The UFC is putting on a true summer blockbuster at UFC 252 with the third fight between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier at the Apex Facility in Las Vegas.
The clash of the titans will serve as the defining fight of the current era in the heavyweight division. One of the two men has held the heavyweight title since May 2016. In a division that has been noted for its constant turnover at the top, this is as close to a dynastic run as it gets.
The duo have already waged two wars. Cormier struck first when he ended Miocic's reign with a first-round knockout. The champion hit back with a fourth-round TKO win in the sequel to reclaim his UFC gold.
Now they have one last shot to settle the score and make their claim as the best heavyweight in UFC history.
Outside of the main event is another appearance from budding star Sean O'Malley and a key heavyweight fight for rising prospect Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Junior dos Santos.
Here's a look at the complete card along with predictions for the biggest fights of the night.
Main Card (ESPN+ PPV at 10 p.m. ET)
- Stipe Miocic (+100; a $100 bet wins $100) (c) vs. Daniel Cormier (-120; bet $120 to win $100) - heavyweight championship fight
- Sean O'Malley (-300) vs. Marlon Vera (+250)
- Junior Dos Santos (+110) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (-130)
- Herbert Burns (-265) vs. Daniel Pineda (+225)
- John Dodson (+210) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (-250)
Prelims (ESPN/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET)
- Jim Miller (+105) vs. Vinc Pichel (-125)
- Felice Herrig (+250) vs. Virna Jandiroba (-300)
- TJ Brown (-150) vs. Danny Chavez (+130)
- Livinha Souza (-160) vs. Ashley Yoder (+140)
Early Prelims (ESPN/ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET)
- Chris Daukaus (+100) vs. Parker Porter (-120)
- Kai Kamaka III (145.5) vs. Tony Kelley (145.5)
All odds via Caesars Palace. Predicted winners in italics.
Cormier Wrestles His Way to a Decision
The previous two fights between DC and Miocic have given us five rounds of fighting to analyze. Of those rounds, Miocic has outstruck Cormier in just one of them: the fourth round in which he scored the finish in the rematch.
There's a strong case to be made that Cormier has won four of the five rounds. That's with much of the fight taking place as a striking battle with little wrestling involved. Cormier scored a takedown in the opening frame of the rematch but never really went back to that well with any success.
That speaks to Miocic's wrestling chops. While it's easy to say the former Olympian should utilize his wrestling more, the current champion has some wrestling of his own. Cormier has been open about the challenges of "just wrestling" his opponent in the lead-up to the fight.
"Dude knows how to wrestle. He knows how to wrestle. I felt it immediately when I grabbed his leg. I understand that he has the skills to defend takedowns," Cormier said, per Farah Hannoun and Ken Hathaway of MMAjunkie. "(He) took me down. So it's not as simple as I just go take him down. But I do believe if I get to his legs, and I can extend the wrestling sequences, then I'll come out on top."
The key phrase there may be "extend the wrestling sequences." If DC can make Miocic carry some of his weight and slow the pace down, he may be able to apply the kind of pressure he will need to win the fight while keeping his gas tank fresh enough for five rounds.
It won't be an easy task, and we could be in for an all-timer as both of these men reach the end of their respective careers.
Prediction: Cormier via decision
O'Malley Puts on a Show Against Vera
After sitting out for over two years with injuries and a suspension from USADA for the presence of Ostarine in a pre-fight test, the Sean O'Malley hype train is officially full steam ahead.
The organization hasn't been shy about throwing its promotional weight into the rising star.
Wins over Jose Alberto Quinonez and Eddie Wineland already in 2020 have O'Malley making up for lost time and starting to build real momentum. That's why he finds himself as the co-main event anchored by a main event fight that should sell well.
The matchup sets up well for the 25-year-old to shine on the big stage. Vera is widely considered a step up in competition and should be willing to put on a good fight that will entertain fans.
He is coming off a Fight of the Night loss to Song Yadong and earned a Performance of the Night bonus with a win over Andre Ewell in his fight before that. Vera is willing to throw down while also possessing the durability to take a lot of punishment. He has not been finished in his career.
O'Malley is a different striker from what Vera has seen, though. The way he's able to take advantage of his height and reach makes him a unique challenge in the division.
The Brazilian will come to the table bringing veteran savvy and experience, but he doesn't have any of the physical attributes of O'Malley. Becoming the first to finish Vera would take a strong performance from O'Malley, but that is likely why this fight has been booked.
Prediction: O'Malley via second-round TKO
Rozenstruik Extends Dos Santos' Losing Streak to Three
In the heavyweight division you either retire the champion or stick around long enough to become a human punching bag.
Unfortunately, it looks like 36-year-old Junior dos Santos is starting to resemble the back half of that statement. The once heavyweight champion has suffered two lopsided losses at the hands of major players in the division.
While defeats to Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes are excusable, they were both one-sided TKO losses. It's fair to wonder if the cumulative damage of a life lived in the heavyweight division is starting to weigh on JDS.
On the other hand, this is a great test for Rozensruik. He, too, found out that Francis Ngannou is the scariest heavyweight in the UFC. Can he bounce back and fight to his potential?
That's going to be the most important question for Rozenstuik. Before getting knocked silly by Ngannou he was a perfect 12-0 with nine of those wins coming by way of knockout.
Dos Santos could make this prediction look silly with just one punch that lands flush. Power can be the last thing to go and while his chin is betraying him there's still a lot of dynamite in those fists.
Still, the most likely outcomes is that Rozenstruik is able to win the race to land the first knockout-worthy strikes.