While an unfortunate injury to Stipe Miocic scuttled what loomed as an explosive co-main event clash at UFC Fight Night 76 in Ireland against Ben Rothwell, perhaps there could be a silver lining in the grand scheme of things. The good news is that the No. 3-ranked heavyweight isn’t expected to be on the sidelines for very long. His manager, Greg Kalikas, has indicated that the injury isn’t serious, and that Miocic hopes to fight again before the year is out.
The big question revolves around what comes next. While the option of rebooking the contest against the No. 7-ranked Rothwell would be more than reasonable, it’s time to consider something different. Now would be the perfect time for the organization to consider having Miocic square off against former champion Andrei Arlovski in a potential title eliminator.
Back in June during a fan Q&A, UFC President Dana White had indicated that Miocic or Arlovski would be first up for newly minted champion Fabricio Werdum. The Brazilian veteran continued his brilliant second Octagon stint with a submission victory over Cain Velasquez in their title unification clash at UFC 188 in Mexico City. Obviously they had a change of heart and elected to go with an immediate rematch between the two men. That decision was a rather puzzling one given that their initial clash was a clear-cut victory for “Vai Cavalo.”
There’s been plenty of speculation that Werdum-Velasquez II will take place in March at a stadium event in Brazil. The rivalry between the two men has essentially frozen out the other legitimate heavyweight contenders. The UFC must find someone to face the winner of that rematch, and having Miocic pair off against the No. 4-ranked Arlovski makes perfect sense to accomplish that.
Miocic has entered the title fray thanks to an impressive 4-1 run in his last five contests. He’s fresh off a TKO win over Mark Hunt at Fight Night 65 in Australia. Miocic delivered a frightful beating to the “Super Samoan” before the contest was finally halted in the fifth and final round. It was a solid rebound victory after a tough unanimous decision loss to former champion Junior dos Santos in a thrilling slugfest at UFC on FOX 13.
The Strong Style Fight Team stalwart has gone 7-2 during his UFC tenure. Miocic owns other notable victories over Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson. The 33-year-old Ohio native is extremely athletic for a heavyweight with excellent boxing skills and a strong wrestling background. He has terrific footwork, accurate striking and solid takedown defense. He’s proven himself to be one of the division’s best and is deserving of getting a high-profile opportunity against Arlovski.
Arlovski has been a remarkable story since returning to the organization. “The Pit Bull” is a perfect 4-0 and has won his last six. He’s sandwiched decision wins against Brendan Schaub and Frank Mir around explosive knockout victories over Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Travis Browne. The clash with Browne at UFC 187 was one of the most exciting one-round affairs that you’ll ever see.
Unfortunately a highly-anticipated matchup with Mir fizzled at UFC 191. While the Belarusian knockout artist got the unanimous decision victory, the 36-year-old veteran was far from satisfied with his performance. Both camps have been receptive to the idea of a rematch, but it simply isn’t necessary. Arlovski and Mir had their chance to shine in a co-main event spotlight in Las Vegas and failed to deliver. Both competitors need to move on.
It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago it was felt that Arlovski’s fighting days were coming to an end after suffering four straight losses during a disastrous run with Affliction and Strikeforce. The abysmal stretch included knockout defeats at the hands of Fedor Emelianenko, Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov. All that the Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter has done since that disastrous run is go 10-1 with one no-contest in his last 12 fights. Arlovski has definitely turned into a feel-good story in his latest UFC stint.
The heavyweight landscape is certainly a different one now that Werdum is the current divisional kingpin. Obviously all of that could change if Velasquez is able to rebound in the rematch. There are several hungry contenders making their case for a future title opportunity and a clash between Miocic and Arlovski seems to be the direction to take. Hopefully, matchmakers will look to book a fight that should’ve already happened by now.