An oral history of UFC's hollow heavyweight past and how Miocic-Cormier may impact its future

In the 21 years since Mark Coleman defeated Dan Severn at UFC 12 -- to unify the promotion's tournament championship with its superfight title and produce the inaugural UFC heavyweight championship -- the Octagon's most prestigious belt has changed hands a staggering 18 times.

It's because of this constant turnover in the UFC's most unpredictable division that there has never been a single fighter who put together a long enough title reign to cement himself as the indisputable, greatest heavyweight champion in the promotion's history. 

Stipe Miocic, who became the first UFC heavyweight to record three consecutive title defenses when he out-pointed Francis Ngannou in January, is quite possibly the most successful and decorated champion. But is he really the greatest heavyweight champion UFC has ever known? 

Ahead of Miocic's highest profile title defense to date -- he faces light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier on Saturday at UFC 226 in Las Vegas -- we set out to answer that difficult question, along with a few others. Why the title has been so transient? What has prevented some of history's biggest names from building a long reign? How might the result of Miocic-Cormier impact who is considered the best heavyweight champion?

To that end, we picked the brains of and gathered public comments from 17 mixed martial arts fighters and experts, including 11 different men who have worn UFC heavyweight gold, for an insider's take on history and where the future might be headed in MMA's glamour division. 

Heavyweight MMA: 'It's as real as it gets'

FABRICIO WERDUM (Former UFC heavyweight champion): The heavyweight division is so different. The heavyweight division is a special division. Just one punch; it only takes one punch. That's it.

STIPE MIOCIC (Current UFC heavyweight champion): These are big boys with small gloves on. It takes one good punch and anything can happen. It's as real as it gets. 

DANIEL CORMIER (Current UFC light heavyweight champion, 13-0 at heavyweight): It's a tough division to fight in. Guys hit so hard and are so big and strong. If guys connect, most times they can finish a fight.

FRANK MIR (Former UFC heavyweight champion): Here's the thing that sucks about heavyweight fighting that drives people insane: there's a little bit of luck to it. We have small gloves, and if someone connects, you fall down.

CORMIER: You could be the more skilled guy and still lose a fight because these men are so powerful. 

MIR: If you think about it, there isn't a heavyweight in the top 20 in the world who you can pick out right now who hasn't had a first-round knockout against him. [Miocic] is extremely well-rounded, [but] even Stipe, I watched him get knocked out by Stefan Struve [in 2012]. If you get caught, you get caught and that is just the nature of our sport. 

MIOCIC: Anyone can knock people out. You've seen guys that you don't think have power to knock guys out. It's scary when you have guys who are freak athletes.

MIR: The big guys, with our hands wrapped, there's that element of it where it's almost like a game of tag. That's why it's so hard to be consistent at the heavyweight level.

JUNIOR DOS SANTOS (Former UFC heavyweight champion): If you don't have an attitude, that's part of a reaction or something, you will never find luck in your life. So for you to get lucky, you need to do something. You need to react; you need to make things happen for you. Even when you get lucky, it's on you. You're being effective, and you're showing the world what you're made of. Being lucky is not a bad thing; it's a good thing. It means you tried something and that worked. Being lucky is a specialty. 

MIR: In the flyweight division, if you catch Demetrious [Johnson], there's really not that element of, 'Oh, I caught him with a good hook and I dropped him and I knocked him out.' They don't have the knockout percentages. If you look at first-round knockout percentages, the heavyweight division has the highest of them all because of the nature and the physics behind it -- 245-pound guys with their hands fully wrapped and a tiny four-ounce glove on it, nobody can really take a shot from anybody. The way the biology works, the human eyes can't keep up with the hands that are going back and forth and stuff happens. 

RICCO RODRIGUEZ (Former UFC heavyweight champion): I'm going to be honest with you. It comes down to the fact that [MMA] is changing so much. The guys are just so competitive at the top level.

ANDREI ARLOVSKI (Former UFC heavyweight champion): It's a great division with a lot of tough, dangerous opponents.

