The Undefeated Part 7: Heavyweights

(Cain Velasquez leads the list if unbeaten Heavyweights)’s seven-part series on Mixed Martial Arts’ undefeated fighters is at its conclusion.Our series profiles the top fighters in each of MMA’s major divisions who have yet to suffer defeat. Fighters from each of the major organizations will be considered, including the UFC, WEC, Strikeforce, DREAM, Sengoku, and Shooto. Tournament participants in the upcoming Bellator season will not be included in this series, as a special profile is in the works for the organization’s second season of action.

Our series’ previous entries:

Light Heavyweights

The seventh and final part of our series features the Heavyweight division – weight limit: 265lbs.

Fighter’s Name: Shane Carwin
Nickname: N/A
Date of Birth: 1/4/1975
Camp: Grudge Training Center
Fighting Style: Boxing, Wrestling
Record: 11-0-0
Organization: Ultimate Fighting Championship
Last Opponent: Gabriel Gonzaga

Few men rival the massive size of UFC Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar. Shane Carwin is among the gigantic few. Though Carwin lists as an inch shorter and weighs in about six pounds lighter than Lesnar, both have muscles in places that most people don’t have places. They are the only two men in UFC history requiring size 4X gloves, but only Carwin requires his gloves to be split at the seams in order to allow them to fit around his canned ham-sized hands. To quote Joey Styles, Carwin has “arms like legs and legs like people.”

Carwin’s size makes him a particularly compelling opponent for Lesnar, but size isn’t all that Carwin offers in the Octagon. Carwin won a Division II national championship while wrestling for Western State College of Colorado. As a member of the Grudge Fight Team, Carwin earned his purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Nate Marquardt. It’s Carwin’s boxing, however, that has impressed the most.

Carwin has knocked out six of his 11 opponents and earned a submission due to strikes. None of Carwin’s fights have lasted longer than 2:11, and excluding his professional debut, his longest fight lasted just 1:41. Against Gabriel Gonzaga, his toughest opponent to date, Carwin was rocked very early but recovered well and knocked Gonzaga out. Total time: 1:09.

Carwin will fight Frank Mir in one of the most anticipated matches of 2010. If Carwin can defeat Mir without sustaining any major injuries, he will fight Brock Lesnar, in Lesnar’s return to competition, for the Heavyweight title in what would be one of the UFC’s all-time biggest matches, both literally and figuratively.

Fighter’s Name: Shane del Rosario
Nickname: N/A
Date of Birth: 1983
Camp: Team Oyama
Fighting Style: Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Record: 9-0-0
Organization: Strikeforce
Last Opponent: Brandon Cash (Strikeforce Challengers 4, 11/6/2009)

Shane del Rosario is the former WBC Muay Thai Heavyweight champion. A southpaw, del Rosario has a crisp jab and keeps his guard up well. Being primarily a muay thai fighter, del Rosario has plenty of work to do on his takedown defense, but against Brandon Cash he was able to showcase his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Cash knocked del Rosario just moments into the fight. With the much larger Cash looming over del Rosario, it seemed only a matter of time before del Rosario’s winless record would be blemished. Shockingly, del Rosario battled through Cash’s onslaught and attacked as soon as the opening presented itself, locking up Cash with an omoplata and forcing him to tap out. Del Rosario showed tremendous heart in defeating the much larger and previously unbeaten Cash.

There was speculation that del Rosario was to fight Bobby Lashley in January, but the match never came to fruition. Though he gained some notoriety while fighting for EliteXC, the promotion was partnered with Strikeforce, making del Rosario one of Strikeforce’s few home-grown prospects. He needs to refine both his standup and ground games, but he appears to have a good foundation in both areas and should find himself competing against the top tier of Strikeforce’s Heavyweight division before long.

Fighter’s Name: Cain Velasquez
Nickname: N/A
Date of Birth: 7/18/1982
Camp: American Kickboxing Academy
Fighting Style: Wrestling, Boxing
Record: 8-0-0
Organization: Ultimate Fighting Championship
Last Opponent: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (UFC 110, 2/20/2010)

When Cain Velasquez knocked out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the first round at UFC 110, he ascended to the top of the list of fighters believed to be capable of defeating UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar.

Though Frank Mir had previously knocked Nogueira out, the outcome came under scrutiny when it was discovered that Nogueira had fought with a severe staph infection. Nogueira suffered no such affliction against Velasquez. The outcome of the match, the figurative (and nearly literal) shattering of Nogueira’s legendary chin, was the result of Velasquez’s ever-improving abilities, especially his boxing.

As good as Velasquez’s boxing has become, it must terrify the majority of the UFC’s Heavyweight division to know that it’s only his third greatest asset. Velasquez earned All-American honors twice while wrestling for Arizona State, which he has obviously translated into a successful base in MMA. Velasquez’s greatest asset, better than his boxing and his wrestling, is his conditioning. Velasquez is regarded as one of the hardest workers in the gym, and unlike so many other “workout warriors,” the fruits of his labor are apparent in the cage, where Velasquez maintains an aggressive pace for the duration of his fights. Even when he was knocked down several times by Cheick Kongo, Velasquez was able to recover quickly and take Kongo down, which in addition to his conditioning shows the sturdiness of Velasquez’s chin.

