January 27, 2018

Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic: Immediate Excitement Leading To Delayed Discontent

By Raphael Garcia

UFC leadership continues to throw all of their cards on the table by attempting to put together the biggest fights possible, regardless of weight class and rankings. News broke on Friday that UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier is booked to face UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 226. But beyond the initial excitement that accompanied its announcement, this bout has even more implications for Cormier and Miocic.

The news was first reported by Ariel Helwani of MMA Fighting, setting the industry ablaze across mainstream and social media outlets. This is a massive fight, with legacy implications for both men. There are many reasons for fight fans to be really enthusiastic about this matchup, but at the same time, there’s reason to pause and curtail our excitement.

First there’s the good side of the conversation. Cormier and Miocic are two champions that deserve the adulation of sports fans across the world. On one hand there’s the consummate competitor, family man, and media personality Cormier. He’s a fighter that’s considered one of the best in the game, and he would be higher on many pound-for-pound lists if it weren’t for his foil, Jon Jones. In Jones, Cormier has the perfect rival, someone who stands for the opposite of every piece of the positive role model he’s been for the majority of his athletic career. He’s fought incessantly to drag himself out of Jones’s shadow, and this can be an opportunity to take a step in that direction.

Then there’s Miocic, a heavyweight champion who has a full-time job as a firefighter. That job alone cements him in the category of “real life heroes,” but he also continues to excel in the Octagon. At UFC 220 he became the first UFC heavyweight to successfully defend the title three consecutive times when he defeated Francis Ngannou. Miocic may not be an outspoken champion like some others, but he deserves the recognition that comes with being a fighting champion. Defending the title against a worthy contender like Cormier will solidify his legacy for a long time to come.

This will be an interesting fight to break down from a stylistic point of view. Miocic’s technical boxing mixed in with some wrestling up against Cormier’s dirty boxing and Olympic-level wrestling. Plus there are many different intangibles that will come into play, and that should excite fans and observers across the MMA spectrum.

But that doesn’t mean everything about this bout is positive. It’s clear that the WME-led UFC is attempting to put the biggest fights together as quickly as possible to boost revenue. Rumors are growing that UFC 226 will feature two other superfights in Cris “Cyborg” Justino vs. Amanda Nunes and Demetrious Johnson vs. TJ Dillashaw. That would mean six undisputed champions would be tied up in three fights, leaving the other men and women in those divisions well outside the title picture for most of 2018. We’ve seen what Conor McGregor's actions have done to both the featherweight and lightweight divisions, but it’s clear that the past hasn’t influenced any of the decisionmaking regarding the immediate future of the organization.

Putting all of these fights on the same supercard would create an immediate level of interest that would not be there if they were booked separately. But it’s still clear that tying up weight classes in such a way devalues the title of each and delays the acceptance of true challengers within those divisions.

Yes, there is an immediate payoff, which boosts the one event in which these fights are held, but where is the example of a long term, positive outcome? Take the middleweight division for example. With Georges St. Pierre dropping the title he took from Michael Bisping, Robert Whittaker went from interim to "official" champion without having to fight. But now, the interim title is going to be slapped right back on the belt for the winner of Yoel Romero vs. Luke Rockhold at UFC 221.

Daniel Cormier vs. Stipe Miocic creates an immediate excitement that is needed by the UFC. But that short term excitement has the potential to be offset by further malaise and mismanagement of multiple divisions down the line.

UFC 226
Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier (UFC Heavyweight Championship)

UFC 226: Miocic vs. Cormier takes place July 7, 2018 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click HERE for more UFC 226 Pre-Fight Analysis

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