Champion: Brock Lesnar. Lesnar is apparently coming back this summer from a serious injury that threatened his life and his MMA career. Expect to see Lesnar defend his heavyweight title in June or July.
Number One Contender: The number one contender spot will be determined on March 27th at UFC 111. The UFC set up an interim heavyweight title match between Frank Mir and Shane Carwin. The winner of that fight will get Lesnar health permitting. Personally, I’d rather see Carwin vs. Lesnar.
Other Contenders: The next in line after the Carwin vs. Mir winner is the winner of the UFC 110 fight between Cain Velasquez and Anotnio Rodrigo Nogueira. While I think that Cain is the better long term prospect, I think Nogueira makes for a mroe intriguing bout for Lesnar. The winner of this fight could get the first crack at Lesnar when he returns if the winner of the Carwin/Mir fight is not ready to go by summer.
Also, Junior Dos Santos is very much in the picture. He boasts wins over Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve, Mirko Cro Cop and Gilbert Yvel…all impressive wins. Dos Santos seems to be on the outside looking in though. Much of his fate will be determined by the success of his teammate, Nogueira who is slightly ahead of him in the contender list. In the meantime, Dos Santos will square off against Gabriel Gonzaga in March on Versus. His title shot should come one day.
Other than that I do not know if there are many more serious contenders or threats to Lesnar on the current UFC roster. Former IFL champ and TUF 10 winner Roy Nelson could make some noise, but is probably not a serious threat to Lesnar. Cheick Kongo, Gabriel Gonzaga, and Ben Rothwell all are top 10 to 20 level guys that can hang with the best. I think the one to keep your eyes on outside of the top guys is Todd Duffee, he could make a run as he develops. Duffee has the size and skill set to challenge Lesnar down the road.
This really is as deep as the UFC heavyweight division has ever been. Despite the number of contenders currently there is still a strong desire among fans to see the top non-UFC heavyweights inside the octagon testing themselves against the world’s best. We’d love to see Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett, and Brett Rogers in the UFC. There have been recent rumblings about the possibility of Barnett and Overeem headed to the UFC, which would make them instant contenders and make fans very happy. Not matter how many contender emerge most fans still want to see Fedor vs. Brock, but don’t hold your breath.