Heavyweight has always been the most beleaguered division in mixed martial arts.
Undercut by a shallow talent pool, a penchant for either very quick or very boring fights and a title that at times seems downright cursed, the 265-pound class has long been the sport’s problem child. While fight promoters continue to toil to put MMA heavyweights over with the same zeal as boxing’s big men, hardcore fans of the sport know the lighter weight classes are where the real action can be found.
Then again, maybe that’s about to change.
Certainly in recent years the influx of bankable stars like Brock Lesnar and a new generation of athletes like Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos have gone a long way to giving the division some punch. In 2012, the UFC’s heavyweight class will also get an additional shot in the arm when a boatload of talent from Strikeforce is scheduled to arrive on the scene.
Along with this month’s announcement that the struggling, smaller fight promotion had been granted a stay of execution through at least 2012 was the revelation that Strikeforce would be ditching it’s 265-pound division and that the bulk of its fighters will soon find their way to the Octagon. As besieged as Strikeforce appeared in what we all thought were its final days, this can only be couched as good news.
Clearly, the champ is already there, as Strikeforce heavyweight titlist Alistair Overeem will battle Lesnar next Friday at UFC 141, but the list of the company’s compelling big guys doesn’t stop there. The Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix is still expected to wrap up during the first quarter of the coming year, and either Daniel Cormier or Josh Barnett (or both) will be headed to the UFC soon after.
Cormier is perhaps the division’s most intriguing prospect, as an undersized but talented former Olympic wrestler who has yet to taste defeat in his MMA career. Surely though, Barnett — the off-and-on veteran who has notoriously squabbled with the UFC over the years – could have a place in the Octagon if personal grudges aren’t allowed to rule the day. He’s still a top 10 heavyweight, after all, and his road through the Strikeforce GP has made him more relevant than he has been in years.
Those two are far from the only interesting additions Strikeforce has to offer, too. We already know Fabricio Werdum will make his way back to the UFC in the next few months – taking on Roy Nelson at UFC 143 — and guys like Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, Sergei Kharitonov and up-and-comer Shane del Rosario could also certainly be interesting foils for some of the UFC’s mid-range heavies.
Shoot, there might even be a spot for Bobby Lashley and Herschel Walker by the time it’s all said and done. A couple of unlikely figures – Chad Griggs and Lavar Johnson – will get the “Strikeforce invasion” underway early next year and soon after the that, the floodgates will open for real.
It’s about time we got all the sport’s best big men under one banner. Frankly, it’s their best chance to keep up with the little guys.