You could be the more skilled guy and still lose a fight because these men are so powerful. Daniel Cormier

WERDUM: I don't like when the fans say, 'This fight is very easy for us.' It's not true. In UFC, you don't have easy fights. I don't like when they say, 'This fight is yours.' No, no, no. After victory, it's OK. But before, it's not good.  

MIR: I watched [Cain Velasquez] get steamrolled in 30 seconds by Junior dos Santos. I just watched dos Santos get steamrolled by Stipe. Alistair Overeem, I have seen get knocked out. Everybody I have seen got caught. You live by the sword and die by the sword. 


A long history of one and undone

The reasons why so many once-promising title reigns have ended early, often without a single defense, have varied over the past two decades. They include everything from knockout defeats to injuries to performance-enhancing drug issues.

Heavyweight championConsecutive title defenses

Stipe Miocic

3

Andrei Arlovski

2

Randy Couture2
Brock Lesnar 2

Tim Sylvia

2

Cain Velasquez

2

Tim Sylvia -- the 6-foot-8, two-time UFC heavyweight champion -- was a fixture in the title picture throughout most of six years in the company. In fact, of his 13 fights in the Octagon, nine were contested for the interim or undisputed title. Yet even Sylvia was unable to reach the elusive milestone of three consecutive defenses, joining Arlovski, Couture, Lesnar and Velasquez as heavyweight champions who never got past two in a row. Sylvia's first reign ended with a failed drug test following his victory at UFC 44 in 2003.

TIM SYLVIA (Former two-time UFC heavyweight champion): After the Gan McGee fight, everybody knows that I tested positive for steroids. I didn't do it because I wanted to be bigger and stronger than everybody else, I did it because I wanted to look better. I did something stupid. I owned up to it, and I gave up my belt. [My second title reign] I lost to Randy Couture [in 2007]. I love Randy Couture, great guy and great champion. If I was going to lose to anybody, I'm glad it was him.

Couture is the only UFC heavyweight champion to hold the title three separate times. He's also the oldest man (45) to hold a UFC title and is one of just four to win championships in multiple divisions. But even "The Natural" was unable to produce long title reigns, in large part because of contract disputes which saw him get stripped of the title in 1998 and kept inactive for 20 months before losing to Brock Lesnar during his final reign in 2008. 

RANDY COUTURE (Former three-time UFC heavyweight champion): Was I treated fairly by the UFC and the promotion I fought for most of my career? I would have to say no because it's personal with [UFC president] Dana [White]. I think I was one of the only guys, or the first guy, to stand up and have representation and management who understood what ancillary rights are in contracts and we fought for that stuff, and [UFC] didn't like that. I was never one of the boys, never one that would just sign it all over and let them do what they wanted. I wanted to control my own destiny and saw myself as a brand and fought hard for that stuff and they didn't like that.

randy-couture-kevin-randlemen.jpg
Couture won the title for a second time over Kevin Randlemen in 2000. Getty Images

RODRIGUEZ: A lot of people don't understand, and they only see what they can see. What I mean by that is you don't know what goes on -- on the backside. There are politics, there are managers, there are so many things that go on that people have no clue [about].

Josh Barnett ended Couture's second reign at UFC 36 in 2002 but was stripped four months later after testing positive for steroids. As a result, Couture faced Rodriguez at UFC 39 for the vacant title and lost via submission. But Rodriguez's short-lived reign, which ended five months later when he was knocked out by Sylvia, got off to a rocky start when he drew the ire of White and UFC brass for wearing a temporary tattoo advertisement for an online casino, a move that went against the wishes of the host casino Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. 

RODRIGUEZ: With all my stuff that happened between me and Dana, I was pushed out. [What] if I would've dodged Tim Sylvia and picked four other people to fight against? A lot of people don't have the fathom of understanding that this is a money business. I knew for a fact that Mike Tyson [could've] fought Lennox Lewis for a long time, but they kept those two apart. Why? Because Mike Tyson was a big draw and made money. When you look at something like that, look at Tito Ortiz. He was a multi-world champion, but I remember him sparring with Chuck Liddell all the time and getting his butt spanked. I saw that every day in practice. Why did they keep that separate? Because Tito was more marketable.

MIR: One of my biggest regrets in life is getting in a car wreck when I was 24 [in 2004]. I had just won the heavyweight title. What could I have done with my career had that not happened?

