By Raphael Garcia
If you consider yourself a follower of mixed martial arts, then there is almost no way that you have not heard about the situation regarding Alistair Overeem and the UFC over the last week. The Nevada State Athletic Commission announced that Overeem tested positive for elevated testosterone levels during a surprise testing session as the organization prepared for UFC 146. Now he has to appear before the NSAC on April 24th, and his fate is largely in question. It goes without saying that the repercussions will be felt throughout both the event and the division as a whole.
Discussions abound over who the company will promote to the main event to challenge Junior dos Santos for the UFC heavyweight title. Right now it seems that former champion Frank Mir holds the spot as the man who will get the call. However, if that happens his UFC 146 dance partner Cain Velasquez will be left without an opponent. Looking at the current roster of UFC heavyweights, it is very easy to see that the organization has a scant number of fighters at the top who would be in a position to face a top-ranked fighter like Velasquez. Here are a few suggestions of people who could be called upon if the situation is deemed necessary:
The former Pride and K-1 standout has been on an unexpected tear as of late. At one point in time he had lost six straight bouts, and was brought over to the UFC as a formality, since the organization bought out Pride. Now, a year later, he is riding a three-fight win streak and experiencing a boost in popularity that may cause him to be moved to the UFC 146 event. His recent victory against Cheick Kongo was yet another example of how much power is packed in his strikes, and that would set up a potential firefight against Velasquez. The former champion would no doubt be the favorite going into this fight, but that doesn’t mean Hunt wouldn’t put on a show for his growing legion of fans.
An experienced heavyweight that holds a resume like Kharitonov's is very hard to find. He’s fought some of the best in the sport, and while he may not have the greatest win-loss record, he is still very respectable in the sport. Signing him to the UFC would give the division another big name that would be a tough test for any fighter looking to make a splash in the sport. He would also be one of the most dangerous opponents that Velasquez has faced at this point in his career. While Cain would no doubt be the favorite in this bout, the win would not come easy, and he could even be defeated, because we know the Russian carries power in his blows.
Struve is often one individual in the heavyweight division that pundits point to as a fighter that is on the cusp of becoming a true contender. While his chin will always be suspect against the heavy hitters of the division, his recent outings have shown that he is getting better with each appearance in the cage. Against Velasquez he would have to use his range to keep the former champion off of him, but the question is truly centered on whether or not he can avoid any big blows that would be coming with his opponent’s technical boxing acumen.
OK, of course he’s a long shot for any type of UFC appearance. But with the way the former UFC champion has taken to Twitter to beg and plead for another chance back in the Octagon, UFC President Dana White should make him “put up or shut up.” While there is a very strong possibility that Velasquez would send him packing in highlight reel fashion, Sylvia would still have the opportunity to prove that he might actually belong back on the big stage of mixed martial arts. At least that would mean he would stop flooding everyone’s timelines with constant re-tweets from his followers. That’s a good thing.
He may be the biggest longshot of the group, but at least it isn’t because of his fighting ability. The UFC would never give in to the demands of M-1 Global, so the chances of him making a surprise appearance in the Octagon are slim to none. Still, there wouldn’t be a much better matchup to place the Russian into if the opportunity presented itself. Considered by many to be one of the best of all time, “The Last Emperor” would create a fanfare unlike few others that would potentially cast a shadow over the main event. His legacy will always be brought into question because he did not compete against the best in the UFC; so stepping in on short notice against one of the best heavyweights in the sport would go a long way towards proving just how “great” Fedor really is to the sport of MMA.
Cain Velasquez may be left without a dancing partner once we find out Overeem’s fate with the NSAC. Any one of these stand-in opponents would create an interesting fight in more ways than one.
April 10, 2012
By Raphael Garcia