On March 27 in Newark, NJ, former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir will battle undefeated division prospect Shane Carwin at UFC 111 for the Interim title -- and the right to face returning champion Brock Lesnar to unify the belts in summer 2010.
Cain Velasquez, fresh off a UFC 110 drubbing of MMA elder statesman Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira back on Feb. 21, is widely considered to be the next in line for a chance at usurping the throne. He has, after all, been carefully groomed for royalty since his UFC 83 debut back in April 2008.
Then a pesky Brazilian named Junior dos Santos decided to crash the party. And despite the promotion's best efforts, the soft-spoken super slugger refuses to go away.
A lot has been made about the new-look heavyweight division and Shane Carwin is one fight away from implementing a new regime. But what do Velasquez and Dos Santos have to keep them company in the waiting room besides a few issues of Highlights magazine?
Striking while the iron is hot has never been one of the UFC's strong suits, but if you look at the statistics, a Velasquez vs. Dos Santos bout for the right to be called number one contender makes perfect sense.
And perfect timing.
In six fights under the Zuffa umbrella, Cain Velasquez has competed against opposition with a combined 105-29 record. His top three opponents were Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Ben Rothwell and Cheick Kongo.
In five fights, also with Zuffa, Junior dos Santos has competed against opposition with a combined 105-33 record. His top three opponents were Fabricio Werdum, Mirko Filipovic and Gabriel Gonzaga.
After what each combatant has accomplished, it's safe to say that outside of each other, any other heavyweight would be a step down in competition. If it's truly about putting on the best fights, then why have either fighter risk their spot in line against a lesser opponent?
Or even worse, why have Cain Velasquez sit on the sidelines until the end of the year?
UFC President Dana White has specifically named Velasquez the substitute fighter for Brock Lesnar in case the winner of Mir vs. Carwin is unable to compete due to illness or injury. That's fine, but that shouldn't prevent him from competing on the same card.
And the timing couldn't be better.
UFC 116 (July 3, 2010):
Brock Lesnar vs. the winner of Shane Carwin vs. Frank Mir
Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos
The event gives all four competitors ample time for rest, recovery and training -- and puts the winner of each contest in line for a heavyweight title fight at the promotion's annual year end event.
And the UFC is big on story lines.
Well, Velasquez knocked out "Minotauro" Nogueira, who just so happens to be the friend, training partner and mentor of Dos Santos. If you want heat, it's right there on a silver platter.
If an injury occurs and Velaquez gets the call-up, so be it, but if he's going to step in against Lesnar, he might as well training for a fight at the same event.
One that truly proves he is the number one contender.
So how about it? Too much planning, too soon? You know where I stand on the issue -- now let's hear your take on the UFC heavyweight division and what you feel is the better blueprint for 2010 (if you have one).