Don’t get it twisted, the “interim” title bout between Frank Mir and Shane Carwin at “UFC 111: St-Pierre vs. Hardy” is only happening because the UFC had already announced it prior to Lesnar’s official return.
Nevertheless, both Mir and Carwin understand that the real title goes up for grabs on July 3rd when the winner of their bout hopes to face Lesnar.
If the winner doesn’t get away clean on March 27th, Cain Velasquez will be waiting in the wings after he earned the “alternate” slot by knocking Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira out at “UFC 110: Nogueira vs. Velasquez.”
All three challengers pose an interesting match-up for the returning Lesnar. Let’s face it, we don’t know what kind of condition Lesnar will be in when he returns and like a vulture, anyone of his challengers could prey on him.
Frank Mir—Although they might not admit it, this is probably the rubber match that the UFC wants to see. The former champion made an interesting change to his physique going into his bout with Cheick Kongo at UFC 107. Mir added 20 or so pounds of bulk in an attempt to negate the massive size advantage that Lesnar had in their first two encounters. Nobody questions that Mir is the more complete fighter of the two, but Lesnar’s uncanny strength could still be too much for a bulked up Mir.
Shane Carwin—He missed his opportunity at UFC 106 and UFC 108 when Lesnar came down with diverticulitis, but he’ll have another chance if he can beat Mir. Carwin is a well-rounded fighter with knockout power and has never gone the distance, finishing his last four fights by some form of knockout. The question is, can Carwin keep his back off the mat and have the fight take place where he wants it? Lesnar doesn’t have the most technical striking, but it’s a problem that’s never been exposed because of his superior wrestling. Carwin also has five victories by way of submission. Lesnar will still have a slight size advantage, but Carwin could very well match his strength.
Cain Velasquez—This is the one guy who has the wrestling ability to compete with Lesnar, but probably doesn’t have enough in his back pocket to stay off the floor. Velasquez would most likely give up anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds of sheer mass, as well as a big strength disadvantage. The one thing that Velasquez now has in his arsenal though is pure striking. The display that he showed at UFC 110 with his dominating knockout over Nogueira was shocking, to say the least, and shows how much he has grown as a fighter. Once known as strictly a wrestler, Velasquez has the power and striking ability to make it happen. The question is, will he even get to throw any strikes?
For the first time in a long time, the UFC’s heavyweight division is extremely relevant and fight fans everywhere will get to benefit from its depth.