After breaking Sylvia's arm to win the title by submission at UFC 48, Mir was knocked off his motorcycle three months later in a car accident which caused two breaks in his femur and tore ligaments in his knee. Unable to defend while recovering, Mir was stripped of the title 11 months later as UFC promoted Arlovski from interim titleholder to undisputed champion. 

ARLOVSKI: I don't live in these [old] memories. Instead, I will do everything that is possible to reach my goal again of being champion.

MIR: I have been really able to temper [regret] with the fact that it made me who I am now. The ability to deal with hardship and adversity, it taught me. So did it take away some accolades and bragging rights for the future? Yeah, it did, but it made me somebody. If you watched my second [Antonio Rodrigo] Nogueira fight, [you saw] somebody who was losing a fight but never puts in the towel, never taps. I've never quit. I sit there and figure out a way to go ahead and try to win. That accident -- what it took away from me -- gave me that and I wouldn't trade that for 10 belts.  

Although Mir was able to bounce back from injury strong enough to win the interim heavyweight title in 2008 via knockout out Nogueira in their first meeting, he lost the crown eight months later at UFC 100 in his rematch with Lesnar. Two fights later, following a life-threatening bout with diverticulitis that shortened the currrent WWE star's prime years, Lesnar lost the belt to Velasquez in 2010. Although Velasquez would hold the championship twice, both reigns were compromised by injuries that still haunt him to this day. 

BROCK LESNAR (Former UFC heavyweight champion): When you are fighting through an illness and trying to train and defend a title when your mind isn't in the right place, how can you stay focused? I like to believe I'm super human sometimes, but at the end of the day, there is always one dog out there who is better than you.

CAIN VELASQUEZ³ (Former two-time UFC heavyweight champion): No, [regret] doesn't keep me up at night. I'm mature. If I was healthy enough, I could have done this or that, or would have tried my damn hardest to do that, but that's not the road that was given to me. I had to deal with injuries and I couldn't be out there.

Velasquez lost his title by first-round knockout against dos Santos in 2011 while fighting through a serious knee injury. After regaining his title in their rematch and making two defenses, including a victory in their 2013 trilogy bout, Velasquez was sidelined for 20 months. In his return, he lost his title via submission in a dominant, one-sided defeat to Werdum in 2015 and has fought just once in the three years since. 

JOE ROGAN² (UFC analyst): When he fought Werdum, not making excuses for him, but he didn't have an opportunity to adapt to the Mexico City altitudes. Werdum did a very wise thing. He got up there early and he lived up there, even higher than Mexico City. He set up his training camp like way in advance and he acclimated. So for the first time in Cain's career, somebody had a cardio advantage over him, which is just crazy. 

A long reign wasn't meant to be for Werdum either as he dropped the belt in his first defense via first-round knockout to Miocic at UFC 198 in front of his home fans in Brazil. 

WERDUM: Stipe Miocic showed [in that fight] that he's a very nice fighter and the champion now. I think that I lost the focus at the time. The fight was in Curitiba, in front of 45,000 in the stadium. My mom was there, too. Everything, I lost my focus. It's small things, but a lot of things happened in Brazil.  

One of my biggest regrets in life is getting in a car wreck when I was 24. I had just won the heavyweight title. What could I have done with my career had that not happened?Frank Mir

ROGAN²: Fabricio is a beast. He just got super emotional when he fought Stipe in Brazil and just really charged at him, almost uncharacteristically aggressive. Stipe just set him up and knocked him out with a bomb. But Stipe can do that to any living human. Any living human that chases Stipe Miocic around like that, Stipe can just stop and cork one on you as you're moving in. The only one who I think could take something like that is prime time Mark Hunt, who had the greatest jaw of all time. 


Who is the greatest UFC heavyweight champion?

ROGAN²:  If [Miocic] beats DC, he's a shoe-in for the all-time greatest. Right now, you've got to think he's the all-time greatest in terms of accomplishments. ... The guy has defended the title more than anybody. Look at his resume -- it's impeccable. He knocks out Junior dos Santos, he knocks out Overeem. He beats Francis Ngannou, who everybody is scared of. 

