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The Final Four: The UFC Heavyweight Tournament That Has To Happen

Antonio Rodrigo NogueiraWith no return on the immediate horizon for reigning UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, it has become painfully obvious that the time is now for some some critical refinement in the UFC’s heavyweight division.

Will Lesnar return from the intestinal infection that has left UFC President Dana White publically wondering if he will ever compete again, let alone in six months like some of the more optimistic reports indicate? In a perfect world Brock returning in mid-2010 sounds fantastic, but we all know that this is no perfect world we live in, and it never hurts to plan for the worst. The worst being the very real possibility that UFC 100’s dismantlement of Frank Mir may very well have been the last time we will see Brock in action…. Period.

Of course if Lesnar can make a full recovery and gets to a point where he feels comfortable putting his health on the line once again there will be an immediate title shot waiting for him, but here’s what I feel should be done to correct the situation in the ever-important and visible heavyweight division of the UFC for the time being.

Right now we have five men that deserve consideration for a crack at the championship:

Shane Carwin was already guaranteed the next title shot so it’s hard for me to imagine him settling for anything less than an interim or tournament format championship bout in his next outing.

Cain Velasquez definitely deserves title consideration based on his recent victories over Cheick Kongo and Ben Rothwell. However, neither of those opponents justify a title fight in my mind.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is back in the mix with his recent impressive victory over Randy Couture and an upcoming showdown with Cain Velasquez.

Junior dos Santos is just as deserving at a shot at the crown as anyone with his consecutive victories over Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.

Frank Mir may be coming off of a loss, but you can’t discredit his recent demolition of Nogueira, who is also deserving of consideration.

The major problem I see with the UFC’s heavyweight division at this point in time is that you have a bunch of really talented guys, but none of which can really be considered deserving of a title shot based on their recent performances in the Octagon.

But if there is not one man that seems deserving of championship status right now, what do you do? Well I happen to think the solution is simple: You create someone that is deserving through a four man, last man standing is crowned the heavyweight king of the hill, tournament format.

The unfortunate scenario we have on our hands if we decide to go that route is that I have already previously outlined five extremely dangerous fighters who are just as deserving at a bid for the title as the next. Five guys makes no sense in a tournament format, so here’s what we do: Velasquez, Carwin, Dos Santos and Nogueira are all coming off of wins, Frank Mir is not. Combined with the fact that Mir is scheduled to face off with a temporarily irrelevant Cheick Kongo at UFC 107, Frank is going to have to wait in line right now.

With that being said, there’s no reason for the winner of Mir vs. Kongo not to be the front-runner in challenging the champion as soon as the dust has settled in the much needed tournament I’m about to recommend.

I’m sure by now you can see where I’m going with this. Thankfully Joe Silva has already locked up half of the tourney for UFC 110 when Nogueira and Velasquez will settle their differences; So the only match that remains to be made is obviously Carwin vs. Dos Santos.

The winner of Nogueira/Velasquez faces off with the winner of Carwin/Dos Santos at an event yet to be determined and what we end up with is a decisive heavyweight champion the people can believe in and get behind, and a handful of challengers with the potential to take over in the next year or two.

While it may look great on paper, don’t expect for this tournament format to be as simple of a solution as it first appears. The most notable roadblock we could face would be if both Nogueira and Dos Santos manage to pull out victories in their bouts. I find it extremely unlikely that the two longtime training partners would agree to face one another under any circumstances, regardless of what was on the line, but I could be wrong.

The two key players to keep an eye on in this big clusterfart of heavyweight confusion are going to be Carwin and Dos Santos. I’d be shocked if news of their meeting isn’t announced in the coming weeks.

29 COMMENTS
  • Dufresne says:

    Cory Brady: While it may look great on paper, don’t expect for this tournament format to be as simple of a solution as it first appears. The most notable roadblock we could face would be if both Nogueira and Dos Santos manage to pull out victories in their bouts. I find it extremely unlikely that the two longtime training partners would agree to face one another under any circumstances, regardless of what was on the line, but I could be wrong.

