With the news earlier that Werdum will be coaching against and fighting Big Nog on Brazil's second season of TUF, that takes out at least one viable contender (sorry, I don't see Nog ever fighting for UFC gold again in his career) for the foreseeable future. So the question I pose is; after the dust settles with Dos Santos/Cain II in December, what comes next? The obvious answer is that Overeem gets the title shot, but what then?
Welll, here is my prediction, along with some other predictions for the Heavyweight division:
-Dos Santos will beat Cain again. It may not be as quick or as pretty as the first fight, but then again, rematches never really go the way of the first fight anyways (unless your name happens to be Brian Bowles). Cain is a great wrestler with good power in his hands and a relentless gas tank, but he definitely has some stand up deficiencies that Two Saints will exploit again. That's not to say I can't see Cain winning with his combination takedowns and lethal ground and pound, I just think his holes are much bigger and leaves him more vulnerable then Dos Santos. ALSO, part of me hopes Cain loses to Dos Santos so he falls into that Rich Franklin territory and has to move down to Light Heavyweight. It'd be a tough weight cut but he is a wrestler by trade and should know how to lose the weight efficiently, and I think he could give just about anyone fits at LHW. I think he actually makes a much better transition to Light Heavyweight then Cormier would too, seeing as Cormier has had kidney problems related to weight cutting in the past.
-That being said, I think either one of these guys loses to Overeem. Overeem has the strength of forty men, and it shows in the cage. I think he could shrug off most takedown attempts by Cain by brute strength and using the cage, and Cain leaves his hands wide enough for Overeem to connect and stun him, thereby setting up a brutal finish. Meanwhile, if Dos Santos fights Overeem, it would be more of an even match up. While I do love Junior's boxing for MMA, it's just that: boxing for MMA. Overeem has a much more diverse striking arsenal and is willing to show it, especially when he doesn't fear being taken down. His liver kick on Brock was a thing of beauty, but one look at his championship run in the K-1 grand prix should tell you everything you need to know about the guys striking. He has great accuracy, very good speed for someone his size, and ridiculous KO power. Where Junior couldn't knock out Carwin and Nelson (and no disrespect to Junior, both guys are as tough as they come), I think Overeem would smash both of them into oblivion in a violent whirlwind of knees, kicks, and god knows what else. Fact of the matter is the guy is an absolute monster with one of the BEST kickboxing pedigrees in all of MMA (Not the best, but one of) and has managed to either resolve any issues he had before he was 'Ubereem' or at least make up for them in other areas in the last 5 or so years. Overeem comes back, and provided he gets his title shot, takes it from either one of these guys.
-After that, it gets murky. Personally, I think that the UFC needs to hurry up and get Cormier out of strikeforce before his best days are behind him and get him into the heavyweight title picture immediately. I don't care who he has to fight to get a shot, Cormier will get a chance at the Heavyweight strap. I also believe he beats any of these guys 9 times out of 10. Part of that is my bias as I love how he has progressed as a fighter in such a short amount of time, but it also comes down to skill. He has wrestling to go toe to toe with Cain and arguably has the striking to stand and trade with Dos Santos or Overeem. He has progressed each fight so far so there is no telling where his ceiling is striking wise. You combine those two skills along with solid cardio (he didn't look bad or too faded in the Monson or Barnett fights) and blazing speed and you have, in my opinion, the most dangerous contender at Heavyweight right now. Also, as I iterated earlier, his past history with difficulty cutting weight makes me think Cormier will stay at Heavyweight. As someone with a long history of wrestling and weigh cutting myself, I know first hand the toll it can have on your body and mind. I never dealt with anything as serious as kidney failure, but I did go through a bad potassium deficiency and passing out due to cutting too much weight. I say Cormier maybe puts on 5-10 more pounds of muscle and sticks at heavyweight where he can reign supreme.
-As for the rest of the Heavyweight division, here are a few more short predictions
Big Nog-loses to Werdum, has a few more fun fights, maybe even takes on Mir a third time. My guess is we see him retired by 2014 at the latest.
Fabricio Werdum-He fits somewhere in this title picture, I'm just not sure where. He already has a loss to 2 of the top 3 guys, and I don't think he would fare any better against Cain. I think he gets one more fight in after big nog against a legit contender and if he gets that, guy is deserving of a title shot (Although I don't think he'd win against any of the top 3 or Cormier).
Shane Carwin/Roy Nelson-Who cares? Both guys are solid gatekeepers in the UFC and it will stay that way. Carwin is all of Overeem's strength and KO power with none of his other attributes. His defensive striking deficiencies were put on display against Dos Santos, and it limits his potential as a fighter, plus he is getting up there in years. And Roy is...just Roy. He has severely underrated Jiu-Jitsu but either can't find a way or simply chooses not to implement it. He will stick around the UFC with some wins here and there, but he will never find himself in a real contender position.
Mark Hunt-While I seriously wish to see Hunt fight for the title at least, I can't realistically see him winning it. He just started taking training seriously too late in his career for it to have enough of an impact. I saw him live at UFC 135 and his armbar attempts against Rothwell almost made my head explode, but the guy has yet to run into an elite wrestler in the heavyweight division and I think when he does, he gets beat. Nonetheless, I'll still root for the Super Samoan any day of the week.
Stephan Struve-I think he will be a legitimate contender, but not for at least another year or so. His best wins are all against one dimensional fighters (barry, johnson) or prospects (miocic). He's only begun to show that he is figuring out how to use that crazy length of his, but once he really gets that down, he will be very dangerous for anybody. Also, he needs to stop taking crazy powershots to the face by letting shorter guys get inside, seriously.
Frank Mir-Mir will continue to be a fringe contender at HW, due to both his skills and durability and his good standing with the UFC brass. He could rematch Carwin if he loses to Roy or go ahead and take the original match up with Cormier. Either way, I see him sticking around the UFC for quite a while, or at least until his TRT prescription runs out.
Chieck Kongo-Will continue to knee guys in the balls as hard as he can. He seriously is one of the driving forces for UFC fighters losing their testerone way too early.
Travis Browne-His fight with bigfoot was a fluke, barring injury and with an easy recovery (hopefully), he will be back in the title talk by the end of 2013/early 2014.
Bigfoot Silva-He's a title contender, I guess? One win in the UFC over an injured prospect after 2 bad KO's doesn't really impress me all that much. I think with the right match ups he could qualify for a title fight but if it is against any of the top 4 he would lose pretty badly. Have him fight Struve in the early spring and the winner fights the winner of Nog/Werdum towards the end of the year.
Stipe Miocic-He is as solid a prospect as they come, but that fight with Struve was bad. He needs to shore up his striking and get better cardio if he wants to push into the upper echelon of Heavyweights, but I don't think it is too far outside the realm of possibility. I hope they don't match him up with Browne at first, as it could be a huge setback for either guy if he loses and both are arguably still the top 2 prospects the UFC has at HW.
Leaving a bunch of guys out I'm sure, please let me know what you guys think in the comments, always interested to hear what other fans think!