Conservatively, Velasquez is no worse than the fifth best Heavyweight in the world at this moment. He is in line for a UFC Heavyweight title shot should the winner of Frank Mir v. Shane Carwin suffer an injury.

Fighter’s Name: Todd Duffee
Nickname: N/A
Date of Birth: 12/6/1985
Camp: Xtreme Couture
Fighting Style: Boxing
Record: 6-0-0
Organization: Ultimate Fighting Championship
Last Opponent: Tim Hague (UFC 102, 8/29/2009)

After earning the fastest official knockout in UFC history, Todd Duffee vaulted onto the list of the Heavyweight division’s top prospects. Despite his historic knockout, Duffee seems to have the most work to do compared to other top prospects such as Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez, and Junior dos Santos.

Duffee’s power cannot be questioned. He has knocked each of his six opponents out, with only UFC veteran Assuerio Silva surviving until the second round. When he’s throwing hands, Duffee favors a Greco-Roman clinch, which he uses with mixed effectiveness. Duffee is able to keep opponents pressed against the cage, a la Randy Couture, but has a glaring weakness when it comes to using the clinch for takedowns. Against Silva, Duffee attempted a trip takedown while in the clinch, only to find himself on his back with Silva on top of him.

On the ground, Duffee is a primarily a ground and pound specialist. Duffee is either not interested in or incapable of passing his opponents’ guard. To his benefit, Duffee’s ground and pound inside his opponent’s full guard is quite effective, but as he faces tougher opponents, he will need to show that he can transition into better positions.

Duffee has begun training with Xtreme Couture, a move facilitated by Duffee’s matriculation at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Duffee previously trained with American Top Team, and has said that he still considers it his home team and, should the opportunity arise, would not hesitate to train with the his former team.

Duffee is scheduled to fight Mike Russow at UFC 114 in Las Vegas, NV on May 29.

Fighter’s Name: Bobby Lashley
Nickname: N/A
Date of Birth: 7/16/1976
Camp: American Top Team
Fighting Style: Wrestling
Record: 5-0-0
Organization: Strikeforce
Last Opponent: Wes Sims (Strikeforce: Miami, 1/20/2010)

Through their shared WWE background, their freakish physiques, and their legitimate wrestling credentials, it’s nearly impossible to talk about Bobby Lashley without comparing him to UFC Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar.

Lashley’s fighting style, based in wrestling and supplemented by boxing, is similar to Lesnar’s. The main difference between Lashley and Lesnar is that Lashley seems uninspired when he fights. Lashley appears to lack the passion for beating his opponent that Lesnar wears on his proverbial sleeve in each of his fights. Sure, Lashley has dominated most of his five opponents, but all the while it seemed as though Lashley was merely going through the motions of being an enormous and dominant wrestler against inferior talent of a diminutive (by comparison) stature. Effective, no doubt, but it doesn’t inspire confidence that Lashley will fare well against the top tier of Strikeforce’s Heavyweight division nor has it allowed Lashley to approach the level of stardom enjoyed by Lesnar.

To Lashley’s credit, he has always maintained that, unlike Lesnar, he wants to work his way up through the ranks of the Heavyweight division. Thus far, Lashley has stuck to his word, and based on his performances thus far, that’s for the best. Lashley had been moonlighting with TNA in between MMA fights, which only fuels concerns about his long-term prospects in MMA.

Though there are reasons to question his future, Lashley’s talent is undeniable. Lashley appears to be focused solely on MMA, at least for the time being, and that focus along with an increased confidence in his boxing will likely do wonders for his MMA career. Hopefully, both Lashley and Strikeforce can avoid the temptation to rush him into the title picture.

Fighter’s Name: Jon Madsen
Nickname: N/A
Date of Birth:
Camp: HIT Squad
Fighting Style: Wrestling
Record: 3-0-0
Organization: Ultimate Fighting Championship
Last Opponent: Justin Wren (The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights Finale, 12/5/2009)

First, last, and always, Jon Madsen is a wrestler. That has been both a blessing and a curse through three official professional fights.

Madsen has a good takedown, but his repertoire consists of little else. Madsen will occasionally throw a punch or an elbow while pinning his opponent to the ground, as evidenced by Madsen’s fight against Abe Wagner during The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights. Thus far, when Madsen takes his opponent down, there is very little both they, and he, can do. While it’s been great for Madsen’s record thus far, his entirely-too-similar-to-lay-and-pray style makes for prohibitively boring fights. There’s the added detriment, as highlighted by Brendan Schaub, that if an opponent can avoid Madsen’s takedown, Madsen is going to be picked apart on his feet.

Madsen is scheduled to fight Mostapha Al-turk at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi on April 10.

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