Given the complete 1 round destruction we saw back at UFC 146, it's fair to say that many are not looking at the UFC 160 main event of Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva as a massively competitive match-up. Sure, the cut in the first fight may have stopped things early, but it also didn't seem that Bigfoot had much in his arsenal to stop the Velasquez onslaught. And so why be interested in the rematch? That's a valid argument, but it ignores one very important factor.
The World Heavyweight Title.
No, not the UFC Heavyweight title - I'm talking about the REAL World Heavyweight Title. Prepare for history to be made folks, because Saturday night, at the conclusion of UFC 160, an event 16 years in the making will come to pass. The true World Heavyweight Title will finally be unified with the UFC Heavyweight title.
We're talking of course of the mythical lineal title - a boxing concept that has been adopted by MMA over the years. The idea of a lineal title is simple: to quote the esteemed Ric Flair, "to be the man, you got to beat the man", and that's the philosophy behind the lineal title. For this belt, issues of the sponsoring promotion are irrelevant - it's just a question of who beat who. So how does this relate to Velasquez vs. Bigfoot 2? Easy (well, no, not really, but indulge me...)
In the early days of MMA, it was the UFC who established the first true Heavyweight champion, and so most MMA historians date the genesis of the lineal title to the birth of the UFC Heavyweight title, taking the line through early UFC champions like Dan Severn and Mark Coleman. Where things split is 1997, when UFC Heavyweight champion Randy Couture left the promotion as champ, traveling to Japan where he lost to Enson Inoue. At that point, the UFC crowned their own champion (Bas Rutten), Inoue held the lineal title, and the two belts forever parted ways.
Inoue brought the title into the Pride 2000 Grand Prix, where it passed to Mark Kerr, Kazuyuki Fujita, and finally, GP champion Mark Coleman. Coleman dropped it to Minotauro Nogueira, who eventually lost to Fedor Emelianenko.
At this point, it should be said that there are various discrepancies in how people choose to acknowledge the path of the belt. What I laid out above is, for my money, the right path. Some choose to keep it on original UFC champion Royce Gracie (who then similarly loses it in the 2000 GP). Some opt to not consider Fujita vs. Coleman an actual match since Fujita immediately threw in the towel. But no matter how you slice it, by the demise of Pride, the world's undisputed #1 Heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko was also the true lineal champ.
Fedor brought that belt to the US, defended it in Affliction, and lost it when he jumped into Fabricio Werdum's guard. Werdum promptly lost it to Alistair Overeem by flopping like a fish, and Overeem brought it to the UFC only to lose it to Bigfoot earlier this year.
And that brings us to this weekend, where Antonio Bigfoot Silva defends the Lineal Heavyweight Title against the pretender to the throne, UFC Heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. Winner take all.
You have to think that Cain will walk away champ, but the lineal belt adds a new wrinkle. Looking at the recent history of the title you see a recurring theme - hubris. Fedor though he could waltz through the guard of Werdum. He was wrong. Werdum thought he could lay on his back and goad Reem into his game. He was wrong. Reem thought he could casually stroll through Bigfoot's punches. He was wrong. Will Cain make the same mistakes as the fallen champions before him?
Either way, this weekend is one for the record books. At long last, the true championship comes home. Be there to see it.
Before I go, a quick shout-out to the superb mjanacek, who contributed this amazing FanPost on this very topic. If you want to know why this is not only a fight for the lineal and UFC title, but also for the belts from Pride, Elite XC, Strikeforce, Dream, Pancrase, Rings, IFL, WAMMA, and many many more, check out his comprehensive post.