Since winning the UFC Heavyweight title on May 14, 2016 at UFC 198, Stipe Miocic has defended the title two times. However, Miocic last fought on May 13, 2017 at UFC 211 and is not scheduled to fight again this year. That’s a problem, especially considering the UFC Heavyweight division has been moving at a snails pace for the pace three years. The once “Golden Child” division, seemingly has lost it’s luster. It could be due to Brock Lesnar leaving the UFC or even Cain Velasquez’s broken down body, but how can we get behind a division that puts out a title fight once or at the very most twice a year?
I could rant about this issue until I’m blue in the face, but I’ll just get to the point. How do we solve this problem in the UFC Heavyweight division? We’ll before I do that, let’s first see what upcoming fights are already booked, along with their significance.
Alistair Overeem vs. Francis Ngannou (December 2, 2017 – UFC 218)
– Clearly a number one contenders fight, as Cain Velasquez’s recovery from an injury opens the doors for one of these men to contend for the title. Overeem looks to add his third consecutive victory since being defeated by Stipe Miocic in a title fight back at UFC 203. A rematch would definitely be warranted if he can get by Ngannou.
However, that won’t be an easy feat, as the one they call the “Predator” has been feasting on foes in the UFC Heavyweight division. Ngannou, who many claim to be a future Champion has already had five fights in the UFC in less than two years. Those five fights resulted in five victories, all via finish. Ngannou has been in the octagon for just under 23 minutes and is a victory away from contending for the belt. Crazy!
Fabricio Werdum vs. Marcin Tybura (November 19, 2017 – UFC Fight Night 121)
– Originally Marcin Tybura was scheduled to fight Mark Hunt, which was a huge profile fight and a chance to crack the top five in the UFC rankings. However, Hunt was removed from the card, stemming from an interview where Hunt revealed to have some concerning health issues. Without an opponent, Tybura couldn’t of possibly thought that the former UFC Heavyweight Champion Fabrico Werdum would step up. Well Werdum did.
In terms of implications, for Werdum, a defeat would be a huge setback in his run to a title shot. A victory though would be two in a row and I could very well see Werdum fighting in a number one contenders fight against Cain Velasquez. As for Tybura, a victory would instantly catapult him into the top five of the division. A defeat doesn’t hurt his stock, as it’s against a former UFC Heavyweight Champion and current contender.
Given that there are only a few significant fights booked is problematic. Throw in the fact that three top contenders have been flagged by USADA and there’s not much to work with. The UFC Heavyweight division is in flux and perhaps an Ultimate Fighter featuring Heavyweights could help. That, or just attempting to sign a Vitaly Minakov, Blagoy Ivanov, Sergey Pavlovich, Ivan Shtyrkov, Amir Aliakbari, Michal Andryszak, Zelimkhan Umiev, etc… As you can see, there’s plenty of talent out there.
Anyways, even with the shallow roster, there’s fights to make and names to build. So let’s get to it…
Cain Velasquez vs. Winner of Fabricio Werdum vs. Marcin Tybura
– With Velasquez recovering from yet another injury, it wouldn’t make sense for him to get a title shot upon his return. Also, clearly the winner of Alistair Overeem vs. Francis Ngannou is more than deserving of that shot and should be treated as a title eliminator. As for Velasquez, the most logical fight would be a number one contenders bout against the winner of Fabricio Werdum and Marcin Tybura. Obviously the money fight would be a rematch against Werdum, but Tybura definitely could be catapulted into this opportunity if he can emphatically defeat Werdum on November 19, 2017.
Mark Hunt vs. Alexander Volkov
– As long as the Mark Hunt saga is cleared, then this fight makes a lot of sense. Hunt is 3-1 with one no contest in his last five fights and is coming off a TKO victory over Derrick Lewis. Volkov, has stringed together five consecutive victories, three of which have come in the UFC. Notable wins over Roy Nelson and Stefan Struve have catapulted him for an opportunity at a top five ranked fighter. Mark Hunt is that guy.
