What’s Next for Stipe Miocic?

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:

Cain Velasquez

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.

Brock Lesnar

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.

Is Stipe Miocic on the verge of becoming the best UFC Heavyweight Champion in History?

Stipe Miocic might be on the verge of becoming the greatest heavyweight champion in the history of the UFC.  Now, while it should go without saying that the greatest heavyweight in the history of mixed martial arts is Fedor Emelianenko.  After all, the former PRIDE heavyweight champion has wins over the likes of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Mirko Filipovic, Mark Hunt, Tim Sylvia, and Andrei Arlovski.  But unfortunately, Emelianenko has never fought in the UFC, so the debate of who the greatest UFC heavyweight champion in history is still up for debate.

If he was able to stay healthy for a prolonged period of time, I’d actually say that Cain Velasquez is the best heavyweight champion in the history of the UFC.  At his peak and when he’s healthy, Velasquez is an absolute beast.  But he’s won and lost the UFC heavyweight title twice.  He won it by beating Brock Lesnar, lost it to Junior dos Santos in his first title defense, won the belt back from dos Santos a year later, defended it against Antonio Silva, defended it against dos Santos, and then lost it to Fabricio Werdum.  All in all, he’s 4-2 in title fights with 2 successful defenses.  But unfortunately, he’s pretty injury prone.

But let’s take a look at the current champion, Stipe Miocic.  Miocic has a record of 16-2.  He won the title last year on May 14, 2016 with a first round knockout of Fabricio Werdum.  He proceeded to successfully defend the title back in September against Alistair Overeem.  With a successful title defense over Junior dos Santos on Saturday night, he suddenly ties the record (held by Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Brock Lesnar, and Velasquez) for most title consecutive title defenses in the UFC’s heavyweight division at….2.

There’s never been a dominant long-term champion in the UFC’s heavyweight division.  With a win, and a decisive win at that, over Junior dos Santos, I think that Miocic makes a great argument for being the best UFC heavyweight champion in the promotion’s history.  In my opinion, he’ll have beaten arguably better competition than Randy Couture did (when he beat Pedro Rizzo twice), or Tim Sylvia did (wins over Andrei Arlovski and Jeff Monson) during their “long” title reigns.  But I think you can make the argument that Lesnar and Velasquez’s competitors were of equal or greater talent than Overeem and dos Santos (Lesnar beat Frank Mir and Shane Carwin; Velasquez beat Antonio Silva and dos Santos)

In heavyweight title fights, Randy Couture has the most wins with 6.  But he’s 6-3 in heavyweight title fights.  A win over dos Santos makes Miocic 3-0.  The only other fighters to go undefeated in UFC heavyweight title fights are Bas Rutten and Josh Barnett, who lost the title due to retirement (Rutten) and a positive drug test (Barnett).  After those two, Brock Lesnar has the best winning percentage in UFC heavyweight title fights at 3-1 (.750).

While I know it might be an unpopular opinion, I think that Lesnar, Velasquez, Couture and Miocic might be the four best heavyweight champions in the UFC’s history.  If Miocic wins against dos Santos, and then proceeds to knock off another top contender (maybe Velasquez if/when he’s healthy?) then I think that ends the discussion and Stipe Miocic should then be considered the greatest heavyweight champion in the UFC’s history.

Thoughts on UFC 203 – September 12, 2016

  • UFC 203 proved to be a fun evening in Cleveland. I’m not sure what the fights looked like to the audience watching on television, but this was a great event to attend live in person.  This was my sixth UFC event that I’ve attended, and to be honest it was probably either my favorite or second favorite of the bunch (it’s neck and neck with UFC 140 for that honor). 
  • I think Stipe Miocic really cemented his place as the top heavyweight in the world right now, as he’s now knocked out Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum, and Alistair Overeem in 2016, all in a span of just 8 minutes and 8 seconds! Honestly, I never really thought Miocic was true championship potential, especially after I saw him got finished by Stefan Struve in 2012 and lose a decision to Junior dos Santos in late 2014 (I thought he’d be a top guy, and get a title shot, but I never anticipated seeing him be champion).  While I’m not sure if it’s what the UFC wants to do next, but I’d love to see Miocic defend the title against Cain Velasquez in the near future.
  • Seeing CM Punk finally fight in the UFC was a pretty cool experience. Being there in person for this, especially as someone who’s a fan of pro wrestling and was a huge fan of CM Punk in his prime, was kind of surreal.  It was a very cool experience to be there firsthand for this, even if Punk did get run over by Mickey Gall pretty quickly.  While I know Punk said that he wants to fight again, I think what the UFC should do is keep Punk around in some sort of a public relations/ambassador role while allowing him to fight on the regional circuit.  If Punk fights again, I’ll definitely watch because I’m a fan, but I’d rather it not be in the UFC.
  • Did Urijah Faber finally get old on Saturday? I really don’t recall seeing Faber look so tentative before like he did on Saturday night. I wasn’t surprised to see him lose, because I did predict a Rivera decision win, but I was just surprised at how decisive the loss was for Faber.  I’m eager to see what’s next for both fighters here, as Faber is clearly closer to retirement than he is to a title shot at this point, and Rivera’s stock just increased with the biggest win of his career to date.
  • It’s kinda cool how I sort of nailed my UFC 203 predictions from Friday. Granted, I was wrong on the timeframe of each finish (I said Miocic would win in the second, he won in the first; I said Punk would lose in the second or third, he lost in the first, etc.) but it was neat that I called the winner and the method of victory at least.
  • Overall, Saturday was a great night and I can’t wait to attend another UFC event soon.

