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The Current Heavyweight Crisis

BrockSixty-five million years ago, the biggest, baddest animals on the planet were wiped out by an intergalactic pebble. Today, their top-of-the-food-chain contemporaries – the UFC heavyweight fighter – are facing their own extinction level event.

No fewer than three of the promotion’s best 265-pound bruisers have been sidelined with illnesses and injuries, placing the future of the entire weight class in jeopardy and opening the door for its chief rival to gloat a little bit.

Brock Lesnar, the musclebound monstrosity who wears his championship belt like a charm bracelet, has been hospitalized in North Dakota with an undisclosed illness. First it was thought he had H1N1, then mononucleosis, and now UFC president Dana White is hitting the panic button by saying whatever he has is “bad” and that he’s “very, very sick” and “he’s not going to be getting well anytime soon,” although White did rule out cancer and AIDS.

As a result, White has already been forced to scrap Lesnar’s title bout with undefeated top contender Shane Carwin twice, first from next Saturday’s UFC 106 main event and then from UFC 108’s main event on January 2.

But the damage doesn’t stop there.

The scheduled replacement bout for UFC 108 between heavyweights Cain Velasquez and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has also been thrown on the trash heap because Nogueira has been hospitalized with a severe staph infection that’s entered his bloodstream. And you can forget about dropping Carwin into the vacant slot opposite Velasquez because Carwin has a knee injury that will require surgery, putting him out of commission indefinitely.

Suddenly, the most dangerous division in mixed martial arts can’t even stand on its own two feet. I’m not running around screaming that the sky is falling, but the depth of the weight class has been significantly drained, at least for the foreseeable future. That’s especially bad news when you consider that big-name heavyweight bouts provide powerhouse pay-per-view numbers.

So while three of its stars are taking up space in the hospital, what does the UFC do in the interim? The obvious answer is to create an interim championship, except that Lesnar just unified the title in his last fight against Frank Mir at UFC 100 and it’s too soon to go down that road again (ask me how I feel about it in three months if Lesnar’s still on the disabled list).

Besides, who among the UFC’s current crop of 265-pounders deserves to fight for even a temporary title? The answer is none of them.

Mir is the best of the rest, but he needs to prove he can still roll with the big boys since Lesnar turned his face into luncheon meat. He’ll have that chance at UFC 107 in December when he faces Cheick Kongo, the French kickboxer who needs to learn to grapple (or at least some serious takedown and submissions defense) if he’s to ever be a threat for the title.

Nogueira protégé Junior dos Santos embarrassed the hell out of PRIDE legend Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic at UFC 103 but he’s only had three UFC fights and needs a couple of more to be considered a legitimate contender. He’ll be able to notch another win when he faces another Cro Cop killer in Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 108. Gonzaga already blew his title shot when he lost to then-champ Randy Couture at UFC 74 and he’s since lost to Carwin, so he’s a long way from being in the hunt.

Meanwhile, Cro Cop and his UFC 110 opponent Ben Rothwell are merely fighting for respect and continued employment, and former three-time champ Couture has made it clear he’s happy fighting at light heavyweight even if his clinch-and-prey win over Brandon Vera on Saturday didn’t have too many people smiling.

Of course, this would be the perfect opportunity to start integrating some of the fighters from the current all-heavyweights season of The Ultimate Fighter. The reality series is a farm team of sorts for the Big Show, after all. But as anyone who’s watched even a single episode can tell you, this season is a bust. And a belly and a beard. With perhaps one or two exceptions, none of these Biggest Loser look-alikes have a chance of winning anything more than a pie-eating contest. And before you start talking about Kimbo Slice, the former backyard brawler is plenty popular, and he’ll have his moment to shine in the UFC but he will never – I repeat, never – get a shot at the heavyweight title. There’s truth in the saying about teaching old dogs new tricks. You can get Slice to roll over, but once he’s on his back all he knows how to do is let you scratch his belly.

The timing of all of this couldn’t be worse for the UFC. Its chief rival, Strikeforce, is coming off its biggest event ever, a live network TV card headlined by the number-one-ranked T-Rex, Fedor Emelianenko, and undefeated contender Brett Rogers just over a week ago. The card also included a heavyweight showdown between former UFC fighter Fabrcio Werdum and Antonio Silva. Toss in the currently MIA heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem and up-and-comer Bobby Lashley and Strikeforce can now make a (tenuous) claim to having the best heavyweight pool in MMA. At least until Lesnar, Carwin and Nogueira are healthy.

It must be killing Dana White to lose those bragging rights, not that he’ll ever admit it. But the moment he re-signs former champs Andrei Arlovski or Tim Sylvia we might want to consider watching the skies for falling rocks.

