By: Liam Barrett
I was standing at a bus stop the other day, thinking about UFC’s Heavyweight division. I had fifteen minutes to wait until I got home, that’s my excuse. It was the day after Andre Arlovski beat Frank Mir‘s Gut in potentially the worst heavyweight fight in recent memory at UFC 191. Dana White was, frankly, having a bit of a sulk about the whole thing when the press asked him about it. He moaned about the quality of the fight, which is fair, because it was one of the worst heavyweight fights in recent memory, and then was quoted as saying he thought Mir won.
I’ve seen other people say that over social media, and I don’t know what to tell them without unkindly suggesting they have shit in their eyes. Nobody SHOULD have won, they should have just chucked the whole thing in the bin and given Johnson and Dobson three extra rounds to make up for the whole sorry spectacle, but if you absolutely HAVE to say someone won, Arlovski did.
I get the feeling matchmaking was at the heart of Dana’s statement. Even if you take the hardcore stance that nothing Andre did outside UFC means anything, he’s still riding a four-fight winstreak within the promotion, beating people the general public have heard of and have strong opinions about one way or the other. Realistically, he should be next in line for a title shot. But Dana White isn’t going to reward that performance. History has shown that definitively. UFC booking and the relevance of their ranking systems is a whole different article (don’t worry, it’s coming, fucking hell is it coming), but the reality is White probably has his head in his hands looking at the state of what should be his crown jewel.
Cain Velasquez, by the time his rematch with Werdum happens, will have been in the last three Heavyweight Title matches UFC has promoted (I’m not counting interim stuff, because that may as well be a toy). One of those matches, his last successful defence, was the THIRD such fight between the two. Were it not for one defence against Bigfoot Silva that lasted a round, this whole thing would be chasing its own tail more obviously than it already is. I like Cain, but he is not what they so desperately want him to be. If the Werdum loss was an absolute shocker, I could understand the immediate rematch. But Velasquez isn’t Anderson Silva. He doesn’t have that aura. It started to disappear when the injuries became a thing, then it was on life support when JDS knocked him the fuck out in seconds, then after he lost his comeback fight sucking wind and looking genuinely terrified, it was gone. He’s just another body now. But it HAS to be him, partly because they went all in on him and they’re desperate to get a return, and partly because there’s literally nobody else.
Mark Hunt is a compromised warrior. Still A WARRIOR, but a damaged one. It took him too long to get here, and now he has to settle himself with usually being in the best fight on whatever card he’s on, win or lose. Big Nog is finally gone and wasn’t troubling anything or anyone for a ages when he was here. Junior Dos Santos is never getting another chance as long as Velasquez is in the picture. Travis Browne has utterly wilted under the pressure, losing two of his last three fights, and the one he won was against Brendan Schaub, so yeah. I’ll leave his personal troubles out of this, but let’s just say UFC wouldn’t be tripping over themselves to have him at a podium next to their World Champion even if it were viable. Ben Rothwell has been lucky to get fighters that only look good on paper, who he’s at least had the decency to beat impressively, but he’s not selling tickets. Alistair Overeem I can’t even be bothered to write about. Bigfoot Silva is a taller Mark Hunt with a substance strike against him. Roy Nelson is Mark Hunt with a better beard and a marginally better physique. After that we’re properly into the dregs of the sub-Top Ten, the Struves, the Schaubs, Mirko Cro Cop, Todd Duffee, who I should point out Frank Mir beat to get the chance to fight Arlovski. Beating the current 21 RANKED UFC HEAVYWEIGHT FIGHTER got Frank Mir a title eliminator. I should stop here.
The only one in this bunch that can make a case for anything is Stipe Miocic. He’s a damn good fighter, and if the stars had aligned it would probably have been him fighting Werdum next. But that glaring JDS-shaped dent in his reputation clearly went against him, and now both he and they have to wait. If there’s any justice, he’ll get Arlovski, as long as he gets past Ben Bloody Rothwell at Fight Night 76. If he doesn’t, well, I don’t fucking know.
I miss Brock. I mean I DON’T miss Brock, because I’m a wrestling fan and he’s currently busy being the only thing worth caring about on WWE television even when he’s not there. And it’s not like the stuff that dogged Cain wasn’t his Achilles Heel either. By his own admission, he was likely never truly healthy during his run, and his matches were few and far between. But I miss Brock making this division feel like it meant something. His personality was huge. His talents were limited, yes, but when you looked at him, you felt like you were looking at some sort of God. He elevated everything that orbited around him. Frank Mir is relevant in 2015 because of the residual Brock that still lingers on him. He’s the reason Overeem still has a contract. Between him and Randy Couture, they dragged the Heavyweight Title out of the last Dark Age it found itself in after being forcibly grafted to Tim Silvia. What we have right now isn’t as bad as that. I don’t think anything could ever be as bad as that ever again. But if I’m even mentioning that in this article, well then.
I’ve just found out doing research on this that Velasquez/Werdum probably isn’t happening until March now. My first instinct was to assume it was because Cain was injured.
I miss Brock.