The UFC is still reeling days after their planned heavyweight championship showdown fell apart thanks to a big, nasty giant. So what is next for Cain Velasquez? Let’s take a look at the division and breakdown some possible matchups for the champ.
It was too easy yet the UFC got cute and fell on their faces. Alistair Overeem walked into the UFC looking like a Greek God and sent the former heavyweight kingpin Brock Lesnar into retirement. The aura was created, the fans bought in, and a million dollar challenger was born.
The heavyweight division is in bad shape right now but there are a few intriguing possibilities. The UFC can look in several directions for Velasquez’s next challenger. Here are a few possibilities which may not be as juicy on paper as Velasquez vs. Overeem, but could turn out to be some pretty interesting fights.
Junior Dos Santos: JDS is the obvious choice here. He is the only heavyweight now that you can argue truly deserves a title shot. The problem here is that he and the UFC made Velasquez get a win, so JDS should have to do the same. He does hold a win over Cain and he was never put away in their last fight. It certainly won’t draw the intrigue of Overeem vs. Cain but of any possibilities, it makes the most sense.
Bigfoot Silva: If Overeem was the number one contender and Silva KO’d him, shouldn’t he get the title shot? Logically you can make a strong argument that he deserves it. Unfortunately it hasn’t even been a year since Velasquez absolutely mauled Bigfoot in what was arguably the most brutal beating seen in UFC in 2012. There will be little intrigue here and the fact is that most will see this as a lopsided matchup. He does deserve the title shot but he’ll need 1-2 big wins before people start to buy into him. Based on sport I’d go with Bigfoot. Based on business I’d look elsewhere.
Josh Barnett: Now to be clear the Babyfaced Assassin hasn’t even signed with the UFC yet, but negotiations are underway. Barnett is coming off a lopsided win over a guy that nobody would recognize. He hasn’t had a big win in a long time in America, unless you count Brett Rogers. Selling him as a deserving challenger is going to be rough. However, you can play the UFC heavyweight champion card. Barnett technically never lost the title in a ring or octagon. Barnett is smart enough to promote the fight in such a way that people will eventually want to buy into either seeing Cain shut him up or him taking his belt back. Dana White says he’s not in consideration. I don’t believe it for a second.
Alistair Overeem: That’s right I said it. Why not? Nick Diaz, Frankie Edgar, and Chael Sonnen are all getting title shots off of losses right? The UFC has booked more on business than sport over the last several months and this fight still makes the most sense for business. Overeem is a star and a draw and while he did hit the ground, I think enough people would be interested in a Cain vs. Overeem strike-fest to make it viable. Do I think he’ll get the title shot? No, but stranger things have happened in the UFC.
Jon Jones: I brought this up in my post-UFC 156 blog on Saturday night just shortly after Overeem hit the mat. The UFC light heavyweight champion has said on more than one occasion that he is planning to move up to heavyweight this year. He is obligated to a title defense in April so Cain would have to wait. But, what if Jones decides after Sonnen that he is done in the division? The UFC could book this fight on their July super show and promote it as something very special. Would anyone really have a problem with a champion moving up and getting an immediate title shot? I doubt it. The big question here is whether the UFC wants to cut their nose off to spite their face and weaken one division to strengthen another.
Daniel Cormier: The Strikeforce Grand Prix heavyweight tournament winner says that he will not fight his teammate Cain Velasquez, but does he mean it? Cormier has never made UFC money or anything close to what he’d make as UFC heavyweight champion. Jon Jones said he’d never fight his teammate either and he eventually did. This is a sport and in sports, friends play against each other all of the time, sometimes even family members. I will take Cormier at his word for now, but I am not convinced that a fighter who hasn’t made the big money would turn away millions for one fight. If Cormier accepts, you have one intriguing matchup for fight fans.
Roy Nelson: If not for his loss to Werdum I’d shoot him right into the top of the mix. Nelson is a funny guy because he’s always hanging around the top of the division but like Michael Bisping, he can never close the door when he needs to for a title shot. Roy vs. Cain would be a lot more intriguing to me than it may be to some people. He does have a fight scheduled with Cheick Kongo in April so you run into the same scheduling problems with him as you would with Jones. However, if Nelson can pull off the win why not give him the title fight? Don’t tell me you wouldn’t watch!