May 16, 2016

UFC 198: Stipe Miocic's Title Win Exemplifies the Volatility of the Heavyweight Division

By Adam Martin

The people of Cleveland finally have a champion to call their own, and his name is Stipe Miocic. The Ohio native knocked out Fabricio Werdum at the 2:47 mark of round one in the main event of UFC 198 to become the new UFC Heavyweight Champion. With the win, Miocic improved to 9-2 in the UFC, with six of his wins coming by way of knockout. But none of his other wins were as big as this one, as he was able to take out Werdum on the Brazilian's home soil to become the new champ.

The win by Miocic was no doubt impressive, but it also exemplifies how volatile the heavyweight division is. There are very few weight classes in the UFC where one punch finishes a fight, but in heavyweight it seems to happen quite often, and because of that, it's very rare for a heavyweight champ to hold onto his belt for very long.

In fact, the UFC heavyweight title has changed 19 times in the history of the promotion, but only four men have defended the title more than once. Those four men are Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Brock Lesnar, and Cain Velasquez, and all of them defended it twice. No one has defended the heavyweight belt three times. The only other belts in the UFC that have never been defended more than twice are the bantamweight title and the women's strawweight title, but both of those are relatively new titles. In every other weight class, there have been at least three title defenses before the title changed hands.

Since 2010, when Velasquez TKOed Lesnar to win the title, the title has changed hands five times, which is kind of crazy to think about, because at the time Velasquez was expected to hold onto the belt for a long time. But in his first title defense he was knocked out by Junior dos Santos and lost the belt. JDS then knocked out Frank Mir for his first and only title defense before losing it back to Velasquez, who then got two defenses of the belt, over JDS and Antonio Silva. Velasquez was a huge favorite over Werdum to defend his title, but Werdum submitted Velasquez to win the belt. Then Werdum was expected to beat Miocic but got knocked out in another upset. The heavyweight belt has basically been a hot potato for all the elite heavyweights to pass around, and now Miocic is holding it.

For his first title defense, Miocic will take on Alistair Overeem, Giving Overeem's poor chin and Miocic's punching power, there is no doubt in my mind Miocic will be favored to win that fight, but given the volatility of the division, would anyone really be surprised if Overeem won the title? In fact, given the history of the belt changing hands to often, there is a very good chance Overeem wins the title from Miocic. And even if Miocic does retain, the odds of him making a second title defense over JDS or Velasquez or whoever else is a contender seems low. And even if he does defend it a second time, the odds of him defending it a third time are even lower. The odds are stacked against Miocic having a title run, and there's no way around it.

Despite the title changing hands so often, though, the heavyweight division remains one of the sport's most exciting weight classes because truly anything can happen. Instead of fights going the distance, most heavyweight bouts are decided inside the distance. These big boys don't like seeing the judges, and it's made for a belt that doesn't have a home to call for very long. We'll see if Miocic can buck the trend, but the odds are stacked against him holding the title for very long.

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.

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