UFC 131: Brock Lesnar Sidelined by Illness, the New Top 10 MMA Heavyweights
The avalanche of a man who some believed was an impenetrable force was first de-throned by Cain Velasquez to relinquish the UFC heavyweight championship in October of 2010, and now has been sidelined by a second case of diverticulitis.
With his return to the Octagon unknown, most experts state that this bout with the intestinal disorder could place Brock on the shelf for up to one year.
What is certain, however, is that competition amongst the sport's best heavyweights will battle on.
And, Brock's absence has had a cascade effect on the sport's heavyweight division reshuffling the top 10.
With Lesnar out of the picture, the following is my list of the top 10 heavyweights across all of mixed martial arts including both the UFC and Strikeforce.
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Honorable Mention: Sergei Kharitonov
Sergei Kharitonov is a skilled veteran in the world of mixed martial arts.
Holding notable victories over Andre Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum, and Alistair Overeem, Kharitonov has fought many of the sport's best heavyweights.
Destroying a shell of his former self in Andre Arlovski during the premiere round of the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament, Kharitonov proved that he is still more than capable of competing inside the Octagon.
At an aged 30 years old, with 22 professional fights to his record, the Russian kick-boxing sensation is no longer considered a major threat within the heavyweight division.
However, careers can be resurrected with a few well-placed punches. And Kharitonov possesses the striking ability to knockout any of MMA's top heavyweights.
No. 10: Frank Mir
Prior to his motorcycle accident in 2004, Frank Mir was one of the top heavyweights within the UFC.
His return to the UFC has been a roller coaster ride of head shaking defeats, such as his first round TKO loss to Brandon Vera in 2006, and eye-popping victories, as with his upset win over Brock Lesnar in 2008.
This former UFC heavyweight champion is currently ranked the No. 6 heavyweight according to Sherdog.com.
When in shape and mentally focused, Frank Mir is extremely dangerous, especially off of his back.
Seemingly unmotivated at times, his enigmatic presence inside the Octagon still draws concerns and skepticism from his harshest critics, including myself.
No. 9: "The Hybrid" Brendan Schaub
Making a name for himself as a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter Season: Heavyweights, this one-time University of Colorado football stand-out continues to rise up the UFC heavyweight division.
With a very impressive overall MMA record of 8-1 with seven knockout victories, Schaub's skill-set evolves each and every fight.
Possessing excellent stand-up striking skills and dynamite in his hands, "The Hybrid" has added a devastating clinch-game to his arsenal and is becoming more versed in jiu-jitsu.
Bull-rushing through Mirko Cro Cop en route to a third round TKO of the Croatian superstar, Schaub has shown tremendous potential inside the Octagon and continues to develop into a formidable heavyweight capable of one day competing for the championship.
No. 8: Roy "Big Country" Nelson
Is Roy "Big Country" Nelson fat? Yes.
Does Roy Nelson look like a professional ultimate fighter? No.
Is "Big Country" fearless inside the Octagon? Yes.
Has he proven that he can stand and trade with some of the sport's best strikers? Absolutely
"Don't judge a book by his cover," should be Roy Nelson's nickname.
A man with the physique of most couch potatoes possesses tremendous power in both hands, excellent boxing skills, amazing cardiovascular endurance for someone of his physical dimensions, excellent ground game, and a very solid chin.
The paradox that exists between Roy Nelson's physique and his abilities inside the Octagon defy logic.
What is certain, however, is that Nelson's skill-set keeps him competing within every fight.
Just how high is "Big Country's" potential? No one knows. But he has proven that even fat men with mullets are extremely skilled and dangerous ultimate fighters.
No. 7: Fedor "The Last Emperor" Emelianenko
Quite possibly the world's greatest mixed martial artist for nearly a decade, Fedor "The Last Emperor" Emelianenko has lost two consecutive fights.
The former pound-for-pound king suffered his first defeat inside the Octagon in June of 2010 due to a triangle choke victory by Fabricio Werdum.
Following that stunning upset loss, Emelianenko was mauled by Antonio Silva, savagely beaten by the huge Brazilian, and bounced from the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament in February of 2011.
With back-to-back losses in the heavyweight division, Emelianenko is now considering a matchup with Dan Henderson at either light heavyweight, or a more suitable catch-weight of around 215 pounds.
With his future uncertain, as of today, "The Last Emperor" currently possesses an impressive MMA record of 31-3 as a heavyweight, justifying his seventh place position on this list.