    I was wondering about that myself while reading this article. As much respect as I’m sure the two have for each other, I have to side with Joe Silva here and say that if they want any consideration for a title shot they have to be willing to fight their training partners. I would personally take it as a huge compliment if one of the most stacked divisions in the UFC had been cleaned out by the fighters from my gym and hopefully no bad blood would come from the matchup.
    Can you imagine the bragging rights? It’d be like the glory days of Team Quest or the Miletich Fighting System.

  • Makington says:

    I’ve been very vocal about my opinion on how when you’re in a fighting sport, you HAVE to be willing to fight anyone at anytime. Especially when the outcome of the fight has title implications. At the same time, I can see their trepidation. These are guys who are training together every single day through sweat, blood, and tears. They’ve got to be like brothers by now. I read an interview with GSP the other day that was a pretty big eye-opener to me. He said that if you had your partner on the ground and you were in the one position where if you wanted to win, you would have to drop that one elbow on his face. Having him in that position and knowing that if you hit him with your elbow, you could go so far as to cause brain damage. I can see why some fighters would be hesitant to do that to someone they know so personally.

    Even still, I believe you should be willing to fight your team mate. GSP made some good points, which made me consider it, but in the end, you’re fighting for yourself and your fans. I can see why fighters would be hesitant, but imo if you gave me the chance to become the absolute best in the world at fighting, I would punch anyone in the face for that. Furthermore, I think fighting gives you a kind of connection with someone. Take GSP’s fight against Alves for example. They went out after their fight and got drunk as hell. It didn’t exactly matter that they just tried to kill eachother. They’re men at the end of the day and they did what they had to do, and now have a very huge respect for another they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

  • PsYc0tIkDrEaM says:

    Nog and Dos Santos are friends and training partners. But I don’t mind *if both fighters get passed their opponents* seeing Dos Santos vs Mir.

  • Cory Brady says:

    PsYc0tIkDrEaM:

    Nog and Dos Santos are friends and training partners. But I don’t mind *if both fighters get passed their opponents* seeing Dos Santos vs Mir.

    But let’s just say, hypothetically speaking of course, that Junior knocks out out Mir; Then what. We’d have a situation where Nogueira took out Velasquez but Dos Santos wiped the mat with both Shane Carwin and the guy that holds the last victory over Nogueira. I’d have to say that Junior would be more deserving of the championship at that point. Let’s just imagine that Dos Santos ends up with the title first; Do we really think Nogueira wouldn’t want to fight his amigo if it meant never becoming a champion again? Something has to give at some point.

  • Dufresne says:

    PsYc0tIkDrEaM: Nog and Dos Santos are friends and training partners. But I don’t mind *if both fighters get passed their opponents* seeing Dos Santos vs Mir.

    I think that would almost be a bit disrespectful to Nogueira. It may sound cliche, but I would love to see the legendary fighter and teacher go against one of his best students and someone who could very easily be the future of the division. I love the “passing of the torch” match-ups.

    I think Dos Santos should fight the loser of the Mir v Kongo fight. That is assuming that Kongo won’t be cut by the UFC if he loses of course.

  • Angry Mike says:

    I doubt the UFC would go for it, and state athletic commissions might say no, but I’d like to see the tournament happen on the same night and at the same event rather than over the course of several different pay per views. It’d be a throwback to the old days of MMA, and the winner could legitimately say that he was the undisputed champ.

  • bigbadjohn says:

    Mir? That Nog win has a massive asterisk next to it. Nog had staph and had spent extended time in a hospital quite recently before that fight. Mir needs to worry about Kongo (who definitely isn’t a contender at this point), but match up the other 4 and let them go at it!

  • bigbadjohn says:

    But I don’t agree with stripping Lesnar, unless obv he can’t fight again.

  • Dufresne says:

    Angry Mike: I doubt the UFC would go for it, and state athletic commissions might say no, but I’d like to see the tournament happen on the same night and at the same event rather than over the course of several different pay per views.It’d be a throwback to the old days of MMA, and the winner could legitimately say that he was the undisputed champ.

