Predicting the UFC Year-End Rankings: Heavyweight
Anything can happen in the world of MMA. Champions fall, and new contenders emerge on a regular basis.
This is especially true in the heavyweight division, where any fighter can forever change his future with a single strike.
Every once in a while, we at Bleacher Report MMA like to whip out our crystal ball and take a look into the future. How will scheduled fights go down? What bouts are likely to be booked as a result?
After considering everything on the books and several variables that aren't, here is a look at where the UFC heavyweight rankings will stand at the end of 2013.
10. Travis Browne
Current Standing: No. 8
Upcoming Fight: vs. Alistair Overeem at UFC on Fox Sports 1:1.
While Travis Browne is one of the most promising prospects in the UFC heavyweight division, his stock is expected to drop later this year when he takes on former Strikeforce, DREAM and K-1 champion Alistair Overeem.
Overeem is on a different level in terms of striking, and the Dutchman will be able to shut down the takedown attempts from Browne to pick up a win.
Recently, Browne has only stepped into the Octagon every six months or so, so he is unlikely to compete again in this calendar year after the Overeem fight.
9. Mark Hunt
8. Josh Barnett
Current Standing: Not ranked
Upcoming Fight: vs. Frank Mir at UFC 164
It's been a long time since heavyweight Josh Barnett stepped inside the Octagon, but he finally makes his return at UFC 164. Unfortunately for "The Warmaster," I don't see him getting past Frank Mir.
Barnett's striking still leaves much to be desired, and it's impossible to suggest that he will have any sort of advantage on the ground against a seasoned veteran such as Mir. He will lose a decision, but it won't be a blowout by any means.
7. Antonio Silva
Current Standing: No. 4
Upcoming Fight: None
Can somebody please explain to me how Antonio Silva is ranked No. 4 in the heavyweight division despite the thrashing he ate from Cain Velasquez last month?
"Bigfoot" might compete again in 2013. However, the not-so-gentle giant is reportedly trying to drop down to light heavyweight to compete in a grudge match against former teammate Thiago Silva.
There is no way that Bigfoot, who cuts to make the 265-pound heavyweight limit, will be able to compete at 205. Expect him to compete later this year against another heavyweight coming off a loss. Stefan Struve, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira or the loser of Brendan Schaub vs. Matt Mitrione seem like good options.
While I expect Silva to win any of those matchups, he will slide in the rankings after being passed by other heavyweights on the rise.
6. Frank Mir
Current Standing: No. 6
Upcoming Fight: vs. Josh Barnett at UFC 164
After one-sided losses to Junior dos Santos and Daniel Cormier, Frank Mir is stuck in the first losing skid of his career.
As noted in a previous slide, Mir will take on Josh Barnett in August. This stylistic battle that favors submission ace Mir greatly.
While Barnett is known for his catch wrestling, Mir is arguably the best submission guy in the history of the heavyweight division. Any ground battles will lean in his favor.
Couple that with the striking advantage that he is sure to possess, and we're looking at a chess match where Mir will be one step ahead from pillar to post.
5. Roy Nelson
Current Standing: No. 5
Upcoming Fight: vs. Stipe Miocic at UFC 161
Roy Nelson is a solid betting favorite over opponent Stipe Miocic at this weekend's UFC 161 event and rightfully so. The former IFL champion has scored knockout wins over every unranked opponent since 2007.
"Big Country" is one of the more active heavyweights on the UFC roster. In 2012, Nelson competed three times and had time to coach a season of The Ultimate Fighter. It would be surprising if he were not to fight again during the calendar year.
A fight between Nelson and Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier has long been rumored. Expect the two to meet in October or November. That matchup, however, will not go in Nelson's favor.
4. Alistair Overeem
Current Standing: No. 6
Upcoming Fight: vs. Travis Browne at UFC on Fox Sports 1:1.
Alistair Overeem got cocky in his UFC 156 bout with Bigfoot Silva, and the monstrous Brazilian made him pay for it. Now that "The Reem" has lost all of the momentum that he worked so hard to achieve, you had better believe that he is coming back with a vengeance in his next matchup.
With a variety of fight-ending attacks, opponent Travis Browne is a dangerous foe for any man in the heavyweight division. That being said, Overeem should handily win the stand-up portion of their encounter.
Barring being finished with ground-and-pound, I don't see how Overeem loses this fight. Considering that he will enter this fight with a strength advantage and excellent takedown defense, this is his fight to win.
3. Junior Dos Santos
Current Standing: No. 1
Upcoming Fight: vs. Cain Velasquez at date TBD
At UFC 160, Junior dos Santos utilized a gorgeous spinning back kick to knock out Mark Hunt and earn another crack at the UFC heavyweight championship.
Currently, dos Santos is 1-1 against heavyweight kingpin Cain Velasquez. In their first fight, "Cigano" knocked out his nemesis in little more than one minute. In the rematch, however, he was butchered for 25 minutes by the Velasquez.
I predict that the rubber match will look similar to their UFC 155 meeting. To be honest, we have no reason to believe otherwise. This loss will temporarily drop dos Santos in the rankings, while fresher faces look to cash in their golden opportunities.
2. Daniel Cormier
Current Standing: No. 2
Upcoming Fight: None
Daniel Cormier has the tools to be a UFC champion one day. Unfortunately, that isn't going to happen as long as teammate Cain Velasquez holds the strap.
Cormier and Roy Nelson have long been rumored to square off later this year, although those plans were put on hold when Big Country was used as supplemental star power at UFC 161. Assuming that Nelson gets past Stipe Miocic, and he will, this fight still makes sense.
No one has yet to solve the puzzle of how to defeat Cormier. Considering that Nelson's strongest suits are his boxing and top game, a fight with a world-class wrestler is unlikely to go his way.
1. Fabricio Werdum
Current Standing: No. 3
Upcoming Fight: None
After Junior dos Santos gets shut down by Cain Velasquez, Werdum will become the No. 1 contender by default. Whether or not the Brazilian jiu-jitsu master competes in the meantime is up to him.
Werdum can do it all. With greatly improved striking, he battered Roy Nelson. That same striking knocked out wrestler Mike Russow, who was 4-0 in the UFC prior to the matchup. And most recently, "Vai Cavalo" tapped out the legendary "Minotauro" Nogueira.
I can envision only one scenario where Werdum fights in 2013: Should Travis Browne upset Alistair Overeem, the former would enter the divisional Top Five. That would create a fresh top-ranked opponent for Werdum, who is coming off a win.
In any case, Werdum will end this year as the top contender for the UFC heavyweight championship.
Champion: Cain Velasquez
Current Standing: Champion
Upcoming Fight: vs. Junior dos Santos at date TBD
By now, you have already read my analysis on the upcoming rubber match between champion Cain Velasquez and contender Junior dos Santos.
I'm sorry to all of the Cigano fans out there, but the man literally covered with brown pride will remain atop the heavyweight division at the conclusion of their inevitable collision.
While there are some solid candidates to potentially dethrone Velasquez, it won't happen this year.
How do you see the heavyweight rankings looking at the end of 2013? Leave us your thoughts in the comment section below.
Andrew Saunders is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. He will mail you a package full of warm chocolate chip cookies if you follow him on Twitter.