by Will Overton
Mixed-Martial Arts is taking the world by storm right now and is a sport on the rise here in America. And while sometimes the smaller the guys in that cage the more exciting the fight is, people still love to see the big boys step in and go at it. As fast as little guys like Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar might be, a behemoth like Brock Lesnar will always draw more attention, always has, always will.
With this in mind we are going to take a look at some of the biggest heavyweight fights that are going to take place in the MMA world over the next few months. I am going to be ranking what I consider to be the top five heavyweight matches coming up. These rankings are based on a few different things. I will be considering potential excitement of the fight, implications of the fight and the star power of the two guys in the fight.
There are plenty of big fights coming up, but here are my top five must watches, starting at five and working towards number one:
5. Cheick Kongo vs. Matt Mitrione – UFC 137, October 29, 2011: This one doesn’t carry any immediate title implications, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be a big match. For starters these two are both very exciting heavyweight fighters who love to stand and bang. Kongo is coming off one of the most impressive comeback wins in UFC history after being knocked down twice by Pat Barry, only to get up and score a knockout of his own with a vicious uppercut. On the other side of the cage is the young Matt Mitrione who is one of the most impressive up and coming heavyweight in UFC and all of MMA. Mitrione is 5 – 0 in the UFC with four of those wins coming by TKO or KO. And Mitrione is getting better in every single fight. Kongo is a huge step up in competition for Mitrione, but if he gets past him Mitrione could start seeing fights with real title implications. And if Kongo wins he would be 3–0–1 in his last four fights and would certainly be in line for a big match of his own. The UFC needs some rising heavyweight stars and the winner of this fight could be that person.
4. Frank Mir vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira – UFC 140, December 10, 2011: This is a rematch that has been talked about for quite some time and finally both guys are healthy and in a position for a big match like this. Mir has won two straight fights and three of his last four. Mir’s most recent fight was a dominant decision victory over Roy Nelson. Meanwhile many had thought that Nogueira was on the verge of retirement before he stepped up in his home country of Brazil and knocked out the heavy handed up and coming Brendan Schaub who most experts were predicting to send him into retirement. The last time these two fought was almost two years ago and Mir won the fight in dominant fashion, shocking many by out boxing the typically striking adept Nogueira. However Nogueira had a staph infection at the time of that fight and was clearly not on the top of his game. Most people expect another Mir win, but a healthy Nogueira could show up and pull off the win and I doubt anyone would be too surprised.
3. Josh Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier – TBD, Early 2012: This is a far more intriguing fight than many are noticing. This fight will be the finals of the Strikeforce Grand Prix Heavyweight tournament and I don’t think anyone expected this to be the matchup. Adding to the suspense is that with Alistair Overeem joining the UFC there is a good chance that this fight could be for the Strikeforce Heavyweight Championship. Daniel Cormier is the most touted prospect in all of MMA who has a chance to go from prospect to champ in this fight. Cormier shocked many people and knocked Antonio Silva out in the semi-finals to earn his spot. On the other side is one of the most renowned heavyweight veterans in Josh Barnett who is 31 – 5 for his career with some very big wins on his resume. Barnett earned his spot in the finals with a win over Sergei Kharitinov. I don’t know how much longer Strikeforce will be around, but this is going to be a high quality fight before they go out of business.
2. Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem – UFC 141, December 30, 2011: It has been four years since Alistair Overeem has lost an MMA fight, but he is about to start facing some of the toughest competition he has ever seen in the UFC. The anticipation for this match is high and many believe that this fight could lead to one of the highest selling pay-per-views ever, if not the highest. Overeem is one of the most world renowned kickboxers, possibly the most dangerous striker in all of MMA. It’s no secret that strikers can be Lesnar’s downfall, but his wrestling and pure strength should not be overrated. Many experts don’t think Lesnar is long for this career, but he is committed to getting better and growing and he should not be counted out. This fight could very well determine who gets the next shot at the UFC World Heavyweight Title and it is going to be one of the most exciting contests you could ask for. This one is not to be missed.
1. Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos – UFC on FOX 1, November 12, 2011: For more than one reason this fight takes the number one spot on this list, even if Overeem vs. dos Santos will get the most publicity. For starters this fight will be Cain Velasquez’s first defense of his UFC Heavyweight Title. Secondly this is going to be the showcase fight for the UFC’s first ever show on National Television as FOX will be televising it and it will reach a larger audience than most likely any fight in the UFC ever has before. And thirdly, it promises to be one heck of a fight. Velasquez proved just how dangerous he was in his dismantling of Brock Lesnar last year. Meanwhile his opponent Junior dos Santos has been plowing through everyone in his path, including most recently Shane Carwin, without even taking much damage at all. The experts are divided on this one and they very well should be as this fight is incredibly hard to predict. Chances are no matter what happens in this fight it’ll be the first of a few bouts between these two as these guys are the present and the future of the UFC Heavyweight division.
There is a lot of great MMA action coming between now and the end of this year. Which heavyweight bouts are you most intrigued by and what do you make of the fights I have on this list? Give us your opinion and feel free to sound off on my rankings. After all, this wouldn’t be a good rankings site without some disagreement.