With the semifinals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix just days away from the US Bank arena in Cincinnati, Ohio, tournament talk is in the air.
Couple this talk with the recent signing of Brock Lesnar versus Alistair Overeem to take place on December 30, as well as the UFC heavyweight championship to be defended by Cain Velasquez against Junior dos Santos on November 12, and this evolution of events is the perfect storm for a debate regarding the top heavyweight within the UFC.
All four fighters have characteristically unique attributes. Similar in their ability to deliver powerful strikes, none of the four share a common foundation with respect to their skill-set.
Velasquez is very balanced; dos Santos is a lethal boxer; Overeem possesses excellent kick-boxing skills; and Lesnar is an avalanche of a man with freakish talent and unlimited potential.
This unique combination of four tremendously gifted mixed martial artists provides the opportunity to debate who a winner would be in a mini-tournament.
Please follow along as I dissect the matchups, the predictions for a victor and who would ultimately reign supreme as the top UFC heavyweight.
I welcome your comments.
With the recent signing of the former Strikeforce heavyweight champion and current K-1 kick-boxing champion, Alistair "The Reem" Overeem, the UFC heavyweight division became that much more interesting.
Couple "The Reem's" signing with the news that Brock Lesnar will return to action after being sidelined by his second bout of diverticulitis, and the UFC heavyweight division has re-emerged from the depths of anonymity to receive deserving publicity and talk.
A bout between these two behemoths will shatter the previous pay-per-view buy records.
Overeem, a world-class striker with tremendous strength and power possesses excellent stand-up striking skills and the ability to finish opponents with a single strike.
Winning 10 straight in the cage since 2007, the knock on "The Reem" is that he has not faced top-tier talent during his current winning streak.
Enter Brock Lesnar.
Lesnar, a one-dimensional fighter, is limited in his stand-up skills. However, his exposure on his feet is more than made up for with his incredible wrestling pedigree and his internal ferocity.
The question in this matchup is whether or not Overeem can take a page out of Cain Velasquez's play book and keep this fight standing to pick apart Lesnar on his feet.
Does Overeem possess the agility and footwork to stay away from the explosive take-down attempts? I do not believe so.
"The Reem" is a pocket striker. Which means he works his way inside on the opposition to deliver rib-crushing knee strikes and thunderous punches.
Allowing Lesnar to be in range provides the former UFC heavyweight champion the opportunity to explode at a moment's notice and execute a take-down.
Whereas Overeem was able to stifle Fabricio Werdum's repeated pathetic take-down attempts, Lesnar's strength and power allows him to drive through his opposition resulting in an explosive take-down.
On the ground, "The Reem" is an established jiu-jitsu practitioner with 19 submission victories to his credit.
Having a man the size and strength of Lesnar creates an entirely different dynamic on the ground. Lesnar can deliver suffering ground-and-pound while minimizing any opportunity for a submission.
Even though Brock Lesnar is clearly a one-dimensional fighter with limited stand-up skills and is recovering from his second bout of diverticulitis, I still believe this avalanche of a man will be able to overcome the striking prowess of Overeem and secure a TKO victory in the process.
Winner: Brock Lesnar Round 2 TKO
Truly an epic matchup, as an MMA practitioner personally, this is the heavyweight bout I have waited to witness.
Both Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos are exceptionally talented fighters. Both possess incredible stand-up skills and both are well-versed in the wrestling and jiu-jitsu games.
The current UFC heavyweight champion Velasquez may have a slight edge in movement on his feet as well as the ability to deliver a variety of strikes from all angles and all planes.
Whereas dos Santos is hands-down the best boxing heavyweight within the sport. His mastery of the sweet science is a marvel to watch as he picks apart his opposition with lethal punches and incredible combinations.
Outside of the shoulder injury, the one chink in Velasquez's armor in his past fights has been the fact that equally talented stand-up strikers, namely Cheick Kongo, have given Velasquez fits on his feet.
Kongo delivered a multitude of solid punches to the champion rocking Velasquez on a few occasions.
I realize that Kongo was able to deliver damage is an aspect of the sport, especially considering that fighters wear four ounce gloves.
But with two equally skilled fighter competing against one another, that difference may come into play.
Conversely, dos Santos has not encountered a fighter with the ability to move as well as Velasquez in the past. Like Overeem, dos Santos is a pocket striker who engages in the middle of the Octagon winning the boxing battles.
Velasquez's ability to strike and move is something that dos Santos has not encountered to date inside the UFC. And this talent of the champion may be the difference in securing a victory.
An incredibly difficult fight to predict a victor, I am going to side with the champion Velasquez in a decision victory over dos Santos.
Velasquez's movement and ability to deliver damaging strikes while remaining outside of the opposition's range should secure the champion a narrow-decision victory.
Winner: Cain Velasquez via split-decision victory
A rematch of their October 2010 bout in which Cain Velasquez destroyed Brock Lesnar at the 4:12 mark of Round 1 to secure the UFC heavyweight championship, Lesnar will be driven to avenge his previous loss.
During his title loss, Lesnar was out-classed and picked apart on his feet by Velasquez.
Delivering jaw-rattling shot and stifling repeated take-down attempts, Velasquez treated Lesnar like a pinata as he battered the former champion en route to securing the title.
A rematch between these two UFC heavyweights will result in the same fate for Lesnar.
Developing top-level striking takes years. And Lesnar has not had the time, nor the ability to enhance his stand-up game to rival that of Velasquez's.
Without the ability to divert attention away from a take-down attempt, Velasquez will once again stifle any take-down opportunity by Lesnar and keep this fight standing.
Systematically picking apart Lesnar, Velasquez will once again defeat Lesnar and successfully remain the UFC heavyweight champion.
Winner: Cain Velasquez via Round 2 TKO