By Adam Martin
The top of the UFC heavyweight division is crowded right now, and it will become even more crowded this weekend at UFC Fight Night 85. In the main event, veteran heavyweights Mark Hunt and Frank Mir will meet in a battle between two of the oldest fighters in the division. But despite their age, both men are well within reach of challenging for the UFC heavyweight title.
At present time, we know this: UFC Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum will make his first title defense at UFC 198 against Stipe Miocic. After that, though, the title picture becomes much less clear.
Then there’s Ben Rothwell, who is riding a four-fight win streak. He takes on dos Santos at UFC Fight Night 86 in Croatia, and if he wins that fight, five wins in a row – especially considering the opponents he’s defeated – might be enough to push him right into that #1 contender’s spot. But Rothwell, despite finally gaining some popularity amongst the fans, is still barely a draw at all, and until the fans are begging to see him for the title, he probably won’t get the push that, on merit at least, he deserves.
And don’t forget about former UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez, who has probably lost a chance at an immediate rematch due to injuries, but who remains a force inside the Octagon if healthy.
Antonio Silva, and considering how close he came to beating Werdum when they met for the interim title a few years ago, a knockout win over Mir would push him right into that title conversation. It’s the same thing with Mir. He’s won two of his last three fights, and if he can take out Hunt, especially if he takes him out in devastating fashion like he did to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, there will be a push to have him compete for the title once again, especially considering his age and the fact he likely doesn’t have many more years left in the sport.
Mir and Hunt will probably still be behind Overeem, Rothwell, and Velasquez when it comes to title shots, but we’ve seen recently how crazy this sport is and how one single fight can change things. Nate Diaz, for example, wasn’t even in the title talks in any weight class before beating Conor McGregor via submission, and now he’s being talked about as both a welterweight and a lightweight title contender. A big-time knockout or submission win this weekend, then, would put either man in the driver’s seat when it comes to laying his claim for a title shot, and ultimately it’s up to the winner to show the fans and the UFC that he’s the top contender.
UFC Fight Night 85
• Mark Hunt vs. Frank Mir
UFC Fight Night 85: Hunt vs. Mir (formerly UFC Fight Night 84: Hunt vs. Mir) takes place on March 20, 2016 at Brisbane Entertainment Centre in Brisbane, Australia. Due to time differences, it will air on March 19, 2016.