MIOCIC: I'm the greatest heavyweight of all time. I've defended it three times and no one else has ever done that. I had a killer's row of fighters to get to it. I had a hard path to get to the title, and I had a hard path to defend the title.

DOS SANTOS: I don't consider [Miocic] the greatest. Of course, he has a lot of competitive spirit and he's good, but I don't think he's the greatest. I don't want to be problematic on this, I'll keep with Stipe because he broke the record, so he's the guy now in the UFC, but he's not the greatest. Sometimes people confused being lucky with being effective or good at what you're doing.  

ROGAN²: That guy doesn't get enough love. You have to think, what if Stipe was a crazy s--- talker like a Colby Covington? Instead, he shows up to knock people out and he looks like he's in line to take the bus to get to work. He barely looks like he's about to fight and has the most stoic, relaxed expression before he f---s people up.

I'm the greatest heavyweight of all time. I've defended it three times and no one else has ever done that. I had a killer's row of fighters to get to it. I had a hard path to get to the title, and I had a hard path to defend the title.  Stipe Miocic

CORMIER: I think Stipe is great. Do I think he's the best heavyweight of all time? No. He's the most successful. But Cain Velasquez is still the greatest heavyweight of all time, and I'm not even saying that with a teammate bias. I'm saying that because I truly believe it. I truly do believe that if Stipe was scheduled to fight Cain that Cain would be -- and should be -- favored to beat him pretty comfortably.

MIR: Cain Velasquez, I think, is probably one of the best fighters of all time if it wasn't for injuries and would pretty much be in the argument to be the greatest heavyweight of all time.  

BRIAN STANNª (UFC analyst, ex-fighter): We had never seen a heavyweight do some of the things that Cain Velasquez was able to do, at the pace he was doing it. He had a couple of performances that were exceptional, historical performances for a heavyweight. His [rematches] against Junior dos Santos, to do what he did, that was probably more impressive from anything we have seen from Stipe.

ROGAN²: Cain Velasquez is right in that mix, too. And if he wasn't injured so much, I would think Cain is probably the most difficult one for all of them.

cain-velasquez-fabricio-werdum.jpg
Velasquez lost his title to Werdum in 2015 and hasn't fought for it since. Getty Images

STANNª: But Stipe is consistent in his growth and his ability to not be injured as often as Cain had and then have performances like we saw Cain have against Werdum in Mexico City. That's what makes Stipe the better guy in my opinion. That's why I think he would be a betting favorite against Velasquez.

CORMIER: I truly do believe Cain is the greatest heavyweight of all time, and when he's healthy again, he will become the champion again. I honestly thought there was no way that Cain would ever lose. It honestly feels impossible to fight Cain Velasquez in a fight. So when I watch him lose to Werdum and I watch him lose to Junior dos Santos, I'm still amazed that it actually happened because he's that good. 

WERDUM: For me, the best all time, in my opinion, is Fedor Emelianenko. He is the best.

COUTURE: I was trying to fight Fedor [from 2007-08], who by all accounts was rated the No. 1 fighter in the world and I was No. 2. I was with UFC; he was with Pride. That fight should've happened back then, but there was no way with the exclusivity of the contracts that it ever would have happened.  

DOS SANTOS: In the UFC, I can't see anybody being the greatest because the belt is changing a lot. For me, the greatest heavyweight to have ever competed is Fedor. 

ROGAN²: Fedor, in hindsight, especially since Cain has been injured so many times, has to be recognized right now next to Fabricio Werdum [among] the greatest heavyweights of all time.

COUTURE: At that time when we were chasing that fight, and we did photo shoots or whatever to try and draw interest for that fight, he was at the top of his game and beat the best guys that Pride could throw at him. It was a who's who list of guys and that's why he was ranked No. 1 at the time. It would've been interesting to see him fight the best guys from the UFC or in the sport at that time. He obviously had a slide and lost a few fights with Strikeforce [including a 2010 submission loss to Werdum, snapping a 10-year unbeaten streak] that ultimately led to his retirement for a while.

