Article by Dave Walsh
Most of the UFC weight classes have sorted themselves out over the past few years, finding dominant champions to reign atop of them while building up some solid contenders. Certain weight classes, like Light Heavyweight, were a bit of a mess before finding their champion. Light Heavyweight now has Jon Jones with no end in sight to his reign as the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Before that, though? It was a mess. Chuck Liddell was the last consistent champion in the division before it flipped to Rampage Jackson, Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua. Only Rampage and Lyoto even defended the title, effectively making every champion between Chuck Liddell and Jon Jones a “transitional champion.” Look it up.
UFC’s Heavyweight division has kind of always been a mess of a division. The record for title defenses at Heavyweight is at two and no one has been able to get past that big “two” mark yet. Brock Lesnar was the last Champion to defend the title twice and since him it has been a hot potato of a belt, jumping between Cain Valasquez and Junior Dos Santos before going back to Cain. Cain is now once again the UFC Heavyweight Champion and is looking to make his first successful defense of the UFC Heavyweight Championship against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at UFC 160.
Silva was actually the man who helped to take what was a division that was becoming a bit more organized and send it into chaos yet again. Alistair Overeem came into the UFC with a lot of hype around him and was primed to be the next ace of the division, or at least get a title shot, then Silva knocked Overeem out and the division once again became a big muddier. Silva was now the #1 contender and after him it seems to be anyone’s game, as can be seen with Mark Hunt.
Mark Hunt is really an exceptional fighter, but he without a doubt had his peak over ten years ago. That being said, Mark Hunt is on a fairytale four-fight win streak at the moment as he steps into the ring with Junior Dos Santos this weekend. It has been speculated that the winner of Hunt/JDS will get the next shot at the title, and if it is Junior Dos Santos, the division really will feel like one big game of hot potato between Valasquez and Dos Santos, especially with Overeem on the sidelines taking on Travis Browne this summer. UFC’s own Heavyweight Rankings read like a complete mess, with JDS as the #1 contender and Daniel Cormier, who has discussed moving down to Light Heavyweight, as the #2.
This weekend we might get some answers and some clarity within the division, we might find out if it really is a two-man division, riding on the backs of Cain and Junior, or if it is still a chaotic, open playing field. Maybe Cain will finally become that dominant Champion that everyone has expected him to be, or maybe Bigfoot Silva takes the title home and confuses everything all over again.