With Brock Lesnar’s hibernation, Roy Nelson’s contract problems, Frank Mir’s chin pube infestation, and Shane Carwin’s injury, the heavyweight division has been a bit of a mess as of late. Now it’s time to pretend I’m Joe Silva and figure out just what the hell to do with this division.
Mirko Cro Cop vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: It’s not secret that both of these guys are on the last legs of their respective careers. It’s safe to say that neither man will hold a world title again. With that in mind, both of these fighters have accomplished so much in the sport and have been responsible for so many jaw-dropping moments that they deserve an adequate send-off. That means one more opportunity to obtain relevancy, and one more big fight that will garner them giant sums of cash. So why not have them fight one another in a re-match from their legendary 2003 encounter?
The winner becomes somewhat relevant in the division and sticks around a bit longer, while the loser retires and does so at the hands of one of his respected contemporaries. This is a better alternative then being forced into retirement after getting shellacked (once again) by one of the younger world-beaters that currently inhabit the division. Plus, everyone loves some good ol’ nostalgia.
Frank Mir vs. Brendan Schaub: I’d go into a discussion about why this fight makes sense, considering the placement of both men in the current UFC rankings, but it looks like Joe Silva has already gone ahead and booked it. Schaub has some great potential at this point and, along with Stefan Struve, is one of the top prospects in the division right now, but I think Mir has too much experience for him right now, as well as a broader skill set. Schaub will put up a tough fight, but I think Mir will ultimately walk away with the W.
Brock Lesnar vs. Roy Nelson: The choice for Lesnar’s return opponent is essentially between Nelson and Shane Carwin. I don’t like Lesnar-Carwin II right now because the loser will be on a two-fight losing streak and essentially be shut out of contendership for the foreseeable future. I like Lesnar against Nelson because it’s a slightly easier fight for the former champ, in my mind, but still tough enough where it won’t be a walk through. It’s more advantageous for Lesnar to try and get a victory over a new opponent on his resume, instead of somebody he already has a win over.
If Lesnar wins, he can be immediately placed into a title eliminator or even a title fight. If Nelson pulls off the upset, a new star is born for the UFC. Plus, the war of words between Lesnar and Nelson leading up to the fight should be entertaining, at the least.
More potential match-ups after the jump.
Shane Carwin vs. Tim Sylvia: I know, I know. Tim Sylvia isn’t currently signed to the UFC and Dana White doesn’t seem all that excited about the prospect of bringing Big Tim back into the mix. But the man is currently riding a four-fight win streak (all via stoppage), albeit over mid-level opponents, and I fully expect him dominate Pedro Rizzo in his next fight in February. If Sylvia does indeed wind up victorious over The Rock, then I think the time is perfect for him to get another UFC opportunity, and there would be no better option for him than a match-up with the returning Carwin.
A win for Carwin immediately puts him back into the title mix; the same with Sylvia. This one is sure to end in a first round stoppage, and I fully expect Carwin to get his hand raised. If Sylvia loses to Rizzo or is otherwise unavailable, Ben Rothwell would be a good pick for Carwin’s return fight.
Cheick Kongo vs. Stefan Struve: I think it’s safe to say that Kongo has been unimpressive in his UFC run. Aside from a decision victory over an aging Cro Cop back in 2007, every win on Kongo’s UFC resume has been against a sub-par fighter (depending on what you think about Paul Buentello). As for Struve, the kid is on the way up and deserves a step-up in competition after his last two performances, but not such a drastic step-up that his chances for victory are minimal.
Kongo fits that description perfectly. This fight, to me, would be essentially a “put-up or shut-up” fight for the French heavyweight. A loss should send him packing as it would be clear that he is never going to rise above gatekeeper status in the UFC, which is the exact reason Gabriel Gonzaga was released a few months back. This fight would also give us a chance to see how good Struve really is, and would also tell us whether his chin is as suspect as some claim, as Kongo would be likely to land a few strikes, at the least.
Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos: If you just The read “Velasquez v. Dos Santos” and thought to yourself “Wow, what a great idea!” then congratulations for emerging from the rock you’ve been hiding under. This one is already set to go down, possibly as early as March or April.
The thing about this bout is that the UFC heavyweight title fights seem to get more important each time. Lesnar v. Mir was a huge fight at UFC 100, with Lesnar losing the first time and all. Lesnar v. Carwin was even bigger as Carwin was the undefeated top contender with all of his victories coming in the first round. Lesnar v. Velasquez was possibly even bigger than the Carwin fight, as Velasquez had tore through the division and Lesnar was coming off his come-from-behind win over The Engineer. And now Velasquez v. Dos Santos is a fight between, in my opinion, the two most accomplished heavyweights to ever fight for the UFC title.
Velasquez is 7-0 in the UFC with six stoppages, and wins over the likes of Lesnar, Nogueira, Rothwell, and Kongo. Dos Santos is 6-0 in the UFC with five stoppages, and wins over names like Cro Cop, Werdum, Nelson, Struve, and Gonzaga. Regardless of what Fedor, Overeem, or Werdum do in Strikeforce in the near future, the winner of this bout is the undisputed king of the heavyweights. Period.