UFC 131: Junior Dos Santos Wins, Are the Days of the True Heavyweight Done?
A few years back, true heavyweights who cut weight to make the 265-pound limit usually relied on size and didn't have much skill or athleticism.
Then came a time where the athletic big man was at the forefront of the heavyweight division and many were saying a super heavyweight or cruiser weight division was necessary because a lot of guys were simply too small to compete.
Finally after UFC 131: Carwin vs Dos Santos, it appears as if the days of the true heavyweight maybe gone again.
Back in the day, a 220- to 230-pound Randy Couture was able to beat the 6'8" 265-pound Tim Silvia for the heavyweight belt.
Fedor Emelianenko another 230-pound heavyweight went on a 27-fight win streak against men who were much bigger and stronger than he.
Many of the long time MMA fans remember the days of Royce Gracie submitting guys like Ken Shamrock and Kimo Leopoldo who often times held a 50-pound weight advantage over the Brazilian.
It really was a time of the old adage that skill triumphs size and strength any day of the week in combat sports.
Then a WWE wrestler by the name of Brock Lesnar came into the UFC and the talk of a new breed of heavyweight came to the forefront of the sport.
Lesnar had a lot of skill and a ton of athleticism to go along with his size and strength. He utilized his size and NCAA division I wrestling to win the UFC heavyweight title and send Randy Couture back to the light heavyweight division to fight guys his own size.
Shane Carwin, another explosive big man with a great skill set, was knocking everybody he met in the Octagon clean out in the first round.
After Lesnar's victories over a 220-pound Couture and a 245-pound Frank Mir, many fans and media were questioning the gap between the light heavyweight division (205 pounds) and the heavyweight division (265 pounds).
The widest gap between a division after heavyweight and light heavyweight is between light heavyweight and middleweight which is only 20 pounds, a much smaller difference.
Talk of a cruiser weight division between light heavyweight and heavyweight or the addition of a super heavyweight division was running rampant at the time.
Shortly after Lesnar's comeback victory against fellow heavyweight behemoth Carwin, Lesnar lost his title in devastating fashion to the much smaller Cain Velasquez.
Velasquez used his superior speed, relentless pace and accurate striking to put Lesnar away. After that the tune changed once again—240 pounds became the ideal weight for heavyweight, the perfect mix of endurance and power.
Now that Junior Dos Santos—who stands 6'4" and weighs in at 240 pounds—put a striking clinic on the larger, but game Carwin at UFC 131 last night another undersized heavyweight is guaranteed to be holding the title for some time in the UFC as Dos Santos is slated to face Velasquez later this year.
Earlier in the night, fans also saw the return of Norwegian heavyweight Jon-Olav Einemo who tipped the scales north of 260 pounds. He fought an undersized Dave Herman who despite being a tall man at 6'5" weighed in at a meager 233 pounds—Herman won the fight by TKO in Round 2.
All this being said, does it really mean the short-lived new breed of heavyweight that began with Lesnar is already dead? Is 235 to 245 pounds the ideal fighting weight at heavyweight?
The answer to that question is that it all depends on the fighter and finding that correct fighting weight. Frank Mir ballooned himself up to the point where he was cutting weight to make the 265 pound limit, but decided to go back down a bit because he felt he lost too much speed and agility.
However, guys like Lesnar and Carwin who rely so heavily on their power probably need that extra weight and size to be able to control their opponents. Carwin lost some weight for his fight against Dos Santos and although he did look quicker it looked as if it had an impact on his wrestling.
Dos Santos was able to get up from under Carwin and get off the cage in the clinch against Carwin and maybe a Carwin that came into the Octagon at 280 pounds would have been able to hold Dos Santos down or against the cage long enough to tire the Brazilian out or work some effective ground and pound.
When Brock Lesnar came back from his first battle with diverticulitis against Carwin he had said that he barely had to cut to make 265 pounds, where as in the past he was cutting a lot more to make weight. The lighter Lesnar had his worst performances in the octagon against Carwin and Velasquez.
Let us not forget what a 285-pound Antonio Silva did to a 230-pound Fedor Emelianenko a few months ago in the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament.
Silva used his size and strength advantage to compliment his grappling skills and ultimately terrorize Emelianenko who was on the bottom leading to the doctor stoppage in round two.
Alistair Overeem, who will be competing in the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament next weekend against Fabricio Werdum, hasn't lost in a while and is also the owner of the heavyweight championship in two sports, mixed martial arts and K1 kickboxing.
Overeem is a huge man at 6'5" and at 260 pounds. He hasn't fought top competition in mixed martial arts in a while, but in K1 he has fought the best kick boxers in the world and his size and power was an asset—not a downfall in those K1 matches.
To say that there is an optimal fighting weight for the heavyweight division simply isn't true. Fighters between 230 pounds and 265 pounds can and will find success at heavyweight hence the fact that we have seen the UFC heavyweight champion go from one massive heavyweight to a smaller heavyweight and back again on multiple occasions.
The fact of the matter is that each fighter in the heavyweight division has their optimal fighting weight and in the end it isn't the size that always matters, it is the overall combination of athletic ability and skill that matters most.
There is no need for a cruiser weight division or for a super heavyweight division in the sport, the heavyweight division is the last division where fans really get to see men of different sizes compete against one another and in some cases the big man will come out on top and in others the smaller man is the victor.
Leon Horne has been contributing to Bleacher Report for three years now. He focuses mainly on mixed martial arts, but he has also written about tennis, football and hockey. Just send him a message if you want to talk sports or discuss any opportunities. You can follow him on Twitter for updates:
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