Freelance: 2017 UFC Rankings- Stipe Miocic and the Top 5 UFC Heavyweight Fighters
Champion: Stipe Miocic
The UFC 211 pay-per-view event from Dallas, Texas is just weeks away and if you’re struggling to find a reason to shell out $60, it’s because while there are title fights on the card (Joanna Jędrzejczyk will defend her UFC women’s strawweight belt against #3 Jessica Andrade in the co-main event,) the main event is still a hard sell.
Current top dog Stipe Miocic entered into the UFC at a perfect 6-0 with all of his wins being stoppages. He has been nearly flawless on his way to capturing the belt, only being finished early on by Stephen Struve and then losing by decision to former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos—his current challenger. Hopefully, taking a closer look at the rankings will explain the current situation with the 265-pound division.
1. Fabricio Werdum vs. 2. Cain Velasquez
If it feels like the UFC is scraping the bottom of the barrel of contenders to go up against Miocic, they are. But, here’s why: After Miocic knocked out former champion Fabricio Werdum, Werdum didn’t really fluctuate in the rankings but was never such a “needle mover” that he’d get an immediate rematch. The same can also be said about fellow former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.
Werdum rebounded with a unanimous decision victory at UFC 203 against heavy-hitter Travis Browne. Velasquez scored a TKO win against Browne three months prior to that at UFC 200 to set up the eventual collision with Werdum for the number one spot in a rematch from UFC 188 in 2015 (Velasquez won via guillotine choke.) The rematch was supposed to go down at UFC 207, the card to end 2016, but Velasquez was considered “unfit to compete.”
No official explanation has been given by the presiding Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) but MMAJunkie.com speculated that:
“The decision to cancel the bout may have been related to a previous interview Velasquez gave to ESPN.com in which he detailed intense back pain throughout his training camp. In a mildly controversial moment in the interview, he admitted to using Cannabidiol do deal with the pain.”
Werdum fell to Miocic at UFC 198 in just under three minutes.
3. Alistair Overeem
The UFC appears to be moving on from Velasquez as he does not have any bouts scheduled for a future date. Werdum will take on the man that lost to Miocic in the champ’s first title defense, Alistair “The Reem” Overeem. Overeem TKOed the king of one-punch knockouts, Mark Hunt at UFC 209. He will face Werdum at UFC 213 on July 8 as part of the 2017 International Fight Week.
According to MMAOddsBreaker.com, Overeem is the favorite to get the “W”, sitting in the -140s while Werdum is the underdog (around the +120 range at the time of this writing.)
4. Junior Dos Santos
JDS is the odd pick for a title shot out of the men on this list as the real contender fight between Werdum and Overeem is waiting in the wings. With “Cigano” it feels like the old guard is on its way out the proverbial door as the 33-year-old has only taken one fight per year since 2014 including his first bout with Miocic, putting up a 2-1 record with the loss being to Overeem and the wins coming from points rather than a finish.
The Brazilian enters the fight as the underdog at about +100 while Miocic is around -120. Dos Santos’ movement is slower, and his abilities to both give and take a punch have diminished. The proof is again in the numbers as JDS trails Miocic on a number of proposition lines (see here.)
Miocic is also ahead of dos Santos in: reach (80-77 inches,) significant strikes landed per minute and accuracy (5.03/50 percent accuracy to 4.89/48 percent,) and striking defense (62-55 percent) per a UFC 211 preview from FightMetric, LLC.
If this contest remains a boxing match, dos Santos could be in trouble. The first bout with Miocic saw him land just six percent more (46-40, there was almost no ground action as Dos Santos went 1 for 1 in the takedown department while Miocic went 1 for 18) in significant strikes and that was almost two and a half years ago! Miocic ended up going 4-0 (all KO/TKOs) since that time.
A former verbal dancing partner of Werdum, a bout between he and dos Santos could be next win or lose for the title challenger. Because he was never given a rematch for his belt, Werdum made it clear to media outlets that dos Santos would be a stepping stone.
However, dos Santos told MMAFighting.com in February that he doesn’t see his fellow countryman facing him any time soon.
"Against Werdum? Why? Why am I going to fight this guy? He denied to fight me three times,” dos Santos said. “He was the No. 1 in the rankings, and I said this would be a good fight, a rematch. We can have a good fight here. He denied to fight three times with me, I don’t wanna fight him anymore. He’s not gonna add anything on my career. Maybe. Let’s see in the future."
Retirement may also be an option…
5. Francis Ngannou
Francis Ngannou is not a name that many may know right now, but the UFC’s heavyweight division should fear the Frenchman known as “The Predator.” Ngannou is 10-1 in MMA with his only loss coming through judges’ scorecards. All of his victories are stoppages (six KO/TKOs and four submissions,) and he’s 5-0 as part of the world leader in MMA. Of those five UFC contests, he ended three of those within the first five minutes.