Wednesday June 10, 2015– For years, The UFC Heavyweight division has been considered a thin division in comparison to other organizations such as Pride or for a short time, Strikeforce . Going back a full decade to the days when Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia played hot potato with the title, to the days of Randy Couture coming out of retirement to hold the belt until a pro wrestler could come and take it, it’s always seemed like the UFC Heavyweight Division has been short on contenders. Well I’m here to tell you that those days are over. The UFC Heavyweight Division finally has depth for years to come.
As we sit here on the eve of Fabricio Werdum challenging Cain Velasquez to determine the true owner of the Heavyweight championship, I can’t help but be giddy over the list of potential match-ups no matter who wins this Saturday. From the return of Andrei Arlovski, to the emergence of Stipe Miocic, we finally have a stockpile of sellable heavyweight fights that will bring the division to the prominence that the UFC needs it to be. You could argue that if you were to scan every division in the company, the Heavyweight division is now on the top end in terms of depth.
Should Cain Velasquez retain his title, he has two immediate challengers waiting on his doorstep in Arlovski and Stipe. Both of those fighters are ready for a title shot now, but behind them you have others such as Ben Rothwell and Allistair Overeem who are enjoying win streaks of their own; but still need one more to truly stake a claim. You also have Travis Browne, who despite recent losses to Arlovski and Werdum, is still very much in the mix as a top five heavyweight. And let’s not forget about Junior Dos Santos and Fabricio Werdum, whom both would have losses to Cain, but could fight their way back to contention while the other scenarios play out.
Should Werdum come out victorious, Heavyweight is arguably going to be the most wide-open division outside of Lightweight and Welterweight. Aside from a rematch with Cain, the same scenarios with Arlovski, Stipe, Rothwell, Overeem and Browne are still on the table, but #2 ranked Junior Dos Santos would have a much clearer path to the title, bringing his name value and entertaining style into a very intriguing rematch with Fabricio Werdum, whom JDS sent to the Underverse with an uppercut in his 2008 UFC debut.
Another area where the UFC Heavyweight division is better than most others is that they have a surplus of beatable veterans with high name value for younger fighters to make a name off of. Mark Hunt, Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, Bigfoot Silva and Josh Barnett are all well-respected veterans that are on the tail ends of great careers. Just like Travis Browne and Stipe Miocic emerged in recent years, so to will younger, more athletic heavyweights be able to climb the ladder, knocking off these veterans in a series of pass-the-torch type fights, breeding new contenders into what is now become a healthy division.
Another X-Factor into this mix are either of the current UFC Light Heavyweight Champions. Sure, Jon Jones technically not a champion, but you know what I mean. Jones has made mention in the past of going up in weight to challenge the 265 champ, and should he beat the State of New Mexico in his upcoming 2015 bout, who knows where he could end up.
For Daniel Cormier, he is still an undefeated heavyweight, who only left the division because he is the main training partner of current kingpin, Cain Velasquez. Should Cain lose to Werdum, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for DC to move back up, breathing an incredible amount of life and interest in a possible Title vs. Title fight. It worked at Wrestlemania 6, so why not here?
It’s been a long road for the 265-pound division, one that has been plagued with a lack of depth and interest for years. But now it seems as if we might be reaching its first true golden age. Enjoy it.
By: Michael Gilman @MikeyGilz