A Trip to the Past Could Help Determine the Future UFC Champion

UFC Heavyweight BeltWith news of UFC Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar’s medical issues dominating the headlines, questions have began to circulate about what the future holds for the company’s heavyweight division.

Prior to being forced to withdraw from both this weekend’s UFC 106 and UFC 108 in January, Lesnar was set to defend his title against undefeated Shane Carwin, a man some thought could possibly dethrone the champion with his heavy hands and strong wrestling base.

As his date with Lesnar has been put on indefinite hold, Carwin and numerous others have wondered about a meeting with fellow undefeated contender Cain Velasquez. Set to take on legendary Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 108, the American Kickboxing Academy prospect recently had his next fight scrapped too, as Nogueira has once again been sidelined by a staph infection.

While both Carwin and Velasquez could make reasonable cases for a chance to reign over the heavyweight division during Lesnar’s absence, the two undefeated contenders are certainly not alone.

Junior dos Santos has been equally impressive, if not more so, than both Carwin and Velasquez. In compiling an unblemished record in the UFC, some would argue the Black House team member has faced the best competition of the three, earning wins of Fabricio Werdum, up-and-comer Stefan Struve and Pride legend Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.

The aforementioned “Minotauro” Nogueira would certainly have to be included in the discussion, not only because he was set to face Velasquez in a fight believed to be a #1 contender match, but also because he is a former heavyweight champion and a Top 5 heavyweight.

Both of those descriptors can also be applied to Frank Mir, who would potentially gain extra footing in his argument for an opportunity on the basis of having defeated Nogueira back in December of last year, as well as Lesnar in his UFC debut.

Having two or three fighters with legitimate angles towards holding the belt is difficult to deal with, not to mention five. How will they decide?

How about an old-fashioned eight-man tournament?

Actually, how about two tournaments – one with the top eight heavyweights seeded and paired off working towards the title, the other with the next eight battling to be alternates?

Now, we’re not talking about old school, three fights in one night tournaments; while the practice of having multiple fights in the same night is still popular in Japan, those days have passed in North America.

However, what could work is a variation of the model Bellator successfully used during their first foray into Mixed Martial Arts.

Hypothetically speaking, let’s use UFC 108 as the starting point for this idea.

Two fights from each tournament are scheduled for UFC 108, with the battle for the belt on the main card and the alternate matches on the preliminary portion, perhaps airing live on Spike.

Each of the alternate bouts would have a corresponding title tournament bout so that determining who fills in where is not an issue. If a fighter is injured in the first title tournament bout and unable to continue, the winner of the corresponding alternate bout takes their place. The same setup repeats itself for UFC 109.

With the first round complete and other headlining acts needing their fair share of the spotlight, the tournament takes a break so that fighters can recover and train for their next opponent. Each semi-final fight can become the headlining act of another show, say UFC 112 and 113. With the same allotment of time off in between, the theoretical title tilt could serve as the Main Even at UFC 117 in August 2010.

I know what you’re thinking: why we wouldn’t schedule the final fight as the main event of one of the UFC’s annual marquee events like the year-end Ultimate 2010 or the Super Bowl show in February?

Because one of those shows can serve as The Return of Brock Lesnar!

Imagine the promotional madness that would emerge from the UFC is their year-end event was the return of Brock Lesnar into an immediate title match against whoever came away with what was once his belt?

If you’re reading this Dana – I want a cut if you decide to go through with this idea.

In addition to being an entertaining fix to a potentially difficult situation, such an event would be a tremendous opportunity to introduce a new set of heavyweight fighters to the masses, especially in the alternate’s bracket.

As much as veterans like Antoni Hardonk and Heath Herring would certainly love to be included, giving newcomers and emerging talents like Pat Barry, Todd Duffee, Mike Russow and even a couple member of the TUF 10 cast a chance to showcase their skills would be far more beneficial in the long run.

Which leaves us at the question of who makes the cut in each tournament? How’s this look?

Title Tournament (in order of seeding)

1. Frank Mir

2. Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira

3. Junior Dos Santos

4. Shane Carwin

5. Cain Velasquez

6. Gabriel Gonzaga

7. Cheick Kongo

8. Mirko Cro Cop

Alternate Tournament

1. Stefan Struve

2. Ben Rothwell

3. Pat Barry

4. Paul Buentello

5. Todd Duffee

6. Brendan Schaub

7. Marcus Jones

8. Mike Russow / TUF 10 Winner (if not Schaub or Jones)

There is no way that looking at the potential matchups doesn’t have you a little interested?

The first round alone is four dynamite fights, not to mention the young guns slugging it out in the alternate’s bracket, and that is just the first round.

Dana White and the UFC were in a crunch for main events before Brock Lesnar came down with diverticulitis. Now that the champ is going to be on the shelf for an extended period of time, things have only gotten tougher.

Decisions are going to have to be made about the heavyweight championship and how to determine who is next in line.

Why not dip into the past to solve both problems?

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