Derrick Lewis vs. Stefan Struve
– As long as Derrick Lewis can sort out his back issues, whether it requires an extended period of rest or to go under the knife, then this would be the fight to make. Struve is coming off a loss to Alexander Volkov, which halted a two-fight win streak. In that fight against Volkov, Struve showed solid striking and his chin held up for the most part. It was more or less the pace of the fight and cardio that was his downfall. As for Lewis, this would be a good opportunity to build back the momentum that Mark Hunt stopped. A win over Struve adds another name to the resume and puts Lewis back in the mix.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Winner of Shamil Abdurakhimov vs. Chase Sherman
– I’m very interested in the rise of Curtis Blaydes. At 26 years old, he’s exactly the influx of young talent I want in the Heavyweight division. However, I believe it’s imperative to build him up slowly. He’s only fought professionally ten times, with his only blemish coming to a monster among men, Francis Ngannou. The winner of Abdurakhimov and Sherman offers two contrasting styles that would test Blaydes. Abdurakhimov is a talented wrestler, while Sherman has showed each fight an impressive striking game. Either way, the winner should be paired up with Blaydes, with the victor of this bout earning themselves a bout against a top ten foe.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Justin Ledet
– After losing five consecutive fights, it had seemed like Arlovski perhaps had finally reached the end of an illustrious career. However, Arlovski took a fight against the younger and talented Junior Albini. With the odds against him and his career on the line, Arlovski put on a striking clinic and earned a clear unanimous decision victory. Up next, another young lion in Justin Ledet. With a perfect 9-0 record, Ledet looks like the real deal. With wins in the UFC over Chase Sherman, Mark Godbeer and Azunna Anyanwu, it’s time for a step up in competition. Arlovski would be perfect and stylistically this would be a striking contest that would please the fans.
Alexey Oliynyk vs. Timothy Johnson
– Oliynyk was starting to build momentum with two straight victories, the last coming against former contender Travis Browne. However, a recent fight against Curtis Blaydes put that momentum to rest, as Oliynyk was defeated by TKO. As for Johnson, he too was most recently defeated by a young buck in Junior Albini. The debuting Albini only needed the first round to finish Johnson via strikes, which had never happened to the 15-fight veteran before. With men coming off losses, as well as being ranked among the top fifteen Heavyweights, this fight makes sense. Stylistically it’s fun too, as both men are down right gritty.
Walt Harris vs. Junior Albini
– Although Walt Harris was disqualified in his last fight against Mark Godbeer, it had appeared to me that he was winning and starting to get into a grove. However, I’m not trying to see that rematch right away, so a fight against Albini will have to do. Both men have an opportunity to get back in the win column and the fans win, as both men are strikers.
Travis Browne vs. Winner of Anthony Hamilton vs. Adam Wieczorek
– I’m unsure of the status of Browne, but it’s really a shame to see talent wasted. I really thought he was a sure bet to be a Champion or at least fight in a Championship bout. Instead, he’s been a major disappointment and this four-fight losing streak is very concerning. If he still wants to give it a go, it would be in the UFC’s best interest to build him back up. The winner of Anthony Hamilton against Adam Wieczorek would be just what the doctor ordered. And that’s not to say either is an easy opponent, but it’s not a Fabricio Werdum, Cain Velasquez or Derrick Lewis.
Todd Duffee vs. Mark Godbeer
– Duffee is looking to return in January and a perfect opponent would be the one he was originally scheduled to face at UFC 209, Mark Godbeer. This also gives Godbeer an opportunity to add a formidable name to the resume and potentially get a fight against top fifteen Heavyweight next.
Marcel Golm vs. Winner of Tai Tuivasa vs. Rashad Coulter
– Golm is coming off a successful UFC debut, destroying opponent Christian Colombo in the very first round. With only 6 professional fights, it only makes sense to match him up with an opponent of similar experience. Tuivasa comes into his UFC debut fight with a perfect 5-0 record in comparison to Coulter’s 8-2 record. Both men are strikers, which falls into Golm’s realm.
Arjan Bhullar vs. Daniel Spitz
– The UFC has a potential goldmine here, as Bhullar is an Indo-Canadian. He is of Indian Sikh descent, which is a first in the UFC. Considering the fact that India has a population over a billion, it would be imperative that the UFC capitalize on this international superstar in the making. With Olympic wrestling and an ever improving striking game, Bhullar can certainly carry his weight. A fight against Spitz would be an interesting one, as Spitz showed against Anthony Hamilton that he has the power to put anyone away quickly.