UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic isn’t one to shy away from a challenge. From fighting fires in his day job to fighting MMA behemoths in a cage, Miocic toes the line with tons of heart and a crooked smile. That being said, he’s worked his way through the majority of the UFC heavyweight roster during his sixteen-fight UFC career. While not ALL of these combatants are in the UFC, here are a few thoughts on who I think could be fun for the Ohio native.
5. Francis Ngannou/ Jairzinho Rozenstruik winner: To be fair, this fight is going to cause CTE for all parties involved. While Ngannou has fallen to a Miocic decision in the past – he’s evolved greatly since early 2018 and if his takedown defense is polished, we could have some pretty even odds in this rematch.
Ngannou is the kind of fighter that Netflix movies portray. An absolute giant with kettlebells for hands and single-digit body fat, he’s clubbed his way into the upper echelon of the heavyweight rankings with drubbings of former champions like Andrei Arlovski and Cain Velasquez. He literally turned Alistair Overeem into a Pez dispenser with one uppercut. With his current three-fight win-streak all being first-round finishes, he’s more than made up for that Derrick Lewis fight we all use when our melatonin supply runs low.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik is terrifying in his own right. Undefeated in MMA, hyper-aggressive and carrying a 76-8-1 kickboxing record, this is the kind of opponent you expect to see at the end of a video game. He’s accurate, can go five-rounds and has the clinchwork to make you regret any ill-attempted takedowns. The first punch he hit Overeem with caused Alistair to step back and re-evaluate his management. And by winning that fight in the last five seconds of a five-round fight shows he’s never someone to count out.
4. Jon Jones: Jon Jones has always garnered headlines. From his unarguable fighting talent to his antics outside the cage, he grabs attention. While he may need to be stripped of any Boy Scout merit badges, it would be difficult to count him out in any fight.
With similar heights, Jon still has a four and a half-inch reach advantage over the heavyweight champion. While we’ve seen how Jones handled the common opponent, Daniel Cormier, one has to question if his reach advantage would be stifled by the power of the much thicker Miocic.
In my opinion, Jones doesn’t deal well with larger opponents. He’s had tough fights with Alexander Gustaffsson and Dominick Reyes and may have to really turn on that fight IQ to find the holes in Miocic’s game come fight night.
3. Daniel Cormier III: What can we say about this trilogy that hasn’t been plastered across every website and forum before? Cormier is an absolute stud, with two divisions of championship belts on his shelf. He won the heavyweight title against Miocic, who later avenged his loss by finding that soft spot in Cormier’s body for the rematch victory – a fight that Cormier was winning, in my opinion. Can ‘DC’ fix that hole for the third bout? Or will Miocic exploit it once more?
2. Ryan Bader: I may catch some flack for Bader being this high on the list, but who doesn’t like the thought of these two throwing down? Bader is always a workhorse with high output, great takedowns, explosive punching power and he’s the closest thing to a current heavyweight champion that Bellator has. Not to mention the fact that he’s got a divisional win over Fedor Emelianenko (albeit post-Strikeforce Fedor), and he held Matt Mitrione down, I guess. That’s not exactly easy to do for a whole fight. I think his output and versatility could be fun for Stipe to figure out on the fly.
1. Curtis Blaydes: Curtis ‘Razor’ Blaydes is a champion in the making. With wrestling accolades for days, he’s landed the most takedowns in divisional history, is second-ranked for takedown accuracy and has spent a total of twenty-two seconds on bottom position since his first fight in the UFC. I tripped during a walkout once and spent longer than that trying to get up. But he’s just a wrestler, right? Well, we got to see his hands on display as he outgunned the ever-testy Junior dos Santos back in January. He trains in Colorado at elevation – so there’s no doubt he has the cardio to go 5 rounds. Make no mistake, Blaydes is someone that could cause Miocic some serious concerns.
In any case, until this coronavirus is over, we have speculation at best. Maybe Anthony Johnson pops back up, most definitely at heavyweight. What if Stefan Struve goes on a run and Miocic decides he needs to try to avenge THAT mishap? One thing is certain, however – Conor fanboys will be upset he didn’t make the list.