State of the UFC’s heavyweight division entering 2021

MMA, Stipe Miocic

2021 will usher in a new day in the heavyweight division. As we enter January 2021, it has been three years since UFC heavyweight champion, Stipe Miocic (20-3), fought someone not named Daniel Cormier (22-3, 1 NC).

At UFC 220 back in January of 2018, Miocic defended his title against Francis Ngannou (15-3). Ngannou was being billed as the next big thing having destroyed every contender the UFC had put in front of him.

However, Miocic showed off his greatness that night shutting out the French contender. However, Miocic would lose his title in the summer of 2018 when he was knocked out in the first round by Daniel Cormier.

The UFC then angled for Cormier to face Brock Lesnar in a superfight. The proposed matchup with Lesnar was supposed to be Cormier’s last UFC fight. The fight never materialized and Cormier went on to defend his title against Derrick Lewis (24-7, 1 NC).

Cormier defeated Lewis and waited for the Lesnar fight. Again, it never came together so Cormier decided to give Stipe Miocic a rematch at UFC 241. After dominating the fight early, Cormier got knocked out by Miocic in the fourth round.

After that fight, Miocic needed to take some time off. A year later, Miocic and Cormier finished their trilogy at UFC 252 in Cormier’s last fight. Miocic won the fight by unanimous decision cementing himself as the heavyweight GOAT.

UFC’s heavyweight division in 2021

With the Miocic – Cormier trilogy behind us, it’s time for the UFC’s heavyweight division to move on in 2021. However, Miocic will face a familiar foe in his first title defense of the year. He will once again take on Francis Ngannou.

Ngannou’s losses to Miocic then Derrick Lewis might have been the best thing for him. He’s rededicated himself to the sport and he’s looked untouchable since. After losing a decision to Lewis, Ngannou is 4-0 with four first round knockouts.

Not only that, but none of those opponents have gone more than 71 seconds. The UFC’s predator looks better than ever and he’s expected to face Miocic in March for the heavyweight title.

Another exciting aspect of the heavyweight division in 2021 is the arrival of Jon Jones (26-1,1 NC). Jones is widely considered to be the greatest fighter of all-time and he’s finally decided to move up to heavyweight.

After reigning over light heavyweight for nearly a decade, Jones is preparing for a shot at the heavyweight title. He’s expected to face the winner of Miocic – Ngannou over the summer or early next fall.

Other Contenders

Behind Jones there are a number of compelling contenders. Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes (14-2, 1 NC) are expected to faceoff in 2021. They were supposed to fight in November, however, Blaydes tested positive for COVID and the fight was scrapped.

Both contenders have multiple fight winning streaks. A win for either man would put them in great position. The guy to really watch out for is Ciryl Gane (7-0). Gane just knocked out JDS at UFC 256 and is poised to be a top contender.

Of course, Alistair Overeem (47-18, 1 NC) and Alexander Volkov (32-8) are two others to watch out for. They headline a Fight Night in February. Of course there’s still Jairzinho Rozenstruik (11-1) out there who’s ranked third at heavyweight at the moment.

Miocic is finally done with Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones is entering the heavyweight picture. Francis Ngannou looks better than ever and there’s a ton of hungry and dangerous contenders behind him. Should be a fun year at heavyweight in 2021.

UFC has a target date for Miocic – Ngannou 2 per Dana White

MMA, Stipe Miocic

One of the more anticipated UFC title fights that has yet to be booked is the rematch between Stipe Miocic (20-3) and Francis Ngannou (15-3). The two men last fought back in January of 2018 at UFC 220 where Miocic dominated the top contender.

However, since that fight, Ngannou has turned into an even more terrifying monster. He had a bump in the road against Derrick Lewis where he couldn’t pull the trigger, but outside of that, he’s been a destroyer in the heavyweight division.

In Ngannou’s last four UFC contests, none of seen more than one minute and eleven seconds of action. Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik have all been knocked out by Ngannou in a combined 2:42.

Miocic on the other hand has spent the last two years in a trilogy with Daniel Cormier. Back at UFC 252, Miocic put the finishing touches on the trilogy with a unanimous decision victory over Cormier. However, he didn’t come through the fight without injury.

According to Dana White in an interview with TMZ, the UFC‘s heavyweight champion needed time to recover. However, the UFC does have a date planned for the rematch. According to White the rematch between the two will take place in March.

