The man behind that smile is a bad motherfucker.
Anyway, it seems to me that with every single UFC event that goes by, there's usually some comment on how easy it is to get into the top 10 of the UFC's heavyweight division, or some other asinine remark that the top 10 of the division are a bunch of pushovers. Speaking both as a big dude and a fan of MMA, I think that a good solid look at the top ten of the division, and see exactly what it is that they all bring to the table. So, I'm going to have a look at each fighter from ten to one.
10. Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Noguiera
First off, if you don't like Big Nog, I hate you. This guy is responsible for some of the greatest comebacks in MMA, and truly does personify the phrase "never out of a fight." Skillwise, Nog is primarily known for his prowess in the Jiu Jitsu game. Though he's not the best BJJ practicioner in the world, he's incredibly crafty with his application of it. He's snapped several submissions out of nowhere, and it is downright incredible to watch. On top of that, his hands aren't bad either. He's not nearly as good with his boxing as Junior Dos Santos or Cain Velasquez, but he did stop Brendan Schaub with solid shots, and dropped Randy Couture during their bout at UFC 102. Add that to the experience of a forty fight career, and you've got Big Nog.
To be frank, I didn't expect Cormier to be in the Top 10 at this point of his career, but it's amazing what a couple of key wins can do for you. Granted, Daniel had the potential to be in the upper echelon of the division. On top of the fact that he was the captain of the 2008 Olympic wrestling team, he went to the perfect camp for a fighter like him in AKA. If not already evidenced by the success of Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, and Cain Velasquez, AKA is a great spot for a good wrestler to add every dimension to their game. We saw improvement in his stand-up when he beat up Jeff Monson for three rounds, and his flattening of Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva showcased his incredible power. Though he's a small heavyweight (5'11 with a 71" wingspan) he makes up for it with speed and skill. It's hard telling how long he'll be in the sport, but at the fact that he's about to face down Josh Barnett in the finals of the Strikeforce tournament speaks for itself.
Notable wins: Antonio Silva, Jeff Monson
8. Josh Barnett
Now known as "The Warmaster" (which gets a big wut from me because it sounds like something a Warhammer nerd would call his Ork figurine), Josh Barnett is easily the best talker in the heavyweight division. On top of that, he's also a ridiculously good grappler. Seen in his last two bouts against Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov, Barnett's catch wrestling is incredibly hard to deal with. Granted, Barnett is a fairly well rounded fighter, but it's his submission wrestling that he's known for. Out of his 31 wins, 19 of them are submissions. Unfortuantely for Josh, his biggest problem is the fact that he's pissed hot three times, so the UFC taking a chance on him after the Strikeforce tourney is in the air. Still, despite a questionable future he's earned a spot as one of the elite of the division.
7. Shane Carwin
Shane Carwin scares me. He's a six foot two monster with incredible power in his punches, on top of being a solid wrestler. Well, to be truthful his wrestling isn't as strong as others in the top ten on an offensive level. His defensive wrestling, however, is very good. In the first round of his fight with Brock Lesnar, the then champion simply was not able to get Shane to the ground. Thus, Brock was given the second worst beating of his career (third if you count the botched Shooting Star Press). Though he's currently on a two fight losing skid, he's still a big challenge for anyone else in the top ten. I mean, this is a guy who put Gonzaga's lights out with a straight that wasn't even a full power shot. It's unreal. If Carwin can come back strong and stay active, he could break the top five again.
6. Frank Mir
You see where I said "objective?" Yeah, it's getting hard for me for the next two fighters. I don't really like Frank Mir, but it's for personal reasons. Frankly, he does deserve his spot in the top ten. He's a former UFC heavyweight champion, and a former interim champion. On top of that, he's also one of the most well rounded fighters in the division. He has an incredibly aggressive style of jiu-jitsu, along with an even improving striking and takedown game. Though his boss wasn't that impressed, his victory over Roy Nelson showed all of Frank's dimensions. In a way, Mir is the dark horse of the championship race. His only big hurdles are his ego and his chin. They've both been his downfall, sometimes at the same time (see: Brock Lesnar 2, Ian Freeman). Still, if he pulls it together he could make one last run at the title. Quite frankly, if you gave him the winner of Velasquez/JDS, I'd pay money for it.
Notable wins: Minotauro Nogieura, Brock Lesnar, Tim Sylvia, Roy Nelson, Mirko Cro Cop (sorta)
5. Fabricio Werdum
I kind of scratch my head at this one. To be frank, I think that Fabricio is a top ten heavyweight. At the same time, you can make a better case for Frank Mir to be in the top 5. But, I digress. To Fabricio's credit, he has achieved great success despite having a couple of glaring weaknesses. Specifically, his takedowns could use work, as could his stand-up game. At the same time, his ground game is amazing. In fact, you don't have to look any further than his bout with Fedor to see how fantastic he is with submissions. If you go to the ground with Fabricio Werdum, you may as well file a rape charge because you're about to get fucked. He's been in some snoozers (the fight with Arlovski and the trolling of Overeem), but he generally does finish fights. I just want to see more of the trip he used on Vera.