    I agree completely, unfortunately the only way to get it sanctioned would be to do it overseas somewhere, and even then I don’t think the fighters or their managers would agree to multiple fights in an evening. Plus the chances of getting hurt are so high in an individual fight, I kind of doubt that the winner of each bout would be able to actually compete later that same night.

  • xtreme_machine says:

    I called this senario like a week ago

    with the exception that Kongo will win via TKO

  • bigbadjohn says:

    The more I think about it the more I don’t like it. Tournaments should be fought over a couple days, and that will not happen in the UFC. So instead you have a drawn out tourney over months which in turn is very similar to how Joe Silva’s match-making already works. A fighter’s opponent will always increase in difficulty until he has won the Belt.
    This will not be a case like Cung Le or Overeem, where the title-holder disappears for eons and their absence isn’t even correlated with an injury. This is Brock Lesnar; I would argue one of the most well known UFC fighters ever. He is a household name now. The heavyweight division is truly budding right now and exciting heavyweight matches are to be had. But this discussion is much too early, I think this idea should be considered when its been at least the 6 months as it has been optimistically projected for Brock’s return.

  • TheZoomZoomKid says:

    Mir? Really? In his last three fights he beat guy fighting his second fight, beat a guy who shouldn’t even have been fighting, and got his ass handed to him. Even Kongo has more legit reason to be on that list. At least he lost to a contender and lasted the whole fight.

  • nate says:

    dear joe silva i know your busy with the holidays so i put together a main card for you. -love nate. the ultimate fighting championships presents UFC 108: Heavy Handed featuring a heavyweight clash between two stars on a meteroic rise to the top as undefeated shane carwin looks to finish off dangerous brazilian hw junior dos santos…also in the co-main event legendary submission specialist “minotauro” noguiera looks to keep the train rolling towards a title shot after his electrifying victory over randy the natural couture. as takes on undefeated cain velasquez in a battle with title shot implications. also the only man to defeat brock lesnar; frank mir takes on cheick kongo, and two dangerous new hw strikers look to spill blood as owner of the fastest knockout ever undefeated top hw prospect todd duffee takes on the hard hitting pat barry! then witness as 6’11 stefan struve takes on tim hague. live from las vegas at the mandalay bay hotel n casino comes UFC 108: Heavy Handed live! on pay-per view.

  • danw84 says:

    I agree with that. I know I’ll get a million thumbs down for this, but I think Mir is one of the most overrated fighters in MMA. He’s so high on top 10 lists, but what has he done to deserve it? Brock was destroying him in their first fight before an extremely beginner mistake. Yeah it was a beginner mistake that reflects poorly on him, but what does that say about Mir getting as pounded as he was against a guy who gives up his leg like that? Then he beat a half dead Nog, and got absolutely manhandled by Brock again after that and wasn’t able to pull off anything without a submission being handed to him.

    I don’t like how highly regarded Mir is, but I REALLY don’t like how he talks as if he is so amazing.

  • Makington says:

    Doubts if you’ll get more than a couple thumbs downs, and those will just be from people who like Mir. The only people who really think Mir is that good are the noobie MMA fans that only have the UFC video game. He’s ranked higher than Lyoto Machida I believe, and almost as high as Silva, GSP, and Penn. I’m willing to go out on a limb here and say that most people who are really into MMA know that Mir is over-rated. I really don’t feel like going over the million reasons why but they’re all obvious, legitimate, and frequently talked about.

    Sure, I think Mir is a good fighter, and vastly improved from his early days, but he is by no means in my book a great fighter. Of course the UFC will say that Mir is one of the best heavyweights of all time, but keep in mind they also say Fedor is one of the worst heavyweights of all time. They also say Kimbo is the biggest douche in the planet and he doesn’t deserve to be in a ring yadda yadda yadda…and then they sign him and now he’s a dangerous striker who’s hungry and frightening.