UFC’s March Heavyweight Title Fight

This seems to go right along with the timeframe that Ngannou referenced last week when he discussed his frustrations. The trilogy between Miocic and Cormier tied up the heavyweight title for the last couple of years which has been frustrating for Ngannou.

When these two men fight again, I think we are going to see a much different fight than we saw at UFC 220. Miocic really humbled Ngannou that night. Francis made that walk thinking he was indestructible, and Miocic made him feel very human.

However, Ngannou is a completely different fighter than he was then. I think he’s at his absolute best now, and I don’t know if Miocic is. I think the challenger will likely be the favorite when these two stand across from each other next March.

UFC: Francis Ngannou growing frustrated with another lengthy layoff

Francis Ngannou

Back in May, Francis Ngannou (15-3) made a massive statement at UFC 249. Taking on the undefeated Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Ngannou won by knockout in a mere 20 seconds to solidify is top contender status in the heavyweight division.

For Ngannou, it was his fourth straight victory. Not just that, it was his forth straight first round knockout none of which have gone more than 71 seconds. Simply put, Ngannou is the most terrifying force in the UFC right now.

However, he hasn’t been able to get back in the cage since then. Ngannou tried to lobby for a fight with the UFC‘s pound for pound best, Jon Jones, however, that fight fell apart due to financial negotiations between Jones and the UFC. 

UFC 252 rolled around in August and Stipe Miocic defeated Daniel Cormier to retain his heavyweight title. However, Miocic is said to be out until March of next year with some injuries that he sustained the matchup against Cormier. This isn’t sitting well with the top contender.

The UFC’s heavyweight issue

The UFC has a problem on their hands in the heavyweight division. It all stems back to when Daniel Cormier won the heavyweight title. After Cormier won, it appeared that the UFC would make Cormier fight Brock Lesnar in a super fight for the heavyweight title.

However, that fight never materialized. Then a year after Cormier fought Miocic the first time, the two rematched where Miocic retained the title. Due to injuries in the rematch, it took another year for the trilogy fight to happen at UFC 252.

While all of this was going on, Ngannou was running through contenders like Cain Velasquez, Curtis Blaydes, Junior Dos Santos, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Ngannou pointed out that he’s only fought for 20 seconds in the last 16 months.

The UFC needs to get the heavyweight division moving again. If Miocic can’t go in March, I think the UFC needs to create an interim title and let Ngannou face either the winner of the Lewis – Blaydes fight or perhaps they can make the Jon Jones fight happen.

 

UFC 253 Co-Main Preview: Who will be the new UFC light heavyweight champion?

Dominick Reyes

For the first time since 2011, the UFC will have a light heavyweight champion not named Jon Jones or Daniel Cormier. Dominick Reyes (12-1) and Jan Blachowicz (26-8) will battle tomorrow night for the vacant UFC light heavyweight crown.

There hasn’t been much parody in the division since Shogun Rua held the title. After Jon Jones won the belt at UFC 128, the division was ruled by him. The only time the belt changed hands was when Jones’ outside issues stripped him from the title.

In those times, Daniel Cormier led the charge. However, with Cormier retired and Jones moving to heavyweight, it’s a new and exciting day in the UFC‘s light heavyweight division. The two top contenders are fighting to lead the charge on this new day.

In addition to this UFC title fight, there is a title eliminator between Thiago Santos and Glover Teixiera booked for November, and Anthony Rumble Johnson is coming back. Exciting times are ahead for the light heavyweight division.

UFC 253 Prediction

For Dominick Reyes, he’s trying to right the wrong that occurred at UFC 247. In the eyes of many, Reyes did the unthinkable which is beat Jon Jones. However, all three of the judges gave the fight to Jon Jones. There were some debatable rounds, but many thought Reyes won.

A lot of people look at this fight more as a UFC title defense for Reyes versus him challenging to become champion. The uncrowned UFC champion will have his hands full tomorrow night, but he does have the skills to match.

Reyes has been very good since making his debut back in 2017. Outside of a controversial win against Volkan Oezdemir, Reyes has looked relatively dominant in his UFC career. His athletic ability, good/long striking and strength have made him a handful.

Standing across from Reyes tomorrow will be some Polish Power. Also since 2017, Jan Blachowicz has turned the corner in his UFC career. He had one slip up in a TKO loss to Thiago Santos, but outside of that, he’s been very good.

He’s racked up wins over Jared Cannonier, Jimi Manuwa, Nikita Krylov, and Jacare Souza. However, his most impressive victories have been his knockouts over Corey Anderson and former UFC middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold.

