Alistair Overeem’s failed test has sent the UFC heavyweight championship into chaos. Overeem is not expected to get licensed for his UFC 146 title fight which leaves Junior Dos Santos and a championship opportunity open for one lucky heavyweight.
The MMA world is buzzing in anticipation of who Dana White will name as JDS’ new challenger. Speculation has run rapid on which fighter could be with the social media world guessing everyone from the obvious to the absurd. You really didn’t think you’d escape this story without seeing the name Fedor did you?
Cain Velasquez – Cain seems to be the runaway favorite in my mind to get the shot. If Frankie Edgar can get an immediate rematch with Ben Henderson, why can’t Velasquez get an immediate rematch with JDS? It is high risk-high reward when you break down the money here as this is the biggest money fight the UFC can make, but do you want to give that fight away now as opposed to building a rematch in the future?
It is hard to argue with Velasquez’s record. He was undefeated up until he fought Dos Santos. He was knocked out in the first round, so unlike Frankie, this was not a close fight. However, Cain took the fight hurt. Velasquez could and should have backed out of the fight. Instead, he took one for the team. I can’t think of a better way for the UFC to repay him than with the championship opening.
Frank Mir – While I see Mir vs. Dos Santos as a huge mismatch, the fight probably makes more sense than any other. It won’t do the business that Cain vs. JDS would do, but if there is any heavyweight that has truly earned the fight, it is Mir. Mir is on a 3-0 streak, defeating top heavyweights in all three fights. If you are looking at the UFC as a pure sport, I don’t see how you don’t give it to Mir.
From a business standpoint I think this is the way you go. Mir going for a record third UFC heavyweight title is interesting. He is an engaging personality who knows how to sell a fight. More than anything, you save your Velasquez vs. JDS fight, you get one title defense under JDS’ belt, and you can move off of Mir. Let’s face it, if he doesn’t get the shot now, he must get one with another win.
Mark Hunt – Mark Hunt is starting to develop a nice cult following thanks to his heavy hitting and recent knockout. Hunt came over to the UFC as part of the Pride FC deal but didn’t debut until 2010. Behind the scenes the plan was to fulfill Hunt’s contract and get him out of there. Instead, Hunt has turned into one of the most explosive knock out artists in the division.
Like Mir, Hunt is currently on a 3-0 tear in the UFC heavyweight division. Unlike Mir, Hunt’s victims are not nearly as impressive. Cheick Kongo, Ben Rothwell, Chris Tuchscherer are not exactly elite wins. I think a Hunt vs. JDS fight could be a nice novelty but it would be highly unfair to Mir and Velasquez. It would be a fun fight but I think Hunt needs to prove himself against an elite heavyweight before we even begin to talk title picture.
Josh Barnett – Could the UFC cancel the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix final and move Barnett over into the UFC heavyweight title picture? Dana White has already stated that Barnett is welcome back to the UFC, but could the UFC really pull this off with a straight face? I don’t think so.
The unfortunate circumstance here for the UFC is that the parity in the UFC heavyweight division. Nobody has stood out lately that hasn’t been named already and nobody is on an impressive tear other than Mir. Going outside the company and bringing a fighter in and awarding him a title shot in his first fight would really taint the title in my opinion. But in this case you are bringing back a former UFC heavyweight champion that never lost the title. I highly doubt this happens but it has to be a consideration with such limited options.
In the past, Dana has said that he would give Fedor a title shot immediately. Of course a lot has changed since then. Fedor is clearly on the downside of his career and suffered three losses in a row in his last three high profile fights. Justifying a title shot against JDS is tough. But if the object here at the end of the day is to make the most money at UFC 146, you could do a lot worse. Giving Fedor the fight allows the UFC to retain Mir vs. Velasquez, thus keeping a strong card in check. Do I think it happens? Absolutely not, but I can’t think of anyone else in the UFC not listed already that deserves the shot any less than the Last Emperor.
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