With a No. 1 contender bout already set between Brock Lesner and Alistar Overeem at UFC 141 and the eventual dissolution of the Strikeforce heavyweight division, the UFC heavyweights have never been more competitive.
While it is likely the winner of the Strikeforce Grand Prix will get a shot at the UFC belt, and with Frank Mir right on the cusp of a title shot after his third-straight win over a top-level fighter, no one is guaranteed a title shot and nothing has been written in stone.
All that said, now is a better time than ever to find out exactly who is the true No. 1 contender for the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
Some might see the Strikeforce attempt as a bust, but if anyone could pull it off it would be the UFC, given that they put on far more events and exercise much more control over matchmaking than Strikeforce ever did.
So let's take a look the way such a tournament would stack up and what eight fighters would be best suited for it.
The ever-lingering threat of injury is always present, and it always seems more likely to strike when a tournament is involved. So it would only be foolish not to have alternates in the chamber if need be.
Thankfully, the eventual UFC/Strikeforce heavyweight merger guarantees that there will be more than enough talent to fill a 16-man tournament, let alone eight (which is all we ask of here).
- Shane Del Rosario
- Antonio Silva
- Fabricio Werdum
- Sergei Kharitonov
These Strikeforce crossovers were chosen as alternates since three of them already had their chance in a tournament, and the fourth has yet to make big waves in the division.
Fortunately, though, Shane Del Rosario is young enough to be developed without the need for a gimmicky tournament (yeah, I said it) and hopefully has a bright future ahead of him.
This may seem more like a No. 1 contender bout in itself, but I find it's best to kick things off with a bang and answer two very important questions right off the bat.
First, does Frank Mir deserve another crack at the UFC title? Second, can the best Strikeforce has to offer really compete with the top dogs in the UFC?
So tell me there, is there a better way to answer those two questions in one fight? I think not, and so should you! Not to mention, both fighters would be coming off a string of wins (Joe Silva style).
Truth be told, there is no telling who will be the Strikeforce champion, but Frank Mir vs. Josh Barnett has a nice ring to it.
While Josh Barnett is the likely favorite, Daniel Comier could very well be champ by the merger. Let's also not forget about the winner of the "mystery fight" when the Grand Prix Champion competes one more time on Showtime before the division is dissolved.
Tournament or not, not fight makes more sense than this one in determining if Cain Valasquez can make a quick recovery to a title shot, or if the loser of Brock Lesnar vs. Alistar Overeem is still relevant in the division (Joe Silva style again, booya).
This fight would be a PPV headliner by itself, but add it to a card billed as part of the Ultimate Heavyweight Tournament, and Dana White can watch the dollar bills fall from the sky.
Matchmaking doesn't get much simpler than this: Shane Carwin needs a win big time, not only to get back in the mix, but also to help ensure long-term employment, and Brendan Schaub needs a big win to get back in the mix and work his way up the ladder again.
A year ago this fight would have seemed like a bad idea, but given Carwin's performance against JDS and Schaub's KO win over Cro Cop, it makes perfect sense.
Will Carwin return to his old form and use his heavy hands and superior wrestling to dominate and overwhelm Schaub in a first-round TKO? Can Schaub's chin stand up to Carwin's lunchbox hands?
Well let's hope this one happens so we can find out the answers to those questions.
By far my favorite matchup thus far is Roy Nelson vs. Chad Griggs. Neither walks away from a tough fight, and both are familiar with tournaments.
Nelson won the 207 IFL Grand Prix and inaugural IFL Heavyweight Championship as well as The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights. He scored five (T)KOs during his tenure in the now-defunct IFL and got another three on his way to win The Ultimate Fighter, including a first-round KO over Brendan Schaub.
Chad Griggs also had a short stint in the IFL, where he suffered his only career loss. Since then, he competed in two alternate bouts for the Strikeforce Heavyweight tournament. He won them both via first-round stoppage (one by TKO, one by submission) against Gianpiero Villante and Valentijn Overeem, Alistar Overeem's older brother.
But Chad Griggs is best known for his win over fromer WWE star Bobby Lashley. This is where the merger works out best in Griggs' favor. If that fight had happened in the UFC, then Griggs would be one of the biggest stars in the division instead of being punished for defeating one of their biggest cashcows and relegated to alternate bouts for the Grand Prix.
Why Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar? Because everybody loves a rubber match and so should you.
The quarterfinal win goes to Frank Mir simply because of the uncertainty of who he will face given the nature of the Strikeforce Grand Prix.
The quarterfinal win goes to Brock Lesnar because he will be reinvigorated and motivated after back-to-back losses, and he's yet to lose to the same guy twice, so he gets the edge over Valasquez.
Side note: I do not necessarily think Lesnar will lose to Overeem, as I am only stating that for the purposes of this imaginary tournament that it would workout nicely for him to have a trilogy with Frank Mir.
How did this one come to pass? Because it should have already happened, that's why.
Carwin will likely finish Schaub within 60 seconds, delivering him his third KO loss. Nelson will pull off the greatest upset of his career by KOing Chad Griggs late in the third round after falling well behind on the judges' scorecards (he's 2-5 in fights that go the distance, by the way).
Who has the better striking? Does Carwin have worse cardio than Big Country? Can Nelson's BJJ defeat Carwin's wrestling?
As if there was no way this fight was not going to happen. Lesnar vs. Mir III plays out like Lesnar vs. Mir II and Carwin vs. Nelson plays out like Shane Carwin's first 12 fights because he comes back better than ever.
I give this one to Carwin because the only way these two are ever going to have a rubber match is if they go 1-1, and that means a win for Carwin.
Carwin goes on to fight the winner of JDS vs. Overeem and win to become the baddest man on the planet. Lesnar wins one fight afterwards and then goes on to fight Carwin for the title in the aforementioned rubber match.
Frank Mir goes on another three-fight win streak before losing to Chad Griggs, who then becomes next in line for the title. Cheick Kongo complains about why he's never gotten a title shot.
Do you think any of the alternates should be in the actual tournament? Or maybe you feel Stefan Struve or Cheick Kongo got snubbed by being left out altogether.
Or perhaps, and most likely, you think the matchmaking and match outcomes were way off and you could have done it better.
Well, fortunately you can sound off below and leave a comment to let us know how you feel. Go ahead, it's free.
And that's the bottom line.