From JDS to Mark Hunt: Breaking down future Heavyweight match-ups

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Recent developments in the UFC’s schedule for 2012 have shown that the Heavyweight division will be full of many exciting matchups. With UFC 146 featuring an all-Heavyweight main card, the coming months will cause dramatic changes to the Heavyweight landscape of MMA. Coupled with the Strikeforce World Heavyweight Grand Prix final featuring Josh Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier, these developments prove that the heaviest of weight classes is ready to step to the forefront of Mixed Martial Arts. Here are the five most prominent bouts and how their significance will affect the Heavyweight division for the rest of 2012.

Junior dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem (UFC 146, May 26th): Obviously at the top of the heap is the blockbuster championship bout between the champion dos Santos and the massive Overeem. Both fighters won their last fights in impressive fashion. On paper, the bout brings two highly technical strikers who have the rarely-possessed power to match. While everyone expects this to be a match of striker vs. striker, both fighters have underrated ground games that seemingly do not come into play too often. The fight will headline UFC 146 on May 26, and should be exciting for all fans of MMA. The winner will face a challenger that is most likely the winner of the co-main event that evening.

Frank Mir vs. Cain Velasquez (UFC 146, May 26th): This aforementioned bout features two former champions who are looking to hold the championship belt once again. Mir is riding high on a 3-fight win streak, with his last victory being a gruesome submission over “Minotauro” Nogueira. Across the cage, Cain Velasquez will look to regain his winning ways after suffering a knockout at the hands of dos Santos in a mere 64 seconds last November. Both fighters are near the top of the division, and it will be very interesting to see how the elite submission skills of Mir will compare to the brutal wrestling and ground-and-pound of Velasquez. The winner will most likely become the number one contender for the belt.

Josh Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier (Strikeforce 40, May 19th): While the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix has lost much of its luster after the Zuffa purchase, this fight still has some implications on the Heavyweight division. Barnett, a seasoned veteran, has not been challenged as of late. Cruising to two recent submission victories over Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov, he is looking to regain the UFC belt that was once stripped from him. Cormier, on the other hand, is an up-and-coming fighter with a ton of potential after knocking out Antonio Silva in his last bout.  The winner will most likely eventually make his way to the UFC with a good amount of momentum on his side.

Antonio Silva vs. Roy Nelson (UFC 146, May 26th): This is a fight that, while not possessing any immediate title implications, should gauge the readiness of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva for top UFC competition. Roy Nelson has been on a bit of a snide lately, but has shown that he is always ready to take on the best Heavyweight fighters and absorb their most powerful shots. Should he defeat Nelson convincingly, Silva could prove that he is a top-tier fighter.  He held a great amount of momentum after his brutal stoppage of Fedor Emelianenko last year, but lost a bit of the hype after being knocked out by Daniel Cormier in the first round. A slugfest should ensue, and a win by Nelson could prove him relevant once more.

Stefan Struve vs. Mark Hunt (UFC 146, May 26th): In a very interesting and unpredictable fight, the six-foot-eleven “Skyscraper” will meet Hunt, a former K-1 veteran, at UFC 146.  Struve looked impressive after a slow start at UFC on Fuel TV 1, earning the finish over Dave Herman with a Round 2 TKO. Hunt has also looked very effective in a resurgence of sorts, scoring a brutal KO of touted kickboxer Cheick Kongo at UFC Japan last month.  Both fighters love to stand, but one has to wonder if Struve’s excellent ground game will come into play here.  Either way, an exciting bout with possible future title implications should ensue.