In the UFC, I can't see anybody being the greatest because the belt is changing a lot. For me, the greatest heavyweight to have ever competed is Fedor.Junior dos Santos

ROGAN²: Fabricio Werdum was just the nastiest submission artist in the history of the sport. He tapped out Fedor Emelianenko, he tapped out 'Minotauro' Nogueira, and he tapped out Cain Velasquez. So of the top three or five all time, Fabricio has tapped three of them. You just have to think of how good Werdum is. 

WERDUM: I like when the fans say that Werdum is the best all time. I like this for sure. I want to show that again.


Why was Miocic the first to reach the holy grail?

CORMIER: Stipe Miocic has solved [the title defense curse] because he's so well-rounded. He's so gifted that he has been able to defend this thing multiple times and said that he has no intention of ever losing it.

ROGAN²You have to talk about [Miocic's] composure. He is so composed, like when he fought Fabricio in Brazil and you look at the staredown. He's just dead faced. It's not like a Fedor dead face or a Cain dead face; he has his own dead face. He is one of those guys who can stay completely calm in that incredible environment of being in Brazil and 45,000 people screaming for Fabricio Werdum, and he just shuts his lights out. He is a bad motherf----er.

DIN THOMAS (American Top Team coach, ex-UFC fighter): Stipe is extremely well-rounded for a heavyweight. He has got good feet, good footwork, he can wrestle, and he's smart. You can tell that he's intelligent. He doesn't rely on going out there and being a big, powerful guy. He's well-coached, he listens to his coaches well. He's a grinder, too. He has got a lot of attributes to make a good fighter. 

RODRIGUEZ: Miocic is so competitive and that's what makes him great. His game is probably the game that you will teach every fighter from that moment on as heavyweights. 

STANNª: When you look at the body of work that Stipe has done, he has been the most athletic, find a way to beat you, go around or through your strength type of guy. People don't like us to mention this when we are actually working for the UFC, but he has done this with a full-time job. 

History of the UFC heavyweight championship

ChampionYear wonReason for losing title

Mark Coleman

1997

Defeated by Smith

Maurice Smith

1997

Defeated by Couture

Randy Couture

1997

Stripped over contract dispute

Bas Rutten

1999

Vacated to move to light heavyweight

Kevin Randlemen

1999

Defeated by Couture

Randy Couture

2000

Defeated by Barnett

Josh Barnett

2002

Stripped after positive steroid test

Ricco Rodriguez

2002

Defeated by Sylvia

Tim Sylvia

2003

Stripped after positive steroid test

Frank Mir

2004

Stripped due to inactivity following accident

Andrei Arlovski

2005

Defeated by Sylvia

Tim Sylvia 

2006

Defeated by Couture

Randy Couture

2007

Defeated by Lesnar

Brock Lesnar

2008

Defeated by Velasquez

Cain Velasquez

2010

Defeated by dos Santos

Junior dos Santos

2011

Defeated by Velasquez

Cain Velasquez

2012

Defeated by Werdum

Fabricio Werdum 

2015

Defeated by Miocic

Stipe Miocic

2016

Current heavyweight champion

ROGAN²Stipe is a fireman. He's the heavyweight champion of the world, and he's also a fireman. He's the baddest man on the planet as the UFC heavyweight champion of the world, and he's also a fireman. That's the heavyweight champion of the world. It's crazy.

BAS RUTTEN¹ (Former UFC heavyweight champion): He is a freak athlete, he really is. And he's a very likable guy.

VELASQUEZ³: He's a competitor, true champion. Just good things, nothing bad to say about him. Congratulations to Stipe for doing what he has done in the heavyweight division.

ROGAN²How many guys are world champions and still have a f---ing day job and that job is a fireman? What a weird position that guy is in but he couldn't be nicer.

STANNª: Look, sign me up if my family is burning in a building or house. Please, let Stipe be the guy that comes running along to help them. 

MIOCIC: I think it's my fighting spirit, no joke. I'm going to go out there and give it all I've got and do my damnedest not to lose. I just give it all I got and 'feet don't fail me now.' I'm not going to give up. 

