Mapping The UFC Landscape: The Heavyweights
With the UFC being such a constant moving force of nature, it can be hard at times to take stock of what has happened and what is lined up in the future for MMA's leading promotion.
Subsequently, I have been surveying what the current state of play is for each division in the UFC.
Let's start with the big fellas, the Heavyweights.
There's no better place to start than at the very top with the champion, Brock Lesnar.
Lesnar will make his long awaited return to the octagon at UFC 116 after his lengthy absence due to illness.
The champion will be looking to claim back his undisputed tag when he meets the current Interim-Heavyweight Champion Shane Carwin in Las Vegas.
These two are undoubtedly at the top of the mountain and there scheduled date at UFC 116 will be huge on every level. At least by mid-summer we will know who the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion is and my early money is on Carwin.
To claim the Interim title, Carwin destroyed Frank Mir back at UFC 111.
That defeat has left the former champion Mir in an interesting place at present in the division. Having lost to both Lesnar and Carwin in a clear cut fashion, Mir now has to be a long way from a title shot.
His next opponent is unknown but fights against the likes of Cheick Kongo or Gabriel Gonzaga make sense. For all of Mir’s smack talk he faces a tough future to get back to his nemesis, Lesnar.
The likely first opponent for the winner of the Carwin vs Lesnar clash at UFC 116 will be Cain Velasquez.
Unofficially dubbed the No.1 contender, the "Brown Pride" fighter has been on a roll since entering the UFC and now sits at 8-0 in his MMA career.
His win over Antonio Nogueira at UFC 110 has placed Velasquez right at the top of the pile and he looks set to sit on the sidelines and wait to face the champion, who ever it is, at the end of the year.
For me, this is a bad move by the UFC. Cain should be fighting regularly and for many people, including myself, his No.1 contender status is debatable.
Pride and UFC legend and former champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is now in a very similar situation to Mir. Going 1-2 in his last three fights, many are starting to question whether age and his many battles are catching up to the Big' Nog. A re-match with Mir could really answer a lot of questions for both fighters.
While he waits for his next fight Big' Nog has been focusing his time on training his protégé—the juggernaut that is Junior dos Santos. JDS, in my mind, is the true No.1 contender with wins over Gonzaga, Yvel, Cro Cop, Struve, and Werdum since entering the octagon.
He will get to really cement his claim when he squares off against The Ultimate Fighter Season 10 winner and former IFL Champion, Roy Nelson. The two look set to meet at UFC 117 in what is a big fight for the future of the division’s title scene.
At this stage I have to fancy dos Santos to cement his claim to the thrown. But Nelson has made a career out of proving people wrong and a win for Big Country would certainly throw a spanner in the works for any plans that the UFC match makers might be lining up.
With most of the top dogs lined up, it's left to the young lions and fallen greats to make some noise and climb back up the ladder.
Todd Duffee, the holder of the record for fastest KO in the UFC, is one young fighter looking to continue his climb with a win at UFC 114. In Mike Russow, he has a tough night ahead of him though. The winner of this fight will be looking at a huge step up in competition in his next fight.
Pat Barry vs Mirko Cro Cop at UFC 115 in Vancouver is another big fight scheduled for the UFC Heavyweight division. In all honesty I have to think that this is a must win fight for Crop Cop.
He has been given high billing on a card yet again and an opponent in Barry who should stand and trade with him. It must be the last chance saloon for the Croatian, but for Barry its the biggest fight of his career and a chance to make a real statement much like dos Santos did by beating Cro Cop.
Also on the card in Vancouver, Gilbert Yvel will take on Ben Rothwell. Much like the Cro Cop, I think both Yvel and Rothwell are fighting to stay in the UFC. Both lost there debut fight in the UFC and, in what is now such a competitive division, you can’t afford to go 0-2 these days.
At UFC 113 both Joey Beltran and Matt Mitrione continued there surprising climb up the UFC ladder with big wins. Both now sit at 2-0 in the UFC and a fight against each other could make a lot of sense. It’s rumored for UFC 117.
Well that’s most of the runners and riders in the UFC Heavyweight division and where they currently sit.
Other notables include a planned Brendan Schaub vs Chris Tuchscherer fight at UFC 116.
Cheick Kongo is currently injured and awaiting a return date and Stefan Struve awaits his next fight to be scheduled.
Jon Madsen is welcoming Karlos Vemola to the big time at UFC 116. Watch out for Vemola, he is 7-0 and has never left the first round.
James McSweeney will fight Travis Browne at the Liddel vs Ortiz Ultimate Fighter Finale Show. Browne is 9-0 and will be looking to announce his arrival in the UFC.
That’s it from me for now folks, hope you now have a clear picture of what’s going on with the UFC Heavyweight Division. I’ll be back with a run down of the other divisions soon.
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