With Overeem out: who can fight Junior Dos Santos?
The MMA world erupted yesterday after K-1 Champion and MMA superstar Alistair Overeem tested positive for an elevated T/E ratio
(14:1, to be exact), putting him out of UFC 146’s main-event, and halting one of the longest Heavyweight winning streaks in recent memory, that could have ended with Overeem holding every single major Mixed-Martial Arts promotion heavyweight title, as well as the K-1 title.
During the fallout, the Internet has erupted with fans clamouring to voice their input to who should replace Overeem and fight for the title against Junior Dos Santos:
Mark Hunt: With an 8-7 MMA record, Mark Hunt doesn’t exactly spring to mind as a favourite in the title contention race. However, Hunt’s coming off a three-fight win streak with victories over Ben Rothwell, Chris Tuchscherer and most recently Cheick Kongo, one of the few heavyweight winning streaks at the moment. Nobody in the UFC can beat Hunt in a striking match, which puts him in an interesting position versus Dos Santos (obviously, MMA is not K-1). Hunt displays clean boxing, good kicks and knees and is deceptively fast. He also holds a titanium chin, and it’s for precisely those reasons that make it highly unlikely that he’ll get to challenge for the title. The UFC don’t want to run the risk of their rising heavyweight superstar being defeated by a journeyman. On a pleasant note, there's currently a campaign on Twitter
, with the hashtag: #RallyforMarkHunt.
Frank Mir: Mir is the probable choice to receive the nod, coming off a winning streak that involves Mirko Cro-Cop, Roy Nelson and Antonio Minotauro Nogueria, the latter by submission – marking the first time Nogueria has been submitted in professional MMA competition. Despite his enormous advances in recent years, the most-likely outcome for a potential title shot would be a devastating first-round KO at the hands of Dos Santos. Mir’s stand-up, although powerful, has shown many flaws, and he has been hurt by people not known for their punching power. This is a recipe for disaster against a power-puncher like Dos Santos, and may spell the end of Mir’s title contention hopes in the UFC if he fails to attain the belt yet again.
Cain Velasquez: Dos Santos have already met, at the inaugural UFC on Fox event last November. The fight lasted just past the 60-second mark, with Dos Santos recording an emphatic knockout victory. Few people can really say that Velasquez was truly out-classed, and that it was an accurate representation of the stylistic challenges that Velasquez could pose someone like Dos Santos, but rather an example of why it is not wise to trade blows at that velocity with someone of Dos Santos’ stand-up calibre. Although the UFC’s recent trend of immediate match-ups is growing wearisome, it allows an excuse for an interesting title-fight and gives Velasquez the opportunity to showcase his true abilities.
Fabricio Werdum: Continuing with the revenge theme, Werdum could be billed as a compelling rematch to Dos Santos, whom came as an underdog in his UFC debut only to deliver a brutal uppercut and subsequent TKO of Werdum. He was on a winning streak of former MMA heavyweight king Fedor Emelianeko, Mike Kyle and Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, before losing via decision to Alistair Overeem when both men still competed under the Strikeforce banner. He recently defeated Roy Nelson at UFC 143 by decision. Although the same stylistic struggle would be with him in a re-match (although, obviously much more apparent), Werdum could be an interesting tertiary choice.
Fedor Emelianenko: It was only a couple of years ago that Fedor stood at the #1 spot of every MMA ranking and pound-for-pound list, but a losing streak to Werdum, Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson saw his sharp descent from grace, and he was released from Strikeforce. Most recently, he defeated Jeff Monson in Russia via decision and Satoshi Ishii in Japan. An immediate title-shot if he was to be signed to the UFC is highly unlikely, but the option remains.
Daniel Cormier/Josh Barnett: The two are expected to fight soon for the conclusion of the Strikeforce heavyweight grand-prix. Cormier is a relative newcomer to MMA, but holds an immaculate 9-0 record and an impressive wrestling pedigree. Barnett on the other hand is an old pro, emerging from an impressive 8-fight run that includes the scalps of Gilbert Yvel, Brett Rodgers and Sergei Kharitonov. The UFC might be a bit hesitant to opt for the possibility of Barnett fighting for the title as a follow-up to the Overeem scandal, seeing as Barnett himself has tested positive for anabolic steroids twice in the past.
Frank Mir looks to be the primary candidate for a showdown with Junior Dos Santos, but as a personal fan of Mark Hunt, nothing would make me happier than a stand-up battle between the two. Multiple incidents of precedence have occurred in the UFC regarding illegitimate contenders fighting for title belts, the best known probably being Matt Serra’s historic upset of Georges St-Pierre in 2007. But do Zuffa really want to take chances after this whole Overeem mess?