It all began a week ago when Fabricio Werdum shocked the MMA world by beating Fedor Emelianenko via first round submission.
That was the biggest upset in mixed martial arts history, and it quite literally turned the entire heavyweight division on its head. Fedor Emelianenko's reign as the best in the world was brought to an end in dramatic fashion. The doubters of his accomplishments got in their fair share of "I told you so!"
But if Fedor isn't the best in the world then who is?
The answer to that question would have to wait for UFC 116—which was quite conveniently just one week later.
Brock Lesnar's come-from-behind second round submission win over Shane Carwin sorted out who the new king would be.
25 wins (5 by knockout, 16 by submission, 4 by decison),
5 losses (1 by knockout, 2 by submission, 2 by decision).
"The Baby-Faced Assassin" has a really weird nickname. He's also one of the most successful mixed martial artists in the history of the sport.
Barnett hasn't lost a fight since losing to Big-Nog in his last fight in Pride FC. He's racked up wins over Jeff Monson, Pedro Rizzo, and Gilbert Yvel since then and he's as dangerous as ever.
Unfortunately, he has repeatedly tested positive for steroids, the most recent of which was the catalyst that sunk the entire Affliction MMA promotion.
Currently he's fighting overseas a lot while pleading with the California State Athletic Comission to re-license him and let him fight in the USA again.
Until he gets a clean bill of juice-less-ness and is reinstated, Josh Barnett will be a the biggest player in MMA to be stuck sitting on the sidelines.
14 wins (9 by knockout, 3 by submission, 2 by decision)
2 losses (1 by knockout, 1 by decision).
"Bigfoot" is a big bad man. He's good in all areas of mixed martial arts and he almost never loses. Unfortunately, he did lose to Fabricio Werdum, which bumps Antonio down the rankings a bit. But he's a former champion and a solid fighter. All he needs to do is keep winning and he'll move up in the rankings.
15 wins (8 by knockout, 4 by submission, 3 by decision),
4 losses (1 by knockout, 3 by decision).
"Big Country" is the baddest fat man in the world!
Roy has submission skills. He beat Frank Mir in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu contest way back in 2003 and he's a legit BJJ black belt. He tends to stand and strike but he's quite comfortable going to the ground. Roy Nelson is very tough and has only lost by stoppage once in his career—and there's some controversy to go along with that knockout loss to Andrei Arlovski.
The former IFL champion had fought plenty of big names before his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter, yet is seems that appearing on the show and winning the tournament has resurrected Roy Nelson's career and taken it to a whole new level.
After successfully eliminating everyone he fought in the tournament—many times without doing it in impressive fashion—Roy showed the world he'd been holding back. In the finale, he knocked out Brendan Shaub in the first round, then he moved on to knock out Stephan Struve in the first round.
At UFC 117, "Big Country" will face the toughest test in his UFC career in the person of Junior dos Santos. Right now, JDS is poised and waiting for a title shot. This will be Roy's chance to steal Junior's place in line.
33 wins (13 by knockout, 19 by submission, 1 by decision),
11 losses (6 by knockout, 2 by submission, 3 by decision),
1 no contest.
"The Demolition Man" is a difficult man to gauge. He suffered a lot of losses in his career, yet most of those losses came while Alistair was trying to fight at light heavyweight. He has far more career losses than anyone else in the top 10.
And yet, since making the decision to stay at heavyweight and only at heavyweight, Alistair has only lost once—a knockout loss to Sergei Kharitonov. Since that fight he has won eight in a row.
He won his last seven fights by first round stoppage, facing good but not elite competition: Paul Buentello, Mark Hunt, Tony Sylvester, James Thompson, Kazuyuki Fujita, and Brett Rogers.
So perhaps the moving to heavyweight and staying at heavyweight was just what the doctor ordered. Overeem belongs in the top 10 mostly because he has absolutely crushed his last seven opponents with such ease that it's downright scary.
Brett Rogers is the only top 10 heavyweight Alistair Overeem has ever beaten. It should be interesting to see him tested against other top 10 fighters like Fedor or Fabricio Werdum.
32 wins (2 by knockout, 20 by submission, 10 by decision),
6 losses (2 by knockout, 4 by decision).
1 Draw, 1 No Contest.
Without a doubt, Nogueira is the most successful and effective submissions fighter at heavyweight in MMA history. With a legendary chin and a star-studded list of opponents, Big Nog is a living legend. But how relevant is that legend today?
Much like Frank Mir, Big Nog has taken some big losses recently, but keeps mixing in some big wins with those losses. He's still dangerous to any opponent today, but he doesn't belong in the top five.
