The UFC's heavyweight division is now a freshly populated landscape. Ever since the heyday of Pride Fighting Championships, heavyweight talent has been scattered around the globe and a challenge to consolidate under one roof. After Pride closed its doors, Strikeforce wisely lured in an impressive assembly of heavies, many of which have crossed over to the Octagon.
Presently, the UFC's heavyweight roster is the deepest and most dynamic it's ever been.
Unencumbered by the complicated logistics of scheduling, organization and reality in general, I've concocted 10 match ups in the UFC heavyweight division that would be worth watching. Some might be sensible and perfectly realistic, others may not -- but each one would be the cat's pajamas.
This one pretty much sells itself. With adored legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira suffering from high mileage at the tail-end of his career, Frank Mir and Fabricio Werdum are the best heavyweight submissionists in the game. Mir debuted in the UFC back in 2001 with a 2-0 record and has toiled away for the last decade and 20 performances to establish himself as a top-5 kingpin. UFC first-timer Junior dos Santos put himself on the map by blasting Werdum out of the Octagon in 2008, but Werdum went on to cement his elite status in Strikeforce with a 4-1 pace that included an indelible upset over Fedor Emelianenko and has since notched a 2-fight roll in the UFC.
Both men are of comparable size and skill, don't come from a traditional wrestling background but still employ decent wrestling and clinch tactics, have drastically enhanced their kickboxing repertoire and boast utterly venomous grappling skills.
Nope, that's not a typo. Josh Barnett is not an official UFC fighter and just lost to rising star Daniel Cormier in the finals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, but he's unquestionably UFC caliber and one of the best heavyweights in the sport. A catch wrestling virtuoso, Barnett has polished up his striking over the years and can flat-out hang with any heavyweight alive. Roy Nelson has become better known for his rocket-fueled haymakers than his ultra-technical grappling acumen and shrugs off power punches like an annoying distraction.
Combined, these veterans flaunt 23-years of experience and 61 professional outings. Both are as rugged as they come and extremely difficult to stop, with Barnett being finished in 3 of his 6 losses and Nelson just once in 7.
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Sidelined with back surgery since losing to dos Santos in June of 2011, really, Shane Carwin versus anyone would be appreciated. The hulking leviathan has finished each of his 12 career wins with 7 TKOs and 5 submissions and threatens to overwhelm all comers with crippling boxing and powerhouse takedowns. "Big" Lavar Johnson bulldozed his way to dual 1st-round TKO wins since joining the UFC (Joey Beltran, Pat Barry) but suffered a minor setback in the form of a Stefan Struve submission in his last.
Graceful technique and fluid execution have no place here: Carwin and Johnson are large, mean, game, athletic and admirably fixated on beheading their opponents as quickly and violently as possible.
K-1 undertones abound in this stand-and-bang attraction, as both Mark Hunt and Alistair Overeem hold the vaunted credentials of K-1 World Grand Prix champions. Overeem was ushered into a title shot against dos Santos after shellacking Brock Lesnar but was flagged for elevated levels of testosterone and is unable to apply for a new license until early 2013. Hunt's loss to Sean McCorkle in his UFC debut was his 6th consecutive but the "Super Samoan" righted the ship with 3-straight wins, 2 of which were 1st-round TKOs, all of which put him back into the fan's favor.
Overeem has somewhat of an under-rated ground game and specializes in the guillotine, but scientists are looking into why Hunt has no neck what so ever. Hunt has also fine-tuned his grappling and takedown defense and, while perhaps a step down for Overeem, I see no possible way how this could turn out to be anything but exciting.
Travis Browne unveiled his lurking submission talent in his latest victory over Chad Griggs, and the 6'7" prospect remains unbeaten at 13-0 with a draw to Cheick Kongo. Antonio Silva blew through 3-straight in Strikeforce, the most noticeable of which was a big-brother beating of Emelianenko with ground and pound, but has dropped 2 in a row to stiff competition in Cormier and former UFC champion Cain Velasquez.
Sans description, here are the remaining 5 heavyweight match ups: