Who Should Get the Next UFC Heavyweight Title Shot?

Dustin FilloyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2013

Photo credit: TheMMANews.com
Photo credit: TheMMANews.com

In less than a month, the much-anticipated third showdown between heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez and former champ Junior dos Santos will have come to fruition at UFC 166 in Houston.

Of course, Dos Santos scored a 64-second KO in his first encounter with Velasquez at the inaugural UFC on Fox show, only to surrender 11 takedowns in the rematch at UFC 155 to lose his belt 13-and-a-half months later.

Whether Velasquez gets the best of "Cigano" in the rubber match, or vice versa, the UFC's brass will have some figuring out to do in order to find the company's next heavyweight title challenger.

Is there a possibility that Velasquez-Dos Santos III will prove so epic that the UFC has to grant its top two heavyweights a fourth fight? If not, will a fresh face get a crack at the winner of Velasquez-Dos Santos III in 2014? 


The winner of Travis Browne-Josh Barnett will take the inside track to a title shot

With both men coming off career-changing wins, Travis Browne and Josh Barnett will lock horns in an integral heavyweight clash at UFC 168 in December.

Aside from a hiccup in his fight against Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, Browne has performed masterfully, winning five of his last six scraps, including four by KO and another by submission.

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 17: Travis Browne kicks Alistair Overeem in their heavyweight bout at TD Garden on August 17, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

"Hapa" scored impressive first-round KOs of Gabriel Gonzaga and Alistair Overeem in his last two fights, pocketing "Knockout of the Night" bonuses in both outings. Brown valiantly stormed back from the edge of defeat to upset and earn his most significant win in the latter contest at UFC Fight Night 26.

Barnett, conversely, has lost just one fight, a unanimous decision to the UFC's second-ranked heavyweight, Daniel Cormier, since parting ways with Japan's Pride Fighting Championships in 2006.

After leaving Pride, "The Warmaster" picked up wins in 10 of 11 fights, amazingly notching nine finishes (six submissions and three KOs) along the way.

While Browne and Barnett have obviously taken different paths and come from different lineages, the two men appear to have awfully similar career trajectories at this point. 

Simply put, a convincing win by either man will likely result in a heavyweight title shot in the near future for Brown or Barnett. 


Fabricio Werdum needs a dance partner

Grappling ace Werdum has stayed busy and found great success in his second stint with the UFC.

"Vai Cavalo" has reeled off wins against Roy Nelson, Mike Russow and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in succession since rejoining the company in early 2012.

February 4, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Fabrico Werdum celebrates after the fight against Roy Nelson during UFC 143 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Fabrico Werdum defeated Roy Nelson. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Werdum has lost just once since his initial departure from the UFC, dropping a unanimous decision to a man he submitted earlier in his career, Overeem, at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum.

Because Werdum already holds wins over world-ranked heavyweights Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva (No. 4), Overeem (No. 7) and Roy Nelson (No. 9), the UFC may struggle to find a foe for the streaking Vai Cavalo.

Perhaps a bout with the once-beaten Stipe Miocic in the near future will suit the two-time ADCC gold medalist. After all, if Werdum can dispose of Miocic, he'd be sitting just as pretty as the winner of the Brown-Barnett duel. 


Roy Nelson can catapult his stock with a win over the unbeaten Daniel Cormier

Heavyweight fan favorite Roy Nelson squandered his spot in line for a heavyweight title shot when he got outclassed by underdog Miocic at UFC 161.

Nelson, however, will get the opportunity to redeem himself against soon-to-be light heavyweight Cormier at UFC 166.

An upset win over the former Olympic freestyle wrestler wouldn't necessarily transform Nelson into a clear-cut No. 1 contender. A victory would, however, help Nelson regain the leverage he built after scoring consecutive KOs over Dave Herman, Matt Mitrione and Cheick Kongo.