Thoughts Heading into UFC 203

I have tickets for the fights in Cleveland tomorrow night, so I’ll share some of my thoughts heading into the event.

  • Does a win tomorrow night make Alistair Overeem the best heavyweight of all-time? I’d say no to this one, even though a win tomorrow would make him the most decorated heavyweight in mixed martial arts history as he’s already held the Strikeforce and Dream heavyweight titles, plus the K-1 kickboxing heavyweight title. While a win definitely helps him cement his legacy in the sport, I don’t think it makes him the best in the history of the sport, or even the UFC quite yet.  I’d still rank Fedor Emelianenko as the greatest heavyweight in the history of the sport, and I’d still regard Cain Velasquez as the best heavyweight to compete in the UFC.  But if Overeem can win the title tomorrow AND defend it a couple of times against top opposition, then perhaps my tune will change a bit.  Until then, let’s see what happens tomorrow night.
  • Who has more to lose in the Werdum/Browne and Faber/Rivera fights? In my opinion, the more established fighters Fabricio Werdum and Urijah Faber have more to lose here. Both have been pillars in their division for a while, and both are closer to 40 than they are to 30 (Werdum is 39, Faber is 37).  Werdum is fresh off of his title loss, and a loss to a lesser regarded fighter like Travis Browne might mean it’s the end of the road for him as a top heavyweight title contender.  Meanwhile, a win for Browne would be enormous here.  Sure, he has wins over Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett, but those were back in 2013 and since then he’s gone 2-3 with wins over the likes of Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione, while dropping contests to Werdum in 2014, Andrei Arlovski, and Cain Velasquez.
  • Faber is coming off of a loss in a title bout (he’s 0-4 in UFC title bouts, and 0-7 in his last 7 title bouts including the WEC) to Dominick Cruz back at UFC 199, but he’s still one of the best fighters to not hold the title in his division. On the other hand, Jimmie Rivera is 10 years younger than Faber, and is on a 18 fight winning streak with a record of 19-1.  Is this the night that Faber finally becomes an old man in the cage? Time will tell.
  • CM Punk Finally Debuts. Honestly, I wondered if we’d ever get to this day.  I was very surprised when the UFC signed CM Punk nearly two years ago (I still watch wrestling on occasion, so I was familiar with and was a fan of CM Punk’s, and was disappointed when he left the WWE back in 2014), and I’ve been eager to see how he’d look in legitimate combat since.  I’m still not the biggest fan of him fighting in the UFC with no professional or amateur fights to his credit beforehand (after all, the UFC is supposed to be where the elite talent fights), but I understand that he’s an attraction and his fight will bring more attention to the card, so from a marketing standpoint it’s not a bad idea.  What I do like is that his fight hasn’t been the main focus on the card, and it hasn’t completely taken the attention off of the heavyweight title fight.  I have no idea what to expect from CM Punk tomorrow night, but I expect him to lose but not to look completely terrible or totally outclassed in the process.
  • Final Predictions for UFC 203: I want to see Overeem win, but I think Miocic retains the title with a late second round knockout. I think Werdum overwhelms Browne and either wins via late third round stoppage or a decisive unanimous decision.  I think Mickey Gall defeats CM Punk via stoppage in the late second or early third round.  I think Jimmie Rivera takes home a very close decision win over Faber.  Finally, I think Jessica Andrade finishes Joanne Calderwood in the early third round.  Overall, I expect it to be a fun night of nights.