An exciting heavyweight championship trilogy sits atop the marquee on Saturday as UFC 252 sets up shop at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas. Former dual-champion Daniel Cormier squares off with reigning heavyweight king Stipe Miocic as their historic rivalry extends to a third and final chapter in this pay-per-view card.
That's not the only storyline you should follow on this 10-fight card we're slated to witness on Saturday night. Let's take a closer look at what to watch for entering the UFC 252 festivities this weekend.
1. Miocic-Cormier III might be the most prestigious fight in UFC history: No, really. Think about it. Two all-time great legends square off in a trilogy showdown that will be universally contested for the title of greatest heavyweight in UFC history.
But wait ... there's more!
Given the excitement and climactic endings of the first two bouts as each fighter traded knockout wins, another memorable fight produced by Miocic and Cormier likely makes this the most important trilogy in promotional history to boot. For some, Cormier is also fighting for a chance at cementing placement in the overall G.O.A.T. conversation. Considering the outcome of this fight affects both of their legacies in such substantial ways, this fight really is that important. And some of the fatigue from hardcore fans regarding whether they were feeling this fight was even necessary to be booked felt completely misplaced from the beginning.
This is for all of the heavyweight marbles, so to speak, pairing two warriors with something to prove and a story to complete. It doesn't get much better than this.
2. How many more times are we going to bet against Miocic?: He's a simple man with a big right hand, a huge heart and amazing chin who just so happens to have the most decorated UFC heavyweight resume to date. Miocic has racked up the most heavyweight title defenses in UFC history and owns knockout wins over Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos and Cormier in addition to decision victories over Roy Nelson and Francis Ngannou. Yet at so many steps of his journey, so many (including this writer) have believed his time at the top was up.
The oddsmakers for Saturday's trilogy have made this essentially a pick 'em fight -- with good reason. Yet the majority of the stories being written will be focused more on the jovial and humble Cormier regarding his legacy, what he might do next and many other fun angles given his media friendliness. Miocic, who spent his quarantine on the frontline as a firefighter and paramedic in Ohio while locked out of his gym for most of it due to the pandemic, will simply pick up his hard hat and grind away once more with a chance at being remembered as the best to ever do it in his weight class.
3. If Cormier wins, no chance the UFC lets him retire … yet: I've got two words for this one: Jon Jones. How about 24 more? How about: truckloads of cash and Dana White smiling outside his door pleading to make (sorry Miocic-Cormier III) the new most prestigious fight in UFC history? Cormier originally announced he would retire at 40, but couldn't do it. Then losing the heavyweight title back to Miocic in their rematch kept him around an additional year.
Literally, the only thing short of being hand-fed Brock Lesnar and an eight-figure purse that would keep DC around for one more Octagon appearance would be that elusive final shot at beating his bitter rival. The fact that it would come at heavyweight -- which might favor Cormier, in theory -- and offer Jones a shot at equaling Cormier as a two-division champion only makes it sweeter. Cormier has been able to skirt the Jones-sized hole in his resume by climbing to the top of two divisions, but a demon-killing win over Jones might allow him to walk away with a shot at being considered the best to ever do it -- only if he wins against Miocic first, of course.
4. "Suga" Sean O'Malley gets potential star-making close-up: At just 25 and armed with a large social media following and unique flair, it's not hyperbole to talk up O'Malley as both the future of an already loaded bantamweight division and the sport as a whole. His knockout wins have been that exciting and his handle on self-marketing is impressive enough to make a recent two-year layoff due to a USADA suspension feel like it never happened.
The unbeaten O'Malley should get a big push from his co-main event billing this weekend, but he'll be forced to pass a dangerous test in the hard-charging Marlon "Chito" Vera. A win would make it hard for the UFC to keep O'Malley out of the 135-pound title picture in 2021, and his current momentum likely makes it so there's no reason the promotion would want to.
5. Jim Miller continues quietly making UFC history: He's a grinder, a celebrated journeyman of sorts and an all-around embodiment of what a mixed martial artist should be. At 36, Miller will enter the Octagon for the 36th time and eclipse Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone for the UFC record of most appearances when he faces Vinc Pinchel in a lightweight bout.
The turnaround is a quick one for Miller after dominating Roosevelt Roberts in June and the continuation of a respected career in which every time you think it might be the right one for him to walk away -- like after his four-fight losing streak two years ago -- he finds a way to secure a much-needed win. A victory would also move Miller into a second-place tie with Demian Maia for second place on the list of most UFC victories with 22, just one shy of Cerrone's current mark. Miller is also tied for third for more finishes (13) and one submission shy of Maia for second most at 11. He's also comfortably ahead of the field for most submission attempts in UFC history with 43, a mark that's 11 more than the next in line.