Who should Cain Velasquez face next?
They call him "Bigfoot." But last Saturday night Antonio Silva was more befitting the nickname "Bigfist," as it was his clenched hamhocks that played the starring role in laying waste to Alistair Overeem at UFC 156 in Las Vegas. Then again, considering the state of the top of the heavyweight division in the wake of Silva's upset win over the man mountain who'd been promised the next shot at the championship, perhaps the name we should attach to the hefty Antonio is "Bigmess."
With "The Reem" out of the picture, what's the next challenge for champion Cain Velasquez?
It's at times like this when you wish the UFC had some official mechanism for determining the order of the queue of fighters pining for a title shot. Oh, wait, the fight promotion does have such a thing: its brand new
So let's go right down the official list of contenders:
So where does all that leave us? Planning a retirement party for champion Cain? Or should Velasquez just follow the trends and cut to 205 pounds?
No, I believe the best option is Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum.
While waiting for either Dos Santos or Overeem to establish a one-fight winning streak, why not create a little intrigue by sticking Velasquez in the cage with someone he's not yet fought? Werdum is the highest-ranked fighter who'd be new to Cain. (I actually ranked Cormier ahead of Werdum on my ballot, but [a] who cares what I say? and [b] why upset the AKA apple cart now when there are other options available? Plus, I'd rather see Cormier establish himself in the UFC to the point where a showdown with Cain is inevitable. We aren't there yet.)
Sure, it's not ideal to scuttle the planning for the Brazilian reality show. But the show could go on as planned, with Werdum and Nogueira coaching. Wouldn't it only add to the ratings appeal, having one of the coaches be the next challenger for the heavyweight championship?
Werdum would pose an interesting challenge. His submission game might be the best there is in the heavyweight division, so Velasquez would take him down at his own peril. It was Fabricio's armbar triangle that handed Fedor Emelianenko his first legitimate defeat back in 2010. Half of Werdum's 16 wins have come by submission.
And while Fabricio was a one-trick pony for much of his career, he's shown improved standup skills. He held his own on his feet with Roy Nelson in a unanimous-decision win last February, and just under five months later he needed less than three minutes to knock out Mike Russow. Now, Velasquez isn't Russow, but he'd be a handful for anyone. So why not Werdum?
Dana White already is on record as saying Werdum is on the cusp of a title fight. Speaking with Brazilian reporters to hype the Brazilian TUF season, the UFC poobah said that a win over Nogueira would earn Fabricio a title shot. Let's not wait. Let's allow Dos Santos and Overeem to sort things out, Cormier to fancy up his resume, "Bigfoot" to take a few more big steps forward from last year's demolition, Nogueira to welcome home a healed up Carwin, maybe, and Nelson and Struve to try to climb another rung on the ladder. While all that's unfolding, it's time to schedule Velasquez and Werdum for a date in the octagon. It's not the fight of the century, but it's a fight. And Cain needs one.