KING: The enduring charm of the UFC Heavyweight division and why it’s still a gateway for many casual fans to hardcore fandom

By Christopher King, MMATorch contributor

Stipe Miocic (photo by Jason Silva © USA Today Sports)

The consensus pound-for-pound best fighter in the UFC as of this moment is Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. He is a dominant champion who has produced outstanding skills, exciting finishes, and is widely regarded as the most competent technical fighter to be competing today.

The UFC Heavyweight Champion, by contrast, has no such accolades thrown at him with such regularity. In fact, the most regular accolade thrown at Mr. Miocic’s was is the fact that he is the nicest guy. This may be due to the fact that he has only defended his belt once since winning it (which in and of itself is not typical of heavyweights), but also, while Stipe Miocic has given us flashes of excitement, he is a long way off from being the pound-for-pound best. One title he does have, though, that Demetrious Johnson, or any other lower class champion will never have, is that he can now be called “the baddest man on the planet.”

“The Baddest Man on the Planet” was first attached to a Heavyweight champion back when Mike Tyson first rose to prominence in the late 1980s. Since the decline of boxing and the huge rise in popularity of MMA, the moniker has moved to the UFC and people love heavyweight fights. While the more hardcore MMA fans bemoan the lack of fresh up-and-coming talent in the Heavyweight Division, those fights are the easiest way to convert the occasional casual fan to watch more. They can end in an instant, there is rarely a dominant champion with predictable outcomes, and any one man who weighs that much, who can throw a power punch, can potentially shake the world.

One of the most anticipated fights I have ever looked forward to was Shane Carwin vs. Brock Lesnar at UFC 116. Brock Lesnar, the man mountain who crossed over from WWE to capture the UFC Heavyweight Championship, is possibly the most imposing physical specimen of a man (alongside a juiced up Allistair Overeem). Against him was Shane Carwin, who has sledgehammers for hands. He was 12-0 and he had never had to go past the 1st round. It was guaranteed violence and it did not disappoint. Brock overcame adversity and eventually beat Carwin by submission in the 2nd round.

We all know that some heavyweight fights are pure garbage. The downside with them is that when a man is that huge and throws punches with such bad intentions, his gas tank can only keep him going for so long. It can end up looking bloody awful with two big, slow men; just look at the Gabriel Gonzaga against Kevin Jordan. But when it works, it is a thing of pure genius and can change a casual fan into a rabid UFC/MMA fan.

The unpredictability of the division is what keeps it so interesting. The current UFC Heavyweight Champion has been TKO’d by no. 13 ranked Stefan Struve who has in turn been TKO’d  by no. 7 ranked Mark Hunt, who has been KO’d by no. 4 ranked Junior Dos Santos who himself was knocked TKO’d by no. 2 ranked Cain Velasquez who was submitted by Fabricio Werdum, who in turn was KO’d by Stipe Miocic. You could even make this circle of destruction and chaos bigger by putting in fighters such as Frank Mir, Antonio Silva, Alaistair Overeem, and others into the mix.

Stipe Miocic may well be one of the first fighters to successfully hold onto his belt and defend it from all challengers for a few years. However, if history is an indicator, as it so often is, then the chaos, the destruction, and the unpredictability will continue, and I for one, am more than happy with that.

(Christopher King of Arundel, England is a new MMATorch contributor. He got hooked on MMA after watching UFC 114 featuring “Rampage” Jackson vs. Rashad Evans and from there, he says, “I spent a ridiculous amount of money and time watching every event from UFC 1 up to the present so I could understand the history of the sport, the fighters, the weight divisions and everything else in between. It was the style of fighting that drew me in, in order to see what martial art was the most effective, and from there, the fighters themselves, their story, their training and the sacrifices that they go through.” Follow him on Twitter – @ChristofKing)

1 Comment on KING: The enduring charm of the UFC Heavyweight division and why it’s still a gateway for many casual fans to hardcore fandom

  1. Good points. I thought it was a terrific idea to put Punk under two quality heavyweight fights for this reason exactly; it’s a lot easier for non-fans to get excited about Heavyweight fights (and, in my experience, women’s fights)

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