The Ultimate Fighting Championship has had an interesting few months for their heavyweight division since Randy Couture had decided to reconcile and come back to the Octagon. The four man tournament is starting to take shape after Brock Lesnar defeated Couture and Frank Mir’s historic victory over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. There are plenty of potential match-ups that could be made and we’re going to examine them.
Frank Mir vs. Brock Lesnar 2
This match isn’t a potential showdown, it is a reality. Having fought once before, this match was always going to happen again at some point. There were plenty of fans who thought that it wouldn’t happen quite this soon, but as everyone knows with MMA, anything can happen.
Brock Lesnar, in just three fights in the Octagon, has accomplished the pinnacle of the sport after his TKO victory over Randy Couture back in November. Lesnar finished Couture with punches and had pretty much controlled the fight the whole time before finishing “The Natural” to become the UFC heavyweight champion.
Frank Mir has overcome all odds after his terrible accident back in 2004 where he was told that he would never fight again. While he wasn’t terribly impressive in his first few fights back, he worked his way back submitting Antoni Hardonk and current UFC heavyweight champion, Brock Lesnar. Mir had then participated opposite Nogueira in The Ultimate Fighter. Mir then proceeded to dominate Nogueira at UFC 92, dropping him several times before finishing the Brazilian and becoming the interim UFC heavyweight champion. Mir has to be the favorite against Lesnar after defeating him once already and also having the one major skill that Lesnar hasn’t had time to polish – his jiu-jitsu. Look for this bout to happen in the spring.
Randy “The Natural “Couture vs. Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira
A showdown between these two fighters should have been the first fight back for Couture. Now that both fighters lost their last fight, this is the next logical step. While we can’t see Fedor Emelianenko against Couture any time soon, having Couture fight another highly-regarded legend like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira definitely makes sense. When asked if he would want to fight Couture at the UFC 92 post fight press conference, Nogueira seemed very eager at the prospect of fighting Randy. Couture is still one of the UFC’s top draws and would be an easy fight to promote given their name recognition, especially among hard-core fans. With Couture’s olympic-caliber wrestling and Nogueira’s phenomenal jiu-jitsu, this fight could headline any pay-per-view and still garner a lot of buys. Couture is a lot more particular about which fights interest him these days, and this is a fight that is sure to pique his interest.
Shane Carwin vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
This bout is heavily rumored to be held at UFC 96 in March. Shane Carwin is a very large heavyweight and holds some impressive credentials himself. He holds a 10-0 professional mixed martial arts record and is a two time NCAA Division II Wrestling National Runner-up and NCAA II Wrestling National Champion. Both men are pretty well-rounded and this fight could have title implications. Gabriel Gonzaga was the former number one contender and has fought some of the best heavyweights in the world including Couture and Fabricio Werdum. Gonzaga also holds a highlight reel knockout victory over Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and has recently defeated Justin McCully and Josh Hendricks. Gonzaga may hold an edge in the ground game, but Carwin has the superior wrestling. Both fighters have one-punch knockout power as well. This fight would be a good top contender fight to determine who the next challenger for the belt could be.
Cheick Kongo vs. Cain Velasquez
Cheick Kongo and Cain Velasquez could be one of the next exciting fights on the horizon. Kongo just defeated Mustapha Al-Turk at UFC 92 very convincingly and took out Dan Evensen back in August. Even though he dropped a close split decision to Heath Herring, Kongo is fairly underrated considering he also defeated former Pride superstar Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and holds an impressive 6-2 record in the UFC. Velasquez and Kongo are two of the top rising young talents in the UFC. Velasquez is a former two time All American from Arizona State University. He also hold a 4-0 record finishing all of his opponents with strikes. He currently trains out of American Kickboxing Academy with Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch. Kongo just defeated Mustapha Al-Turk at UFC 92 very convincingly and took out Dan Evensen back in August. Even though he dropped a close split decision to Heath Herring, Kongo is fairly underrated considering he also defeated former Pride superstar Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and holds an impressive 6-2 record in the UFC.
Junior dos Santos vs. Antoni Hardonk
Antoni Hardonk has had an up and down career in the UFC going 4-2 in his tenure with the promotion. Hardonk suffered back-to-back losses last year, but since has came back impressively with three straight wins. A former K-1 participant, Hardonk has very good striking and a decent ground game. He trains in Holland and has been looking very much improved in his last few performances in the UFC. Junior dos Santos shocked a lot of people back in October when he knocked out top ten heavyweight, Fabricio Werdum. After seeing Dana White’s video blog with dos Santos hitting the pads, the betting lines started to shift closing the underdog gap against Werdum. Dos Santos crushed Werdum with a nasty combination to put him away at UFC 90, thus giving him some newfound popularity. He currently holds a 7-1 record and many people are looking forward to seeing him compete again. A fight against Hardonk should be a fun stand-up affair for the fans to enjoy.
With all of the potential aforementioned match-ups, fans should have a good time watching the heavyweight division shake out. With the stable of heavyweight competitors that the UFC has, they are still missing a few big names in the puzzle, namely Fedor Emelianenko and Josh Barnett. Even if Mir ends up defeating Lesnar, or if Lesnar defeats Mir, it will be difficult to label either one of them the number one heavyweight in the world while Fedor Emelianenko is still competing. The UFC is still actively pursuing figuring out a way to bring in Emelianenko, but Affliction has him under contract. Hopefully, all of the bouts coming up will whet the fans appetite while we see if Emelianenko can be convinced to compete in the UFC.