Mixed martial arts fans know that the UFC generally stages its two best cards of the year around the Independence Day holiday in the United States as well as New Year’s Eve. The organization annually stages something called International Fight Week around the July 4 holiday, and this year that week culminates with what was to be a terrific UFC 226 card headlined by two title fights – except one fight has been called off.
The heavyweight division is so brutal that Miocic (18-2), a 35-year-old American, already holds the record with three successful defenses. He won the belt as a +165 underdog against Fabricio Werdum in May 2016 by first-round knockout. He then beat Alistair Overeem by first-round knockout at UFC 203. Next was payback for a 2014 loss to former champion Junior dos Santos by first-round TKO at UFC 211.
In January, Miocic was an underdog to relative newbie Francis Ngannou because Ngannou had won 10 straight fights all by KO or TKO and no later than Round 2. The “Predator” was considered the next face of the UFC heavyweight division, but Miocic taught him a veteran lesson with a unanimous decision win.
Cormier (20-1) is at the end of his career at age 39 and looks to join Conor McGregor as the only fighters to hold two UFC belts simultaneously. Cormier technically lost the light-heavyweight title to Jon Jones last July, but that Jones victory was turned into a no-contest because of Jones’ testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
Cormier, who did officially lose to Jones in January 2015, then beat Volkan Oezdemir by second-round TKO in January. Both Miocic and Cormier have been rumored for a fight with Jones down the road if Jones, the former pound-for-pound king, ever gets eligible. There also have been some Brock Lesnar rumors.
Holloway has won 12 in a row since a loss to McGregor in August 2013 but has had some health concerns of late. He had to withdraw from this card with concussion-like symptoms. Earlier this year, Holloway was set to take on current lightweight king Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 on short notice, but Holloway was ruled medically unfit to fight a day before the bout due to trouble cutting weight.
That’s why many believe Holloway will move to lightweight – assuming the concussion issue doesn’t end his career. Holloway also pulled out of UFC 222 due to an injured ankle. Instead of having Ortega fight someone on short notice, he’s off the card too. There have been some early reports of rescheduling this fight for UFC 227 early next month, but obviously Holloway’s health is a major question mark now. Fighters pulling out of major cards has become almost an epidemic in the UFC.
Ngannou, incidentally, also is on this card and is a -370 favorite over Derrick Lewis (+280). A Ngannou victory could get him another shot at Miocic (if he wins) as soon as this winter.
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Source: Heavy Sports