Let's just go ahead and lay this out before I begin: Fedor Emelianenko is the No.1 heavyweight fighter in the world. Period.
There can be no discussion. No confusion. No misunderstanding. When he fights, people watch. And he gets paid quite well for it.
But other than him, truly great HW fighters are few and far between compared to other divisions. The talent pool is likely the thinnest in the world, and you need no more proof than to look at the UFC right now.
Undoubtedly, the UFC's biggest HW draw right now is Brock Lesnar.
The man is a behemoth. He has to cut weight to make it to 265, which blows my mind. But he's still green, and there's no guarantee that Frank Mir isn't going to submit him or knock him out come July 11.
Other than Mir and Lesnar, the only two guys I see becoming major stars right now are Carwin and Velasquez, and I believe those two are going to have a No. 1 contender match before the end of the year (which I believe Carwin will win).
Guys like Couture and Nogueira are on their way out, and although they are still great competitors, I don't believe that either of them will hold the belt again before they retire.
So why do I believe that HW are finally going to get a chance to shine?
Because, in the modern era of the UFC (post-Zuffa purchase), they never really have. To me, the last time the belt was really coveted was when Arlovski and Sylvia were trading it back and forth.
But compared to a feud like Ortiz/Liddell or Couture/Liddell, it was pretty lackluster. It failed to capture the emotion and the spark that made other feuds great. It didn't make Sylvia or Arlovski superstars.
But I feel like fortunes are going to change for the HW division very soon, mainly because the UFC is investing in it more now than ever before.
They have Brock, a highly marketable superstar who, if he beats Mir, can spit in the face of critics and truly start to become a respected champion. They have Carwin, who, if he can keep his winning streak alive, will most certainly fight Lesnar one day. Two wrestlers of that size facing each other is a marketing team's dream.
Also, the next season of the Ultimate Fighter is being devoted strictly to HW. Kimbo is involved, which ensures big ratings and millions of viewers. Multiple new stars could be made, even if they don't win the competition.
New blood will be injected into the HW division, and it could be full of contenders once more.
I believe that in the next few years, it will be a good time to be a HW in the UFC. Only time will tell if the big boys can rule the Octagon, though.