  • joshuawood says:

    They need to be creative then: Anderson Silva vs Cain Velasquez for the interim title. No one can say they aren’t worthy of the shot. How many of you would pay to see?

  • Kuch says:

    I expect Lesnar to be back if it is at all possible. I guess we’ll all find out how long he’ll be out when they finally disclose what is wrong with him.

    Big Nog will be back, but probably not until this spring and after he buys some bleach for the BlackHouse mats.

    Carwin needed this knee surgery for a while and only scheduled it because his fight with Lesnar was put on indefinite hold. He’ll be back.

    This is the chance for Dos Santos and Velasquez to establish themselves as the top guys. Guys like Todd Duffee also have the chance to step up. I guess the UFC could re-sign Sylvia and Arlovski, but I don’t think they need to.

    While the UFC should be taking this situation seriously, the sky isn’t falling. There is plenty of talent available for them; the UFC will just have to sell that talent to the fans and hope it creates PPV buys. Things will be tough but not impossible. I just hope everyone gets healthy again.

  • fanoftna33 says:

    I think a interim title would be a great idea if the ufc ginds out how long Brock will be out and its going to be more than 6 months. If so they can match the winner of Mir vs Kongo vs the winner of Dos Santos vs Gonzaga, the winner of thoes fights gets the Interim belt and defends against Carwin (if healthy ) first with Brock getting a shot when he returns.
    The Irony here would be if Mir won the interim belt a second time, he would be the only fighter in history to be a one time HW champ and two time interim champ, while only losing one title fight.

  • Mir vs. Kongo could go either way. But I don’t think they are top on the list.

    But Dos Santos should beat Gonzaga.

    Dos Santos vs. Cain should be the way to go.

    No need for an Interim Championship yet unless Brock really can’t come back this year.

    I mean just look at Overeem, he did not fight for over a year and there are still no Interim Champion in Strikeforce.

  • blackPlague says:

    Yes, Overeem has not fought for over a year and its aboslutely rediculous that Strikeforce hasnt had an interim championship fight.

    Championship fights sell tickets. Even interim championship fights.

    There is no way UFC will go a year with no Heavyweight Championship fights. They may not be the best in the world, but when the best in the world are out for long periods of time, bring in the second string. Its better than none…

  • moosebaby02 says:

    and everyone has been killing SF for not stripping Overeem of it now for the better part of the year so UFC lets not go there unless you really have to. If Brock is out for 2010 then why not start a HW semi tourny looking for a shot at Carwin (being back to training hopfully by June/July). Winner of the tourny vs Carwin could hold the #1 spot untill Brock comes back ooorrr the interm belt shitty as it will be

  • Vogairian says:

    Yes, Brock and Nogueira are down and out, but Carwin apparently is able to start training in about three weeks (According to his Twitter), so he should be fine in the near future. Both HW’s divisions are pretty thin, especially with Fedor being down for four to six months. The UFC still has Gonzaga, Mir, Kongo, Dos Santos, and Cain to figure out who should be fighting Carwin for the Interim. Right now both companies are in a place where their champion is down or mia.

  • JOEgun says:

    This sucks. The UFC heavyweight division looks talent drained now. I hope they all fully recover soon as possible. Is Todd Dufee injured too? I guess the only 2 interesting heavyweight matchups happening in the near future are Mir vs Kongo and Dos Santos vs Gonzaga. Not much after that

  • fanoftna33 says:

    It looks like Dufee was to be be facing Paul Buentello at 107, but he is off the card due to “big surprise” injury.

  • Rockey 47 says:

    What are you talking aboun fan33?? ” winner of Mir vs Kongo vs the winner of Dos Santos vs Gonzaga, the winner of thoes fights gets the Interim belt and defends against Carwin (if healthy ) first with Brock getting a shot when he returns.” whats kongo done to deserve that apart from get destroyed by cain valesquez. Cain should defo be in there, and if that happened i have no doubt Cain would win it, and if he did I wouldnt be too confident about Brock getting it back from him either.

  • Connor Cobain says:

    This is very sad. But what im thinking is a possible solution, get Heath Hearings big ass back in there, get both Arlovski and Sylvia back, and dont fire Cro Cop or Rothwell, and you should be good.

  • ozz_the_powerful says:

    I for one, like the idea of getting Arlovski back.

    He was on a 5 fight win streak when he left the UFC. You can’t hold the last 2 looses against him though. Yeah, they were both KO’s, with one being from the same guy that shattered Fedor’s nose, but those shots would have KO’s ANYONE.

    I vote for Andrei

  • ozz_the_powerful says:

    Edit: 3 fight win streak.

    2 came after. Sorry

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    Don’t count out Gonzaga.


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