May 16, 2017

UFC 211: Stipe Miocic Knocks Out Junior Dos Santos, Now Who's Next?

By Adam Martin

The first time UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic fought Junior dos Santos, the two went toe-to-toe for 25 minutes, with JDS taking home a close decision victory. The rematch, which took place at UFC 211 this past weekend in Dallas, went the complete opposite way, as Miocic laid waste to JDS with a knockout victory just over two minutes into their scheduled five-round fight.

It’s the fifth straight victory for Miocic -- all by knockout -- as he moves to 17-2 overall in his MMA career, including an impressive 11-2 mark in the UFC. In his current win streak he’s finished the likes of Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, and now JDS. He hasn’t cleared out the heavyweight division just yet, but he’s close to doing so, making it hard to predict who the UFC will select as his next opponent.

So, who could be next for the champ?

Based on the UFC’s official Top 15 rankings and who Miocic has already fought, the logical next fight for Miocic would be a matchup against former champ Cain Velasquez, who is coming off of a TKO win over Travis Browne at UFC 200. But Velasquez is always injured, and recently he was pulled off of UFC 207 by the Nevada Athletic Commission due to medical concerns. So as much as the prospect of a Miocic vs. Velasquez fight is tantalizing, it’s likely not going to be happening anytime soon. (Although UFC President Dana White did hint that Velasquez could make a return to the cage this fall.)

The next possible fight for Miocic is a rematch against the winner of UFC 213’s Overeem vs. Werdum trilogy bout. Yes, Miocic did knock both men out. But the UFC 203 card with Overeem did great numbers, and the fight was exciting, so the UFC could definitely set a rematch. And while UFC 198 didn’t do great on paper, a rematch against Werdum could be interesting considering how short the first fight was. When asked by the media following UFC 211, White was non-committal about the winner of Overeem-Werdum getting the title shot, but both fighters seem to be squarely in the mix.

The next option would be Derrick Lewis, who fights Hunt in a few weeks. Lewis is currently riding a six-fight win streak and most recently knocked out Browne. Should Lewis take out Hunt, especially if it’s in devastating fashion, then a fight against Miocic sounds really fun, as both guys have big KO power and aren’t afraid to bang it out. Plus, Lewis has an amazing personality and could possibly do well selling a PPV fight if given the opportunity. If he wins his seventh-straight fight against Hunt, it would be hard to deny him.

Then the last option would be Francis Ngannou, who destroyed Andrei Arlovski a few months ago. Ngannou, who is 5-0 in the UFC with five finishes, is the guy everyone is saying will be the next UFC Heavyweight Champion, but perhaps the UFC wants to bring him along slowly. After all, he’s only 30, which is young by heavyweight standards, and he just moved to the United States from France to train. So perhaps another fight against a lesser opponent would be better for him right now than putting him against Miocic, but it’s definitely an exciting fight on paper.

Right now, my guess would be Miocic will take the summer off -- he deserves it -- and then come back in the fall. Hopefully Velasquez is ready to fight by then, because the Miocic fight makes so much sense, but if not, the winner of Overeem vs. Werdum is definitely an option. With one more win to go before breaking the all-time UFC heavyweight title defense record, Miocic is certainly on his way to becoming an all-time great, and if he keeps this up, soon it’s going to be hard to find fresh opponents for him.

UFC 211: Miocic vs. Dos Santos 2 took place May 13, 2017 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.

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