What’s Next for the UFC Heavyweight Division?

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After a great bout between Fabricio Werdum and Mark Hunt for the UFC interim heavyweight championship, the UFC heavyweight division has been missing in action and there is little competition at the top of the class. Looking around the UFC, there are plenty of potential fights and prospects to discuss, but the heavyweights remain boringly unchanged.

Current UFC champion Cain Velasquez has missed significant time due to injury but will make his return at UFC 188 against interim champion Werdum. UFC 188 takes place on June 13 which is more than 10 weeks away and, with just two heavyweight bouts last week at UFC 185 and none this coming weekend at UFC Fight Night 62, there are clear indications that the division is having trouble staying active and exciting.

The BIG Problem

Last weekend, Alistair Overeem defeated Roy Nelson in a dominating bout which helped him rise to No. 8 in the division. There are rumors surrounding a bout between Overeem and Junior dos Santos, but nothing has been confirmed. Dos Santos is coming off a much-needed victory over Stipe Miocic, who is currently ranked fourth in the division. Dos Santos has already fought the top fighters in the division but has lost to the current champ twice. Based on upcoming fights, the UFC may want to use this bout to bring some of that much-needed excitement back to the heavyweight division, as both fighters possess immense skill and great personalities to help promote the fight.

In terms of upcoming bouts, the UFC has scheduled Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko Cro Cop II for April 11th, but there is not much of a chance the second installment lives up to the first. In addition, the UFC has also scheduled Hunt and Miocic for May 10th, Travis Browne and Andrei Arlovski for May 23rd and Ben Rothwell and Matt Mitrione for June 6th. Based on recent reports, there is a good chance that Josh Barnett and Roy Nelson get booked after their Twitter exchange, which leaves a fairly uneventful matchup between Antonio Silva and Stefan Struve to round out the top 15.

For those who are unaware or may not agree, feel free to watch Silva or dos Santos versus Hunt, or any Velasquez fight for that matter. These are what heavyweight fights should be like, but the most recent bouts feel like the same thing over again. Every Nelson fight plays out the same while Overeem wins most of his fights when he keeps his hands up.

Mitrione trains hard but is clearly not in it for the gold and Rothwell will always have trouble with the top dogs. Miocic and Browne seem like the only true contenders who have yet to get a shot at the title, but they will need to beat a top ranked fighter to merit that chance. Most of the fighters at the top of the division like Barnett, Arlovski, Cro Cop, Gonzaga and Mir are on their last legs and only have a few fights left in the tank. Though Mir will keep some fans happy with wins, there is a slim chance he goes on a tear to get back to the top of the UFC heavyweight division, which is basically the same argument for most of the ranked heavyweights in the UFC.

The Hopefuls

Ruslan Magomedov – One of the faster rising heavyweights in the UFC, Magomedov is 2-0 in the octagon and will likely get a much more credible opponent after defeating Josh Copeland and Viktor Pesta. The Russian-native has good striking skills which should bode well for him in the heavyweight division.

Alexey Oliynyk – With over 50 fights to his name, Oliynyk is also 2-0 in the UFC after defeating Jared Rosholt and Anthony Hamilton. While it would be a good bout between Magomedov and Oliynyk, it would be a shame to see the UFC waste two quality prospects by pinning them against each other. This would be reminiscent of Dos Santos-Velasquez who were both brought up on different paths, before legendarily meeting in a UFC title fight on three separate occasions.

Derrick Lewis – After starting a successful UFC career, Lewis lost to Mitrione in the first round but came back with a win against Ruan Potts in February. Though he is winning a good chunk of fights, Lewis will need to improve his conditioning drastically if he hopes to fight at the top level of the UFC. He is currently slated to fight Shawn Jordan at UFC Fight Night on Fox Sports 1 in June.

Conclusions

With just three legitimate prospects who have yet to lose to lower-end talent, the UFC heavyweight division is in desperate need of a face-lift. There are several fan favorites like Nelson and Mir who can draw a crowd but there is a serious issue with competition and versatility in heavyweight matchmaking. Fans will grow tired of similar match-ups and redundant outcomes, which will only increase pressure on the UFC to find ways of improving the weight class sooner rather than later.

After taking a close look at the heavyweight division, it’s evident the UFC is relying heavily on Werdum, Velasquez, Dos Santos, Browne, Hunt and Miocic to carry the weight class. Most of the fighters in the top 15 will not join the title picture and there are few prospects ready to join the ranks. Hunt has already lost to Werdum and dos Santos, while Browne suffered a setback after losing to Werdum. Miocic is back on the rise after losing to dos Santos but will need a big win against Hunt to stay in title picture. With that said, the heavyweight division is as open as ever, and it will take some high-end prospects and current contenders to bring some quality and excitement back to the most popular weight class in the UFC. If you enjoyed this story, please share it on social media!