber is the ultimate gatekeeper fight for Rivera, who will surely enter the conversation at 135 pounds with a win.
5 – Strawweight Fight of the Night contender
UFC matchmaker4 Sean Shelby has outdone himself once again.
No. 6-ranked Jessica Andrade vs. No. 7-ranked JoJo Calderwood is exemplary matchmaking and the result could be one of the best fights in the history of the weight class.
Andrade made her stunning strawweight debut back in June with a destructive win against former title contender Jessica Penne. Andrade looked quick and powerful at 115 pounds and she meets another slick striker in Calderwood.
Calderwood took out another title contender in Valerie Letourneau last time out in her best performance to date in the UFC. Look for this one to be fast-paced, and try not to blink.
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC