If we’ve learned anything about Roy Nelson’s tenure in the UFC, it’s that he’s tough to beat. Thus far, four men have defeated him in the Octagon, each needing the judges approval to do so as Roy’s bull like chin is not overly susceptible to being knocked out.
The first three men to defeat Nelson in the Octagon, Junior dos Santos, Frank Mir and Fabricio Werdum have all either received a title shot or in Werdum’s case look solidly next-but-one to get a shot at the gold.
As such Nelson can be perceived as a gatekeeper to the sharp end of the Heavyweight division, and having comprehensively out pointed him on Saturday, that means Stipe Miocic must be considered a top ranked fighter in the division.
Yet a whole lot of fans didn’t seem to think him capable or accept his resulting elevation in the UFC rankings.
Time to change that.
Stipe Miocic (10-1) hails from Ohio where he also works as a firefighter and emergency paramedic. Following a successful varsity sporting career where he was scouted by Major League sides for his baseball prowess, won the Golden Gloves boxing tournament and was an NCAA Division I wrestler he made his pro MMA debut for regional promotion, the North American Allied Fight Series in February 2010.
By June 2011, he’d amassed a 6-0 record of stoppage victories and won the NAAFS Heavyweight title, resulting in his being picked up by the UFC.
Winning a decision in his debut against tough scrapper Joey Beltran, Miocic followed up with highlight reel finishes of Phil DeFries and Shane Del Rosario before being pegged to face Stefan Struve in the main event of UFC Nottingham in September 2012.
We were down in Nottingham for that event, and were surprised to see Stipe turn up to speak to folk and pose for pictures with the queue of folks waiting to meet Pat Barry at Fearless Fightwear only a few hours before the fights.
With both fighters riding win streaks of stoppage victories, we were in for a great match with the victor surely getting themselves some top ten opposition next time out.
In the Fight of the Night, Struve put in his best performance ever, using his reach and perhaps taking advantage of Stipe enduring the dreaded transoceanic jet lag to win a second round TKO victory.
Miocic didn’t rush back to the Octagon, healing up his wounds and eventually being aimed for a preliminary card return at UFC161, welcoming fellow knockout artist Soa Palelei back to the UFC.
Then the top of the card fell apart and Roy Nelson’s contract was about to run out. Stipe found himself offered a co-main event slot against a fighter who was on the outer edge of title contention (before Saturday, I had Nelson third in line behind Junior dos Santos and Fabricio Werdum.)
An underdog, widely discounted by Nelson’ vocal fan base, Miocic was viewed as a placeholder, a heavyweight thrown in to add some potential fireworks to a card but on the whole expected to add to Nelson’s every expanding CV
Of course, Nelson took the fight on short notice, didn’t appear to be entirely in the game and was clearly gassing by the second round but that shouldn’t overshadow Stipe’s performance.
Out striking his opponent by a ratio of almost 5 to 1, Miocic displayed great awareness, steering clear of Nelson’s deadly overhand right, using his wrestling to stepping in to land intelligent combinations which included leg kicks, short elbows and a variety of punches to win every round. He may not have secured a knockout or even a knock down, but this was as definitive a 30-27 victory as I have ever seen.
The future looks bright for Stipe, even though he remains one of the least talked about heavyweights on the roster. This is probably because he doesn’t talk trash, doesn’t go out of his way to be a social media personality and basically just gets on with his job.
However, I find his down to earth, unassuming personality appealing and when combined with his real life career as an actual hero, I could easily see him being a big star sooner rather than later.
So long as he continues to deliver mature, impressive displays as he did against Nelson. A fighter with a lesser chin would have been added to Miocic’s highlight reel of KOs on Saturday night, and while there are plenty ahead in the queue, I can well see Stipe making a run at the title.
I’d like to see Stipe face either Fabricio Werdum or the winner of the upcoming Alistair Overeem vs. Travis Browne fight. Either bout could well be a title eliminator for the winner, and a worthy co-main event to any card.
The future is bright for Stipe Miocic, and we are watching closely.
Follow Stipe on Twitter @smiocic or check out his website at http://www.stipemiocicmma.com