After breaking the record for title defences in the UFC Heavyweight division and turning back the challenge of the next big thing, the question now is, who does Stipe fight next. There is an obvious list of possible challengers, albeit a relatively short one, which can be broken down even further.
Cain Velasquez, Fabricio Werdum, Daniel Cormier, Jon Jones and Brock Lesnar to me are the ones in line.
Velasquez at his peak and if active would be some fight, but Velasquez hasn’t competed due to injury since July 2016, so an immediate title shot is unlikely. If Cain returns and stays healthy, an end of year fight with Stipe or whoever the champion is, is far more likely.
Werdum is the highest ranked most deserving challenger, and until he lost to Miocic, he was being talked about as the greatest Heavyweight ever. But the one-sided quick loss and the seemingly new matchmaking priorities of the new owners, will probably make Werdum the last option.
Before his latest USADA issues Jon Jones was the likely option for a Miocic fight, and if the Jones issues can be ironed out quickly, I think that’s the preferred option for the UFC.
A Brock Lesnar return would certainly fit the mould for the new owners, a massive PPV draw, although not as big as he was, a Lesnar v Miocic fight would still draw big numbers, and in the UFC’s 25th year, it would do very nicely. But Lesnar has his own USADA ban, plus a period in the USADA testing pool, which would delay any return until later in the year.
So Daniel Cormier might find himself in the mix, almost by default, for a chance to win a 2nd UFC title, Cormier has said no, due to the impending return of his teammate Cain. I don’t see that as too much of a problem, Cain won’t be in the title mix until later in the year, and Cormier would only have the one fight at Heavyweight, so there is no teammate problems in Cormier having a one and done Heavyweight fight.
Cormier so long in the shadow of his arch nemesis Jon Jones, would greatly benefit from winning the UFC Heavyweight title, it certainly would enhance his legacy.
So the options for Stipe seem plenty but limited at the same time, I’m not saying it will happen, but don’t rule out a Stipe Miocic v Daniel Cormier fight.