No. 6: Shane Carwin
Quite possibly benefiting the most from Brock Lesnar's illness, Shane Carwin has catapulted back into the UFC heavyweight championship picture overnight.
Winning his first 12 MMA fights in the first round, Carwin's knockout power steam-rolled the competition en route to a UFC heavyweight championship matchup with Brock Lesnar.
Landing a series of vicious strikes to the former champion, Carwin's cardiovascular gas tank failed him and he was ultimately defeated by Lesnar in July of 2010.
Stepping in to replace Brock Lesnar at UFC 131, the victor between Carwin and Junior dos Santos will be next in line for a title shot against the current UFC heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez.
I expect tremendous fireworks between these two heavyweight strikers. For Carwin's sake, I hope that his cardiovascular conditioning is in check to survive a three round slug-fest with dos Santos.
No. 5: Antonio "Big Foot" Silva
Even with his stunning upset victory over Fedor Emelianenko during the first round of the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament, Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva continues to remain a relatively unknown as a title contender.
This black belt in jiu-jitsu, judo, and karate, Silva possesses an extremely impressive 16-2 overall MMA record with 11 knockout victories.
A huge heavyweight with excellent boxing skills, a solid chin, a very established ground game, and the ring experience to utilize all of his assets, Silva will continue to challenge the sport's top heavyweights.
Ultimately, Antonio "Big Foot" Silva will be considered one of the top heavyweights within MMA.
No. 4: "Cigano" Junior Dos Santos
In my opinion, Junior dos Santos is quickly becoming the premiere puncher in mixed martial arts.
This Brazilian has established an overall MMA record of 12-1 with eight "breath-gasping" knockout victories.
A human wrecking machine, dos Santos's boxing pedigree is an idealistic blend of perfection in training and an innate ability to strike with savage viciousness and power.
The main event at UFC 131 comprising of an epic battle between two hard-hitting heavyweights; Shane Carwin and Junior dos Santos, will be a fight in which fables are cast.
No. 3: Fabricio "Vai Cavalo" Werdum
Up until his Submission of the Decade victory over Fedor Emelianenko in June of 2010, Fabricio "Vai Cavalo" Werdum was more well-known for his Brazilian jiu-jitsu world tournament victories and his win over future Strikeforce heavyweight champion, Alistair Overeem, in May of 2006.
A wizard off his back, Werdum's recognition as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion is second to none.
His prowess as a submission grappler awards "Vai Cavalo" a tremendous advantage on the ground inside the Octagon.
With the possibility of earning two victories over Alistair Overeem, Werdum is scheduled to face the Dutch champion in the quaterfinals of the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament on June 18, 2011.
No. 2: Current Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion, Alistair Overeem
The current Strikeforce heavyweight champion, Alistair "The Demolition Man" Overeem continues to demolish any opponent who dares to stand in his way.
Attacked by MMA experts and ranked lower on many lists for his unwillingness to compete as an ultimate fighter on a consistent basis, my placement as the No. 2 heavyweight fighter will come as a surprise to many.
A tremendous physical specimen, Overeem's overwhelming strength and power has earned him dominant victories inside the cage and an aura of invincibility outside of it.
Couple this fact with his world-champion kick-boxing skills and versatility as a fighter, and the current Strikeforce heavyweight champion has very little holes in his game.
Additionally, Overeem is willing stand and trade, yet has an excellent submission game and brutal ground-and-pound.
Definitely a devastating force inside the cage, I consider Alistair Overeem the No. 2 heavyweight fighter across all of MMA.
No. 1: Current UFC Heavyweight Champion, Cain Velasquez
At 9-0 with eight knockouts, the current UFC heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez, has shown no chinks in his championship armor to date.
Manhandling each opponent who has entered the Octagon, Velasquez has defeated elite level heavyweights including Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Brock Lesnar.
A two-time NCAA wrestling champion at Arizona State, ironically, Velasquez's forte inside the cage lies with his striking ability.
A tremendous athlete with excellent balance, the current UFC heavyweight champion possesses the ability to execute kicks and punches from all angles and planes.
Sidelined with a shoulder injury for the majority of 2011, Velasquez will defend his current title against the victor of Shane Carwin-Junior dos Santos sometime in 2012.
The champion amongst champions, Cain Velasquez is truly the world's greatest heavyweight mixed martial artist.