May 17, 2016

UFC 198: Stipe Miocic's Big Win Breathes New Life Into the Heavyweight Division

By Raphael Garcia

UFC 198 was a special moment for Stipe Miocic and the heavyweight division as a whole. His sudden, first round victory over Fabricio Werdum not only earned Cleveland its first world championship in a long time, but created an immediate interest in the biggest division on the UFC roster.

Even though Werdum is calling for a rematch because he was being “reckless” as he charged into the right hand that dropped him, the UFC should avoid that immediate rematch at all costs. As many fans complain about the UFC’s penchant for making rematches fans don’t truly want to see, this is an opportunity to go in a different direction at a time which the heavyweight division has the attention of the fight community.

Alistair Overeem should be the man to get the first crack at Miocic’s championship. Overeem has the name power that creates promotional value for the bout. On a properly booked card they could be a main event that draws strong PPV numbers for the UFC. This would also be a title fight that could headline a UFC Fight Night card on UFC Fight Pass or Fox Sports 1, much like the upcoming lightweight title bout at UFC Fight Night 90 between Eddie Alvarez and Rafael dos Anjos that will occur on July 7.

As for Werdum, he could be in line for a rematch, just not for the title. Travis Browne and Cain Velasquez are meeting at UFC 200, and both men have recently lost to the former champion. Pitting the winner of that bout against Werdum keeps the former champion active and in the title hunt, but allows the UFC to continue building Miocic’s brand as a champion. While Miocic isn’t much of a media darling, he’s shown enough personality (especially with his victory celebration) that he can be groomed into someone fans want to see. When you add the fact that the UFC is always looking to push a competitive heavyweight division to the masses, Miocic’s shocking win on Saturday creates a ton of potential for the new champion.

The idea of the immediate rematch is wearing thin for fans. During Frankie Edgar’s time as lightweight champion, his rematches with B.J. Penn and Gray Maynard “held up” the division for an extended period of time. Sometimes there are some benefits to this kind of rematch, at least for the promotion. The planned rematch between Holly Holm and Ronda Rousey, for instance, would have been a massive payday for everyone involved. However, fate would have a different plan, as Holm pushed to remain active and dropped the belt to Miesha Tate at UFC 196.

The main event of UFC 198 may have created a new “darling” in mixed martial arts, as Miocic dropped Werdum in a heap. This created an opportunity for the promotion to finally build a heavyweight champion that captures attention and can put on exciting affairs in the cage. However, the first step in doing so is to keep him far away from an immediate rematch against Werdum and instead look at all the other possible fights.

UFC 198
Fabricio Werdum vs. Stipe Miocic (UFC Heavyweight Championship): Stipe Miocic def. Fabricio Werdum via KO (punch) at 2:47 of Round 1.

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UFC 198: Werdum vs. Miocic took place on May 14, 2016 at Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Parana, Brazil.

Click the stars to rate how good you think UFC 198 was.

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