Fabricio Werdum now has firsthand knowledge of the volatile nature of the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight crown.
Werdum in his first defense of the title was on the receiving end of a violent one-punch knockout from Stipe Miocic in the UFC 198 headliner on Saturday at Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil. It concluded 2:47 into round one, with an unconscious Werdum coming to rest at the base of the cage. No man has successfully defended the heavyweight championship more than twice in the 23-year history of the UFC.
Miocic was the beneficiary of an overzealous champion. After fighting at a measured pace at the start, Werdum, for reasons known only to him, charged at the Strong Style Fight Team standout and walked into a counter right hook from the backpedaling challenger. The concussive impact of the blow immediately separated Werdum from his senses and quieted a stunned crowd of more than 40,000, a vast majority of them staunch “Vai Cavalo” supporters. In a flash, albeit a brilliant one, Werdum’s reign atop the division was over.
In wake of UFC 198 “Werdum vs. Miocic,” here are five matches that ought to be considered:
Stipe Miocic vs. Alistair Overeem: If history tells us anything, Miocic would be wise not to take his spot on the throne for granted. The 33-year-old Independence, Ohio, native already has a number of worthy contenders nipping at his heels, including Overeem, Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos -- one of two men to defeat him. Miocic has rattled off three consecutive victories against elite heavyweights, all of them finishes, and will carry considerable momentum into his next outing. Overeem last fought at a UFC Fight Night event in his native Holland on May 8, when he wiped out Andrei Arlovski with a second-round front kick and follow-up punches.
Jacare Souza vs. Luke Rockhold-Chris Weidman winner: Souza appears to have taken the final step toward a shot at the UFC middleweight championship. The 36-year-old grappling savant wrecked Vitor Belfort in the co-main event, as he repeatedly took down “The Phenom,” carved up his face with elbows and forced the stoppage with ground-and-pound from full mount. Souza has won nine of his past 10 bouts, effectively clearing whatever debris remained between himself and a rightful claim as the No. 1 contender at 185 pounds. Rockhold will defend the middleweight title in a rematch with former champion Weidman at UFC 199 on June 4.
Cris Cyborg vs. Germaine de Randamie: Expectations were high for Justino’s promotional debut, and she met them. “Cyborg” blitzed Leslie Smith with a multi-punch volley, trailed the Cesar Gracie protégé to the canvas and devoured her with unanswered punches on the ground. Justino’s future with the UFC remains unclear, as her inability to cut to the bantamweight limit leaves her without a division in which to compete. Should she move forward with the organization, another catchweight pairing seems like the most obvious outcome. De Randamie needed less than four minutes to dispose of Anna Elmose at UFC Fight Night “Overeem vs. Arlovski” on May 8 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
John Lineker vs. John Dodson: Lineker has found conditions to his liking at 135 pounds. The former Jungle Fight champion swept past Rob Font on the undercard, as he tenderized the Team Sityodtong prospect’s body with winging punches and followed them with damaging blows upstairs. Font withstood several poisonous punching bursts from the Brazilian but never managed to get himself on track. Lineker is 21-2 over his past 23 appearances and will carry a four-fight winning streak with him when he next enters the cage. Dodson made a triumphant return to the bantamweight division at UFC on Fox 19 in April, when he blew out Manny Gamburyan in just 37 seconds at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.
Demian Maia vs. Johny Hendricks-Kelvin Gastelum winner: A run of five straight victories has made Maia impossible to ignore in the welterweight division. The 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist made Matt Brown his latest victim, as he submitted “The Ultimate Fighter 7” graduate with a third-round rear-naked choke. Maia, 38, has gone 8-2 since downshifting to 170 pounds, decision losses to Rory MacDonald and Jake Shields his only missteps. Hendricks will face Gastelum at UFC 200 on July 9.