CORMIER: It's not like he didn't run the risk of not having that belt. Overeem put him on his butt in his first title defense [at UFC 203 in 2016]. It's not like he didn't have to get off the canvas, get up and go finish what he was doing and finish Alistair Overeem less than three minutes after he had been knocked down himself. He's a skilled guy and a tough, gritty and durable guy. That's why he has been so successful.

STANNª: It is exceptionally harder for men of his size to do this sport at the elite level and doesn't have just elite skills, he has elite level heart where he can push past a certain threshold in a state of exhaustion that is going to make him very difficult to beat going forward. 

MIR: I saw Stipe get dropped by Alistair, and Alistair just made a technical mistake where he pulled the guillotine. But there you go, [Overeem] was a heartbeat from being a champion and beating who we consider to be the greatest champion. He could've derailed his reign, but because Alistair made a choice to pull that guillotine instead of grounding and pounding and going for that TKO, now all of a sudden [Miocic knocks him out].

RUTTEN¹: I think Overeem could see in [Miocic's] face that he was not intimidated. Then we see that [Overeem] is running away. Then you set yourself up more as a victim because he is following you in.

ARLOVSKI: I just know that when I fought [Miocic in 2016], I was an idiot. I stood in front of him and got punched and lost by TKO. I didn't see anything special, but you have to respect just the fact that he's the champion right now and everybody, like myself, has to get in line for the title. 

ROGAN²: Stipe is one of the toughest guys ever. He has been in the trenches and has had to dig deep. He knows what it's like to be really hurt and tired in a fight. His asset is his mind.  

THOMAS: I think it's his intelligence [that sets him apart]. I think he's able to adapt in fights and to opponents. Other champions have been like, 'Alright, I'm really good at this, so I'm going to force you to fight the way I fight.' You look at Randy Couture, he could never box, no matter what anybody says. He may have got a few knockouts, but that's from dirty boxing. But he would force guys to fight his fight. All of them had holes. Frank Mir could box, his jiu-jitsu was phenomenal, but he was soft at his heart, he couldn't grind. You look at all those champions and they all had a missing piece. You look at Stipe and he doesn't really have those apparent missing pieces. 

DOS SANTOS: I think Stipe is a great athlete. He takes care of himself very well and he has knockout power. He can knock anybody out in this division. The way I see it, it's going to be very hard for someone to take him out of there. The only one I believe can do that, in my point of view, is me. I really believe he knows that too. He was feeling those leg kicks [in their 2017 rematch] and he knew he wouldn't survive for too long in that fight. But of course, he connected with a good punch and he deserves a lot to be the first one to break the record and be the most successful heavyweight in UFC history. 

WERDUM: I don't think there's a big difference [between Miocic and other heavyweight champions in UFC history]. Now, he is the champion, and he has very good focus in the fights. But I don't see a big difference. 

DOS SANTOS: What has made him so successful is that he got the luck to knock me out because he knows that was a lucky shot. I'm not saying it wasn't his strength or will, I just think he was lucky with the way the punch connect to knock me out. He knows I never give up, I would have kept fighting if I could.  

MIOCIC: I learned a lot [during his last loss, a five-round decision to dos Santos in their 2014 first bout]. That was it. That's when I knew I could be heavyweight champion of the world and no one could beat me. I just needed my confidence and that was it. My confidence is good now.


Let's not forget about DC

For all of the debate surrounding whether Miocic already should be considered the greatest UFC heavyweight champion (or will be if he wins at UFC 226), let's be careful not to overlook what a victory would do for Cormier's resume. DC has made three defenses of his light heavyweight title and owns victories at 205 pounds over Alexander Gustafsson, Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson and Anthony Johnson (twice). His only pro defeats have come against heated rival Jon Jones, although one was ruled a No Contest when Jones failed a post-fight drug test and the other Cormier believes should also carry an asterisk for potentially the same reason.

Cormier is also a perfect 13-0 as a heavyweight, which includes winning the Strikeforce World Grand Prix in 2012 in just his 10th pro bout. In fact, one can make the argument that Cormier is actually a more dominant fighter at heavyweight, owning one-sided wins over Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, Josh Barnett, Mir and Roy Nelson. Should Cormier beat Miocic, it would add an interesting wrinkle into the greatest heavyweight conversation. But even more, it just might elevate DC into the discussion of pound-for-pound G.O.A.T. should he become just the fifth UFC fighter to win titles in two divisions and second to do so simultaneously.

