Stipe Miocic has a claim for a UFC Heavyweight Title shot. Should he be next for the Fabricio Werdum-Cain Velasquez winner out of UFC 196? Why or why not? Will he be?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
In a perfect world, we would not be talking about whether or not Stipe Miocic should be receiving a title shot. In the world that is the UFC’s trainwreck of a division, we sadly have to consider it. Currently there’s champion Fabricio Werdum, former champion Cain Velasquez, and everyone else. Depending on how their fight in February goes, we may not even have that. As uninspiring as this fight is, I’m not sure it would be worse to see Werdum and Velasquez fight nobody but each other for the next 18 months straight as opposed to anyone else fighting them.
Nothing personal against Jared Rosholt, but he’s two wins away from calling for his own title shot, and he’d have a valid argument were it to happen. Unless Rosholt were to suddenly start resembling the Incredible Hulk, or start knocking out guys with all the savagery of a pre-Werdum Velasquez, I’d pay exactly zero dollars to see him in a title fight. But that’s exactly where we’re at with the biggest division in the biggest MMA promotion in the world: talking about how far away Jared Rosholt is from a championship fight.
Should Miocic be next up for a shot at the title? Much like what’s happening in the welterweight division, there’s an answer to this question because someone has to fight for the title, not because someone deserves to fight for the title (Condit aside). The answer to this question is a resounding “meh.” I mean, yeah, I guess you can make a compelling, if not boring, argument that he should fight for the title. He beat, you know, an old guy and another old guy. He’s…big? There’s no one else? Am I asking you or telling you? Telling you?
Okay, perhaps this isn’t fair to Miocic, who is a fine athlete and a technical boxer with power. His credentials just don’t scream heavyweight title material. And if they do, it’s just further condemnation of the division as a whole. He has yet to inspire much interest from fight fans, although screaming at Dana White was a good move to at least draw some attention. There’s only one other guy who could bump Miocic from fighting for the best next (assuming we don’t get the UFC promoting the same fight for what seems like 10 years now and giving us Werdum-Velasquez 3) and that’s Alistair Overeem.
As unexciting as Overeem’s defeat was of Junior dos Santos, you have to give him credit for fighting a smart fight. He stayed away form the former champ’s power and patiently chose his spots en route to a knockout. If Overeem demands the next title shot as part of his negotiations, the UFC will have to strongly consider giving it to him. Were he to join another organization, they could immediately start trumpeting they have the best Heavyweight in the world. He’s a guy who just beat a former UFC champ who was considered one of the top three in the world, and also holds a victory over the current champ. The UFC has always been primed to put Overeem in a title shot. They’d love to justify the relatively high money they pay him, and he’s got a professional wrestling type look that is easy to promote (unlike, say, Jared Rosholt. I feel like I should send this guy a card or something. Or maybe I could just stop with the insults. He probably doesn’t read this. I’m probably safe. He looks like my old physics teacher though, I mean, what could he really do to me?).
Considering the four fights we could currently make, the winner of Werdum-Velasquez meeting one of Overeem or Miocic, I’d want to see them in this order: Velaquez vs. Overeem, Velasquez vs. Miocic, Werdum vs. Miocic, Werdum vs. Overeem. You can legitimately debate either of Miocic or Overeem for the next shot, but I could see the UFC leaning Overeem’s way and then just blaming it on contract negotiations. I’d be fine with that. I’d also be fine with distracting myself with any other title match in the UFC right now. Wake me up when Kimbo Slice fights for a UFC title so I can at least be emotionally invested, albeit with incredulous ridicule, in any type of talk of heavyweights in MMA.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Miocic has a claim, and he doesn’t have the claim. He’s won two in a row, not exactly the most impressive of streaks. However, in the heavyweight division, two straight wins is usually enough to get you a title shot. However, there’s someone else in the division with a better case than Miocic, and that’s Alistair Overeem. Overeem has won three fights in a row, including victories over the only two guys to have beaten Miocic in Stefan Struve and Junior Dos Santos. Miocic took a five-round pummeling at the hands of JDS, who just got knocked out by Overeem. Any way you slice it, Overeem has the better case for a title shot.
There’s a wild card in play, though. Overeem is a free agent. Dana White has already said that Miocic is getting the next shot, but of course he’s going to say that because you can’t give a guy a title shot if he’s not with the company. I think the UFC is playing some head games with Overeem. I think they offer him a contract right at or just below market value, but tell him that his first fight will be a title shot. I don’t think the UFC lets Overeem walk, and considering he’s got a better case for the title shot, not giving it to him would be enough to make him want to leave. As for Miocic, you give him the Werdum-Velasquez loser and tell him that if he wins, he gets the next shot guaranteed.
BRAD WALKER, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
I love the idea of a new title challenger but there’s one really large Dutch problem for Miocic: Alistair Overeem and his phenomenal KO win over former champ Junior Dos Santos. Miocic didn’t get past JDS despite his best efforts. Overeem creamed him. So while we wait for Velasquez and Werdum to finish their beef let’s have Overeem fight Miocic and shake out the division first.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Miocic is the most deserving heavyweight to get the next crack at the belt once Werdum and Velasquez take care of business. He has won five of his last six with his last two wins coming against former recent title challenger Mark Hunt and a resurgent Andrei Arlovski, dominating both. If you’re like me, you feel as though he has actually won six in a row, as his lone loss was a controversial decision to Junior dos Santos. But that doesn’t mean he is going to get the next crack. I still think Alistair Overeem is going to get next.
Fair or not, the UFC is a business and will do what they feel will make them the most money. Overeem’s three fight win streak has been fairly impressive with wins over Stefan Struve, Roy Nelson, and dos Santos, while getting the finish on dos Santos. But it is his marketability and free agent status that will put him ahead of Miocic. He has a body like Adonis and a cocksure attitude that make him a mark for the casual fan, while his free agency is the perfect leverage for him right now. I understand the UFC has matching rights, but do you think he might be willing to give a slight discount if the UFC states that they are willing to give him a title shot? Gilbert Melendez did something similar a couple years ago to receive his title fight against Anthony Pettis.
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
Um… I guess so? Maybe? Maybe even a “Sure. What the hell. Why not.” I’m sorry, but I just cannot work up any enthusiasm for a Miocic vs. Champion fight. I don’t know what it is about the guy. He’s personable, powerful, entertaining, but… whatever. And maybe that’s why he hasn’t gotten his shot yet. Maybe Zuffa feels the same. Or maybe it’s because Zuffa realizes that until last weekend, his only won over a top 10 guy was when he beat a 57 year old Mark Hunt, he of the .264 win percentage (all stats are estimates. Don’t quote me on them exactly).
I think in the Conor McGregor Era, where Frankie Edgar can’t get a pay-per-view main event title fight, and where Carlos Condit gets a title fight over two higher ranked wrestlers who have both beaten him, the ability to sell tickets and pay-per-view buys is more important than athletic credentials (and again, the best win on Miocic’s resume is Andrei Glasschinski or Mark ‘Gran Torino’ Hunt). If the UFC decides to go another route, I won’t blame them one bit, as long as they go with Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett, or Ben Rothwell.
[Photo (c) Mark J. Rebilas via USA Today Sports]
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