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26th April 2019

Lazy Booking – UFC Heavyweight Division

Daniel Cormier after winning his second title.

Let’s imagine for a moment that Dana White and Sean Shelby are no longer in charge of matchmaking for the UFC, and for some bizarre reason, I am chosen as a replacement. This is exactly how I would book the future of the UFC’s Heavyweight Division – and yes, the rankings actually matter. Can you believe it?

A couple of ground rules – I will take into account ‘current’ injuries, and ‘current’ matchups, however I won’t make up injuries. I also won’t be predicting the outcome of every fight, MMA is far too wild and skittish for that – I’ll make some softer predictions just to flesh out the rankings as we go. So, starting off, here are the rankings at the time of this article. This is my Mecca. I’ll be using this as a basis for all matchups, everything has to make sense in the rankings:

Champion: Daniel Cormier

#1 Stipe Miocic

#2 Francis Ngannou

#3 Junior Dos Santos

#4 Curtis Blaydes

#5 Derrick Lewis

#6 Alexander Volkov

#7 Alistair Overeem

#8 Cain Velasquez

#9 Aleksei Oleinik

#10 Justin Willis

#11 Marcin Tybura

#12 Tai Tuivasa

#13 Shamil Adburakhimov

#14 Blagoy Ivanov

#15 Andrei Arlovski

Alright. First things to cover. Brock Lesnar will not be fighting Daniel Cormier, at any point, ever. That just isn’t going to happen. That fight is not an option. Secondly, Jon Jones is the Light Heavyweight champion, and has expressed little desire in moving up to challenge DC at Heavyweight – even then, no more of this ‘champ champ’ nonsense. Finally, DC is injured currently and doesn’t have a timeframe on his return. For the sake of the article, let’s predict that he is fighting fit for late summer/early autumn.

The UFC have currently announced events up to UFC 239 in July, so that’s the date we’re aiming for, to find a contender for the title.

Round One

So taking a look at the guys currently ranked in the top five, the only one with a fight currently booked is Curtis Blaydes. Derrick Lewis is coming off a loss to Junior Dos Santos earlier this month, Ngannou is riding a win over Velasquez, and Miocic hasn’t fought since his loss to Cormier. Let’s change that.

This one almost books itself. Junior Dos Santos is currently going through a career resurgence, winning his last three fights, all against guys in the top 15. Miocic is looking to bounce back from a loss to the champion, and does not deserve a rematch just yet. The two have fought twice in the past and are currently 1-1. It’s time for a rubber match. There’s an argument to be made for a rematch between Miocic and Ngannou, but I don’t think the latter has improved enough for the outcome of that fight to be any different.

Stipe Miocic vs Junior Dos Santos

Curtis Blaydes is currently slated to take on Justin Willis in March, so that ties those two guys up for a little while.

Curtis Blaydes vs Justin Willis

Derrick Lewis is looking for a fight, as always, but there aren’t many guys left in the top 15 that aren’t already booked up. We could potentially run it back with Ngannou, let the big man try to avenge one of the few losses in his career, but after how poor the first fight was, I have no interest in doing that again.

Lewis is on the decline now, and despite the fact that he is coming off a loss to JDS, I think it makes sense to match him up with Tai Tuivasa. I think it would make one hell of an entertaining matchup, and with everyone else in the division already locked up, it’s one of the few fights left to make.

Also. I still love the ‘Shoeyvasa’ nickname. Genius.

Derrick Lewis vs Tai Tuivasa

Round 1 Matchups

All of the fight below will take us to around May/June, which could conveniently just give any of the fighters below time to turn around and face off with DC, but we’ll get into that a little more in Round 2.  