Currently Nogueira is not scheduled to fight anyone, but he's ready to go whenever the UFC calls.
13 wins (2 by knockout, 8 by submission, 2 by decision, 1 by DQ).
5 losses (all five by knockout).
Frank Mir boasts one of the most impressive resume's of victories in all of mixed martial arts. He broke Tim Sylvia's arm and took his belt. He is the only man to ever beat Brock Lesnar. He was the first man to ever knock out Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira. He outstruck a striking master in Cheick Kongo.
Mir has solid striking credentials, is possibly the best submissions artist in the division, and has one of the most unusual and dangerous guards in all of mixed martial arts.
Frank has clearly shown that he's still in the game, but he lost too many too recently to belong in the top five. After losing two title fights in his last three fights, we can expect that he'll have to win a few in a row before he'll be in line for a shot at the belt.
Still, a rubber match fight with Brock would be a very compelling reason for the UFC to make it happen sooner rather than later.
14 wins (4 by knockout, 8 by submission, 2 by decision),
4 losses (1 by knockout, 3 by decision),
Fabricio Werdum just pulled off the biggest upset in mixed martial arts history last Saturday, with a victory over the man who had been ranked No. 1 for many, many years—Fedor Emelianenko.
If that was the only significant accomplishment in Fabricio "Vai Cavalo" Werdum's career, I most certainly wouldn't rank him as the sixth best fighter in the world. He also has two knockout wins over Gabriel Gonzaga, and wins over Aleksander Emelianenko, Brandon Vera, Alistair Overeem, and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva.
Werdum can strike very effectively, has a lethal ground game, and black belts in both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo.
Since suffering his only stoppage loss ever at the hands of Junior dos Santos and being released from the UFC, Fabricio Werdum has seriously stepped up his MMA game.
He seems to be determined to show the world that the UFC letting him go was a huge mistake. He's better than ever, and ready to prove himself against any fighter in the world.
Werdum's next fight should tell us if he really belongs in the top 10. He will either rematch with Fedor Emelianenko or he will square off against Alistair Overeem for the Strikeforce Heavyweight title. If he wins his next fight, then we'll know it was no fluke.
11 wins (9 by knockout or Strikes, 2 by submission),
1 loss (submission.)
Junior dos Santos has faced and defeated more top fighters than Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez, or Shane Carwin.
He beat Fabricio Werdum by first round knockout. He beat Stephan Struve by first round knockout. He beat a comeback-obsessed Mirko Cro Cop by strikes in the third round. He beat Gilbert Yvel by first round knockout. He beat Gabriel Gonzaga by first round knockout. Ever since coming to the UFC, JDS just runs over everyone placed in front of him.
The only reasons he has not been fast tracked to a title shot:
1. Back in 2007, Joaquim Ferreira took JDS down with relative ease and submitted him by arm bar. That is Junior's only loss. That is forgivable of course, but in a division loaded with big powerful wrestlers it leaves a lot of lingering doubts about how well "Cigano" can handle them.
2. JDS is a tall guy but only weighs in at 238 lbs. He's a very small heavyweight in a division with big, scary 285 lbs monsters.
If Junior dos Santos beats Roy Nelson in their upcoming fight, expect to see JDS get a much-deserved title shot. If he can keep Roy from taking him down or better yet match him on the ground, then JDS's stock rises hugely.
12 wins (8 by strikes or knockout, 4 by submission),
1 loss (submission).
We just learned a lot about Shane Carwin tonight. First of all, he really is the most devastating and powerful striker in all of mixed martial arts. Being the first man ever to knock down Brock Lesnar was absolutely incredible to see, and it only took a couple of punches landing flush to do it.
We also learned that Shane Carwin can thwart a Brock Lesnar takedown pretty effectively. Shane was able to stuff and redirect the attempt in the first round. He probably only got taken down in the second round because he was exhausted.
Shane just learned two important lessons:
1. Don't overpursue a finish or you'll punch yourself out. Even somebody with ridiculously good cardio can't keep swinging away with reckless abandon and not gas out.
2. Mr. Carwin, we need to talk about your cardio! After finishing everyone he ever fought in the first round, Shane's cardio was never truly tested, and he never had any way to know for certain how well he would hold up.
Without Shane Carwin gassing out, the second round takedown and submission almost certainly wouldn't have happened. So now Shane Carwin knows exactly where he needs to focus his efforts: cardio, cardio, cardio!
