Stipe Miocic is big, athletic and powerful. And now that he has gained high-level experience, that’s a pretty hard combination to beat.
A rejuvenated Junior dos Santos was no match for Miocic on Saturday in Dallas in the main event of UFC 211, succumbing to booming straight right hands and a flurry of punches on the floor.
Miocic dropped dos Santos, an ex-champion who defeated him in a great battle in 2014, and pummeled him on the ground until referee Herb Dean stopped it at 2:22 of the first round.
He made his second consecutive successful title defense, tying a UFC record, and barely had to break a sweat.
He took two hard kicks early from dos Santos, and that left him limping, but it had no impact on the fight whatsoever. Miocic was stalking forward and dos Santos was retreating, with his back up against the cage.
The heavyweight division is at one of its peaks, with contenders like dos Santos, ex-champion Cain Velasquez, and powerful contenders in Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis. But it’s going to take a mighty effort to dethrone Miocic.
As dos Santos circled away and tried to create space, Miocic brilliantly cut off his retreat avenue and landed a crisp right hand that sent the ex-champion to the canvas on all fours.
For all intents and purposes, it was over there, but Miocic followed him to the ground and landed eight or nine punches before referee Herb Dean mercifully pulled him off to end it.
“We’ve been working on that for 10 weeks,” Miocic said of the right that finished the fight.
He was a far more composed and complete fighter than he was when he lost to dos Santos in Phoenix in 2014. He didn’t panic after taking the kicks, maneuvered dos Santos to where he wanted him and unloaded.
For dos Santos, he seemed wary of Miocic’s power and didn’t seem to have anything to make Miocic respect him and stay back.
A fighter like Miocic senses that instantly and goes for the kill.
He didn’t want to think about who his next opponent may be, and when asked what’s next, smiled and said, “Right now, it’s my kitchen.”
He deserves a good meal after that professional and workmanlike performance. There are plenty of good challengers now. The men he defeated in his first two title fights, Fabricio Werdum and Alistair Overeem, are set to fight at UFC 213 in Las Vegas on July 9.
If Velasquez is healthy – and that’s always a huge if – he’d pose a problem to Miocic. And the fight that many want to see will be the hard-hitting Ngannou against Miocic.
Ngannou, who is quickly shooting up the ranks, recently moved to Las Vegas to try to accelerate his progress.
There are plenty of options out there, but Miocic isn’t going to be an easy night for any of them. One more big win and he may be regarded as the best heavyweight in UFC history, with nowhere to go but up.