We’ve seen UFC Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic call out boxing’s undefeated Heavyweight champion, Anthony Joshua in a proposed boxing exhibition in the undercard of Mayweather-McGregor on August 26th, but when discussing Miocic’s next opponent the options are potentially more dangerous than Joshua.
UFC 213 takes place on July 8th and features the rubber match between Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum that is nearly 10 years in the making. The winner of the two competitors could be next in line for a shot at Miocic’s gold later in the year, but there is another potential option who fans and the media are currently high on.
Francis Ngannou, 30, is sporting a 5-0 UFC record and is coming off a performance of the night TKO finish of UFC legend Andrei Arlovski in January at UFC on Fox. Ngannou is relatively new to the scene at the top of the heavyweight division, but it’s clear the UFC are grooming him to be one of their homegrown knockout artists. With hopes and rumors of Derrick Lewis facing Ngannou next, those hopes were crushed following Mark Hunt’s victory over Lewis a few weeks ago along with Lewis’ semi-retirement.
The UFC and Mark Hunt are not on good terms and we could see them match Hunt against “The Predator” in efforts to create a difficult path back to title contention. The problem is that Hunt could very well derail their plans just like he did against Lewis. Hunt lost via TKO in the 5th round against Miocic back in 2015, but he also lost to Junior Dos Santos in 2013 and a match up between the two today would surprisingly favor Hunt.
Speaking of Dos Santos, Ngannou mentioned Dos Santos as well as Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem as options that would get him close to a title shot. The prospects of seeing Dos Santos fight Ngannou coming off a 1st round TKO loss to Miocic last month seems harsh, but Dos Santos is not one to shy away from tough competition. Overeem could face Ngannou should he win, but Hunt has his eyes set on the “Reem” after his fight against Werdum, Unfortunately, he is not a matchmaker, which means he’ll be booked against Dos Santos next instead, which offers him an opportunity of avenging another loss.
Cain Velasquez, oddly enough is the wild card in the heavyweight division, which is strange territory for the former champion who hasn’t competed since his quick finish of Travis Browne back in UFC 200 nearly a year ago. Velasquez recently gave fans an update via Twitter, stating that his son is due in November and that he’ll be back in the octagon soon. Velasquez, like other heavyweights, is probably awaiting the result of Werdum-Overeem in two weeks. Given the nature of rematches against Dos Santos and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva along with a few lengthy layoffs, Velasquez has never faced Hunt, Overeem, Ngannou, or Miocic. Velasquez’s health holds the key for some marquee match ups in the heavyweight division.
Given the fact that Miocic holds recent victories over both Overeem and Werdum, it’s hard to get excited for another rematch. Unless Werdum pulls off a highlight win against Overeem, it doesn’t appear likely that the UFC will give him the next shot. Miocic might be content on sitting on the sidelines and poking fun at Anthony Joshua on Twitter rather than rushing back to competition, which opens the door for Velasquez being next in line given the fact that Lewis is out of the race and Ngannou matching up better against Overeem or Dos Santos. Werdum could be the odd man out, but there is always a rematch against Dos Santos that he recently called for. Despite the lack of depth in the division, there are still some respectable bouts to be made at heavyweight in the near future. Stay tuned.