GROCKE’S TAKE: Where does Stipe Miocic rank among the greatest heavyweights of all-time?

By Michael Grocke, MMATorch contributor

Stipe Miocic (photo by Jason Silva © USA Today Sports)

After stopping Junior dos Santos in the first round at UFC 211, Stipe Miocic successfully defended his UFC Havyweight Title for the second time. Many have successfully defended the belt two times in a row including Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez, Tim Sylvia, and Randy Couture, but no one in the 20 year history of the division has successfully defended it three times. Miocic can make history with his next defense, but would that make him the best heavyweight of all-time? Is he already the best?

Miocic’s current reign as champion has been impressive. After finishing Fabricio Werdum in the first round to win the title, he followed that up with first round finishes of Alistair Overeem and Junior dos Santos, not to mention the first round knockout of Andrei Arlovski leading up to the Werdum fight.

There are those that think Miocic will break the record including UFC President Dana White. “He’s looking like The Man,” he said. “Cleveland’s killing it right now. He’s not the same fighter, obviously, that fought [JDS] the first time. Super athletic, he stays in the pocket now and punches with big guys. Lightning fast, he’s a complete fighter and a really good athlete.”

Kudos to the champ for knocking down every opponent the UFC has put in front of him. But how impressive are those wins really?

Forty-three year old Mark Hunt was 1-2 with one draw leading up to his fight with Miocic. After losing to Miocic, Hunt rebounded with consecutive wins over fighters well past their prime in Antonio Silva and Frank Mir. After those wins, he was thoroughly beaten by Brock Lesnar – later changed to a no-contest – and then got knocked out by Alistair Overeem.

Thirty-eight year old Andrei Arlovski came into his fight against Miocic riding an impressive six-fight winning streak before getting stopped in the first round. Unfortunately for Arlovski, his loss to Miocic started a four-fight losing streak; he was stopped in all four.

Thirty-seven year old Alistair Overeem was riding a four-fight win streak coming into his fight with Miocic. After losing to the champ in the first round, Overeem followed up that fight with a third round knockout of Mark Hunt. While Overeem has looked good, he is a fighter with 57 fights under his belt and years of taking damage.

And finally there’s JDS. At only 33 years of age and 23 fights under his belt, dos Santos has been involved in some wars. The fights against Cain Velasquez and his five round battle against Miocic in 2014 have clearly had an effect on him. His chin is nowhere near what it once was.

While I’m a fan of these fighters, some more than others, the days of any of them winning the title are long gone.

Perhaps Stipe is a victim of the era he fights in. While it’s not his fault, the UFC Heavyweight Division is mediocre at best.

Fedor Emelianenko, who many consider the greatest heavyweight of all-time, also beat Arlovski and Hunt, only he beat them when they were in their prime 8-11 years ago. Fedor also fought his prime years in a much more difficult era. I’m not suggesting there are many out there saying Miocic is better than Fedor, nor should they.

So who’s out there now for Stipe to fight, victories over whom would prove how great of a heavyweight fighter he is?

Cain Velasquez, perhaps? Makes sense, Cain is widely regarded as one of the best of this era. Let’s say Stipe wins. Did he beat the very best Cain Velasquez? Or would he have beaten a fighter that just isn’t the same as before all of the injuries? Now let’s say Stipe loses. Well, there you have it, he really wasn’t that good to begin with. I can hear it now.

I hear people calling for Miocic’s next fight to be against Francis Ngannou. To me, that would be a mistake. Ngannou isn’t ready yet. Heck, the biggest win of his young career came in his last fight when he finished Arlovski, whom we all know is a shell of his former self. It makes me laugh when I hear people talk about rushing these top prospects into fights before they are ready. The UFC is in dire need of stars, and Ngannou has the potential to be one. Let’s pump the brakes a little and allow it to happen.

So here we are. Stipe Miocic can make history in his next fight and most, if not all of us, care. Except for the champ. “No, I really don’t care,” he said when talking about setting the record he said. “If I keep winning, I’ll break history, big deal. I’m just going to keep winning. I like winning. I like being called champ, especially.”

What’s not to like about him? The part-time firefighter and every-man just also happens to be the baddest man on the planet.



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