Stipe Miocic was an underdog in just about every way possible at UFC 198, but he won the UFC Heavyweight Championship via first-round knockout over Fabricio Werdum in the main event Saturday in Curitiba, Brazil.
Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports tweeted out the official result:
Miocic showed from the beginning that he was willing to hang in the pocket with the champion, looking relaxed early with his boxing.
With Miocic leading most of the early exchanges, Werdum finally started to come forward. That proved to be a costly mistake, as Miocic ducked and hit Werdum with an overhand right that gave him the championship belt.
Miocic let the audience watching at home in Cleveland know that he was bringing back a world title, per the UFC:
The win spoke volumes about Miocic's ability as well as the heavyweight division's volatility. The Brazilian officially won the belt as a big underdog against Cain Velasquez and earned the opportunity to defend the belt in his home country against the No. 3-ranked fighter in the division.
ESPN Stats & Info noted the trend of heavyweight title fights ending in some form of stoppage:
Miocic had a tough task, but he came to the UFC with the goal of earning the title and focused on getting better every day, per Jordan Newmark of UFC.com:
When I was starting with the UFC, I said I was here for one thing and that was the heavyweight title. I didn’t know how long it was going to take. Every fight has made me a better fighter. I’ve had a few bumps in the road that I think have made me stronger. I’m just happy where I’m at. I’m getting better every day and I’ve got still a lot of time left in my career.
That improvement will need to continue if Miocic wants to retain the belt. The UFC heavyweight title has been notoriously slippery for past champions, and no one has successfully defended the belt more than twice in a row.
Werdum was hoping to become the first after defeating Mark Hunt for the interim title in 2014. His resume is arguably better than any other heavyweight's in the history of MMA. With names such as Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Velasquez on his list of vanquished foes, it looked like Werdum might have been up to the task.
Now, Miocic will have a chance to attempt to climb that mountain.
If he's going to do it, he'll have to create a resume that's as impressive as Werdum's. Alistair Overeem now appears to be the No. 1 contender. His win over Andrei Arlovski at UFC Fight Night 87 likely launched him into the title picture.
Then there's Velasquez. It looked like the AKA fighter would be the first to defend the heavyweight title three times in a row until Werdum convincingly beat him. If Velasquez is able to come back at UFC 200 against Travis Browne while looking like his former self, he'll again be in the conversation.
Where Werdum goes from here will be interesting. Although Werdum's plans might change now that he's no longer the champion, Vai Cavalo had an interesting opponent in mind before Saturday's fight, per Lewis Mckeever of Bloody Elbow:
I have everything planned in my mind already. I have a vision. Nothing official, nothing from the UFC, only from my head: Fedor and I in a rematch at Chechnya. The president of Chechnya, (Ramzan) Kadyrov named me an ambassador in the country and he loves MMA, and it would be cool to take the UFC to Chechnya. Fedor and I, the main event of UFC Chechnya.
Emelianenko is a long shot to come to the UFC. Speculation has swirled around the Russian fighting in the Octagon for years, and with Werdum no longer holding the title, it appears that those chances will go down.
Still, with yet another champion and many potential contenders, the heavyweight division has an interesting title landscape and no shortage of suspense over who will hold the belt from one title defense to the next.