With the UFC Heavyweight Championship fight between champ Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez looming just around the corner, I figured I’d take a look at other upcoming fights at heavyweight and see what the horizon holds in 2013.
Outside of the apex heavyweight fight itself, the injury bug and the ‘lost fight due to freak injury..’ bug have given us top divisional tilts of Nogueira vs Werdum at the finals of TUF Brazil 2, which is slated for mid-2013, Nelson vs Mitrione on FX at the TUF Finale, and Overeem vs Bigfoot at UFC 156 in February.
Nogueira vs Werdum will really help the winner establish more of a mythical legend status in Brazil, much like fighters did in Japan during Pride, even if it doesn’t place them in a title fight. A win for Werdum could send him into a top four fight against whoever is not slated to fight for the title next. And Nogueira looks to further his legendary status in Brazil and add another highlight reel finish to his epic resume.
At the TUF Finals, Mitrione will have the asterisk of being a injury replacement for coach Shane Carwin, but having lost only his most recent fight in his six pro mma fights total, he’s not far down the totem from Nelson himself, who hasn’t won two in a row since 2010 wins over Brendan Shaub and Stephan Struve, and has dropped fights to Fabricio Werdum, Frank Mir, and current champ Junior Dos Santos since then.
Daniel Cormier has his last Strikeforce fight on 1/12 against Dion Staring, and then he is UFC bound. The ‘friendship factor’ arrives in the heavyweight division in 2013 with Cormier and Cain Velasquez being teammates at AKA, that is one high level fight we can count out for now. Cormier vs Frank Mir would still be a close matchup, so would Cormier/Kongo either would be a great first UFC fight for Cormier, but timing is everything in matchmaking, and with injuries, we may even see Cormier jump into an already planned fight as a replacement, or take an immediate title shot depending on the outcome of this next fight.
The linchpin of the division is clearly the Overeem vs. Bigfoot Silva fight coming up February 2, with Overeem being the division’s biggest potential future draw. It’s amazing to think that these two were scheduled to face off in the ‘2011 Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix’, with Overeem entering the tournament already the Strikeforce Heavyweight Champ. A fight with him and the winner of Dos Santos/Velasquez being as big of a fight as can be thought up.
We also have the uncertain status of "The War Master" Josh Barnett who has seen a career resurgence in 2011 making to the finals of the Grand Prix and losing a grueling war to Cormier, and Todd Duffee returning to take Matt Mitrione’s spot against Phil De Fries at UFC 156. There is a level of uncertainty and volatility entering the heavyweight division going into 2013, and as we saw at the first all-heavyweight main card of a PPV at UFC 146, the big guys are at a higher level than ever.
The current talk in mma is about ‘super-fights’ between Anderson Silva and GSP, or Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, but after the title fight at 155, and Overeem/Bigfoot at 156, the stars might align for a stadium show that doesn’t need Anderson of Georges to draw 50 plus thousand fans.