Heavyweight Problem: Can ANYONE defeat Velasquez or Dos Santos?

Posted: July 19, 2013 in Commentary/Opinion

dossantos-velasquezThe heavyweight division is always the most recognizable and marketable. With apologies to superstars of the other weight classes over the years, fans love the big guys. And that’s why Shawn Jordan (unranked, biggest win was Mike Russow) vs. Pat Barry (unranked, 4-6 UFC record) find themselves on the main card of a PPV; while #1 flyweight contender John Moraga was the Facebook curtain jerker last time out.

But I’m a little worried about the heavyweights. We might be sitting in an era where there seems to be only 2 fighters who can possibly hold the UFC belt. Two fighters are so dominant that it doesn’t appear that anyone can touch either of them. Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos are set to square off for the THIRD time already. And that’s in just 2 years.

So I’d like to take a look at some of the other possibilities in the division. Is there a chance someone—anyone—can dethrone either of these two guys? Sometimes I doubt it. Especially when you ask the question, which fighter not named Cain or Junior will hold the UFC heavyweight belt next? It’s nearly impossible to answer.

Let’s look at a few categories of fighters and see if there’s any chance of avoiding ‘Cain vs. JDS 12’ in the next couple years.

Rodrigo Nogueira, Frank Mir, Antonio Silva, Roy Nelson, Mark Hunt, Gabriel Gonzaga. Here’s a group of guys who have been around the block a few times. In fact, too many times. They’ve all been defeated at least once by either Junior or Cain recently. And to be honest, they really never showed anything that would suggest a rematch is needed. These guys are all aging gatekeepers at this point. Those types of fighters are very valuable when making up a PPV main card, but that’s not the same as trying to book a championship fight. Odds of these guys winning the belt are about the same as my chances.

Travis Browne, Stipe Miocic, Stefan Struve. These are the younger, still-evolving fighters on this list. They could certainly anchor the division of the future if everything goes perfectly for them. But how far into the future? Put it this way; they are all still so far away that we don’t even know if they’ll ever surpass their current ranking. Browne could lose badly to Overeem in his next fight. And the same could happen to Miocic, assuming he’s paired with a top level fighter next. And Struve already has his share of losses when he’s dabbled in the upper-middle tier of the division. I just don’t see how any of these guys could do enough to warrant a title shot in the near future, let alone capture the belt.

Josh Barnett, Alistair Overeem. This is the Wild Card category. Are these guys good enough to perhaps win the title? Sure. Barnett could conceivably put himself in the picture with a win over Mir at UFC 164. The same can be said of Overeem’s fight with Browne. Talent alone isn’t the whole picture with these two. Both have baggage with the UFC, and both involve drug testing. While money talks, I still can’t help but wonder how enthused Dana White will be to give either of these guys a shot at representing the UFC by holding the most coveted belt in the sport.

Daniel Cormier. On the plus side, he’s already looking for his 4th quality win in the last 2 years—assuming a desired fight with Nelson takes place. He’s also still improving as a fighter, which is scary, because he’s already great. Just getting a title shot is half the battle, and I think that also works in Cormier’s favor. One more win and he’s could be next. But here’s a problem. If Velasquez retains the title, would the two teammates even fight? It’s been suggested by both parties that the answer is no. That could potentially remove one of the only fighters from the picture who could possibly beat Cain. But if JDS wins the belt? Hmmm. Interesting.

Fabricio Werdum. How can a guy ranked in the top 3 of the division be so far off many people’s radar? It seems Werdum is the forgotten man for some reason. Sure, he was quickly and soundly defeated by Junior in the past, but that was 2008. He’s a much better fighter now. He has shown a solid standup game to go with his superb ground game. Can he stand with Junior now? Maybe not. But he might be able to content with it long enough to make it his fight. As for Cain, that’s a tough one. Werdum could be one of those guys who fall just short in every category to make that jump into elite status. Still, in my book, he’s on the shortlist.

Jon Jones. Considering the very limited number of top tier contenders, can we make this leap yet? I think so. Jones is destroying everyone at LHW so badly that he’ll eventually be forced to challenge himself some other way. The natural place to do that is to challenge another champion. Both Cain and Dos Santos are great matchups for him in a sense. If a giant like Brock Lesnar held the title, I’d say the jump might be a bad one for Jones. But Cain and Junior are both mid-size heavyweights. That gives Jones a real chance to use his own game without having to worry about getting dominated by a physical beast that’s much larger than him. If Jones enters the land of the giants sometime in 2014, there will be no reason to test himself in mid level fights. He’ll go straight to the top.

  1. […] win for Nelson however would short-circuit the whole heavyweight division. I discussed my concern for the big guys before, and losing Cormier to another division really thins out the top. On the bright side, the […]

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