Friday, May 4, 2012

Champion vs. Champion, who is the best? Part VII

As we reach the final chapter (heavyweights), in my Champion vs. Champion seven part series, you would think this division would produce some interesting debate. However, truth is the UFC champion, though never having defended his title a/o yet, is the clear top choice here. Beyond that Strikeforce's champion is yet to be determined and Bellator's champ is in the same boat as the UFC champ; only he's had his title for a year and a half already.

So, while there may not be such interesting debate as to how they rank amongst each other, there are interesting scenarios among the three, or in this case four, that are worth talking about. Sadly, it may very well get worse before it gets better; at least outside the UFC. Check out my take and you'll see what I mean:

1.) UFC - Junior Dos Santos (14-1, 10 KO's 2 subs):

The cream of the crop among all heavyweights in the Mixed Martial Arts world is only 27 years old and has yet to defend his title. However, when it comes to the man known as 'Cigano', there is no question as to why and whether or not he's considered the best. At 6'4" and 239 lbs., 'JDS', as he is also called, is a chiseled rock of an athlete. In other words, he's not just big, he's athletic and more importantly, he is good.

Equally adept with his hands as he is on the ground, at least that's what we are led to believe by his brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under the Nogueira brothers; Dos Santos is a wrecking machine. Any question of his hands and punching power can be easily answered by his 10 KO's, including the 64 second demolition of former champ Cain Velasquez, which began with one devastating overhand right cross.

I say led to believe regarding his ground game, because we haven't seen him had to use it much in his UFC career. However, that alone may be a testament to it as no one has really been able to take him down either. Of course, more questions about both should be answered in three weeks when he defends his title for the first time against former champ Frank Mir.

When it comes to heavyweights, anything is possible and titles can easily change hands with just one punch; However when it comes to Dos Santos, if he stays focused and keeps his eye on the prize, he can very well be the first heavyweight champ with a dominant run at heavyweight since the days of a prime Andrei Arlovski.
2.) Strikeforce - Josh Barnett (31-5, 7 KO's 19 subs) or Daniel Cormier (9-0, 4 KO's 3 subs):

I know it seems kind of strange that two names should represent here at number two, but there are varying reasons behind it, Part of the blame has to go with Strikeforce for taking nearly a year and a half to finally complete a tournament that started with much fanfare in February 2011. Of course, Zuffa's ultimate purchase of Strikeforce and slow depletion of their heavyweight roster has something to do with it as well; because of such, the winner of Barnett vs. Cormier in two weeks could very well be the last heavyweight champion in Strikeforce history.

In Barnett, you have the experienced veteran and former UFC champion who has perennially hung around inside the top ten rankings for the last few years fighting everywhere, but the UFC. Whether it was Pride, Affliction or Strikeforce, 'The Warmaster' has laid his claim that he may very well be the best heavyweight in MMA that no one talks about. That is probably because after being pinched twice for using performance enhancing drugs, it’s difficult to take what he says and does at face value. Nonetheless, his talent is unquestioned.

As for Cormier, you have the young, inexperienced, undersized former Olympian. To look at him, outside of his wrestling pedigree, you may not take him seriously as a contender in the heavyweight division. However, so did Antonio 'Bigfoot' Silva till a right handed uppercut last September placed Cormier in the tourney final against Barnett. However, talent and heart aside, I can't see him defeating Barnett when they meet in two weeks. Regardless, the winner ranks at number two here.

3.) Bellator - Cole Konrad (8-0, 1 KO 2 subs):

Konrad’s ranking here probably has more to do with Bellator than it does with him, but that's the chance you take when you sign on with the organization who crowns champions and determines their opponents through seasonal tournaments. However, in the case of Bellator’s heavyweight division, it has become yearly tournaments cursed by everything you can think of; low blows, injuries, missed weight, you name it and Bellator has had it.

Thus, since winning the title, after the inaugural tournament, way back in October 2010, the former two-time NCAA champion has had only one non title fight; a unanimous decision victory against a ground inept and way past his prime Paul Buentello. Just like the three ranked ahead of him, Konrad will finally have a title fight in the next few weeks; however, not sure it will do much to advance his MMA game even if he wins as he's fighting a guy eerily similar in style to Buentello. Either Bellator needs to step up their heavyweight division or Konrad has to find a way to get more fights.

While this part ends my look at the various champions in each weight division, a reader recently suggested a Champion vs, Champion look using legends. The idea was intriguing, so I plan to do another chapter on it. Therefore, be on the lookout for that along with a look back at UFC on Fox 3, where I'll be recapping live from press row.

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