Blachowicz will definitely have the power advantage between the two men when they step into the cage for the UFC light heavyweight title tomorrow night. It’s going to be a fantastic fight.

In terms of a prediction, this one is easier for me to predict than the main event. I think Reyes is going to give Blachowicz a lot of issues with his speed. While the reach actually favors Jan, Reyes does a better job of striking from range.

I think Reyes is also going to show much improved cardio over the span of this one. I expect both guys to have their moments throughout the fight, but I think Reyes will do enough to win it on the scorecards. This time, Reyes will walk out of the cage with a UFC title.

Prediction: Dominick Reyes by Unanimous Decision

Daniel Cormier suffered from COVID-19 in camp ahead of UFC 252

Daniel Cormier

It has been exactly one month since we saw UFC 252. That night, Stipe Miocic (20-3) solidified himself as the greatest heavyweight in the promotion’s history with a second win over Daniel Cormier (22-3, 1 NC). DC announced his retirement after the fight.

A lot of people questioned DC’s sluggish performance at UFC 252. There were rumors that he had not been healthy during the camp which didn’t allow him to train at his optimum levels. Luke Rockhold hinted at this in a recent interview with Brendan Schaub.

Earlier this morning, we found out what exactly happened to Cormier in his camp. In an interview with Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole, Cormier said that he tested positive for COVID-19. He came down with it after a teammate tested positive at AKA.

Did it impact UFC 252?

Cormier detailed what had happened telling Iole over the fourth of July weekend leading up to UFC 252. “Over the weekend, I started feeling a little sick. I got tired and peaked. On Monday night/Tuesday morning, I wasn’t feeling so good. My resting heart rate had been 50 beats a minute. Now it was at 57,” Cormier said.

The former UFC double champ went on to say that his resting heart rate got up to 67. After continuously not feeling good and feeling sluggish, Cormier went to the doctor where he found out that he had COVID-19. It obviously had been impacting his training camp.

DC was quick to say that COVID-19 is not an excuse for losing at UFC 252. “This is not an excuse at all. Miocic won the fight and he fought beautifully,” Cormier told Iole. This all came out as the UFC announced a partnership with Oura Health. The Oura Smart Ring helped Cormier diagnose his issues.

It’s clear that Cormier wasn’t at his best at UFC 252. Does all the credit go to Stipe’s performance or do we sit and wonder on how COVID impacted DC’s performance. Fighter’s deal with things all the time that never make it out to the public.

I will say that I don’t believe Cormier said this to downplay the UFC heavyweight champions performance a month ago. I think he announced it to help the UFC show off their new partnership with Oura. Still, one has to wonder now how COVID-19 impacted UFC 252.

UFC: Dana White is interested in booking Brock Lesnar – Jon Jones

The combat sports world has been buzzing over the past few days after learning that former UFC heavyweight champion, Brock Lesnar (5-3, 1 NC), was a free agent. Lesnar’s merchandise was pulled off the WWE website, and it’s been reported that they couldn’t come to terms on a new deal.

Of course, many quickly pointed out a potential MMA return for Lesnar. Scott Coker of Bellator pointed out potentially matching him with Fedor Emelianenko. However, I believe he still has an active UFC contract. At least, Dana White said that a couple of years ago.

Lesnar was going to return to the UFC to fight Daniel Cormier after Cormier won the heavyweight title from Stipe Miocic at UFC 226. Lesnar even entered the USADA testing pool. That fight never came together, and Lesnar stayed with the WWE. Now, White seems to be interested in Lesnar fighting another top UFC star.

Lesnar – Jones in the UFC?

If Brock Lesnar is actually interested in fighting again, Jon Jones (26-1, 1 NC) is the only fight that makes real sense. I don’t see Lesnar at 43 years old coming back for a title run. He might just want to come back for one big show that’ll generate a massive payday for him.

Jon Jones is stuck right now. He’s moving up to heavyweight, but he’s not the first in line for the title. The UFC has stated over and over that Francis Ngannou (15-3) will be getting the next crack at Stipe Miocic. So until that fight, Jones will wait on the sidelines.

Nobody wants to see Jones fight a contender like Curtis Blaydes or Derrick Lewis. They want to see him fight for the title or fight someone extremely entertaining. That’s where Brock Lesnar enters the UFC‘s train of thought.

