COMMENTARY | The UFC heavyweight division has just become the land of opportunity for some. The division currently does not lend itself to having a clear number one contender. On February 2, 2013, at UFC 156, Alistair Overeem faced off against Antonio "Big Foot" Silva. However, in an interesting turn of events, Overeem was knocked out in the third round. This was a shock to many, as Overeem was highly-touted, and a heavy favorite to win the bout.
Leading up to UFC 156, Overeem was greatly confident and highly dismissive of his 6'4", 265lb. opponent in Silva. Before the fight, Overeem stated, "…if I look at my training and what I do to my sparring partners, I should not make 'Bigfoot' Silva more than he is. He should not be a problem, but that's why it's a warm-up fight."
Given his record, it was understandable that Overeem labeled the fight between him and Silva as a "warm-up." Upon entering UFC 156, the Dutchman sported an 11-fight win streak, and hadn't lost a fight since 2007. Overeem is in his prime and has a professional record dating back to 1999. He is also the only fighter to hold three world titles consecutively (two in MMA and one in kickboxing). Bearing his 14 years of MMA experience in mind, accompanied by the accolades to boot, classifying his fight with Silva as a "warm-up" did not appear to be a tremendous overstatement. The Dutchman was even guaranteed a title shot upon his victory over Silva. Now, Overeem has lost momentum, and must accumulate a few wins before being considered for a title shot in the future.
At the same time, even though Silva ended the night with a devastating knockout over Overeem, a title shot against Velasquez is not likely. At UFC 146, Silva was badly beaten and left in a bloody heap. The loss was so one-sided that, despite his highlight reel victory over Overeem at UFC 156, he is still in need of at least one more dramatic victory to secure a rematch against Velasquez. Given that, a small number of options appear viable at this point in the meantime. The following gives light to two possible scenarios that could shape the heavyweight division and render a number one contender:
Junior dos Santos vs. Antonio "Big Foot" Silva: After dos Santos' five round thrashing at the hands of Velasquez at UFC 155, the Brazilian stated that he would return to glory and become champion again. After his loss, the former heavyweight champion stated:
"I can't wait to come back and fight again. I want to fight with him again. I won a fight. He won the other one. Now we have to have the third fight, the rematch. I'm sure everybody wants to know who is the real best. For now, he is the best, but I know people will want to see this fight again, and I can't wait."
When Velasquez originally lost his title to dos Santos via knockout at UFC on Fox 1: Velasquez vs. dos Santos, the California native fought and dominated Silva in his quest to regain the championship. Ironically, a fight between Silva and dos Santos makes sense, given that both parties lost in devastating fashion to the current heavyweight champion. This fight would solidify one of the combatants as a number one contender, while stifling the other's title contention hopes.
Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir: On April 20, 2013, at UFC on Fox 7: Henderson vs. Melendez, Cormier and Mir are set to face each other in the octagon. Cormier is the former heavyweight Grand Prix champion from Strikeforce. The Louisiana native boasts an undefeated record and is a former NCAA Division I All American wrestler. He holds wins over former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett and a knockout win over Silva.
Mir, on the other hand, is a veteran of the octagon and a two-time UFC heavyweight champion. His submission skills are bar none, having submitted the likes of UFC journeyman Cheick Kongo, and former heavyweight champions Brock Lesnar and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, respectively. Mir, 7-3 in his last 10 fights, is more than capable of submitting and handing Cormier his first loss. A victory over such a highly-praised competitor in Cormier may even lead Mir back to the division's number one contender spot. Given the stakes involved, many questions will be answered at UFC on Fox 7.
In the end, the UFC's heavyweight division is littered with a great and diverse amount of possibilities in the form of legitimate contenders. Now that Overeem's position as number one contender has been derailed, the path to the championship title has just become more readily accessible to those willing to capitalize off this tremendous opportunity.
Clinton Alexander Bullock has been a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner for many years. He has studied mixed martial arts for 12 years and has been published in the Philadelphia Sunday Sun Newspaper, Next Step Magazine, and Yahoo! News. Follow him on Facebook & Twitter @clintonbullock.