2011 hasn’t been a very good year for the heavyweight division so far. It started out with a lot of promise but between the world catching up with Fedor, Cain being on the shelf, Randy Couture retiring (yet again) and Brock perhaps being out for good too a lot has changed from where we all thought things stood in 2010. Traditionally this has been MMA’s weakest division but it also seems to be the division that really grabs fan interest too, there is no denying the appeal of the big guys. I thought it would be interesting to look at who’s in the division and the questions that will hopefully be answered in the future.
Lets start with Zuffa. There is no way now to deny that this is top of the sport, 23 out of the top 25 heavyweights are either under the UFC or Strikeforce banners (according to the consensus rankings, which I will use throughout the discussion). The biggest news in heavyweight will begin once Strikeforce and the UFC are able to throw these guys in the same pot and start having "super-fights" but that could potentially still be 18+ months away. Still they are all Zuffa fighters regardless so lets look at the group at a whole.
Andrei Arlovski - No longer ranked and probably should retire. For all Arlovski’s accomplishments he still seems to of fallen short of what could have been and I don’t see him having much impact going forward.
Josh Barnett - Talk about a giant question mark. Barnett’s been around the top of the sport for a long time but his steroid issues and tendency to shoot himself in the foot with his mouth have got more attention than just how good he really is. May prove himself to be the best heavyweight in the world in 2012 or may end up embarrassing himself and the sport again in the near future, with Barnett either is a possibility.
Pat Barry - Fun to watch but doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in the sport. Sometimes I wonder if he is actually taking things seriously or if he just enjoys being a fighter and is happy to be involved.
Joey Beltran - 2 and 2 in the UFC and hasn’t shown anything that would take him to the next level.
Rob Broughton - Has two wins over James Thompson, for whatever that is worth.
Travis Browne - Lets see how he does against Struve.
Shane Carwin - The number 6 ranked fighter in the division is a very dangerous opponent, well at least in the first round, after that who knows. Still he’s only been out of the first round once in his entire career. At 36 there is no tomorrow for Carwin, it’s now or never.
Daniel Cormier - Has the amateur wrestling pedigree to really make waves in the division but at 32 years old time is against him.
Mirko Filipovic- Most likely retired but there is always the possibility for one more fight. Hasn’t been a force in the sport since 2007 much to everyone’s surprise.
Shane del Rosario - Very bright future in the sport potentially destroyed by a drunk driver.
Junior dos Santos - The number 3 ranked heavyweight may very well be the future of the division. We’ll have a better idea of that in a couple of weeks. I don’t think I’d bet against him.
Jon Olav Einemo - There has been a lot of talk about him perhaps being a future force in the sport, of course that was back in 2003. Hasn’t fought since 2006.
Fedor Emelianenko - 2010, "the greatest heavyweight in the world, he is unstoppable". 2011, "Man Fedor needs to move down to light heavyweight, he just can’t compete with the big guys". At only 34 years old two losses in a row have sent him from MMA god to being a guy many people hope goes ahead and retires soon.
Chad Griggs - The part time fighter they brought in to showcase Bobby Lashley against now has a real MMA career in the major leagues, good for him.
Dave Herman - 22 fights, only been to a decision once. May not be a guy who challenges for a UFC belt but at least the fights should be interesting.
Mark Hunt - If he hits you he may kill you but …………
Lavar Johnson - Middle of the road heavyweight with a feel good story about over coming the odds after being shot in 2009.
Sergei Kharitonov - The former Pride standout could be a force in the division again as he finally comes to the States. Has a win over Alastair Overeem.
Cheick Kongo - Who hasn’t Kongo kicked in the nuts at one time or another? Ranked 17th in the world which seems about right, dangerous gatekeeper.
Brock Lesnar - There were questions about Brock’s future in MMA before the second bout with Diverculitus. It’s very possible the sport’s biggest draw may be done for good.
Frank Mir - Words to describe Frank Mir: tough, dangerous, world champion, dick. Considering what he’s been through and come back to accomplish you really want to like the guy but then he opens him mouth and it all goes out the window. Still you should never count this guy out of any discussion of the best heavyweights in the world, he’s a legitimate top ten fighter (currently ranked 8) and at only 31 years old he may be around for a while too.
Matt Mitrione - Meathead, that lovable brain damaged scamp who made the move from NFL nobody to UFC reality show star. He did end Kimbo’s so called MMA career though, a little bit of fame and some decent skills for a guy with only 4 fights have carried him a long way(to being ranked 22 in the division).
Jeff Monson - Looks like Monson is back to the big leagues again as he recently signed with Strikeforce to face Daniel Cormier. With 53 fights under his belt you have to wonder how much time the 40 year old Monson has left in the sport. Fought in Pride’s last fight ever.
Christian Morecraft - Beat McCorkle out of the UFC, not really much more to say than that.
Roy Nelson - Hovers around the top 10 level (currently ranked 12), always dangerous and has a great personality in the sport. May be the toughest fat man in the world. More than 6 million people tuned in to see him fight Kimbo Slice on TUF. Eventually this guy is going to get a world title shot.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira - Was on retirement watch before he went out with injury for 18 months. He’s a top ten guy who’s always tough to beat it’s just that it looks like those 40 professional fights have really taken a toll, hard to believe he’s only 34 years old.
