2012 was good to Cain Velasquez.
After losing his heavyweight title in November 2011, the Mexican-American heavyweight standout revitalized himself and his career just in time for a run to the top in 2012.
His efforts began with a demolition of Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva at UFC 146 in what was one of the bloodiest, most gruesome fights in recent memory.
Despite the first-round stoppage Velasquez earned in that tilt, I was not 100 percent sold on his ability to challenge then-champion Junior dos Santos.
After all, "Bigfoot" is barely a top-10 heavyweight in my eyes, and Velasquez won the bout thanks to a cut, so, while the stoppage was justified, it was not as impressive as a legitimate knockout or technical knockout performance.
While I was not high on Velasquez going into his rematch with dos Santos, I have to give credit where credit is due.
I completely underestimated Cain's abilities, and he absolutely whooped dos Santos' butt for 25 minutes.
Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva I was the last time in recent memory a champ was dominated for that amount of time, and Velasquez's whooping was even more brutal and definitive.
The Cain Velasquez that stepped into the Octagon Saturday night at UFC 155 is one scary, scary heavyweight, and I will certainly not underestimate him again as he moves forward with his shiny new strap.
Praise aside, where does Velasquez go from here?
First, let me say a trilogy fight with dos Santos is not where he goes. Junior needs time to recover and rejuvenate his mind and body, and he needs to face another top heavyweight before thinking about challenging for the title again any time soon.
Who does that leave?
By my estimation, there are painfully few legitimate contenders for Velasquez's belt, and there is no denying Alistair "The Demolition Man" Overeem stands atop the heap.
If (when) Overeem defeats (destroys) "Bigfoot" Silva at UFC 156, nobody will deny him his title shot, and I think that is the proper course of action.
Arguments can be made for Fabricio Werdum or Daniel Cormier as well, but Overeem is the most marketable and most deserving of these choices.
Who is next for Cain?
Cormier, while he has looked incredible and exponentially better each time he steps into the cage, is a teammate, friend and coach of Velasquez's, and I do not think either fighter is big on that matchup.
Furthermore, let's not forget Cormier has not even fought inside the Octagon yet, so a tune-up fight is necessary in my eyes (I'm looking at you, Hector Lombard).
Werdum, on the other hand, has established himself as a legitimate heavyweight threat, but his last two wins (a unanimous decision over Roy Nelson and a quick TKO of Mike Russow) don't make up exactly the resume you want a champion to carry into a championship bout.
I think Werdum, like Cormier and Junior dos Santos, needs one more dominant win before challenging the champ.
That leaves Overeem as the only real choice at this point. The dude is big, he's intimidating, he's marketable, and his striking is arguably the best in the heavyweight division.
Add in his impressive list of submission wins (most via guillotine), and the UFC has one heck of a heavyweight tilt on hand here.
For newly minted champion Cain Velasquez, the road to his first title defense has one gigantic, hulking behemoth of a man standing in the way.