Unless you recently took up residence underneath a rock, you were privy to the UFC’s press conference earlier this week where they announced the official fight card for its first-ever event at Madison Square Garden.
The lineup for UFC 205 next month is as impressive as it gets – befitting of an event taking place at the “World’s Most Famous Arena” for the very first time. Fans have three title fights to look forward to, including a main event of champion vs. champion as featherweight champion Conor McGregor faces lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez for Alvarez’s belt. But although a total of four champions will compete at UFC 205, the biggest champion in the UFC (literally) won’t be on the card, even though his next fight is one that we should also see on the big stage.
If you’ve been living under that rock for a lot longer, then you may have missed the UFC’s last pay-per-view offering, UFC 203, and the absolute demolition by UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic of Alistair Overeem, a fighter seen by many as the best heavyweight in the world. Miocic effectively snatched that crown away from Overeem with his performance.
So who should Miocic face next? That’s easy. A former heavyweight champion who, like many other current and former UFC heavyweight champions, was often referred to as “The Baddest Man on the Planet” – Cain Velasquez.
Velasquez is currently second in the UFC’s heavyweight rankings, behind another former champion, Fabricio Werdum. Miocic knocked out Werdum in the first round at UFC 198 in May to win the heavyweight title, and Werdum has yet to receive his rematch. But this is where Werdum’s and Velasquez’s paths cross, and yet another UFC heavyweight is playing a role in why Velasquez deserves the next shot at the title over Werdum.
Are you still with me? Good. Try to pay attention. Werdum and Velasquez have an opponent in common from their last fights – Travis Browne. Velasquez knocked out Browne in rather brutal fashion at UFC 200. Werdum just defeated Browne at UFC 203, by unanimous decision. If you decide to use a common opponent to determine the next heavyweight title contender, then it’s clear that Velasquez is the choice.
But as I said before, Werdum hasn’t received his rematch against Miocic. Werdum went on record as saying that prior to his loss to Miocic, he was distracted leading up to the fight, since UFC 198 took place in his native Brazil and he dealt with all the attention that comes with it. Of course, he’s not the first champion to deal with an abundance of media attention before a fight; just look no further than McGregor or Ronda Rousey, for starters.
While there is something to be said for a champion receiving a rematch if he/she loses his/her belt, a fight between Miocic and Velasquez presents a fresh, compelling heavyweight matchup that hasn’t been seen since what, Velasquez’s first fight against Junior Dos Santos on the very first UFC on Fox card in 2011?
On paper, it may appear that Miocic would have the advantage. He’s probably the best hard-hitting heavyweight in all of the UFC, if not the hardest hitter period in all of mixed martial arts. Don’t believe me? Ask Overeem how hard Miocic hits. Plus, Miocic has a 3-inch height advantage over Velasquez.
But there was a reason that before Velasquez started battling multiple injuries over the last few years, he was considered not only the best heavyweight fighter in the world, but maybe the pound-for-pound best fighter, period. His cardio is unparalleled. His striking is second to none and despite his smaller height for a heavyweight, Velasquez still hits like a ton of bricks. He was a collegiate wrestler as well, and Miocic has yet to really be tested on the ground in his UFC career.
Although the heavyweight division is home to the UFC’s largest fighters, it really hasn’t had a champion that moved the needle since Brock Lesnar. While smaller fighters like McGregor and Rousey are the ones taking the UFC to the next level, pitting Miocic and Velasquez against each other can also guarantee big business.
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