CORMIER: I win this fight, I'm the greatest fighter of all time. I've done something that was unheard of and that's what I've always chased. I don't believe that anything else should be thought of. I should be in the conversation.

ROGAN²: If DC goes up and wins, just in terms of statistics alone, you have to consider him [the pound-for-pound greatest]. Look what he did to Johnson both times. Look what he did to Gustafsson. 

ALEXANDER GUSTAFSSON² (UFC light heavyweight, lost to Cormier in 2015): DC is such a competitive guy. He doesn't take a step back and he just goes for it, even in tough situations. He just eats it and comes back and do what he does always. 

CORMIER: I have fought some guys with fantastic cardio at 205. Alexander Gustafsson and Jon Jones have phenomenal cardio. The vast majority of the time, the pressure and pace that I fight at will make guys wilt. At 205 [pounds], it takes a little bit longer for them to wilt and at heavyweight they get tired a lot faster and I can sense it in the fight.

ROGAN²: DC's wrestling is just so next level. It's an interesting position because Stipe is a very good wrestler, but of course, DC is world-class.

GUSTAFSSON²: For being a fat guy, that guy is doing five rounds like nothing so the conditioning is on top.

STANNª: He fought so well against heavyweights when he really didn't know much about this sport. 

ROGAN²: If you look back at DC's performance in Strikeforce as a heavyweight, it was phenomenal. He didn't lose and tossed around gorillas like Josh Barnett. 

daniel-cormier-frank-mir.jpg
Cormier was just as dominant a as a heavyweight, taking out veterans like Mir. Getty Images

CORMIER: My speed and cardio are advantages against heavyweights. Those guys hit hard and are strong, but because they hit so hard, they tend to throw everything hard and they get tired faster. 

MIOCIC: DC fought the best in the world and he beat the best in the world. He's an amazing fighter.

ROGAN²: The only argument against [Cormier being the G.O.A.T.] would be that both times he [won world titles] it was because Jon was stripped. You take away Jon Jones and DC is f---ing amazing.

If I win this fight, I'm the greatest of all time.Daniel Cormier

CORMIER: Anytime a guy does performance-enhancing drugs, they eliminate themselves. So as great as Anderson Silva was, he tested positive two times. Jones has tested positive two or three times. Those guys eliminate themselves. I want to be mentioned among the greats -- the Georges St-Pierres and the Demetrious Johnsons. The guys that have done things the correct way over the course of their career without that asterisk. 


Who wins Miocic-Cormier? 

COUTURE: Obviously, Daniel started in the heavyweight division. He's a big guy, he's got a great wrestling pedigree, and he's facing arguably the best heavyweight out there right now in Stipe Miocic. It's going to be an interesting, technical fight. 

RODRIGUEZ: These are world-class fighters. Just because their weight division is different doesn't mean they are [any] less of an athlete. The guy at 205 who has speed can be just as deadly as a guy at heavyweight. These 205-pounders can step up anytime and Daniel Cormier is a guy who can go up and down. That can be very deadly because he is a great striker.  

THOMAS: DC's extremely intelligent, and a great competitor that can grind, but I don't think he can box with Stipe. That doesn't mean he can't punch with him, but he just can't box with him. He can get a couple punches off on his way to a takedown or off a takedown, but if it comes down to Daniel Cormier can't take Stipe down and he's forced to stand and box with him, he's going to lose that fight. 

RUTTEN¹: It's a very hard one to call because Stipe has great footwork, but can he stop the relentless pushing forward from Cormier? That's what he and [teammate and wrestling coach] Cain Velasquez will do.

VELASQUEZ³: DC needs to use his strength. He can wrestle really well. He's really fast in his exchanges with boxing and he kicks, too. He's a very complete fighter and it's hard to deal with DC because he goes forward a lot and puts a lot of pressure on. He just makes it really tough.  

DOS SANTOS: That's a tough fight for both of them. The way that DC fights is very effective but boring because he doesn't allow you to do anything. Once he grabs you, he will take you down and he's going to make you tired or knock you out or finish you. 