Current

Curtis Blaydes vs Justin Willis

Alexander Volkov vs Alistair Overeem

Marcin Tybura vs Shamil Abdurakhimov

Aleksei Oleinik vs Walt Harris

Andrei Arlovski vs Augusto Sakai

LFS

Stipe Miocic vs Junior Dos Santos

Derrick Lewis vs Tai Tuivasa

Round 2

So first things first, who is going to face off with DC in what will likely be his final MMA bout? It’s an awkward question, as Ngannou feels like the true #1 contender, but I cannot see a way that he would win that fight. He just isn’t ready for it yet. So does it makes sense to pair him off with the winner of the Stipe vs JDS fight? The winner of this next bout being a title eliminator? I think so.

JDS/Stipe vs Francis Ngannou

Feb 17, 2019; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Francis Ngannou reacts after defeating Cain Velasquez (not pictured) in their heavyweight bout during UFC Fight Night at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Ngannou won via first round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-400733 ORIG FILE ID: 20190217_ggw_aa9_259.JPG

The top five is starting to look a little murky at this point. I think Tuivasa beats Lewis, which drops the Black Beast from the top. I think Blaydes beats Willis, and moves up above the loser of the Miocic/JDS fight. So this is what the top five is looking like now:

Champion: Daniel Cormier

#1 JDS/Miocic

#2 Francis Ngannou

#3 Curtis Blaydes

#4 JDS/Miocic

#5 Alexander Volkov/Alistair Overeem

Looking at this, I think you now take Curtis Blaydes and face him off against either our number four ranked guy, or our number five ranked guy. We need to start finding the next contender, because once Cormier steps into the Octagon once more, he’ll be retiring afterwards. So a victory for Blaydes against any of these guys could be enough to propel him into the top two spots in the division. Though pitching the idea of him facing Ngannou again could be a tough prospect.

Curtis Blaydes vs 4th ranked fighter

I think the last major fight to make here, is to book Tai Tuivasa against someone in the top five. At this point, with a win over Derrick Lewis, he’s knocking on the door. So picking up fight against the likes of Alexander Volkov or Alistair Overeem would do wonders for his career at this point.

Tai Tuivasa vs 5th ranked fighter

Round 2 Matchups

JDS/Stipe vs Francis Ngannou

Curtis Blaydes vs 4th ranked fighter

Tai Tuivasa vs 5th ranked fighter

Round 3

Finally we reach round three, and there’s only one match to make this time, and it’s the big one. Daniel Cormier’s retirement bout. I’m not going to predict any winners leading up to this point, but make a case as to why all three fights would be a thrilling spectacle.

First off, let’s take a look at the fight we’ve already seen. DC vs Stipe. There has been a lot of back and forth between the two fighters following their previous fight, with Stipe certain that he deserved a rematch, crediting his reign as the UFC Heavyweight champion with the most title defences. Cormier has disagreed up to this point. Seeing the two face off again would certainly be interesting, I don’t think many people were expecting DC to claim a victory via K/O, but I’d love to see them run it back.

Potential one: Daniel Cormier vs Stipe Miocic

DC vs JDS is the fight no-one expects, and yet everyone wants. They’re both veterans that are still competing at the highest level, in the toughest division the sport has to offer. Neither man was expected to be beating off top contenders at this age, and yet here we are. It would be amazing to see JDS battle for the strap one last time, and this could potentially be a swansong bout for both fighters.

Potential two: Daniel Cormier vs Junior Dos Santos

Finally, we have the ‘passing of the torch’ fight. DC vs Ngannou. Well, I call it ‘the passing of the torch’ but personally I would be amazed to see Ngannou take the win against Cormier. It’s almost the Heavyweight version of DC vs Anthony Johnson. The only chance that Ngannou would have, is the sheer power in his hands, and we saw how well that played out for Rumble. I think this could be a scary fight for Cormier, having to avoid the power, but if he could take him to the ground it would be over in a heartbeat.

Potential three: Daniel Cormier vs Francis Ngannou

So there we are. That’s how it is done properly, following the rankings, and making the fights that have been earned – not because one guy shouted louder than the other. For MMA purists, there are some bouts in here that would leave them on the edge of their seats.

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