- Brett Okamoto, ESPN Staff Writer
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It’s the same plan he takes into all his fights: Be the tougher guy. OK, and worry a little.
Maldonado (21-6) has a major challenge on his hands this weekend, as he’s set to face a surging Miocic (11-1) in the main event of the TUF Brazil finale on Saturday.
The fight came together earlier this month, when Miocic's original opponent, Junior dos Santos, withdrew from the bout due to a hand injury. Maldonado agreed to fill in for Dos Santos in what will be his first heavyweight bout since June 2010.
It could be described as a relatively nightmarish matchup for Maldonado. Miocic is a former collegiate wrestler with an amateur boxing background and no reputation for gassing in fights. He’ll also have about a 20-pound size advantage.
This would seem like an ideal time for a crafty game plan from a seasoned veteran, which Maldonado certainly is. Problem is, he doesn’t do game plans.
“I’ve always liked the aggressive styles of [boxers] Joe Frazier or Ricky Hatton,” Maldonado said through translator and manager Alex Davis. “I’ve always fought like that. I’m not going to be able to change it.
“I need to put pressure on [Miocic]. If he hits me 10 times and I hit him 10 times, he’s going to tire out more than I will.”
It’s a risky attitude to carry into a fight -- especially at heavyweight -- but Maldonado has made it work as of late. He’s riding a three-fight win streak and, as some will recall, nearly sent UFC commentator Joe Rogan into cardiac arrest when he hurt Glover Teixeira with a left hook in an otherwise one-sided fight in late 2012.
It’s that kind of moment, even though it resulted in a loss, that Maldonado relies on. He honestly says he probably can’t beat the champion of his weight class, Jon Jones, in a five-round technical fight. -- but anything can happen in a brawl.
“That’s what works for me,” Maldonado says. “Of course, Jon Jones has different qualities. He does other things better than what I do, but I work hard when I train and I don’t take a lot of punishment when I train, so I can take more in a fight.”
Surprisingly, Maldonado says he hasn’t experienced the wear and tear of a brawler, despite years of being one. He guesses he’s received only 25 total stitches, a hard-to-believe number if you’ve seen him fight, but admits he’s broken his nose four times.
“I don’t have any scars,” Maldonado says. “The worst I’ve been damaged was in the fight everyone saw against Teixeira. The first time I got stitches was in 2014. I’ve maybe had 25 stitches, not more than that. I still have a baby face.”