In the wake of Stipe Miocic’s impressive UFC on FOX 10 victory over former title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga, a lot of prognosticators have called for Miocic to take on the winner of next weekend’s Frank Mir/Alistair Overeem bout. While I’m not against that fight, from a competitive and business standpoint, it may be worth looking a little further up the heavyweight ladder for Miocic’s next bout: former Champion Junior dos Santos.
Now before you call me crazy, let me lay out my argument.
Style – Both dos Santos and Miocic have similar styles, relying heavily on good footwork, above average speed, and tremendous boxing. JDS has the obvious advantage in the power department, but I’m not necessarily sure his boxing is more technically sound or his footwork demonstrably better. Neither fighter has shown a propensity for taking the fight to the ground, so it’s safe to assume we’d get a standup battle between the (likely) two best boxers in the heavyweight division. Sounds like fun to me.
Matchmaking – Again, I’m not against Miocic getting the Mir-Overeem winner. But here is why JDS makes more sense: if Miocic can outbox JDS en route to a decision victory, the UFC can market Miocic as a legitimate title contender. The cachet of having defeated a former champion would do wonders for Stipe’s career. And if he loses in a hard-fought, closely contested bout, he’ll still come out of the fight with an air of legitimacy he hasn’t yet achieved. As for dos Santos, with two brutal losses to Cain Velasquez, including most recently getting violently concussed for 25 minutes, nobody is pining for him to get back in the cage with the champ. Should he defeat Miocic, it won’t earn him a title shot. That’s fine. Let him keep plugging along.
Should Miocic get Mir or Overeem instead, I truly believe he would win that fight. Gonzaga couldn’t get him to the ground to implement his BJJ; why should we believe the slow and less athletic Mir can get him down? Overeem could certainly knock Miocic’s head off his shoulders, but he would have to catch him first. Overeem is slow, plodding and predictable. Miocic could dance circles around him all night, box him up and down, and tire him out much like he did to Roy Nelson.
Business! - Since his arrival from Strikeforce, Overeem has been paid handsomely to be an eventual title challenger in what we can assume would be a cash-cow of a PPV fight. Instead, he’s only padded the highlight reels of Bigfoot Silva and Travis Browne while embarrassing the organization with a steroid bust. Despite that, the UFC is still best served by getting Overeem in a title fight. If the Reem beats Mir and you bypass Miocic, the logical matchup is Mark Hunt. That in itself is a big money fight and an incredibly exciting one to boot. It would be the first ever pairing of former K1 Heavyweight Grand Prix winners in the octagon. Awesome! The winner could get a title shot, and fans would happily watch either Overeem or Hunt get fed to a hungry Velasquez.
If Miocic is able to defeat JDS, then he is legit and deserves a crack at the belt. And with a name like Stipe Miococ, which hardly rolls off the tongue, he needs a big win over a guy like dos Santos. If he loses, he’s still young enough to be bumped down the line into any number of exciting fights, while still working toward a future title shot.
(Note: Before you keyboard warriors go nuts in the comments, please know that I do think JDS would defeat Miocic. I still believe it’s the most logical bit of matchmaking, for the reasons I laid out above.)