Jones has expressed interest in fighting Lesnar in the past. Lesnar always told Jones to be careful what he wished for. A Jones – Lesnar fight is really a win-win situation for the UFC. It’s not really a massive risk for Jones in fighting a 43 year old Lesnar, and it would be a big payday. As White pointed out, it would be a good introduction to heavyweight for Jones.

I’m not convinced that this fight will actually happen, but it is one that would make sense in a weird way. While it’s not the fight it once would have been, I’m all in for seeing Jon Jones fight Brock Lesnar in the UFC.

Former UFC champ Daniel Cormier on retirement: “Yeah, I’m not going to fight anymore”

Daniel Cormier

Daniel Cormier (22-3, 1 NC) made it clear leading up to UFC 252 that he would be walking away following his fight with Stipe Miocic (19-3). Cormier went on to lose a unanimous decision to Miocic back on August 15th.

The former two division UFC champion told Joe Rogan in a post-fight interview that he would only fight again if it was for championships. That of course seemingly cracked the door on a potential return for Cormier.

Today, Cormier returned to his ESPN show with Ariel Helwani. Helwani simply asked the former UFC champion if he was done. Cormier replied with, “Yeah, I’m not going to fight anymore.”

Future UFC Hall of Famer

Cormier continued, “I told Joe Rogan after the fight that I was only interested in fighting for championships…I’ve lost two fights in a row for the first time in my career. You have to understand when it’s time.”

DC went on to talk about the fact that he might have been hit with the right hand by Miocic at UFC 252 that dropped him in the second round was, “Because I’m older.” Cormier will be turning 42 years old next March.

Initially, Cormier didn’t want to fight in the UFC past his 40th birthday. Of course, the potential fight with Brock Lesnar kept him going. The fight never materialized and Cormier agreed to giving Miocic a rematch after DC won the belt from him at UFC 226.

When DC was finished by Miocic, he said that he couldn’t walk away after that performance. He waited for Miocic to heal up and the two rematched at UFC 252. Losing twice left Cormier no where to go and at 41 years old, he acknowledged that it’s time to move on with his life.

Daniel Cormier’s Legacy

DC is truly one of the best fighters to ever do it. Unfortunately for him, he fought as the same time as Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic. Those two men had Cormier’s number when no one else could solve his puzzle. Cormier will no doubt go into the Hall of Fame as a former two division UFC world champion.

I do feel bad for Daniel Cormier. There people who do not put a ton of stock in his UFC light heavyweight title run since he never defeated Jon Jones. There are also now people questioning his first win against Stipe having lost twice to Miocic. People have said the shot might have been pure luck.

At the end of the day, Cormier won the heavyweight title clean. When Jones was out, he beat every man at light heavyweight to capture the title. While pundits can always talk, there is no questioning the legacy that Daniel Cormier will leave inside the octagon.

UFC: Stipe Miocic isn’t interested in a rematch with Francis Ngannou

MMA, Stipe Miocic

Following UFC 252, it seemed like there was a pretty clear plan for the heavyweight division. Stipe Miocic (20-3) defeated Daniel Cormier to cement his legacy as the best heavyweight in UFC history.

After defeating DC for the second time, it seemed like there was a clear next challenger. Francis Ngannou (15-3) has knocked out four consecutive opponents in 2:42 total to earn a rematch with the champion, Miocic.

UFC President Dana White made it clear that Ngannou was next for Stipe. Many wondered if Jon Jones (26-1, 1 NC) would jump ahead of Francis with his move to heavyweight. White made it clear that Ngannou would be next. However, the champion doesn’t seem interested.

Stipe wants something different

In a Q&A on Instagram, Miocic stated, “Francis isn’t exciting to me. Already put on a 25 minute clinic on how to beat him. Want a new challenge!” The UFC champion is clearly wanting something other than the Ngannou rematch right now.

Ngannou deserves a shot, but Miocic does have a point. Their first fight was not close. What does Miocic really have to gain from fighting Ngannou again? That fight is way more risk than reward for the champion.

The UFC could find themselves in a pickle over this situation. What do you do if the most decorated champion in heavyweight history turns down the number one contender? The answer is actually pretty simple.

Yes, White has emphatically stated multiple times that Jon Jones will not jump the line in front of Ngannou. White did say Jones would get an immediate title shot, but Ngannou would get his first. However, Miocic might be able to force the issue with his statements.