Notable wins: Fedor Emelienenko, Alexander Emelianenko, Antonio Silva, Gabriel Gonzaga (x2), Alistair Overeem
4. Brock Lesnar
Or rather, BROOOOOOOOOOOCK (360 spin) LESSNAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRR! As some of you already know, I like Brock Lesnar quite a bit. He's an NCAA champion wrestler that comes out of the Big 10 (which is a ROUGH hill to climb), on top of just being a physical beast. I think that Seanbaby in his comedic glory actually described Lesnar best. "Brock Lesnar is a human cheat-code. He is 300 pounds of muscle and judging by the way he darts around, I don't think mass and inertia were properly explained to him." So, he's huge, strong, a great wrestler, and is also learning submissions. Stylistically, I liken him to a heavyweight version of Matt Hughes if he continues to grow. Thing is, Brock can be his own worst enemy. Yes, he doesn't have the best chin ever (in this division, he's not alone), but his biggest enemy is Brock Lesnar at points. When he becomes impatient, he becomes stupid. It's his impatience that lost him his first fight against Mir, and I think it's what lost him his fight against Velasquez. Who bum rushes Cain Velasquez? Really? Anyway, Brock is a tough guy to beat, and even though he hasn't been fighting long he is pretty impressive given his track record.
Notable wins: Randy Couture, Heath Herring, Shane Carwin, Frank Mir
3. Alistair Overeem
Undoubtedly the best heavyweight outside of the UFC (until he got signed), Alistair Overeem is a Muay Thai wrecking ball. After permanently moving up to heavyweight, he has downright starched almost anyone who has faced him. His only loss since 2007 (in MMA) is to Sergei Kharitonov, and he has finished almost everyone he has come across. He's the most recent K-1 Grand Prix champion, beating Tyrone Spong, Gokhan Saki, and then crushing Peter Aerts. On top of that, he has a solid submission game as well, being the only man to ever submit Vitor Belfort in MMA competition. Unfortunately for Alistair, he shares a weakness with his next opponent in that his chin isn't exactly the best in the world. Though his striking defense has drastically improved, he was rocked by Tyrone Spong in the Grand Prix, and was dropped by Remy Bojansky. He was also stopped by Kharitonov in a bout that saw Overeem running away from his opponent. On top of that, his wrestling is untested against the elite of the division. Still, if Overeem gets past Lesnar he's the man that either Can Velasquez or Junior Dos Santos has to face. It's not a pleasant deal for either of them, because Overeem is easily the best striker at heavyweight.
Notable wins: Fabricio Werdum, Vitor Belfort (x2), Brett Rogers, Sergei Kharitonov, Mark Hunt (does not include kickboxing)
2. Junior Dos Santos
Though he's not the best striker in the division, "Cigano" easily has the fastest hands in the division, and possibly the most powerful hands. That's saying something, considering Carwin's and Overeem's striking power. To be honest, Junior really feels like the one fighter on this list that doesn't really have a glaring weakness. He's got incredible striking, good defensive wrestling, is insanely fast for someone his size, and is very agile. He only has one loss on his record (a submission loss to Jouaqin Ferraria in 2007), but hasn't lost a single round since. Since flattening Fabricio Werdum, he's been on a tear, finishing five of his seven UFC fights, and looking incredibly dominant in the two he did not finish. Question is, will he run into a brick wall in Cain Velasquez? Either way, he's undoubtedly the second best in his division.
Notable wins: Shane Carwin, Roy Nelson, Fabricio Werdum, Gabriel Gonzaga, Mirko Cro Cop
1. Cain Velasquez
It's been said many times that it's one thing to have talent, but a completely different ballgame to have talent and a really good work ethic. I think it's that combination of talent and drive that makes Cain Velasquez who he is. Aside from being an NCAA wrestling standout, Cain is an incredibly well rounded fighter. It seems that every time he fights, he silences critics. When he fought Chieck Kongo, he proved that he could recover from big shots and had tremendous heart. Well, people said he had no power. Then, he stopped Ben Rothwell. Well, he can't handle the upper echelon of the division! He destroyed Minotauro in a way that no one had ever done. He's too small to beat Brock! He stopped Brock in one round. Cain Velasquez represents one of the most frightening combinations you can find in martial arts. Incredibly effective MMA wrestler with a ridiculous gas tank and fantastic and powerful striking. To put it simply, Cain Velasquez is a tornado. He will spin you around so fast you won't know what happened. If he can sit up on the top of this list and beat a few more of the top ten, he will have surpassed Fedor as the best heavyweight in MMA history. Frankly, I think he can do it.
So, I from looking at the USA Today/SB Nation rankings, I don't really see how Heavyweight is so much more shallow than other divisions. Granted, it's not as stacked as Welterweight or Lightweight, but it's not so shallow that a bunch of bums can just walk into the division and win the title. It's not the deepest division, but it's considerably more talent rich than it used to be. Not to mention, I'm excited to see how the up and coming prospects do as they continue to grow.
In conclusion, the idea that just anyone can be a top ten heavyweight these days is utter bullshit.
Wishing Afrozilla vs TODDUH DUFFEE had happened