With many legendary superstars from the old PRIDE organization slowing down and the UFC still dragging itself out of the forgettable Tim Sylvia era, the search is on for new heavyweight talents in mixed martial arts.
The reality of the situation, however, is that there simply aren’t a whole lot of overly skilled fighters in the 230-265 pound range for Dana White and others to develop.
Most jumbo-sized athletes are drawn to sports like football and basketball because of their statuses in society and don’t even give a second thought to the opportunity to become a heavyweight star in mixed martial arts. You just don’t see a whole lot of 180-pound 12-year-olds in karate or judo.
This of course is a problem as the heavyweight fights have always been given preferred status by fight fans, especially in the 90’s when Mike Tyson was selling out stadiums and drawing tons of pay-per-view buys with ease.
But as MMA and the UFC grow in popularity, more and more athletes from other sports are likely to make the jump, including the WWE and other pro wrestling organizations.
And while hardcore MMA betting fans and martial arts purists may not like it, don’t be surprised if most of these guys end up succeeding.
It’s simple with heavyweights, really: with such a large range of acceptable weight levels, a guy in the 250-265 pound range has a huge advantage over the standard class of 230-some pounders that ruled the landscape five years ago. 250-pound NFL, NBA, and WWE athletes are commonplace and better athletes than the few big guys who choose martial arts over these sports in most cases.
There were some big fighters five years ago, sure, but most of them lacked the talents of a former pro football or WWE star. Football players fortunate enough to play pro ball are among the finest athletes in America and most of the bigger ones move with the speed and athleticism of an average-sized man in good shape. Fans scoff at WWE wrestlers but the stunts they pull of require incredible dexterity and grace under pressure to pull off.
Then there’s the ultimate equalizer when it comes to the heavyweight division for smaller fighters to worry about: the knockout punch. Knockouts come in bunches in the heavyweight division because of the massive power and torque the biggest fighters generate, meaning wild, Brock Lesnar-style aggression and bull rushes have the potential to become valid strategies for the bigger, more athletic guys in the division and on the upswing on the MMA scene.
Jiu-jitsu skills can also be less effective because many of these guys are fully capable of powering out of even the most well-executed submission attempts.
The NFL invasion is already on with the UFC as three NFL players were selected to be on The Ultimate Fighter’s tenth season. Guys like Shawne Merriman of the Chargers and Paris Lenon of the Lions are just a couple of the players who’ve taken to MMA training in the off-season to supplement their workouts and become stronger and tougher, and even the massive Shaquille O’Neal has added MMA training to his repertoire to represent the basketball contingent among others.
And then there’s the WWE, which has tons of gigantic (natural or otherwise, although you could say that about other athletes as well) athletes who were former wrestling stars just waiting to break out and prove themselves in a competitive atmosphere again.
While it could be a while before we see a true heavyweight with the incredible skill sets of masters like Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida, the raw athletic ability of the next generation could make for some incredible competition in the near future, and that’s why athletes from other sports should be encouraged to train in the fastest-growing sport in the world.
The former WWE superstar and current UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar, is set to take on the underdog Frank mir in UFC 100. Will Mir beat the UFC betting odds or will Lesnar reign supreme?