We are coming off one of the best UFC cards of the year with a new UFC heavyweight champion as Stipe Miocic stopped Daniel Cormier in the fourth round.
Since Saturday night, lots of the discussion has centered around the future of the 40-year old Cormier and if that future involves one more fight or calling it a career.
On the other side of the spectrum is Miocic’s place among the best heavyweights of all-time as he enters his second reign as champion after his two-plus year run from May 2016- July 2018.
With respect to the two heavyweights, no star was brighter throughout the week or coming out of UFC 241 than Nate Diaz. After a three-year layoff, he returned with an emphatic decision win over Anthony Pettis and set the table for an enormous fight with Jorge Masvidal, whom he challenged after his victory.
This week, we chat with POST Wrestling’s Phil Chertok about these subjects and more from UFC 241, including one of this year’s best fights.
POST: After Saturday’s championship win, has Stipe Miocic established himself as the greatest heavyweight of all-time?
Phil Chertok: Miocic had already made an exceptionally strong case for being the greatest heavyweight ever but he needed a win over the Olympian Daniel Cormier to cement it. On Saturday night at UFC 241, he did that just, weathering the constant pressure to slow D.C. in the fourth round before finishing him after a relentless series of body shots. By overcoming the early adversity, Miocic added to his legend by proving that his mental toughness is just as formidable as his physical strength. That resilience also made it abundantly clear, there’s never been a better heavyweight in MMA than Stipe Miocic.
Are you expecting Daniel Cormier retire? If not, what is the fight you make for him?
Phil Chertok: I do expect him to retire, the former two-division champion is now 40 years old and it appears his age and body might be catching up to him. A few years ago, it would be hard to imagine D.C. fading in a fight he’s clearly winning but that’s exactly what happened Saturday night. It’s impossible to say if that’s father time catching up to Cormier, but if it is, the deterioration is only going get worse. If D.C. decides to continue, I think the fight that makes the most sense would be a rubber-match with Miocic. Cormier was winning the fight until the fourth round when he reduced his pressure, giving Miocic the opportunity to capitalize. If Cormier can correct his mistakes next time by returning to his wrestling and never letting up on that pressure, victory does seem feasible.
Outside of the main event, who were the biggest standouts at UFC 241?
Phil Chertok: Nate Diaz must be the biggest one, he returned after a three-year layoff and looked fantastic. He came prepared and controlled all three rounds against a former champion, Anthony Pettis. He’s set himself up for a huge bout with another red-hot fighter Jorge Masvidal. That contest should be one of the most anticipated ever despite not being for a title.
The other major standout from last weekend was Paulo Costa. We all knew Costa was dangerous, but he never faced anyone like Yoel Romero. Costa mostly controlled the action for two rounds and often landed big shots while pressuring Romero against the cage. Costa lost a bit of steam in the third round, but it was still enough to take a victory on the scorecards in a fight of the year contender. The win sets up Costa as clearly next in line for the winner of the middleweight title match in the fall.
Where does Paulo Costa vs. Yoel Romero rank among the best fights of 2019?
Phil Chertok: For me, it was number one, but that’s because I have a soft spot for Romero. He’s always in exciting fights that feel like they could end at any second. The fight was so wild I lost track of the time and round at several points. Now, for most, I know it won’t be as highly regarded as Israel Adesanya’s victory over Kelvin Gastelum from earlier in the year, but maybe it would give us a reason to have a rematch between the Cuban and the Brazilian, five-rounds this time!
Finally, with Cormier losing to Stipe Miocic, who becomes the frontrunner to fight Jon Jones next?
Phil Chertok: It certainly felt as if momentum was building for a trilogy bout between the two rival Jones and Cormier. Now with Cormier losing, it’s hard to think of a marquee opponent for the long-time champion Jones. My top pick would be Jan Blachowicz, who recently defeated former middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold, in Rockold’s light-heavyweight debut. Blachowicz has won five out of his last six, with his only loss being to the last title challenger, Thiago Santos. While Blachowicz is not a draw, he would allow ‘Bones’ to remain active until he finally is ready to jump to heavyweight for a major bout.
Phil Chertok can be heard every month on our UFC POST Show and each Thursday on the site with ‘Five Questions’.