Last night’s UFC 146 marked the beginning of the most interesting time for the UFC’s heavyweight division because for the first time in the organization’s history all the best big boys resided under their control.
In the heyday of the Pride-versus-UFC rivalry most of the top heavyweight stars resided on the roster of the Japan-based organization and when they folded organization’s with more money than sense like Affliction and Bodog dove head first into the MMA game snatching up some of the notables.
As we near the middle of 2012 UFC has cherry picked the combatants that they want from the Strikeforce heavyweight-ranks and it was made most evident the depth and interest of the division with their all-heavyweight card.
As I always do I’ll take a look at the evening’s matches and do a little mixing and matching to see where each of these five winners should go from here.
Junior dos Santos & Cain Velasquez
On the back of their highlight-reel performances coupled with their highly publicized first outing it seems like a no brainer that Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez should meet again in the eight-sided cage.
Dos Santos successfully defended his heavyweight crown defeating two-time former title-holder Frank Mir who was outgunned by the Brazilian power-puncher – Moments into their main event clash it was clear that he could not get him off his feet and it was going to be a long night for the Nevada native.
The 27-year-old Brazilian was on the offence the entire fight landing fast, powerful and precise boxing that proved to be too much for Mir who didn’t even know what venue he was in after the conclusion of the opening round.
Velasquez made a statement with his beating of Cain Velasquez that looked like it was fresh out of the latest season of Dexter – In one of the most violent acts I’ve seen in the UFC’s famed octagon the American Kickboxing Academy standout wasted no time getting this fight to the floor and the onslaught began.
Velasquez soon busted the forehead open of “Big Foot” with a vicious elbow before continuing to punish him on the ground, when all was said and done his upper-body was soaked in his opponent’s blood and he made it clear that he wanted his belt back.
Right now, this is the fight that makes sense for the heavyweight division – With Alistair Overeem’s future covered with a cloud of suspicion and Daniel Cormier stranded on a dessert island all alone in Strikeforce it’s time for the two best in the division to meet again.
Roy Nelson is one of the most popular fighters on the UFC roster and the capacity crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena erupted for the big-bellied winner of The Ultimate Fighter as he returned to his winning ways.
Nelson has proven to be one of the most durable fighters on the roster, withstanding the full-force of the divisional king Junior dos Santos so nothing Dave Herman threw his way phased him as he lined up a powerful overhand-right that folded up Herman like an accordion to hand him his second-straight loss.
Nelson is an interesting fighter, there Isn’t really one right opponent to pair him with – At this stage it’s clear when he meets the top of the weight-class he gets a world-class beating put on him so he essentially assumes a gatekeeper to the stars role at this point.
Setting him up with Mark Hunt would be a good move at this point – The former K-1 World Grand Prix champion suffered a knee injury that forced him off this card but he is aiming to be back in the cage shortly, Nelson would be a great test.
In the longest fight of the main card, Miocic dispatched of unbeaten Strikeforce veteran Shane Del Rosario in the second frame.
Del Rosario opened the fight early showing off his muay-thai skills in the opening frame before the Croatian wisely took the fight to the floor where he had a clear advantage on his opponent who was clearly fatigued after an active opening frame.
The second round was all one-way traffic as he employed a top-heavy game throwing some vicious ground-and-pound that left the former kickboxer a bloodied mess to close out the bout.
It’s clear that he has a lot of holes in his game at this point and is far from being a player in the division but at this stage cage-time is what he needs to just pairing him with a winning heavyweight is fine, Shawn Jordan would probably be appropriate at this point.
In a throwback to the early days of the organization’s history, we had a traditional striker-versus-grappler match – It was clear that if Struve had a firefight with Johnson he would be put to sleep, luckily he didn’t do that.
The 24-year-old “Skyscraper” wasted no time and gave his opponent no time to find his range and start unloading with those powerful fists that have put kept him unbeaten in the UFC heavyweight division but we all knew his biggest flaw was his submission game and within seconds of Struve pulling guard he forced the tap.
That makes it three-straight for Struve and a respectable 8-3 record in the UFC so matching him with some fringe top-ten fighters is appropriate, possibly the winner of Travis Browne and Ben Rothwell.
Both would be real tests for Struve as he continues to improve his game despite having a lot of young on his side, plus Browne already holds a win over him which I’m sure he’d like to avenge.
Those are my selections as we look forward into the future of the UFC’s improving heavyweight landscape – Throw a comment down or harass me on twitter when you become enraged at how much you disagree with my selections.