The UFC heavyweight title is one of the most presitigous things in the sport of mixed martial arts. The Heavyweight title in particular has seemed to struggle to find a permanent home. There are several guys on the current UFC roster who have been either champion or interim champion (Frank Mir, Shane Carwin, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Brock Lesnar, and Cain Velasquez). The current heavyweight champion, Junios Dos Santos has blown through his compteition. However, there has to be someone on the current roster who can one day be a champion. Who is that guy? What about up and coming guys, are there any non-UFC guys who could one day be UFC champions?
There are several guys on the UFC roster who may contend one day. I want to suggst the 5 most likely guys to win the UFC heavyweight title. I did not include former champions on this list, but I do think that guys like Cain Velasquez, Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar could make runs to get their belt back.
1. Alistair Overeem
I do not know if Overeem will ever fight for the title, much less win the title. However, he is well positiond to get a shot. He is one win away from a title shot. I don’t know if I would pick him over Dos Santos, but with his striking pedigree he poses an interesting threat to Dos Santos. Overeem is the most likely guy on this list to be UFC heavyweight champion on the basis of where he stands now in the division.
2. Travis Browne
I like Browne. He has tons of upside. He has competed well with guys like Struve and Kongo. He is ready to move to the upper level of the division. He could be sitting well for a title shot if he notches a few wins in 2012. Browne has the size and skill to be dangerous to anyone int he division. At the very least I expect Browne to be a top 10 type heavyweight before next year is over.
3. Stipe Miocic
He is only 1-0 in UFC, but he has potential. There are several other prospects in UFC right now and most people feel he has the best skill set. Miocic has both boxing and wwrestling credentials which can really help him. He looked solid against Beltran, but not overly dominant. I’m not jumping up and down for Stipe, but he is a name to watch.
4. Brendan Schaub
Some of his hype train left with his loss to Nogueira. However, he is young in the sport. He is athletic. He is always improving. He has serious power. I think Schaub can beat a lot of high level guys right now. I would not write him off. I think Schaub is a win or two away from being in contention. The question with Schaub is his chin.
5. Edinaldo Oliveira
This is a guy that was MMA Sun’s top heavyweight prospect for some time. He reminds me a bit of Junior Dos Santos. He isn’t a huge heavyweight, but he is tall and has good striking. He could totally flop in UFC, but I expect him to do well He is aligned with good fighters and has proven himself in the little leagues in Brazil.
There are a few other UFC guys who could make a move towards the title. Guys liek Stefan Struve and Dave Herman are still young and can still improve some.
How about non-UFC guys? Certainly some of the Strikeforce guys could contend. I realistcally think that Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett are the only two who have any chance of beating Dos Santos. There is still a chance that they are in the UFC in 2012. I also like Strikeforce prospects Shane Del Rosario and Gabriel Salinas-Jones. They may not be ready for the champion conversation, but they are on their way. The other obvious person to talk about would be Bellator Heavyweight champion, Cole Konrad. He may be improving, but I haven’t been overly impressed yet. Also, I don’t expect he would be in UFC any time soon, so let’s hold off on hin.
As far as prospects are concerned, the Heavyweights are the weakest of any division. There are a few to keep an eye on. In my opinion the one most likely to make an impact in UFC is Jared Rosholt. There is a trio of Russian guys I really like in Guram Gugenishvili, Shamil Abdurahimov and Magomed Malikov, but they won’t be heading to UFC soon.
The reality is right now I expect Dos Santos to hold onto the belt for a while. The best challenger could be Overeem. If Overeem does not beat Dos Santos then I would expect some former champions to get cracks at the belt.