With his first round knockout victory over Junior dos Santos on Saturday night, I feel that Stipe Miocic has become the greatest heavyweight champion in the history of the UFC. While he still needs to defend the title for a third time to set the new record for most title defenses during a single reign, the way he has quickly dispatched Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, and dos Santos in a combined 9 minutes and 36 seconds makes up for the fact that he’s tied with 4 others for the longest heavyweight title reign in the promotion’s history. But on that note, who’s next for Miocic to face? Let’s take a look at the options:
Former champion Cain Velasquez is my first choice to face Miocic, but the big question here is whether or not Velasquez is able to remain healthy enough to face Miocic because Velasquez has a history of being injury prone. But if Velasquez does indeed fight Miocic, I think he’d be Miocic’s biggest test and the winner of this fight would be the undisputed best heavyweight in the promotion’s history.
Winner of Alistair Overeem/Fabricio Werdum
I’m not wild about Overeem or Werdum getting a rematch so soon, but the heavyweight division lacks depth at the moment and the winner of this fight would be the next best option to face Miocic. Overeem did give Miocic a quick scare in their fight at UFC 203, so I’d rather see Overeem face Miocic again instead of Werdum if it was up to me.
I know this seems farfetched, and I know Lesnar is retired from active MMA competition. But when you really think about this, I think it’s not quite as farfetched as it seems. It’s no secret that the new ownership group needs to make their money back, and if they were to bring Lesnar back to fight for the title immediately it would be sure to generate a lot of interest, pay-per-view buys, and most importantly, a lot of revenue. I’m not necessarily a fan of the idea of bringing Lesnar in to get a title shot he hasn’t actually earned, but I’m just saying it wouldn’t shock me to see the UFC go this route.
The Rest of the Heavyweight Division
Of the heavyweights I didn’t highlight, the one I’d want to see fight Miocic most is Francis Ngannou. But he needs another big win before he’d really have earned a title shot. Ben Rothwell hasn’t fought in over a year, and is coming off of a loss to dos Santos, so he should be out of the discussion for now. Josh Barnett is coming off of a win over Andrei Arlovski back in September…but he’s only fought once over the last 16 months and is 2-2 in his last 4 fights. Derrick Lewis is on a 6-fight winning streak, but he hasn’t beaten a big name that would catapult him into the title shot picture, although that would change if he defeats Mark Hunt when they meet. Mark Hunt is coming off of a loss to Overeem, and needs to string together some wins to get a shot at the title.
So in summary, my preferences for Stipe Miocic’s next opponents are as follows: Cain Velasquez, or the winner of Alistair Overeem versus Fabricio Werdum. The rest of the division just hasn’t quite earned the next shot at Miocic in my opinion.