RODRIGUEZ: I really feel Daniel Cormier is going to give some major problems to him and that's because styles make fights. I don't think he even needs to take it to the ground because his standup is superb.

MUHAMMED 'KING MO' LAWAL (Bellator MMA fighter): Here is one thing people don't really notice about Daniel -- he fights small. When you are fighting a guy that fights small like Daniel and you throw your jab, you are there to get countered like when Daniel fought "Bigfoot" [Silva]. 

THOMAS: The one thing that makes DC so good is he uses his height to his advantage, being shorter and pushing guys against the fence so they can't get inside on him. So [when] he's pushing guys against the fence and grabbing them against the fence, they can't pummel back with him because they're too tall.  

RUTTEN¹: As a fighter, a very hard guy to fight is when you have someone who is constantly trying to take you down and be on you like a wet suit. If you fight a really good striker, push him backwards. You need a lot of stamina for that, but that's the trick. Stipe has great footwork from his Golden Gloves [boxing background], but can he avoid that for five rounds? That's the thing. This is a really 50/50 fight.

LAWAL: The way Daniel fights small, he has great cardio and wrestling, and great control in the upper-body clinch. I feel like Stipe gasses. I feel when Stipe gets frustrated, you can see it in his face and he starts to walk off and fights against the cage. I think Daniel will take advantage of that and Daniel will beat him. 

DOS SANTOS: I don't think Stipe has the best cardio, so I don't think its a very good fight for him. I hope he's making a lot of money because he's not winning anything. His belt is on the line. Nothing from Cormier is on the line, just Miocic. I hope he's making a lot of money and he can go there and throw some bombs against DC to make the fight more interesting.   

VELASQUEZ³: DC just needs to do what he does well and that's putting all his game complete with the striking and wrestling. He's very much a threat everywhere, even when he gets tied up with you. It makes you very uneasy when you are fighting in.

COUTURE: I think if Daniel can find a way to make Stipe Miocic wrestle him as much as possible during the course of that fight, it's going to be a good night for him. If Stipe uses his range and striking IQ to keep Daniel off of him, it could be a good night for Stipe. It's one of those fights, toss a coin, who's going to win. I'm a wrestler, so I tend to feel like that wrestling pedigree is going to work well for Daniel. But Stipe's one of the toughest guys out there. He's a great fighter. 

MIOCIC: My wrestling probably doesn't [get the respect it deserves] because I'm mostly standing up. But it's there. And wrestling and UFC are two totally different things. DC has been taken down in his fights, too. It's not that he just goes out there and does what he wants and takes anyone down all the time. It comes down to timing. I'm 100 percent sure of my wrestling and won't give him opportunities to take me down. But if he does, I'm going to get back up.

WERDUM: I like Cormier, but I don't believe he beats Stipe Miocic. If Stipe Miocic has a good moment now, he's a big guy, I don't see how Daniel beats him. I see the fight maybe for a decision for Stipe Miocic or he punch, punch, punch and maybe the referee stops the fight. It will be so hard for Daniel. He's not a big man so I don't know how [he wins].

DOS SANTOS: The way I see it, DC is probably gonna take him down, make him tired and finish the fight. But of course, we are talking about the heavyweight champion and with Stipe, anything is possible.

ROGAN²: Stipe is an animal. People don't appreciate him enough. When it's all said and done, he is going to be one of the most loved heavyweights of all time. He will be like a Jack Dempsey character where even when his career is over, people will love him. For whatever reason, sometimes that happens. Guys are overlooked while they are the king. 

All interviews were conducted by CBS Sports in 2018 except for the following: 

¹ Rutten appeared on "The Joe Rogan Experience" podcast and Cage Fanatic² Rogan's comments came from a pair of his podcasts, including one with Gustafsson³ Velasquez spoke with "The MMA Hour" in January; ª Stann joined the "Anik & Florian" podcastᵇ Couture participated in interviews with MMANytt, "The Dan Patrick Show" and AXS TVᶜ Sylvia appeared on UFC Fight Pass' "Where are they now?"ᵈ Lesnar spoke at a UFC 200 Q&A

CBS Sports Insider

Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories