UFC: Fights to make after Stipe Miocic retains, Daniel Cormier retires and Jon Jones jumps up a division

Heavyweight landscape could look very different in the coming months

Alex Pattle@alex_pattle
Wednesday 19 August 2020 12:11
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Conor McGregor announces his retirement from UFC

At UFC 252 last weekend, Stipe Miocic defeated Daniel Cormier for the second time to bring the pair’s trilogy over the UFC heavyweight title to a close.

That bout also brought 41-year-old Cormier’s career to a close in a reminder of how difficult it is to ride out of MMA and into the sunset.

And as former Olympian and former UFC dual-champ Cormier departed the heavyweight division, an old rival of his entered it.

On Monday, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones took to social media to announce he had vacated his belt ahead of a move up to heavyweight, with bouts against Miocic and Francis Ngannou having been rumoured in recent months.

So, what’s next for Miocic and Jones? And what of some of the other fighters to have competed at UFC 252? Let’s take a look.

Stipe Miocic vs Francis Ngannou II

In January 2018, Miocic defended his belt against Ngannou, and there was no doubt that the UFC machine was rooting for the challenger. Ngannou had an 11-1 record with four first-round finishes in his four bouts preceding his title shot against Miocic – and another three first-round finishes from earlier in his career.

Most of these were knockouts, and while Miocic was en route to proving himself as the greatest heavyweight in UFC history, the odds suggested that – at some point in a 25-minute contest – he would fall victim to Ngannou’s hellish power. But Miocic took plenty of shots and kept coming, ultimately schooling his Cameroonian-French opponent for five rounds, outgrappling ‘The Predator’ and beating him up – embarrassing him, in all honesty, and exposing how far Ngannou still had to go to become legitimate champion material.

After that bout, Ngannou’s dented confidence was evident in a painfully boring decision defeat by Derrick Lewis, but ‘The Predator’ has since responded impressively, going on a four-fight win streak in which he’s KOed Curtis Blaydes and Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the first round, either side of first-round KOs of former champs Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez.

Cormier (left) and Miocic fought in a five-round war

Since his loss to Lewis, Ngannou’s ruthlessness has meant he’s spent just 2 minutes and 52 seconds in the Octagon across four fights. That’s hardly a negative, but it does mean it’s difficult to know if he’s improved in the areas necessary to reverse the previous result against Miocic. We should find out the next time each man steps into the ring.

Jon Jones vs Alexander Volkov

As afore-mentioned, Jones has been linked to bouts with Miocic and Ngannou, and while both are tantalising, those two heavyweights should really face each other next. Ngannou has earned his rematch against Mioicic.

In the meantime, Jones should test the water in his new division, and Volkov is a decent opponent. Some had suggested Lewis as Jones’ first heavyweight foe, and I was going to opt for Curtis Blaydes, but those two men have since been paired against each other.

Volkov lost a decision to Blaydes in his last outing, but he is a top-10 heavyweight with seven wins from his last nine contests. He would also be one of the few guys out there not to suffer a height disadvantage against Jones, in fact standing three inches taller than ‘Bones’.

There might be more exciting options out there for the former light heavyweight champ, but it all depends on whether Jones is willing to wait for those opponents to free themselves up.

Sean O’Malley vs Marlon Vera II

Okay, so first thing’s first: Vera’s win over O’Malley at UFC 252 was clean.

O’Malley stumbled to the mat twice in the fight and many fans were quick to use his foot injury as an excuse for his defeat by ‘Chito’, but it seems that the Ecuadorian caused that injury with a leg kick before finishing ‘Sugar’, so any asterisk over the result should be removed.

That said, O’Malley was flying high heading into the bantamweight bout and looked sharp for most of the first round up until the injury. Getting back in there against Vera, with whom there was a fair bit of heat, isn’t the worst idea for O’Malley as the UFC looks to get one of their future stars back on track.

Sean O’Malley was stopped by Marlon Vera in the first round at UFC 252

Vera would likely fancy his chances again and accept the fight, especially given the previously undefeated O’Malley’s semi-star power didn’t suffer too much from the outcome on Saturday, with many observers keen to factor the injury into the result.

Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs Curtis Blaydes / Derrick Lewis

Lewis, the UFC’s No5 heavyweight, has a record of 24-7 (1 no contest) with 19 knockouts. Rozenstruik, ranked 4th, has a record of 11-1 with 10 knockouts. These two men have to throw hands at some point.

But Lewis is now set for a November bout against Blaydes, who would have been another fun opponent for Rozenstruik.

Rozenstruik was recently knocked out by Ngannou after just 20 seconds of action but rebounded impressively to KO Dos Santos in the second round on Saturday, adding the former champ to a victim list that also includes Overeem and former titleholder Andrei Arlovski, and he is never going to be too far from a title shot.

So, Rozenstruik may be best off waiting to see how Blaydes vs Lewis plays out, and then trying to pick off the winner in a No1 contender’s contest.

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