DALLAS (AP) — Stipe Miocic prefers trying to avoid any extended talk about the possibility of matching some UFC heavyweight history, much like sidestepping a jab aimed for his jaw.
Miocic will try Saturday night to become only the fifth UFC heavyweight fighter to defend his title twice. To do so, he will have to beat former champion and fourth-ranked Junior Dos Santos, who defeated Miocic by a slim margin 2 1/2 years ago in a five-round brawl that left both fighters bloodied and bruised.
“If it happens, it happens, which, I’m going to do it,” Miocic said of another title defense. “But I’m not going to worry about it. I’m going to worry about him,” nodding in the direction of Dos Santos sitting only a few yards away.
Miocic is from Cleveland, and brought home a championship a month before his beloved Cavaliers won the NBA title last year.
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The 34-year-old Miocic (16-2) claimed his UFC crown with a first-round knockout of Fabricio Werdum in May 2016 in Brazil, and he retained the title by beating Alistair Overeem last September at Cleveland with another first-round knockout.
Since the heavyweight division was formed in 1997, only Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Cain Velasquez and Brock Lesnar have won two title defenses.
Dos Santos was awarded a unanimous decision over Miocic when they fought in Phoenix in December 2014 without a title belt on the line. That fight was scored 48-47, 49-46, 49-46. Dos Santos’ eyes and cheeks were swelling in the later rounds, and Miocic immediately left the cage upon hearing the decision by the judges.
“The judges said I lost. So, I lost,” Miocic said with a shrug. “Unfortunately, he beat me last time, which kills me inside … But I want to thank him at the same time because it made me better. Gave me more confidence. I took everything he gave me.”
Miocic has won his four bouts since, three of those in the first round.
Both fighters said their rematch Saturday, the feature bout of a 13-fight card at the American Airlines Center, won’t go the full five rounds.
Miocic insisted that he wasn’t going to lose. Dos Santos (18-4), a 33-year-old Brazilian, predicted a second-round victory, but also expressed admiration for his opponent.
“He’s a real deal in our division,” Dos Santos said. “I learned a lot from that fight, not just about him but about me, too. We have to impose ourselves better during the fight. We have to have our strategy and follow it until the end.”
Dos Santos won his title in November 2011 with a 64-second knockout of Velasquez in California. But he lost a unanimous decision to Velasquez in his second title defense 13 months later at Las Vegas.
There was only one fight in each 2015 and 2016 for Dos Santos, who had surgery on his right shoulder after beating Ben Rothwell 13 months ago. A fight scheduled in February against Stefan Struve was cancelled after Struve was…