Northeast Ohio’s own Stipe Miocic provides inspiration with UFC 203 victory

Last Saturday night, I witnessed something special. Something inspirational.

I spent the night at the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in downtown Kent watching the Independence, Ohio, born and Croatian heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic, defeat the accomplished Dutchman Alistair Overeem via first round knockout to retain the UFC World Heavyweight Championship.

This was Miocic’s first title defense since defeating the dangerous Brazilian heavyweight Fabricio Werdum at the UFC 198 event held in Brazil back in May.

Many fans coming into Saturday’s fight were wondering how Miocic would respond to pressure after defeating the heavily-favorited Werdum in his home country. Those close to the sport pondered if Miocic was simply a flash in the pan or a legitimate contender in the UFC’s heavyweight division.

These questions were answered Saturday night with his emphatic win. It was a dramatic victory that provided a source of inspiration for Northeast Ohio fans alike.

Standing at 6 feet 4 inches and weighing in at 246 pounds, the Northeast Ohio native wasted very little time knocking out the accomplished Overeem in the first round of Saturday night’s main event.

After recovering nicely from a knockdown early in the fight, Miocic dominated Overeem on the ground before knocking him out with devastating ground and pound shots from the top position.

Within four minutes of the scheduled 25-minute fight, he had silenced his critics, simultaneously providing hope for Ohioan UFC fans all over.

Miocic spends most of his time training less than an hour away from both Cleveland and Kent State, forming an unmistakable bond between the state and the fighter.

This was most evident as I watched in the restaurant. It was clear that most, if not all, of the fans in attendance were there to see Miocic retain his title. As soon as televisions tuned in to his bout, everybody hurried to the front of the bar, anxiously gathering around the projection screen to get a front row view of the fight.

The whole restaurant was fearlessly cheering for Miocic and expressing their desperate wishes for him to come out on top.

As someone who was born and raised in Cleveland, I can understand peoples anxieties to get behind a consistent winner. Besides the recent championship run from the 2015-2016 Cleveland Cavaliers, there have been far too many heartbreaks in Cleveland sports history.

These traumatic heartbreaks have lead to a tendency to cling to any winner that comes from the area. This ideology distinctly evident while watching Miocic following during his title defense..

It’s safe to say that Miocic has inspired regional fans with his victory on Saturday night, carrying on the winning momentum and culture that is currently manifesting in Northeast Ohio. It’s a new feeling for most, but we are embracing it one victory at a time.

Israel Galarza III is a columnist, contact him at [email protected].