    It’s all about how you spin it, kind sir.

  • Jak says:

    You might disagree and “foe” my comments, but i think Kongo has a lot higher a chance than people are giving against Mir. I actually think that fight will highlight how good Velasquez is in his demolishing of Kongo.

    That said, a secondary mini tournament should be underway as well with the winner of Buent/Stuve, Kongo/Mir, Rothwell/Cro Cop and maybe add a little Todd Duffee or Patrick Barry action into there.

    D*mn, not to mention Gonzaga….

    That’s actually a lot of decent HW’s the UFC has, maybe not the big name like Overeem, but decent none the less.

  • danw84 says:

    I’d like to see more of Duffee. I was actually at UFC 102 in Portland, and the funny thing is that I called the knockout. Unfortunately I called it on the wrong guy. My buddy and I were betting on fights with each other, just $5 per fight, and I had the guy Duffee was fighting since it was my buddy’s turn to pick. I said “Watch this, first punch KO.” Duffee runs over and KOs my guy. The people around us who didn’t know I picked the other guy for it thought I was psychic.

    Anyway the “point” of my mostly pointless story is that I’m looking forward to see what Duffee does in the near future to the other heavyweights.

  • Makington says:

    I think Kongo would be a very dangerous fighter if he took a jiu jitsu class once in a while. Of course he can take it to Mir, and I’m actually giving him decent odds to take the fight, but in all likelihood, this fight should go straight to Mir. It’s tailor made for Mir to win this one. Mir biggest strengths are Kongo’s biggest weaknesses, so much so I was confused when Kongo actually took this fight. Maybe he smartened up and has been going all out with some wrestling and jiu jitsu lessons and he wants to prove he can hang with ground guys, but this fight seems like a gift for Mir to build his reputation back up.

    Flame me if you must, but I say this everytime and I will never change my mind: Gonzaga is not nearly a great fighter. I’ve never seen someone ride the hype train for one move for so long. He knocked out Cro Cop 2 1/2 years ago, and has since lost every single fight that he stepped up in competition. Afterwards, the UFC will bring in a can to help pad his record and let them hype him again.(Sorry Cory, I know you are friends with Chris Tuscherer, but that fight ended with the nut shot) Once he beats the newcomer, he will then step up to a good fighter, and lose spectacularly. Sorry if you’re a Gonzaga fan, but he has never impressed me other than the one nice kick he landed over 2 years ago.

  • BigDave says:

    First off I want to say to hell with Interm titles, don’t want to see that shit. The touney idea you have makes good sence to me other then putting Mir anywhere near it. Mir needs to beat Kongo then fight Rothwell or struve or someone else in that second tier before sniffing a title shot again. You wont,t have to worry about Nog facing Dos antos because all do respect to Nog I think his chances of beating Cain are slim to none. I would love to see Dos Antos beat Carwin then fight Cain as i think these are the top 2 guys in the UFC HW division and it would be a war. And With any luck by summer Brock will be ready to take a beating by my boy Cain and he will be the legitimate Champ.

    Yes if you haven’t noticed i have a man crush on Cain! 😉

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    I agree that this would be what SHOULD happen but just look at some of the guys who are getting or have had a title shot in the UFC recently.
    Lesnar at HW had a record of 1-1 in the UFC and 2-1 all up.
    Couture at HW had lost his last 2 HW fights.
    Couture at 205 it was his first fight at 205 and was coming off 2 losses at HW.
    Hardy at 175 has never faced a top 10er.
    Leites, Lutter at 185 both have now been dropped from the UFC within 1 or 2 fights post title shot.
    Carwin at HW has never faced a top 10er.
    Belfort at 185 has never fought at 185 in the UFC.

    Another grudge I have with the UFC and MMA. Deserving has little to do with title shots. I would like to see people earning title shots but it wont happen ie. Lyoto= 13-0 with wins over BJ, Franklin, Thiago Silva, Ortiz, Bonnar, Heath, Hoggar, Sokadjou, Nakamura and 6-0 in the UFC before he got a shot and Lesnar =2-1 with victories over some dude and Heath Herring and 1-1 in the UFC before he got his. Money earning potential gives you title shots not your ranking and that my friends is a fact.

