Dana White said during Friday's news conference that it made sense to put “our best foot forward” for this colossal showcase. It’s a great first step, but the UFC might not want to look backwards after they take it. At least, not the way things stand now in the heavyweight division.
That’s because the UFC’s current heavyweight division is hardly the deep reservoir that its other divisions are. In fact, it’s only knee deep. The world can tune in to watch the two best heavyweights go at it, but behind JDS and Velasquez there’s a gulf which has yet to be filled.
The one guy who can fill this gulf? Alistair Overeem. Here’s guessing that his signing is the next announcement made.
Had Brendan Schaub defeated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira -- as just about everybody outside of Brazil expected -- there would at least be a fresh body scaling toward contention in the heavyweight division. Turns out, he didn’t beat Big Nog. In fact, Schaub lost so emphatically that the word “exposed” was being tossed around. Not so much directed at Schaub, who is young and raw and realistically exactly where he should be today, but at the overall state of the heavyweight division in the UFC.
There was plenty of banter leading up to UFC 134 about Schaub becoming the No. 1 contender with a victory over what was thought to be a fading star in the sport in Nogueira. That’s the big red flag right there. To have been talking about Schaub being that close to a title shot at all was to admit that there’s a dearth of believable contenders at the top of the division.
That’s why it’ll not only big news when the UFC signs Strikeforce champion Overeem, but an act of necessity. The UFC needs somebody in the on-deck circle for Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez. As of right now, you would never confuse what’s going on at the top of the heavyweight division with a logjam. What’s going on is the exact opposite of the UFC’s lightweight division, which is flush with contenders.
Check out what’s below dos Santos and Velasquez currently:
There’s Brock Lesnar, whose future is uncertain as he continues his ongoing battle with diverticulitis. If he returns, the question mark then becomes in what form?
There’s Frank Mir, whose star is sinking a little with lackluster performances (even in victory). He’s viable, but not coveted -- and besides, his next fight will likely be against Big Nog.
There’s Shane Carwin who has lost two in a row, Roy Nelson (ditto), and guys like Cheick Kongo, Matt Mitrione, Travis Browne and Stefan Struve, the last one who’s a stretch and all the rest of whom aren’t there yet.
By bringing in Overeem, there’s at least an immediate third to the JDS/Velasquez party, which only magnifies the singular main event on Nov. 12. As with all sports, people have a tendency to play things forward. A marquee that reads “Champion versus Champion: Cain Velasquez versus Alistair Overeem” will do big business. Just about everything else would require blinders and gullibility to get stoked about for the winner of this big fight.
Once the Strikeforce GP wraps up and contracts can be navigated through, the UFC can stock its shelves with heavyweights for days. Guys like Antonio Silva, Fabricio Werdum, Josh Barnett, Sergei Kharitonov and Daniel Cormier. By 2012, the UFC’s land of bigs will look completely different. Out of the aforementioned names, guys like Mitrione could emerge into the top ten as well. A couple of names on the current UFC roster will certainly make cases for their contention. Only then do you have a true division where mixing and matching the top eight guys or so becomes an exercise in frustrating parity. That’s the right kind of frustration.
But, for now at least, the UFC can use some of Overeem’s muscle.