I would love to see a rematch against Brock. Shane Carwin with some serious cardio and conditioning work stands a very, very good chance of beating Brock Lesnar, and I will say it now: Shane Carwin is still the biggest threat to Brock Lesnar on the planet.
32 wins (10 by knockout or strikes, 15 by submission, 7 by decision),
2 losses (1 by submission, 1 by TKO/Cut).
1 No Contest.
"The Last Emperor" just racked up his first ever honest to goodness real loss last week. This positions Fedor to start the climb back up to the top.
The last time we saw him absolutely dominate a fight from start to finish was two years ago against Tim Sylvia. Last week's loss was the verifcation of what a lot of Fedor's critics had been pointing out: Fedor doesn't seem as sharp or as crisp as he used to be. He's been looking more and more sloppy lately, and he paid for it with a loss last week.
The loss to Fabricio Werdum may very well have been the best thing that could happen to Fedor right now. We'll have to wait and see of course, but if I know anything about Fedor Emelianenko, he won't just lay down and die. He'll pick it up and start training harder, smarter and better.
His natural abilities are enough to be a very serious threat to absolutely any heavyweight on the planet, and he may have needed the wake-up call to truly unleash them.
Where he goes next is hard to say. If he can give up on M-1 Global co-promotion, he could go directly to the UFC. He has one fight remaining on his Strikeforce contract. A rematch with Werdum and a victory would be a great step to take prior to fighting in the UFC—the only place in the world where he can regain the title "baddest man on the planet."
Fedor shooting for anything less than that would be a huge disappointment, but he's avoided the UFC for a lot of years, so we shouldn't be surprised, whatever happens.
8 wins (7 by knockout, 1 by decision.)
Strange to see the top two fighters in the world with so few fights, but Cain Velasquez absolutely belongs here. After manhandling everyone he's ever fought and constantly improving, Cain Velasquez is a very real threat to Brock Lesnar or anyone else on the planet.
Velasquez's career has happened almost entirely inside the UFC, and he's won all six of his fights inside the octagon. The defining fights of his career were his victories over Cheick Kongo and Ben Rothwell.
On February 21, Cain did something that Mirko Cro Cop and Fedor Emelianenko both tried very hard and failed to do: Knock out Big Nog. Being the second fighter ever to knock out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira made a big splash. Doing it in the first round by knockout landed like a thunderclap.
In their upcoming fight, Cain may fall short of Lesnar in size and strength, but if Cain can survive the first two rounds, he stands a very good chance of wearing Brock out.
Cain Velasquez is a cardio machine and the longer the fight goes, the more it favors the proud Mexican-American. Without a doubt, this will be Cain's most daunting challenge ever.
5 wins (3 by strikes or by knockout, 1 by submission, 1 by decision),
1 loss (usbmission).
Brock Lesnar just faced the biggest, scariest fight of his life. After surviving a brutal pounding in round one, Brock did something that nobody expected: beat Shane Carwin by a submission hold. This was the first fight we've ever seen Brock really and truly go for a submission.
So with wins over Frank Mir, Randy Couture, and Shane Carwin, the Champion is no slouch when it comes to top-level competition. But it's not about crunching numbers and seeing how many top fighters Brock has beaten that makes him the best. Brock Lesnar has shown us that there is nobody in the world today that can beat this man, and that is what makes him No. 1.
With an iron chin, excellent cardio, a scary good wrestling arsenal, and finally the last piece we needed to see to really believe in Brock—a highly effective submissions game. We've just seen Brock get hurt very badly and recover from it. That says a lot about his durability and heart.
For anyone who is unhappy about a five-win and one loss fighter being ranked No. 1 in the world, don't worry. The big tests are going to keep coming, with Cain Velasquez up next. If victorious, Brock will then be tested by either Junior dos Santos or by Roy Nelson.
After that, who can say? Perhaps Fedor or Overeem or Werdum will come to the UFC and take a shot at beating Brock Lesnar. It's not going to be an easy road for Brock. He's going to face the most dangerous challengers in the world, and the UFC isn't pulling any punches. The longer he remains the UFC Heavyweight Champion, the more he will do to silence all doubters.
One thing that I was extremely happy to see was Brock Lesnar being humble and gracious in victory. It seems there's real hope that Brock will behave like a true champion.
In this writer's opinion, Brock Lesnar just cleared the biggest hurdle by facing his biggest threat in Shane Carwin, and he did it after recovering from diverticulitis and after a year without a fight. Brock is still somewhat raw, but he's continuing to learn and grow as a figher. I think Lesnar will break the UFC heavyweight record of two consecutive title defenses—a mark that he just tied.
Hail to the new king!