In MMA, there will always be round table debates between fans of who is the greatest to ever do it. When talking about the UFC’s heavyweight division, this was a fairly open debate until Stipe Miocic sat down at the table. Debuting in the UFC in 2011, Miocic suffered two setbacks on his way to becoming a world champion, losses to Stefan Struve and Junior Dos Santos that only made him a better champion once he reached the pinnacle.
After losing a five round war to JDS, Miocic rebounded with back to back finishes over Mark Hunt and Andrei Arlovski to earn himself a title shot. Fresh off of beating Cain Velasquez to win the heavyweight title, nobody could’ve predicted that Fabricio Werdum would lose the title in his first defense in such devastating fashion. In front of Werdum’s home crowd in Curitiba, Brazil, Miocic silenced the entire building when he knocked the champion out cold in one round.
This was just the start of Stipe defying expectations, producing three consecutive title defenses to break the UFC record for a heavyweight champion. With first round finishes over Alistair Overeem and Junior Dos Santos, Miocic’s biggest test came when faced with the scariest puncher the UFC has ever seen. With everyone waiting to see if Francis Ngannou could send Miocic to sleep with one punch like he had so many others, Miocic silenced everyone yet again. Surviving Ngannou’s best shots, Stipe exposed the levels in ability and cardio between the two, dominating the majority of the fight to overcome his biggest threat to date.
Though Ngannou would go away, rebuild and come back to take the belt from Miocic at UFC 260, in the time between, Stipe solidified his legacy in the sport. After being on the opposite end of a shock result when he was knocked out in the first round by light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, the two engaged in one of MMA’s greatest trilogies. Any sign of Stipe not getting the credit he deserved was thrown out of the window in the second fight. After losing the first three rounds decisively, Miocic rallied in the fourth to take the fight to Cormier. With some devastating body punches, Stipe managed to stop Cormier to reclaim his heavyweight crown in one of the best heavyweight title fights ever.
The third and final meeting between DC and Stipe Miocic also went to Miocic. Taking far less damage on this occasion, Miocic once again made the right adjustments to beat one of the greatest ever and put an end to this iconic trilogy. Though he lost the belt in his next defense against Ngannou, reclaiming the heavyweight title after losing it in such dramatic fashion finally got the champion the respect he was long overdue.
Now with his eyes set on reclaiming his world title for a third time, Miocic finds himself as a contender once again. With the likes of Jon Jones and Derrick Lewis providing fresh challenges for Miocic as well as the prospect of another huge trilogy with Francis Ngannou, there is plenty of options out there for the former champion. Though his legacy as the greatest heavyweight in UFC history is solidified with his record number of title defenses, a final chapter could lie in store for the man formerly known as the baddest on the planet.