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The Final Four: The UFC Heavyweight Tournament That Has To Happen

Antonio Rodrigo NogueiraWith no return on the immediate horizon for reigning UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, it has become painfully obvious that the time is now for some some critical refinement in the UFC’s heavyweight division.

Will Lesnar return from the intestinal infection that has left UFC President Dana White publically wondering if he will ever compete again, let alone in six months like some of the more optimistic reports indicate? In a perfect world Brock returning in mid-2010 sounds fantastic, but we all know that this is no perfect world we live in, and it never hurts to plan for the worst. The worst being the very real possibility that UFC 100’s dismantlement of Frank Mir may very well have been the last time we will see Brock in action…. Period.

Of course if Lesnar can make a full recovery and gets to a point where he feels comfortable putting his health on the line once again there will be an immediate title shot waiting for him, but here’s what I feel should be done to correct the situation in the ever-important and visible heavyweight division of the UFC for the time being.

Right now we have five men that deserve consideration for a crack at the championship:

Shane Carwin was already guaranteed the next title shot so it’s hard for me to imagine him settling for anything less than an interim or tournament format championship bout in his next outing.

Cain Velasquez definitely deserves title consideration based on his recent victories over Cheick Kongo and Ben Rothwell. However, neither of those opponents justify a title fight in my mind.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is back in the mix with his recent impressive victory over Randy Couture and an upcoming showdown with Cain Velasquez.

Junior dos Santos is just as deserving at a shot at the crown as anyone with his consecutive victories over Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.

Frank Mir may be coming off of a loss, but you can’t discredit his recent demolition of Nogueira, who is also deserving of consideration.

The major problem I see with the UFC’s heavyweight division at this point in time is that you have a bunch of really talented guys, but none of which can really be considered deserving of a title shot based on their recent performances in the Octagon.

But if there is not one man that seems deserving of championship status right now, what do you do? Well I happen to think the solution is simple: You create someone that is deserving through a four man, last man standing is crowned the heavyweight king of the hill, tournament format.

The unfortunate scenario we have on our hands if we decide to go that route is that I have already previously outlined five extremely dangerous fighters who are just as deserving at a bid for the title as the next. Five guys makes no sense in a tournament format, so here’s what we do: Velasquez, Carwin, Dos Santos and Nogueira are all coming off of wins, Frank Mir is not. Combined with the fact that Mir is scheduled to face off with a temporarily irrelevant Cheick Kongo at UFC 107, Frank is going to have to wait in line right now.

With that being said, there’s no reason for the winner of Mir vs. Kongo not to be the front-runner in challenging the champion as soon as the dust has settled in the much needed tournament I’m about to recommend.

I’m sure by now you can see where I’m going with this. Thankfully Joe Silva has already locked up half of the tourney for UFC 110 when Nogueira and Velasquez will settle their differences; So the only match that remains to be made is obviously Carwin vs. Dos Santos.

The winner of Nogueira/Velasquez faces off with the winner of Carwin/Dos Santos at an event yet to be determined and what we end up with is a decisive heavyweight champion the people can believe in and get behind, and a handful of challengers with the potential to take over in the next year or two.

While it may look great on paper, don’t expect for this tournament format to be as simple of a solution as it first appears. The most notable roadblock we could face would be if both Nogueira and Dos Santos manage to pull out victories in their bouts. I find it extremely unlikely that the two longtime training partners would agree to face one another under any circumstances, regardless of what was on the line, but I could be wrong.

The two key players to keep an eye on in this big clusterfart of heavyweight confusion are going to be Carwin and Dos Santos. I’d be shocked if news of their meeting isn’t announced in the coming weeks.

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