The UFC heavyweights reminded us again why we love big men in combat sports: knockouts.
UFC Fight Night delivered with some highlight-reel moments, and gave us couch warriors some heavyweight fights to be excited about. But with that enthusiasm comes some sadness. That is, if you love giants. Andre, Goliath and now Bigfoot. It’s time to say goodbye.
Let’s look at the takeaways from UFC Fight Night in Rotterdam.
5. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva is not the fighter he once was.
Remember when Bigfoot knocked out Fedor Emelianenko? Me either. I blocked it out. The Brazilian was once a feared fighter, on a roll that culminated with a classic war with Mark Hunt. But like a teenager learning how to drive, his career hit the brakes. And it doesn’t look like there’s enough gas in the tank to get the SUV going again. Silva these days fights soft. He’s been knocked out in four of his last five fights. Whatever happened in the Hunt fight, or after, has zapped the power out of him. Can he come back? Of course he can, but it won’t be easy. He might wander into a bar and meet Greg Jackson, Robbie Lawler and Donald Trump and find the perfect recipe for success. But I wouldn’t plan on it.
4. Stefan Struve is looking down on the UFC heavyweight division.
Yes, it’s true that knocking out Bigfoot Silva in 2014-2016 is like beating Dada 5000 two minutes in a mile run around the track. It’s not that difficult. But 17 seconds? That’s Ronda Rousey, Conor McGregor and Seth Petruzelli warp speed. I think I could survive 17 seconds with Struve, just by falling on my back and scooting, Fabrico Werdum style. Struve was once looking like a rising star in the sport until heart problems put him on the shelf, but he’s back and looking better than ever. His annihilation of Bigfoot proved what we all know already: Bigfoot isn’t real, and even if he was at one time, there’s no proof of it anymore. And it showed that Struve is a force in the heavyweight division. At 7 feet tall, he’s a real giant, not just a made-up one. He’s got some true potential. If nothing else, he can be the last go-to-guy for Daniel Cormier to offer to pay for camp in hopes of someone beating Jon Jones some day in the heavyweight division. Jones seems to only have trouble with tall guys and if Struve can avoid the elbows, he might be the one guy who stops him. At let’s not forget that Struve has a victory over Stipe Miocic, the possible next UFC heavyweight champion of the world.
3. Andrei Arlovski — almost.
Andrei Arlovski‘s comeback was among the best in UFC history. Out of the game, contention and conservation. That’s where he was. He was once knocked out in 22 seconds by a guy who looked like he should be the janitor at the arena. Arlovski was supposed to be a shot fighter. But then, he found Greg Jackson. Arlovski found a way back to the UFC and surprised everybody with four consecutive wins against top UFC guys. He defeated Brendan Schaub, Bigfoot Silva, Travis Browne and Frank Mir. Arlovski was suddenly drinking out of the same well as Robbie Lawler. But just when he was going to get a title shot, he ended up stinking up the joint in his decision victory over Mir, and his title shot got put on hold. His reward? Fight more top guys. He didn’t last very long against Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem, which is a very bad sign for his future. Arlovski’s greatest strength is his greatest weakness. He fights like a He-Man, but has the chin quite the opposite. If you hit Arlovski on the chin, he’s going down like you flicked a paperclip across the room. He has a bright future in the UFC, but not as a championship contender. He’s entertaining to watch, but then again, so is NASCAR.
2. Alistair Overeem is finally going to get his title shot.
Overeem is the most experienced heavyweight in the UFC. With 55 MMA fights under his belt, he clearly knows what he is doing out there. He won’t be overwhelmed in the moment. The former DREAM and Strikeforce heavyweight champion appears on the verge of a UFC title shot against the winner of the Fabrico Werdum-Stipe Miocic fight. He already defeated Werdum in Strikeforce. Overeem is always a difficult fight because he has excellent standup, and he’s the best kickboxer in the heavyweight division. He is also probably the smartest fighter in the division. All that cage experience matters and in close fights he knows how to pull ahead. Overeem could be one of the UFC’s top stars if he wins the heavyweight championship. His biggest downside is that his body size and mass seems to fluctuate greatly with each fight, raising questions about which Overeem is going to show up. They guy who destroyed Brock Lesnar, or the guy who who was knocked out by pre-2014 Bigfoot Silva. Overeem can knock out any heavyweight in the division.
1. It’s time for the UFC to get focused on its heavyweights
As awesome as Overeem’s crane-kick knockout of Andrei Arlovski was, let’s face the fact that both of these guys absolutely cannot be the best big man in MMA. They are the equivalent of Hulk Hogan vs. Randy “Macho Man” Savage in WCW in the mid-1990s. They are cool fighters, but Jon Jones would eat them both up for lunch and still have time to run back to his car for any extra cash left in the glove compartment. Cain Velasquez seems to fight only during Olympic years and Fabricio Werdum isn’t exactly the most exciting striker in the world. The UFC has been fortunate to have guys like Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Jon Jones, and now Conor McGregor to hang its promotional hat on, but it is just missing its chance at gold worse than a swinging Kimbo Slice right hand. Fans love the heavyweights and the UFC needs to bring in some talented young blood into the division. Brock Lesnar would take half of the UFC heavyweight Top 10 to “Suplex City” and that’s not saying much. Stipe Miocic may be the next guy, but the UFC needs to find the Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor of the heavyweight division. And if they can’t, bring in Fedor Emelianenko. He’s got business to take care of with Werdum.