Alistair Overeem - Overrated internet fanboy creation or the savior of the entire division come to fill Fedor’s and Brock’s shoes at the same time? He’s got the entire package for both sports and entertainment now all he’s got to do is actually start fighting/beating the division’s elite fighters. Should also mention he’s a K-1 Grand prix champion and has a couple of fairly worthless MMA world title belts. If there is one man to be paying attention to in the next 18 months it’s Alistair Overeem, there is a real chance this man may become the biggest name in the sport one day.
Valentijn Overeem - Only on this list because he’s Alistair Overeem’s brother.
Brett Rogers - Serious prospect in the sport who may have been pushed too hard too soon. Looking at some of the names he’s faced it’s hard to believe he’s only had 13 fights. I really like Rogers as a fighter but man fighting Arlovski, Fedor, Overeem and Barnett in a row is a tough damn road to travel. The UFC purchase of Strikeforce may be the ticket to him getting regular fights against opponents more on his current level as opposed to being fed to a who’s who list of the sport’s stars and legends.
Aaron Rosa - Rosa has been around the sport for a while now but there isn’t anything in his record to point to him making an impact on the division in the future.
Ben Rothwell - Lot of potential but he wasn’t really going anywhere special in the UFC pre-injury. Lets see how he comes back from this very long injury layoff(anyone know when Rothwell is supposed to be back?). At worst a fringe top ten gatekeeper but there is the potential to be more than that.
Mike Russow - Russow’s won ten in a row but currently is best known for the miracle win against Duffee. His only career loss was against Sergei Kharitonov yet he’s still flying well under the radar in the heavyweight division (ranked 20th currently).
Brendan Schaub - May have a real future in the division and one of the better prospects to come off TUF in years. He’s only got 9 fights under his belt but he‘s already generating a lot of discussion. The UFC looks to be placing him as their legend killer, retiring Gonzaga and Cro Cop in his last two fights, up next is legend on the brink of retirement Big Nog at UFC 134.
Ray Sefo - Not sure why this 40 year old kickboxer is in Strikeforce. Maybe someone should book him against Mark Hunt, no worries about limited ground games being a problem there.
Antonio Silva - Bigfoot Silva announced his arrival at the top of the sport by laying a beating on Fedor so bad that it even surprised Bigfoot Silva fans. He’s big, he’s powerful, he’s well rounded and he’s only 31 years old, the division better take note.
Stefan Struve - The UFC seems to think highly of the 23 year old Struve (he’s been fighting since he was 17) but the book is still out on him.
Cain Velasquez - The division’s top dog should be back in October and has a real test on his hands. The real talk is about when will he finally face Overeem though. Hard to believe he’s only had 9 fights so far, should be a force for a long time to come.
Herschel Walker - Pretty darn good ambassador for the sport but him being a fighter is pure freakshow. Wonder if he will get a third Strikeforce bout now that Zuffa is calling the shots?
Fabricio Werdum - Wonder if Werdum sometimes feels like the Rodney Dangerfield of MMA? He’s ranked as the number 2 fighter in the world but he’s barely getting better betting odds against Overeem than Rogers is getting against Barnett. He was the first guy to take out Fedor and he did it a minute into their fight not to mention he holds a victory over Overeem from their Pride days. Can’t get no respect.
A couple of notables outside of Zuffa
Cole Konrad - Talk about pedigree, the Bellator heavyweight champion‘s amateur resume is huge. He’s 7 fights into his MMA career and ranked 18th already. Trains with Brock Lesnar’s deathclutch team. This is a guy one would think would really be going places in the sport, shame he’s boring as hell in the cage. Not sure who else Bellator is going to find for him to fight.
Pedro Rizzo - Not sure why Pedro Rizzo is still ranked, he hasn’t even fought in a year and his last fight was against Ken Shamrock. There must be some place where they are pulling rankings for the consensus calculations that has a hard on for the guy. Pedro has stated that he really wants to finish his career in the UFC but Dana has flat out said that’s not going to happen and that he hopes Rizzo finally retires.
Tim Sylvia - Talk about a cautionary tale for young fighters. In 2008 he was fighting Fedor to try and prove he was the best fighter in the world and now he can’t make 265lbs and is losing to Abe Wagner. Before the Wagner fight there was some talk of him getting back in top shape and making another serious run but you have to wonder about that now.
Todd Duffee - Man he sort of nose dived too, still he showed a ton of promise and he is only 25 years old. We might not want to completely write him off just yet. If it wasn’t for the "attitude problem" he’d probably still be fighting regularly in the UFC and climbing that ladder now.
Jon Madsen - Ok so I was surprised that Jon Madsen wasn’t listed on the UFC site under their heavyweights. Was he released or is this just another case of the UFC website sucking? He seemed to be a fighter with a lot of potential.
There are some real prospects in the division but those were covered in depth on the site a little while back:
Anyone I missed?