Opinion: A Welcomed Heavyweight Reshuffle
By Jesse Heitz
At UFC 155, the heavyweight landscape for the UFC shifted. Junior Dos Santos, then reigning as the UFC Heavyweight Champion, was defeated by former Heavyweight Champion, Cain Velasquez in what turned out to be an exceptionally impressive five round drubbing.
Many fight fans had heralded Dos Santos as the next kingpin of his division, following in the footsteps of Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, and Jon Jones. After his succinct and unequivocal victory over Velasquez in their first fight, it seemed as if the UFC’s heavyweight division had been essentially cleared out. Sure, there were plenty of matchups to be made, but the level of talent housed by the division was poor at best. As such, few figured that any credible challenger would emerge from the shadows and upset the predictable order of things.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Cain Velasquez dominates a fighter that many had previously thought to be a near lock for being a long-term champion. Velasquez, a man whose star had risen rapidly after his sensational battering of Brock Lesnar, but had waned after his quick knockout loss to Velasquez shortly thereafter. Only a few years ago he had been considered as one of the four fighters (Lesnar, Carwin, and Dos Santos being the other two) who were to rule the UFC’s Heavyweight Division just as Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Vitor Belfort, and Tito Ortiz had ruled the Light Heavyweight Division in the early 2000s. Yet once again, Velasquez is on top, reaching the number one position in virtually all MMA heavyweight rankings.
For now, this reshuffle in the UFC Heavyweight Division’s pecking order has freshened things a little. At the very least, it has bought the UFC time to absorb the remaining talent from Strikeforce’s Heavyweight Division, particularly Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett (one can hope). It also allows for the return of Alistair Overeem from his suspension.
The UFC can now offer a few intriguing heavyweight bouts before outside reinforcements arrive to bolster the division and truly change the title picture. Without the Velasquez-led reshuffle, and with the likes of Carwin and Mir being out of action due to injury, we would have been left with the bottom portion of the UFC’s heavyweight top ten, men such as: Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, Roy “Big Country” Nelson, Stefan Struve, Mark Hunt, all challenging for the title.
Perhaps one of them could have captured the title, yet I would wager that few fight fans would say that a majority of the aforementioned fighters are ready to challenge for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. With this change in order, we’ll not only get more time to test the readiness of certain fighters, but we’ll also get the necessary additional talent to make the UFC Heavyweight Division dynamic again.