Since 2010, the Heavyweight division has been rather weak. There are talented guys in the division, but the reason it became boring was you had a champion that was very dominate and the only contender that could seemingly beat him knocked him out once and then took two severe beatings that showed the champions dominance. Thus is the story of Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos.
When I found out that Fabricio Werdum was going to fight for the title, I became excited. He has a solid and creative striking game and outstanding Jiu-Jitsu skills that made him a viable candidate to dethrone the champion. After Velasquez was injured (again), Werdum fought Mark Hunt for the Interim title and put up a blockade to the K1 star's resurgence. However, at the same time, Werdum began to cement his career comeback.
At UFC 188, Werdum, an underdog in his title unification bout, battered Velasquez with strikes and finished him with a submission. This freshened up the once dead division because while Werdum is a force to be reckoned with, he has shown vulnerability in the past, which opens up better stylistic matches with opponents he has either not fought or not fought in a long time. So who should he defend his title against first?
Out of the top 10 Heavyweight fighters in the UFC, three fighters currently hold a win over Werdum. Alistair Overeem beat Werdum in 2009 (Werdum's last loss) and ended his chance at the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix title. However, since beating Werdum, Overeem has gone 4-3 in his MMA career, with the three losses being brutal knockouts, so a title fight or even contender fight is unlikely after a two fight win streak against non-top 10 fighters. With a win against a top 10 fighter, the title picture could be in Overeem's future but not immediately.
Junior dos Santos has been in limbo the past couple of years. He is an elite Heavyweight that can finish anyone at any time. His problem? While he knocked Cain Velasquez out to become the champion, he had two other title fights against him that were both one-sided beat downs that proved that Velasquez is the better fighter. While Cain was champion, it was highly unlikely that Cigano would fight for the title again. With Cain out and Werdum in however, it is more likely to happen. Dos Santos beat Werdum in his UFC debut, knocking him out with an uppercut. Since then, Cigano has beaten some of the best and is currently on a "cold" streak, going 2-2 in his last four fights with the two losses being one sided beatdowns by the same man and one of the wins being a close fight against Stipe Miocic that many believe dos Santos lost. Is his reputation enough to garnish a title fight? Junior will most likely need to beat another top ranked opponent before challenging for the title again.
Stipe Miocic is a fighter that came out of nowhere. He has been in the same realm as Stefan Struve or Gabriel Gonzaga for some time: a good fighter who never seemed to get that "big win". With wins over Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson, he had a decently impressive resume when it was announced that he would fight Junior dos Santos. This seemed as though Stipe would be murdered but he proved he belongs in the same talk as other great Heavyweights by holding his own to a razor thin decision against the Brazilian. In his next outing, he destroyed the ultra-tough Mark Hunt, finally finishing him in the 5th round. Could this win along with the unconvincing loss to dos Santos be enough to gain a fight against the new champion? Like dos Santos, Stipe may need one more fight to prove himself worthy. Because of the excitement of the previous fight and the unconvincing end, would a contender's fight with Stipe and Junior be an option?
Cain Velasquez just lost his title on Saturday, so why is he already on the list of possible title contenders? Cain has a long history of fighting while injured, due to his vulnerability to injuries. When he was knocked out by dos Santos, he had been injured for quite some time before that and after the rematches, it seemed as though it was the injury that caused the loss. It is possible that the same thing happened against Werdum. And that is precisely why he will not get an immediate rematch. Velasquez has been in the title picture for a long time and is injured entirely too often. It would be a big risk to schedule an immediate rematch only to have Cain end up side lined again and have the other contenders already booked. Let the former champ show he is healthy and show it consistently.