  • Makington says:

    I like your points, LOGIC, but you have to realize the marketing aspect of it. Lesnar and Couture both got their shots because of their cult following. Simply put, they could both lose 10 fights in a row and people will still watch them. Hardy fights at 170, which I know you know 😛 but he has fought Mike Swick, who is definitely a top 10 fighter. Other than that no brits have gotten a title shot, and with the growth of MMA in England right now, giving Hardy the shot will be absolutely huge overseas. It also shows that they don’t have to rely on just Bisping anymore, even though he’s still pretty untested. The problem with Leites is once they offered him the title shot, they had to start paying him enough for him to want the shot. Once he lost in the worst fight anyone has seen, no one will ever pay to see him fight for a title again. So now they have a fighter who they are paying more than they should, who holds no hopes for a title shot again. They needed an excuse to get rid of him, basically the same deal with Lutter (who couldn’t even make weight for his title) I would say Carwin has faced Gonzaga if I believed he was a top 10 fighter, but I don’t. That fight appeals to any casual fan because they are both behemoths of people, and everyone wants to see them slug it out. Belfort skipped ahead of Henderson and Marquardt because he has name hype, and Silva has soundly beat both other fighters. More people will pay to see Belfort than they would the other fighters.

    So casing point, I agreed with every point you made LOGIC, but the UFC is a business at the end of the day, and that’s how they will be the most successful.

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    I know but it is hard to swallow sometimes and WW is 170 I should know!?.

  • Ray Pist says:

    MIR IS GOING TO GET KTFO BY KONGO

    MIR = OVER RATED

    MIR = BAD FOR LESNAR’S LEGITIMACY AS HE ISN’T A REAL CONTENDER AT HW

    MIR = A JOKE

    MIR = WOULD GET TOOLED BY MOST OF THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER CAST

    MIR = 2 LOSSES TO WES SIMS

    SIMS = A JOKE

    MIR = A BIGGER JOKE

  • olyhighgerl2007 says:

    Didn’t Mir just loose to Brock not that long ago?? Why would he be up for title contention! But Shane Carwin and Cain sure as all hell do deserve it! Shane would be the biggest contender, he is the only guy who can actually match up with Lesnars hulking size…this would be a tough fight to see! But I would love it!

  • Jstew3785 says:

    MMA-LOGIC: I know but it is hard to swallow sometimes and WW is 170 I should know!?.

    You left yourself wide open with this one.

  • bigbadjohn says:

    what the fuck is Ray Pist talking about? look mister you better know your shit a bit better than that if you are going to go on a tangent about something. Mir has 2 wins against Sims, one by DQ and one 2nd round KO. He would absolutely wipe the floor with any of the TUF 10 guys. Overrated? yes probably. But you laid out an abysmal argument and embarrassed yourself.

    And anyone who’s read my posts knows I don’t like this guy

  • Ray Pist says:

    Your right on the sims thing I wasn’t thinking…but no he wouldn’t beat Roy Nelson, Roy would slaughter Mir by decision :)

  • Dufresne says:

    As dangerous as Mir is on the ground for a big man, we’ve seen him have major issues with good strikers before. Remember back to Brandon Vera dismantling him and think about how much larger and more powerful Kongo is.

    I’m not saying Mir will get demolished, and I actually think he has a decent chance with his much improved standup, but if he decides to box with Kongo he’s gonna wake up to with ice on his neck and the doc standing over him.

  • Nick Havok says:

    A tournament sounds like a great idea!

    But don’t they always?

    Not only do I wish this would happen, but I wish the UFC would announce it as such. They need to advertise it as a tournament and actually commit to the future matchup of the two winners.

    I mean why not? It would do nothing but bolster ratings for the upcoming PPV that the championship fight is on anyway.

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