Daniel Cormier will battle for the third and final time with the belt on the line in what is expected to be an epic finish to their trilogy. The pair have traded knockouts in the first two meetings, and with the smaller cage in use this time, it’s of high probability to expect more of the same.
The night is expected to be full of action with knockout artists littering the main card. Fans won’t have to wait long for action to kick into gear when Junior dos Santos and Jair Rozenstruik link up in a featured bout. And rising star Sean O’Malley is back in the co-main event when he takes on the always tough Marlon “Chito” Vera at bantamweight.
With all that in mind, let’s take a closer look at what you can expect to see from each bout on the main card.
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(Odds via William Hill Sportsbook)
Merab Dvalishvili -260 vs. John Dodson +210, bantamweights: Dodson (21-11) is far removed from the point where he was considered by many to be the second best flyweight on the UFC roster behind Demetrious Johnson. In 2016, he moved back to the bantamweight division and has had mixed success, going 4-4, including a win over Nathaniel Wood in his most recent fight, snapping a two-fight losing skid. Dvalishvili started his UFC career slow, losing his first two fights in the Octagon but has since righted the ship, going on a four-fight winning streak. Only four of Dvalishvili’s 15 career fights have ended before the final bell. All of his UFC wins have been by unanimous decision. Dodson has never been stopped in his career, losing 11 fights by decision.
Herbert Burns -280 vs. Daniel Pineda +230, featherweights: Burns (11-2) has impressed early in his UFC career. After picking up a first round arm-triangle submission on Dana White’s Contender Series, Burns picked up a first-round knockout win over Nate Landwehr in his official Octagon debut and followed up with a submission of Evan Dunham in just 80 seconds in his next fight, running his current winning streak to five fights. In 13 career fights, Burns has eight submission wins, making him one of the more dangerous men in the featherweight division in the grappling arena. Pineda (26-13) doesn’t bring a sparkling record to the Octagon, but does have loads of experience fighting on big stages. Pineda fought in the UFC from 2012 to 2014, when a 1-4 stretch led to his release from the promotion. Before and after his first UFC stint, Pineda was a member of the Bellator roster and also won two fights on the same night in the 2019 PFL featherweight tournament in 2019, only to have both fights overturned for a failed drug test. Now, six years after his first release from the UFC, he will return to the Octagon.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik -135 vs. Junior Dos Santos +115, heavyweights: After losing for the first time in his MMA career when he was knocked out in just 20 seconds by Francis Ngannou, Rozenstruik (10-1) will now face off with former UFC heavyweight champion Dos Santos (21-7). One fight before the loss to Ngannou, Rozenstruik scored the biggest win of his career with a dramatic comeback knockout against Alistair Overeem just four seconds before the final bell in a fight he was going to lose on the scorecards. All five of Rozenstruik’s UFC fights — and 10 of his 11 career bouts — have ended by knockout, including a pair of Octagon wins that took 9 and 29 seconds, respectively. A win over Dos Santos would be Rozenstruik’s second over a former UFC champion, having knocked out Andrei Arlovski this past November. Dos Santos won the heavyweight championship in 2011, knocking out Cain Velasquez in the UFC’s debut on Fox, before losing the title back to Velasquez two fights later. He has lost two more shots at the championship and now enters UFC 252 on a two-fight losing skid that saw him knocked out by Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes.
Sean O’Malley -310 vs. Marlon Vera +250, bantamweights: O’Malley (12-0) has spent 2020 reminding fans why he was considered one of the top prospects in the sport before having his career derailed for two years due to the questionable results of a pair of drug tests. O’Malley returned from suspension in March with a head-kick knockout of Jose Quinonez and followed up that win with the biggest victory of his career, a vicious first round knockout of Eddie Wineland at UFC 250 in June. Vera (15-6-1) will enter the cage coming off a May loss to Song Yadong, snapping a five-fight winning streak. Vera has competed in the UFC since November 2014, fighting in the Octagon 14 times and compiling a 9-5 record in the promotion. Vera has never been stopped in his pro career and only three of his 15 career wins have come by decision.
UFC Heavyweight Championship — Stipe Miocic (c) -105 vs. Daniel Cormier -115: Cormier and Miocic will battle for a third time after splitting the first two meetings. There’s more on the line than a simple championship belt, with the winner of the rubber match laying claim to the status of the greatest heavyweight in MMA history. Cormier (22-2) won their first meeting in July 2018, knocking out Miocic in the first round at UFC 226. In the rematch at UFC 241 in August 2019, Miocic (19-3) scored a knockout late in the fourth round. Cormier was doing well in the rematch before he abandoned the wrestling-first approach that had allowed him to take over the early rounds and opened the door for Miocic to hurt him to the body and set up the finish.
Before losing to Cormier, Miocic had set the record for most consecutive UFC heavyweight championship defenses with three. After winning the title from Fabricio Werdum, Miocic defeated Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos and Francis Ngannou in his title defenses. Cormier was the light heavyweight champion when he returned to heavyweight to win the title from Cormier, becoming a double champion. Cormier’s lone losses are to Jon Jones and Miocic, the most successful light heavyweight and heavyweight champions in UFC history, respectively.