UFC 160 Signals Decline of Heavyweight Division

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UFC 160 Signals Decline of Heavyweight Division
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The UFC heavyweight division is on life support.

Following the retirement of former interim champ Shane Carwin and the recent jettisoning of divisional staple Cheick Kongo, the heavyweight ranks have been depleted to an all-time low.

Comprised of only 25 fighters, many of whom are grizzled veterans of the cage, it is surprising that the UFC would leave any stone unturned in search of heavyweight talent.

Yet, proven commodities Josh Barnett, Sergei Kharitonov and the great white whale, Fedor Emelianenko, have recently slipped through its grasp.

At UFC 160, fans are to be treated to an unwarranted rematch between current champ Cain Velasquez and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva. Unfortunately, this fight does nothing to cure the concerning lack of depth in the heavyweight division.

In their first meeting at UFC 146, Velasquez left Bigfoot looking like he needed a blood transfusion. The victory was brutal and decisive. Odds are, Velasquez will punish Bigfoot in a similarly destructive fashion when they meet on May 25.

Meanwhile, if Junior dos Santos successfully defeats Mark Hunt in the co-main event, then he would be next in line for a shot at the belt. Dana White confirmed this at the UFC 159 post-fight press conference (watch it here).

The fact that White is intent on pursuing the rubber match goes to further illustrate the lack of viable contenders in the division. 

The current crop of heavyweight talent is getting older by the day and quite a few have already battled inside of the Octagon at least once previously. The dynamic of the division has become stale and needs revitalization. 

Luckily, Daniel Cormier dropped into the UFC like manna from heaven. In only a short time, the Olympic wrestler has proven himself a shining beacon of hope in the division. 

However, to pour salt on an already open wound, Cormier has adamantly refused to fight his friend, and fellow AKA training partner, Cain Velasquez.

If this fight never comes to fruition, it would be a real shame for fans considering that the teammates have complementary styles that would make for an intriguing matchup.

The UFC cannot continue counting on gifts like Cormier. Especially when it has passed over marketable talent and ineffectively utilized its Strikeforce acquisitions. 

The UFC is notorious for chewing up and spitting out fighters; no place is this more evident than in the heavyweight division.

The organization must make an effort to build a bigger stable of combatants. The best way to do this is through the proven format of The Ultimate Fighter

The show has produced current heavyweight contender Roy Nelson as well as young prospects Matt Mitrione and Brendan Schaub. Sadly, in 18 seasons of TUF, the big men have only been featured twice. 

While marketing Ronda Rousey and women's MMA makes great promotional sense, no division is in need of a shot in the arm more than heavyweight. Until the UFC replenishes the dwindling ranks, fans will be left wanting. 

The promise of superstar Jon Jones making the jump to 265 might be the most anticipated event in heavyweight history, even eclipsing the signing of Brock Lesnar way back in 2008.

If Jones does move up weight classes in the near future, without premium competition fans may still be forced to endure more lackluster bouts.

Barring these changes, heavyweight, which has always been the UFC's marquee draw, will die a slow and painful death.

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