It didn't take long for the original owners of the UFC to realize that their growing sport needed a complete paradigm shift in order to make it as a long-term enterprise. By 1995, just two years into the sport's development, it was clear that things couldn't continue along the path they had been walking.
Mixed martial arts started as a battle of styles, an infomercial of sorts for founder Rorion Gracie and his family's grappling system called Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Two men, famously, would enter the UFC's Octagon, each representing a unique and sometimes ancient style of fighting. It didn't take long for Rorion's brother Royce to establish his art's primacy. But it was a victory for a formula and an art, a testament to the system and not the athlete.
Within five events, the UFC brass realized that the Gracie family's mission to spread their art form wasn't enough to drive an entire sport. Rorion was out. So was Royce. And in their places came a renewed focus on the athletes.
Enter the heavyweights. Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock, carryovers from the Gracie era, set the stage, and Mark Coleman followed in their footsteps, eventually becoming the undisputed king of MMA on two continents.
Today a new breed of heavyweight rules the Octagon. Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez in particular have taken the big men into uncharted waters. Far from being overgrown bar brawlers, their combination of skills is every bit as compelling as their pipsqueak peers.
When their fight is over on Saturday night at UFC 166, a new kingpin will reign, joining the best of all time on the MMA heavyweight Mount Rushmore.
Let's explore, together, the men who make up this elite group. Who are the best big men in the sport's short history? Bleacher Report has created our own Mount Rushmore in their honor.
Disagree? Share your list in the comments.