What Impact Do The Recent Developments Really Have On The Heavyweight Division?
In recent weeks the UFC have treated us to multiple UFC fight nights headlined by the fighting elite of the heavyweight division. This weekend’s pay per view is topped by the bout between champion Fabricio Werdum and challenger Stipe Miocic for the undisputed belt and will have a significant impact on the rest of the division.
As of late there has been a declining interest in the rosters heaviest fighters as they have failed to produce a major breakaway star similar to that of Brock Lesnar a few years ago. Therefore it is by no means a coincidence that the matchmakers have decided to create these bouts in order to reinvigorate and kick-start the weight class. The results so far have proven to be promising and has shown that the hard hitters certainly still have the ability draw in the numbers.
On Sunday March 20th, two UFC legends went face to face as knockout artist Mark Hunt was pitted against future hall of famer Frank Mir at UFC Fight Night Brisbane. This was an inevitable matchup with both athletes competing at the highest level for a long time in the heavyweight division but had never been given a chance to square off. This was definitely a refreshing fight to see in the midst of all the rematches that had been planned especially with the second fight between Werdum and Velasquez which unfortunately did not occur.
This fight was primarily one that had been made for the fans, especially the Australian natives who supported Hunt as one of their own, however it played out extremely differently to the imagination of most of the viewers as Hunt knocked out Mir at the two minute mark of the first round. With Mark Hunt now on a 2 fight winning streak with two back to back KO victories it seems that against all odds he is making another run at the title. At 42 years of age, the “Super Samoan” has never looked better and recently signed a brand new contract with the UFC, this can only mean there is more to come from him but as for Frank Mir the future looks bleak with a failed drug test clouding his future.
Moving foward, the UFC’s debut event in Zagreb, Croatia saw former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos take on Ben Rothwell. With Ben Rothwell on a 4 fight winning streak, a rare occurrence in the heavyweight division, it seems he was headed straight for a title shot with a win over “Cigano”. Many predicted this one in favor of the American after Dos Santos was TKO’ed by Alistair Overeem in his last fight, but Junior pulled off one of the most flawless performances of his career cruising to a dominant unanimous decision victory. The undercard for Fight Night Zagreb was packed with other heavyweight action as the UFC brass attempted to integrate and establish some new talented fighters. Derrick Lewis knocked out jiu jitsu ace Gabriel Gonzaga to enter the rankings and prove himself as a contender and rising prospect Francis Ngannou continued to display his devastating punching power with a third consecutive KO/TKO. This left the division in tandem for a short while with all eyes now turned towards May 8th in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The UFC’s second European debut event of 2016 was headlined by top 5 ranked contenders, Alistair Overeem and former champion Andrei Arlovski. With both fighters having won their last four fights apart from Arlovski’s setback to Miocic, it seemed that the winner would be given the next title shot. Both fighters have been known to have suspect chins in the past and both possessed heavy hands which could have lead to either winning the fight. “The Reem” came out victorious in this battle with a front kick straight to the jaw followed by a left hook finishing Arlovski.
Matches to make after these phenomenal performances would be to pair the Super Samoan with Junior Dos Santos to determine a serious contender for the title. Elsewhere it seems highly probable that Alistair Overeem will be given his chance to fight the winner of Werdum-Miocic this weekend after a run of truly spectacular performances placed him at the top of the heap. However it is impossible to make any solid predictions at this point in time with UFC 200 approaching rapidly, which includes a big fight in former champion Cain Velasquez and #7 ranked Travis Browne that could swing the pendulum in their favor. The UFC have been successful with this strategy of matchmaking in recent months and it has proven to be effective with the heavyweight division now in full flow and a number of big match ups to be made in the future.