Miocic (15-2) took advantage of a major tactical error by Werdum on Saturday night, knocking the Brazilian out cold with a right hand just 2:47 into their heavyweight championship fight. The bout headlined UFC 198 in front of 45,000 fans at Arena da Baixada soccer stadium in Curitiba, Brazil.
Werdum (20-6), who won the title by defeating Cain Velasquez in dominant fashion in June, opened up with a measured game plan. He targeted Miocic with leg kicks and looked for a single-leg takedown.
The 38-year-old Werdum grew impatient midway through the round, however, and charged forward while throwing winging punches. Miocic, a former amateur boxer and collegiate-level wrestler, expertly circled away from the attack and unleashed a short, crisp right hand to Werdum's jaw. Werdum crumpled forward from the shot, and referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in, although not before Miocic landed a couple of follow-up shots.
Miocic, 33, somersaulted over the Octagon wall as soon as the fight was called. Fighting out of Cleveland, he mentioned the city's long championship drought in professional sports, one he now sees as over.
"Cleveland, we got a champion baby!" Miocic said.
Members of the Cleveland sports community took notice, tweeting their congratulations to Miocic shortly after.
HE DID IT!!! Aaannnnddd NEW!!! UFC HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION @stipemiocicufc !!!!!!!— Yan Gomes (@Yan_AGomes) May 15, 2016
"Honestly, Fabricio is tough," Miocic said. "He had me guessing. We trained hard, man. I have a good right hand. Thank God. He caught me off-guard a little. I wasn't opening up like I wanted to. He's got good jiu-jitsu. I was worried about the takedown."
Werdum, who trains out of Kings MMA in Southern California, credited Miocic as "the better man" on Saturday night. Werdum hadn't lost since rejoining UFC in 2012, after fighting outside the promotion between 2009 and 2012. It is just the second knockout loss of his nearly 14-year career and comes in a Brazilian event built around him.
"I'm going to come back here, and I'm going to be champion again," Werdum said.
According to Fightmetric, Miocic landed 20 of 31 total strikes attempted. Werdum landed 15 of 33. He got into Miocic's hips on one single-leg attempt, his only takedown attempt of the night, but Miocic quickly threw him off.
The win marks the 11th knockout win of Miocic's career. He is 9-2 overall in UFC, with four first-round knockouts. Prior to taking the title from Werdum, he knocked out former champion Andrei Arlovski in 54 seconds in January.
The next significant heavyweight fight takes place at UFC 200 on July 9 between Velasquez (13-2) and Travis Browne (18-3-1). The winner of that fight could be in line for a title shot. Another candidate for Miocic is former Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem (41-14), who is riding a four-fight winning streak and is coming off a second-round knockout of Arlovski earlier this month.