Path to Title Shot Still Unclear for Velasquez and Nogueira


Heavyweights Cain Velasquez and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira are determined to claim the top spot in the division. A win this Sunday night in Australia would elevate the winner into the top of the heap, but it won’t necessarily guarantee an immediate shot at the gold.

That right will be reserved to a newly crowned interim champion that will be decided next month at UFC 111 in Newark, New Jersey. Heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar will not be returning to action until mid-July, which leaves top contenders Shane Carwin and Frank Mir to battle it out while the champ recovers.

UFC President Dana White has made it known that the newly crowned interim champion will meet Lesnar in the summer to establish an undisputed heavyweight kingpin. However, if Mir or Carwin is unable to get medical clearance by July, then whoever emerges victorious in the UFC 110 headliner could be pushed into a championship collision with Lesnar sooner than expected.

Assuming things go according to plan, where would that leave the winner between Nogueira and Velasquez? Would they be forced to sit on the sidelines waiting to take on the undisputed champion in a fight that could take several more months to come about, or do they stay active and challenge one more opponent to truly cement their claim as the number one contender?

Let’s first take a look at how it would play out if Velasquez were triumphant in the UFC’s first trip to Australia. A win over an iconic figure such as Nogueira would be the most prestigious victory of Velasquez’ young MMA career. It would be Velasquez’ sixth straight win in the Octagon and it would be hard to deny the AKA heavyweight a shot at the title. It does not make much sense to keep Velasquez benched and surely the hard-nosed NCAA All-American wouldn’t want to sit around either.

If Velasquez is given another fight, all signs point to Junior dos Santos. When you talk about the most feared striker in the heavyweight division, more often than not you are referring to dos Santos. He has been smashing through all comers since debuting with the UFC in 2008. The Nogueira-trained heavyweight has stopped Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and Gilbert Yvel in his four Octagon appearances. If “Cigano” disposes of Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC on Versus 1, then a fight with Velasquez to determine the next number one contender would be a perfect fit.

Like Velasquez, dos Santos is undefeated in the UFC and is considered by many pundits to be the next big thing in the heavyweight division. This bout could take place in the summer and would set up a monstrous championship headliner between the winner and whoever holds the title at the given time before years end.

Another notable option for Velasquez would come in the form of the Mir-Carwin loser. Velasquez was originally set to face Carwin back at UFC 104 and it was a fight that fans seemed quite interested in and one that they would likely still anticipate.

Of course, all of this changes if it is “Minotauro” who leaves Sydney as the victor.

Nogueira’s fate would be slightly different than Velasquez in the sense that a showdown against dos Santos would not be an option. Much like the triangle of AKA welterweights refusing to fight each other, the same rings true for the Team Blackhouse heavyweights.

In Nogueira’s case, it may be best to keep him on the shelf until able to launch the former PRIDE champion straight into a championship fight.

As you can see, when it comes to the UFC 110 main event, the winner’s fate is anything but certain. There are a variety of different paths for the winner to follow and the ball is in the UFC’s court as far as what will come next for Nogueira or Velasquez should they win this weekend in the land down under.

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