Stipe Miocic has the potential to be the future of the UFC heavyweight division. He is one of those hybrid fighters with a boxing and wrestling background that has the skills needed to compete with the best of them. The only problem is he hasn’t fought anyone with enough “star power” to garner the attention of casual fans or the matchmakers. A bout with Gabriel Gonzaga is not the fight that will give Miocic that exposure.
Gonzaga is a tough fighter and has been on a rebound as of late, but he still doesn’t hold top 10 status. A win against him does nothing for Miocic except add another notch to his belt. Miocic will be able to showcase his boxing abilities, as he did against Roy Nelson, against the older and slower fighter and will ultimately come out on top.
This fight should serve as nothing more than a good tuneup fight for bigger challenges ahead. While Gonzaga is not a man to take lightly–4-1 in his past five fights–he isn’t the fastest or most athletic guy in the division. In fact, his only loss in the past five fights was to the super athletic Travis Browne. Is Miocic as fast and explosive as Browne? No, but he does have the talent to finish the fight.
After this fight, which Miocic should win, the UFC should consider pitting him against a true top 10 heavyweight. Drawing from a small pool of potential fighters, matchmakers should consider a fight with Josh Barnett or the winner of Alistair Overeem/Frank Mir. Any of those fighters would serve as a true test to see if Miocic has “arrived.”