The Great Divide is a reoccurring feature here at MMA Fighting in which our own Shaun Al-Shatti and Chuck Mindenhall debate a topic in the world of MMA — whether it’s news, a fight, a crazy thing somebody did, a crazy thing somebody didn’t do, or some moral dilemma threatening the very foundation of the sport — and try to figure out a resolution. We’d love for you to join in the discussion in the comments below.
This week, our two scribes looks back on this week’s heavyweight revelation and ponder the question: With Brock Lesnar out of the picture, does Stipe Miocic deserve the next title shot against UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier?
Mindenhall: It’s not the most astonishing record, but it’s a telling one — Stipe Miocic defended the UFC heavyweight title three times. Three times is a lot when the fists are the size of chuck roasts, and especially when the fighters are trained like plus-size assassins. Cain Velasquez couldn’t do that, and neither could Junior dos Santos. Because he was able to defend it three times — and kind of destroyed all the cats he faced — I have to believe that Stipe deserves the title shot against Daniel Cormier now that the more preferable (read: marketable) fight fell with through Brock Lesnar.
Let’s face it, Shaun, Lesnar versus Cormier was a stupid fit of whimsy for the UFC. That initial showdown at UFC 226 — when Brock showed up with the meatbone teeth and cowboy boots — bordered on embarrassing, and Cormier, bless his heart, purely basked in it. We all knew it wasn’t right. Cormier was just taking what was being dangling in front of him, because money is actually a pretty big motivator in prize fighting. He even created a hierarchy of potential opponents for media to grouse over, from the guy he’d most like to face (Lesnar), to the guy he hates (Jon Jones), to the guy he’d most reluctantly resort to (Miocic).
We bought into it without getting our dander up too much. Somehow we all agreed that Cormier needed a fun payday…or something.
But now that Lesnar has fallen through, and Cormier’s chief rival Jones is locked into a fight with Thiago Santos in July, Miocic becomes the man. Yes he got knocked out by Cormier at UFC 226, and yes there’s fresh blood out there like Francis Ngannou and Dos Santos to throw at Cormier, but at some point the accomplishments have to matter. Miocic beat both JDS and Ngannou in back-to-back fights before losing that title. The MMA math puts him in the pole position. And a rematch with Cormier is — literally — the most unpredictable fight the UFC can put together.
But the thing that really steers me towards this rematch is a (re)new(ed) development — it’s a fight that can happen because it’s right, even if the UFC gets a cold chill when contemplating Miocic holding the belt again. With the UFC having sold off the rights to PPVs to ESPN, the onus to put on novelty gate-busters is no longer the order of the day. The meritocracy can matter again, Shaun. It can matter! I kind of long for it. Guys like Miocic don’t have to become orphaned by a popularity contest, just because he talks like he has gravel in his mouth. Miocic, the most undesirable champion who has never felt the urge to self-promote, can just show up and let his hands go.
Those hands have given him his reputation as a killer.
The other thing is this: Francis Ngannou is a beast, but his losses against Miocic and Derrick Lewis are still fresh on the mind. Particularly the latter, which still baffles me. He has scored a couple of awesome wins since then, and the Velasquez bout was a particularly cold-blooded showing, but why rush him? That upcoming fight with JDS is the perfect No. 1 contender fight, even if Cormier skedaddles after fighting Miocic. Ngannou’s day is coming. If JDS wins, he will have fully earned his title shot.
In the meantime, a Miocic-Cormier rematch serves all purposes. Two of the greatest heavyweights of all-time slugging it out, right before one of them takes leave of the game for good? Sign me up. And if Miocic evens the score, there is always the possibility of a trilogy. And judging from your argument here, I know you love that, Shaun.
Al-Shatti: The only way I can start this is by saying: Good. I’m glad. I’m glad we can finally move on from this silly charade. I’m glad we can finally stop talking about this drug cheat who disrespected our sport with impunity at UFC 200 and treats mixed martial arts like his own personal sidepiece that only gets an invite whenever he’s trying to squeeze a few more dollars out of his main fling. I’m glad we can stop acting like a 41-year-old who hasn’t won a professional fight since 2010 and who showed up to his comeback tour juiced to the gills deserves to skip the queue simply because he’s an aging circus act people will still pay money to see.
The only reason I’d even foster a hint of disappointment with this whole situation is because it means no giant payday or effortless swan song for Daniel Cormier, the consummate company man who — through no fault of his own — has been dragged through more bullshit over the last four years than any professional athlete ever should. But that’s it. Enjoy your retirement, Brock, if you can even retire from an activity you weren’t actively doing. Have fun in WWE.
As for DC vs. Miocic 2, it’s easy to understand why this is the UFC’s next direction, isn’t it?
The reasons Mr. Mindenhall just laid out are all perfectly valid. Stipe was a record-setting champion whose name began creeping into G.O.A.T. conversations by the time of his first showdown with Cormier. He achieved something no other UFC heavyweight ever has, and that should be commended. So I want to make this clear: I don’t hate the fight. It’s fine. But that’s just it: It’s fine. And you know what? There’s a better option out there.
UFC 226 was in July 2018. By the time Cormier’s next title defense rolls around, 13 months will have passed since Miocic last fought. He’s spent the majority of that time petitioning for a rematch then complaining when it didn’t come his way. And I get it. Losing your title via first-round knockout to a guy you’re confident you can beat must be frustrating. But the “Winner Gets Brock” stipulation wasn’t some sort of mystical secret before UFC 226. It was a common refrain, and both he and DC effectively agreed to it in the lead-up.
When you agree to a deal then try to renege the moment things don’t go your way, it’s hard to be sympathetic to your cause. Hell, even Cormier has been active since UFC 226. He risked his title — and the Lesnar payday that never came — against Derrick Lewis with an injured hand on three week’s notice just to save UFC 230. And he didn’t once make a fuss.
You want to talk about a return to the meritocracy, Chuck? That’s why Cormier vs. Ngannou is the fight. If you’re UFC matchmakers, that’s the move.
Reward the guy who stayed active. Reward the guy who took on all comers. Reward the guy who wanted the toughest possible matchups for himself. Reward the guy whose back-to-back wins over Curtis Blaydes and Cain Velasquez in a combined 71 seconds of cage time might be the most impressive two-fight run from any heavyweight of the past two years.
It’s a fresh matchup and Francis Ngannou has earned it. Let’s see if this evolved version of “The Predator” is really the contender we think he could be. Plus there’s the added intrigue of a storyline that sells itself: “Cormier Tries To Avenge His Fallen Best Friend.” It’s all right there.
Ngannou is currently booked against Junior dos Santos, sure, and yes, that could be a No. 1 contender match, but so could Miocic vs. JDS 3 or Miocic vs. Overeem 2, and the UFC has never shied away from reshuffling its characters when the situation demands.
This might be DC’s last hurrah. A Cormier vs. Miocic farewell fight does nothing except prove whether DC can replicate a feat he already accomplished. This man is one of the all-time greats and we’ll miss him dearly once he’s gone. If we’re not getting a Jon Jones trilogy fight at heavyweight, let’s at least burn that last outing on something we haven’t seen before — especially if the man on the other side of the cage is a behemoth who seemingly carries a death touch and has earned his shot by paying the iron price.
Which matchup would you rather see for DC’s potential farewell fight?
This poll is closed
Cormier vs. Miocic 2
Cormier vs. Ngannou