UFC champion Stipe Miocic successfully defended his title by knocking out Junior dos Santos in the first round at UFC 211. The Ohio native not only settled the score from his 2014 loss to the Brazilian juggernaut, but Miocic also tied the UFC record for most title defenses at heavyweight with two.
The big question now becomes: What’s next for the 34-year-old knockout artist? Here at FloCombat, we take a look at five potential opponents for the UFC heavyweight champion.
Derrick Lewis (18-4 -1 NC)
Should Lewis get past Mark Hunt at UFC Fight Night 110 in a few weeks, that would make it seven in a row for “The Black Beast.” The 32-year-old fighter has quietly amassed an 8-2 record in the UFC Octagon, earning notable victories over Gabriel Gonzaga, Roy Nelson and most recently Travis Browne at UFC Fight Night 105 in February.
Along with his 16 career knockout wins in 18 professional fights, Lewis has also won fans over with his hilarious social media posts and videos, like this one:
[tweet url="https://twitter.com/Thebeast_ufc/status/768506102761730048" hide_media="0" hide_thread="1"]
If all goes well June 10, Lewis is an easy sell for Miocic’s next title defense.
Francis Ngannou (10-1)
Ngannou may be the biggest test for Miocic on this list. Since his UFC debut in 2015, the 30-year-old Cameroonian-Frenchman has gone a perfect 5-0 in the Octagon and hasn’t lost a fight since a 2013 unanimous decision setback to Zoumana Cisse in his second pro fight.
Ngannou is coming off a first-round TKO victory over former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski at UFC on FOX 23 in his last fight back in January. With all of his wins coming by way of stoppage, including six knockouts and four submission victories, Ngannou has undoubtedly earned his spot at the top of the heavyweight division. It’s only a matter of time before the powerful heavyweight earns a shot at the strap, something that could come sooner rather than later.
Cain Velasquez (14-2)
A forgotten contender in the heavyweight division, Velasquez is arguably the last notable fighter Miocic has yet to face in the division.
The former UFC heavyweight champion has fought just twice since 2014 due to injuries and there is currently no timetable for his return to the octagon. The 34-year-old was slated to face Fabricio Werdum at UFC 207 this past December but was removed from the card due to health concerns.
The American Kickboxing Academy product last saw action in July 2016, where he earned a first-round knockout win over Travis Browne at UFC 200. If and when Velasquez is ready to return, he would undoubtedly stake his claim at the top of this list.
Fabricio Werdum (21-6-1)
Werdum is set to face Alistair Overeem this July at UFC 213, and should he emerge victorious in that trilogy bout, he could find himself in a rematch with Miocic.
The 39-year-old Brazilian hasn’t competed since a September 2016 unanimous decision win over Travis Browne at UFC 203. Along with his cancelled bout with Velasquez at UFC 207, Werdum was also slated to take on Ben Rothwell at UFC 211. However, the IFL veteran was flagged by USADA for a potential doping violation.
Werdum lost his heavyweight title to Miocic at UFC 198 over a year ago, and while a rematch may seem too soon, a lack of options may force the UFC’s hand.
Daniel Cormier (19-1)
The current UFC light heavyweight champion is set to defend his title in July at UFC 214 against Jon Jones, and win or lose, he could make a move back up to heavyweight.
The AKA standout has just one blemish on his 20-fight record, which was a unanimous decision loss to Jones at UFC 182 in January 2015. Should Cormier suffer another loss to the former UFC 205-pound champion, it’s highly unlikely he’d earn a trilogy bout with Jones in the near future. Similarly, if Cormier is able to defeat Jones in that same matchup, a lack of options at light heavyweight could force a change in weight class for the 38-year-old.
Cormier had a solid run in the heavyweight division from 2009 to 2014, where he holds wins over Josh Barnett, Frank Mir and Roy Nelson. He won the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament in 2012 as an alternate, defeating Barnett by unanimous decision. Cormier’s name value alone could make an interesting matchup for Miocic should he decide to go that route.
Agree or disagree with this list? Let us know on social media @FloCombat.
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