The heavyweight division has long been the subject of derision amongst hardcore fans. A retired light heavyweight was able to easily take the UFC heavyweight strap and defend it in dominating fashion. Outside of the UFC a round and undersized fighter has been able to dominate for years, never losing even a single match. But, according to the Zuffa marketing machine and many fans, all of that has changed. We live in a new era of young, massive grapplers ready to dominate the scene for years to come. But is this really the case?
Upon closer examination, the heavyweight division isn't really ran by fighters who are near the 265 pound weight limit. Looking at the top ten, Lesnar and Carwin are massive specimens that have to cut, this is true. But this really isn't the case for the rest of the top ten. Fedor, Cain, Dos Santos, Noguiera Overeem, Werdum all come in well under the limit. Frank Mir's recent size explosion is a very recent occurrence and the jury is still out on how effective it has been. So, there are really only two massive, dominating heavyweights in the top 10. Far less than the media hype would lead you to believe.
But that's not all. People constantly question how Dos Santos will fair against the elite of the division because his take down defense and ground game is simply untested. The current school of thought is that there are simply too many skilled wrestlers at the top of the division for a striker such as Cigano to succeed. But again, how many of the top ten ranked heavyweights are truly strong wrestlers? Cain and Brock have proven to have unstoppable takedowns and ground and pound, but after that the list tapers out. Although Shane Carwin has a wrestling pedigree, he has shown none of his wrestling in the Octagon. As far as his UFC career is concerned he is a powerful striker. When broken down this way, the heavyweight division really seems to be more striking dominated. Fedor, Carwin, Dos Santos, Overeem, and even to a lesser extent Frank Mir have all proven to be dangerous strikers.
So where does this perception really come from? Why are there these prevalent myths that the division is being run by a new breed of massive wrestlers? If looked at historically, there aren't anymore elite wrestlers or weight cutting forces than there ever have been in the past. Sylvia was known for his size and Coleman was as good a wrestler as MMA has ever seen. Mark Kerr dominating the heavyweight scene years before this class of heavyweights ever evolved.
The only heavyweight that truly fits these dimensions is Brock Lesnar. His dominating run through a murderer's row of opposition in his first few fights has been THE story in the heavyweight division over the last few years. But its important to remember that it is not the only story. Dos Santos has made a similar run through the ranks utilizing striking weighing just under 240 pounds. Cain has crushed his opposition while weighing around 240. And Fedor has continued to dominate at his less than impressive stature. Only time will tell if Lesnar's size can crush this opposition, but now, in todays heavyweight climate, size is overrated.