The UFC’s dilemma

The UFC is in a unique spot, but it’s not a spot they hadn’t been in before. When Khabib Nurmagomedov was clearly deserving of the lightweight title shot a few years back, the promotion gave the shot to then featherweight champion, Conor McGregor, who wanted to move up.

I could see a similar scenario playing out here with the UFC heavyweight title. While Ngannou should get the next shot, I could see the promotion shifting to the greatest of all time facing the greatest heavyweight of all time.

Making that fight would not be fair to Francis, but it would get Stipe excited, and the fight would be a huge legacy fight. Will be interesting to see what the UFC decides to do.

UFC: Anthony “Rumble” Johnson returning to light heavyweight

Anthony Rumble Johnson

The state of the UFC‘s light heavyweight division is extremely fluid at the moment. Today, Jon Jones announced that he will be vacating the light heavyweight title.

Also, it was announced that the UFC is planning on having Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz fight at UFC 253 which will likely be for the title although not confirmed.

If that wasn’t enough news in the light heavyweight division, arguably the most terrifying knockout artist in the history of the division will be making his return.

Rumble back in the UFC

It has long been known that Anthony “Rumble” Johnson would be making his UFC return at some point. We just really didn’t know when that return would happen. We also didn’t know which weight class Rumble would be fighting in.

As Brett Okamoto reported, Rumble will be going back down to light heavyweight. The same division that saw Rumble make two runs to a title shot only to be stopped by Daniel Cormier twice.

The second loss to Cormier came at UFC 210 back in 2017. That night, Rumble announced that he would be stepping away from fighting. He was emotional in announcing his retirement.

Outside of his two losses to Cormier, Johnson went 6-0 in the light heavyweight division with five first round knockouts. Those knockouts came over guys like Glover Teixeira, Alexander Gustafsson, and current two division Bellator champion, Ryan Bader.

It will be very interesting to see how quickly the UFC decides to push Rumble. Will he get a crack at the title right away or will they give him a top contender like a Jiri Prochazka in his first fight back?

It will be interesting to see this whole thing unfold. Rumble will have to be in the USADA pool for six months before he can return to the octagon. With that, expect to see Rumble back in the first part of 2021.

 

UFC: How will we remember Daniel Cormier’s career?

Daniel Cormier

Last Saturday evening at UFC 252, we saw the end to the career of the great Daniel Cormier (22-3, 1 NC). Cormier fell short in his attempt to regain the heavyweight crown against Stipe Miocic (20-3).

Cormier once said that his goal was to retire at 40 years old. However, what turned out to be a trilogy with Miocic, kept Cormier fighting well into his 41st year. Now, Cormier walks away from the UFC.

DC was emotional in his interview with Joe Rogan after the fight when speaking about retirement. You could tell the emotions were heavy after falling short to Miocic once again.

One of the UFC’s all time greats

Make no mistake about it, Daniel Cormier is one of the best fighters of all time. There is no debate. Cormier was just the second man in UFC history to hold two titles simultaneously with the other being the great Conor McGregor.

DC is also part of the greatest rivalry the sport has ever seen with the GOAT, Jon Jones. The Jones – Cormier rivalry is something that all fans dream about. A personal rivalry between two of the very best in the world.

The two men hated each other and even fought outside the cage at a press conference. DC fought Jones twice and came up short both times. While Cormier was the light heavyweight champion when Jones was serving suspensions, there was always an asterisks by his name.

People recognized him as the champion, but there was always the thought that the only reason he was is because Jones was out. Because of that, Cormier didn’t get the respect a defending champion normally does. Cormier beat all the top contenders at 205, but because of his losses to Jones, he didn’t get the respect he deserved.

All of those comments went away at UFC 226. Cormier moved up to become the first light heavyweight champion to challenge the heavyweight champion. Cormier shocked the world by knocking out the most decorated UFC heavyweight champion in history in the first round.

With one right hand, Cormier got all the validation that he needed. DC went on to defend the heavyweight title against Derrick Lewis at UFC 230. Following that win, Cormier would drop his next two fights, both to Stipe Miocic.

In another point in time, there might not have been a man alive that could have touched Daniel Cormier. Unfortunately for him, he competed at the same time as the greatest fighter of all time, Jones, and the greatest heavyweight of all time, Miocic.

Four (Technically) losses to two men. But those two men are all time greats. At the end of the day, DC is truly one of the best we’ve ever seen. A no doubt hall of famer, and I hope that he’s remembered in that light as opposed to being remembered as someone who came up short to Jones and Miocic.