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Looking back at the history of the UFC interim heavyweight title in the wake of latest injury to Cain Velasquez

Mark Hunt and Fabricio Werdum will be fighting for the interim title at UFC 180, the sixth interim heavyweight title fight in UFC history. looks back at the history of the substitute strap, and delves into who fought for it, as well as why the fights happened in the first place.


With the latest injury to UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, Mark Hunt will step in to face Fabricio Werdum for the interim heavyweight championship at UFC 180 on Nov. 15, 2014 in Mexico City (more on that here).

The clash between the "Super Samoan" and the two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) world heavyweight champion will be the sixth interim title fight in the history of the UFC heavyweight division. The last time the interim strap was on the line was at UFC 111 when Shane Carwin battled Frank Mir.

Brock Lesnar, the UFC heavyweight champion at that time, was on the shelf due to a severe bout with diverticulitis but would later unify the titles at UFC 116 after submitting Carwin via side-triangle choke in the second round.

Let's take a look back at the history of the UFC interim heavyweight championship by rediscovering the reasons why those fights took place, who won them, and what they did next.

1. Andrei Arlovski vs. Tim Sylvia at UFC 51 on Feb. 5, 2005

Why did the fight take place? Frank Mir suffered major injuries after a motorcycle accident.

Who won? Arlovski by first-round Achilles lock submission.

What happened next? Arlovski was promoted to UFC heavyweight champion after Mir was unable to return to face "The Pitbull" to unify the two titles.

2. Andrei Arlovski vs. Justin Eilers at UFC 53 on June 4, 2005

Why did the fight take place? Frank Mir was still out of competition due to injuries from motorcycle accident.

Who Won? Arlovski by first-round technical knockout.

What happened next? In Aug. of 2005, Arlovski was promoted to UFC heavyweight champion, when it was learned that Mir would not be able to fight for the title in October of that year and was stripped of his strap after 14 months. In his first fight as UFC heavyweight champion, Arlovkski would defeat Paul Buentello at UFC 55 by first-round knockout.

3. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Tim Sylvia at UFC 81 on Feb. 2, 2008

Why did the fight take place? After defending the UFC heavyweight title against Gabriel Gonzaga in Aug. 2007, Couture announced he was walking away from UFC. This led to a lawsuit by ZUFFA and "The Natural" would not return until he signed a new contract in the following September, which resulted in a title loss to Brock Lesnar at UFC 91.

Who won? Nogueira by third-round guillotine submission.

What happened next? "Big Nog" would become the lone heavyweight to fight in a second-consecutive interim title fight and lost the interim strap to Frank Mir at UFC 92.

4. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Frank Mir at UFC 92 on Dec. 27, 2008

Why did the fight take place? Nogueira and Mir were named coaches of the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), which began in Sept. 2008. Randy Couture returned to the UFC that month and was matched against Brock Lesnar at UFC 91.

Who won? Mir by second-round technical knockout.

What happened next? Mir would face Lesnar in a title-unification match at UFC 100 and lose by technical knockout.

5. Frank Mir vs. Shane Carwin at UFC 111 on March 27, 2010

Why did the fight take place? Brock Lesnar, then-UFC heavyweight champion, was originally scheduled to face Carwin at UFC 106 in November of 2009. It was then pushed back to UFC 108 in January 2010, before the severity of Lesnar's diverticulitis was discovered and he had to undergo surgery. The date in January was cancelled, the interim-title fight was set for March 2010, and Lesnar remained sidelined until UFC 116 that July.

Who won? Carwin knocked out Mir in brutal fashion in the first round.

What happened next? Carwin would face Lesnar at UFC 116 on July 3, 2010 to unify the titles. After nearly finishing Lesnar in the first round, Carwin had almost nothing left in the second stanza. After securing a takedown, Lesnar submitted Carwin with a side-triangle choke.

Stats and facts:

In the five fights, Mir, Nogueira, Sylvia and Arlovski all fought twice. Carwin and Eilers fought once. None of the five fights ever made it to the judges for a decision. Three of the fights were finished in the first round, one was finished in the second and one ended in the third. Out of the five endings, two were by submission, two by technical knockout and one by knockout.

Nogueira and Arlovski are the only interim titleholders who would fight in a second-consecutive interim heavyweight title fight. Mir and Carwin are the two fighters who lost in title-unification fights after winning the interim title. Arlovski is only heavyweight to successfully defend the interim strap, but he never had to fight in a unification bout because he was promoted from interim heavyweight champion to heavyweight champion due to the length of Mir's layoff from his motorcycle accident.

Nogueira holds the longest reign as interim heavyweight champion (Feb. 2, 2008-Dec. 27, 2008). The second longest would be Mir (Dec. 27, 2008-July 11, 2009) and third longest is Arlovski (Feb. 5, 2005-Aug. 16, 2005).

Three of the five fights took place in Las Vegas, while the other two took place in New Jersey.

Now we can add Cain Velasquez, Fabricio Werdum, and Mark Hunt to the history books. But how will this three-way dance play out at UFC 180 next month in Mexico City?

We'll find out in less than three weeks.

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