When people think of UFC heavyweights, a few names automatically come to mind.
You have true threats like Roy "Big Country" Nelson, experienced veterans like Frank Mir, and then there's the unofficial gatekeeper Gabriel Gonzaga.
Without a doubt, though, the division has grown, and at the top of the heap are four fighters whose names are cemented in the minds of aspiring competition, whose records are near perfect and whose power has all too frequently gone unmatched.
These "four horsemen" are Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, and Shane Carwin.
Eventually, these men will face one another at least once. Lesnar has already faced Carwin, and after outlasting the power of a tornado, Lesnar submitted him in probably the biggest come-from-behind fight this year. Next up, Lesnar vs. Velasquez.
There are a number of variations that we can see with these four fighters, all equally as exciting. There's Lesnar vs. dos Santos, Velasquez vs. dos Santos, Carwin vs. dos Santos and Carwin vs. Velasquez.
The difficulty with these fighters is that no outsiders in the UFC have beaten them, short of Mir submitting Lesnar, before getting a massive beatdown in their rematch, which fully redeemed Lesnar in the eyes of everyone watching.
A short summary of the fighters is listed below:
Brock Lesnar (5-1); 6'3" 265 lbs
Current heavyweight champion; only loss is to Mir by way of submission.
Cain Velasquez (8-0); 6'1" 243 lbs
Undefeated; facing Lesnar at UFC 121 for heavyweight championship.
Junior dos Santos (12-1); 6'4" 240 lbs
Only loss is to Joaquim Ferreira, whom dos Santos had beaten earlier that same year; No. 1 contender for the winner of the heavyweight championship match between Lesnar and Velasquez.
Shane Carwin (12-1); 6'2" 265 lbs
Only loss is to Lesnar by way of submission; all fights have been by finish.
So out of these fighters, who will prevail in being the most successful one?
We will eventually know, as each fighter is pretty much guaranteed to face the other at one time or another. As far as predictions can go, though, it may be too soon to tell for Velasquez, dos Santos and even Carwin, despite his loss to Lesnar.
Lesnar has passed his first test by taking a severe beating from Carwin and coming back for the win, so probability is in his favor thus far.
Will Velasquez be able to duplicate the beating with a bigger gas tank while avoiding Lesnar's size and power advantage on the ground? We'll know very soon.
If Lesnar wins, he will only have dos Santos to face, and the odds will definitely be on his side after surviving Carwin's offense and if he survives Velasquez's striking. At least for now, Lesnar has the best chance at being the most successful of the four horsemen due to his win over one of the others.
That's not to discount what the others offer, and if Carwin can make a rebound after his recent loss, Lesnar vs. Carwin II is something we would all eventually love to see.
One can expect fireworks in all scenarios, especially with the heavy-handed strikers Carwin and dos Santos. Not discounting Velasquez or even Lesnar, but Carwin and dos Santos have racked up the most consecutive knockouts amid the others.
In the heavyweight division, time will be our friend. Think about it: if dos Santos, Velasquez, Carwin and Lesnar were in four different MMA organizations, the speculation would be paramount and we would likely never get to see these matches.
In a world where the frequently-esteemed "king of MMA" and his management refuses to branch out, where champs in other organizations who have proved themselves in a tournament format will likely never cross over into the UFC, and where weight classes keep some of the best in the world facing each other, we still have the UFC heavyweight division.
The point is that any combination of the aforementioned heavyweight fighters is, essentially, a dream match. And given the unexpected course of the biggest heavyweight fight of 2010, we will likely see ups and downs along the way, making for a great time in determining who truly is the best amongst them.
"And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him."