MMA Ratings Podcast

March 13, 2019

UFC Wichita: Uncertain Heavyweight Path Could Put Junior Dos Santos and Stipe Miocic On A Collision Course

By Raphael Garcia

The heavyweight division is the land of second chances. Not only in the UFC, but across mixed martial arts we have seen heavyweight fighters find a way to hang on to extended careers at or near the top of the sport. Junior dos Santos did so on Saturday when he defeated Derrick Lewis at UFC on ESPN+ 4. However, the division remains in disarray, as there are no clear next steps for any of the men at the top of the rankings, including the heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier.

As Cormier flirts with retirement, he is contemplating possible money fights with Brock Lesnar and/or Jon Jones as a path towards cementing his legacy before walking away. But while those bouts would do wonders for his bank account and for the UFC's pay-per-view buys, neither does much for the rest of the division, as neither of those fighters are in the Top 15 of the UFC heavyweight rankings. As of right now, UFC President Dana White seems to be on board with the idea of Cormier taking these big time fights, but that creates ripples of uncertainty throughout the rest of the division.

But coming off of his win on Saturday night, Dos Santos is certain of at least one thing: his desire to remain active. During his post-fight interview, he stated it plainly:

“I don’t care who I fight next, as long as I stay active. I want fights. I’m here to fight again and regain my belt.”

Activity is something that would elevate JDS over many of his peers in the weight class. And if he’s attempting to forge a path back to the heavyweight title, his next fight should come against a fighter who is in a similar position, one Stipe Miocic. The former UFC Heavyweight Champion has been continually arguing for a rematch against Cormier since he was knocked out at UFC 226. But given where DC and the UFC's attentions are currently focused, it’s highly unlikely that Miocic will get the that shot. Despite the fact that Miocic holds the record for most title defenses, UFC leadership has shown no interest in running that fight back. However, there is another rematch that could be booked that would satisfy the interests of both dos Santos and Miocic: a third fight between the two.

In 2014 and 2017 dos Santos and Miocic faced each other in two extremely relevant heavyweight bouts, with each man seeing his hand raised once. JDS won their first bout at UFC on Fox 13, then Miocic won the rematch at UFC 211. A tiebreaker fight between the two would be coming at just the right time, as both individuals are vying for a shot at the heavyweight championship. And while neither of them are likely get the opportunity to face Cormier before he retires, staying active and coming out victorious in a fight of this magnitude would put one of them on the shortlist of competitors available for an interim title bout, or to step in as an injury replacement. One of the biggest ways to get ahead on the UFC roster is to always be ready, and in the current state of the heavyweight division, the winner oof their bout would stand to benefit the most from such a readiness.

Stipe Miocic and Junior dos Santos are former champions that are choosing to take vastly routes to their next shots at the title. Dos Santos has been active, and wants to remain so. Miocic, on the other hand, has been calling out the UFC and the champion. But the fast track to one of them getting what he wants would be to stand across the Octagon from one another again. Miocic-JDS III would create a little more clarity at the top of the heavyweight division.

UFC on ESPN+ 4
Derrick Lewis vs. Junior Dos Santos: Junior dos Santos def. Derrick Lewis via TKO (punches) at 1:58 of Round 2.

UFC on ESPN+ 4: Lewis vs. Dos Santos took place March 9, 2019 at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.

Click HERE for more UFC on ESPN+ 4 Post-Fight Analysis

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