What’s Next for UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic?
After his devastating knockout of Junior dos Santos Saturday night, UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic has options.
Updated: May 18, 2017 • 1:00 PM ET
UFC heavyweight Stipe Miocic is still Cleveland's champion.
If there was any doubt that Stipe Miocic is among the heavyweight elite in the UFC, he cleared that up quickly on Saturday at UFC 211.
Miocic defended his title for the second time against the last man to defeat him in the Octagon, Junior dos Santos, and he made quick work of a fighter who has been considered one of the most feared heavyweight strikers in MMA, let alone the UFC.
In a fight many thought would be a replay of their first matchup in 2014, which was an absolute war that dos Santos walked away from with a decision win, Miocic proved that he’s now a significantly better fighter. It took slightly over two minutes for Miocic to get his hand raised in front of a sold-out crowd in Dallas with a knockout victory.
Nothing about the fight was the same as their first meeting. Miocic fought with more confidence, skill and aggression than dos Santos. It was the first time UFC fans saw dos Santos retreating from his opposition, putting his back against the fence with timid apprehension in his style. In the end, Miocic successfully defended his title for the second time, tying the all-time record in the UFC heavyweight division for title defenses.
Yes, two seems like a low number, but in a division that has been tremendously unpredictable, Miocic looks like a fighter poised to go down as one of the all-time greats. So the question is, what’s next?
Miocic’s rise to stardom and championship glory is part of a story that has yet to be fully embraced by UFC fans and the mainstream media. With the meteoric rise of fighters such as Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor, Miocic may be the UFC’s best option to capture the unrealized All-American fan that still remains skeptical of MMA and the UFC.
Ignoring the fame and fortune that can come with a UFC belt, Miocic still loves his day job working as a firefighter and paramedic in Oakwood, Ohio. He was born to Croatian parents in Euclid, Ohio and was a standout baseball and football player at Eastlake North High School. He even received interest from Major League Baseball teams during his time playing at Cleveland State University. Yet, it was his success as a Division I wrestler at Cleveland State that launched what would become a championship career in the UFC.
Miocic got his start in combat sports by becoming a Golden Gloves boxing champion in Cleveland. That would then lead to a five-fight winning streak in the NAAFS, an Ohio based MMA promotion. He soon got the call to the UFC, and the rest is history. So again, who and what is next?
With so many champions in the UFC calling for “money fights”, Miocic and his blue collar attitude will take whoever the UFC puts in front him. After his victory at UFC 211, Miocic was asked by Joe Rogan in the Octagon, “What’s next?” He replied, “Right now, it’s my kitchen.”
It’s likely Miocic’s next matchup will be against one of two fighters: Fabricio Werdum, the man that he took the title from, or Cain Velasquez, a former champion many fans think deserves a shot at the title. Werdum is schedule to fight Miocic’s first title defense victim, Alistair Overeem, at UFC 213 in July. Miocic replaced Velasquez in the fight against Werdum for the title in Brazil after injuries took Velasquez out of the rematch.
Velasquez, who doesn’t currently have a fight scheduled, last fought at UFC 200, scoring a knockout victory over Travis Browne. A well-rested and injury free Velasquez could make for a great fight against Miocic. However, an injury free Velasquez doesn’t seem like a reality nowadays. Either Werdum or Velasquez, despite the momentum that Miocic has generated, could pose a great threat.
Regardless of who Miocic faces next, he has cemented a legacy that will live forever. No fan will forget the way he won the title in Brazil in 2014, and not many will question his dominance since.