“The baddest man on the planet” is one of sport’s most evocative phrases, and embodies the idea of the biggest, strongest, fastest and scariest fighter on the planet.
MMA might just be on the verge of witnessing a new era of said “Bad Men”.
During the early days, the 2000s, the Japanese freak-show days, the heavy boys caught began to capture the imagination of the public. Giants such as Andrei Arlovski, Mirko Cro Cop, Mark Hunt, Antonio Nogueira, and the daddy of them all, Fedor Emilianenko, swapped belts and punches with a savage but increasingly technical insistence.
Then, the MMA heavyweight division became stagnant. As other avenues of athletic pursuit opened up, getting punched in the face by giant men appealed less and less, and fewer prospects began to emerge.
Unlike in boxing, however, which until recently counted Bermaine Stiverne as a legitimate world champion, the MMA heavyweight world never quite lost all credibility.
The UFC had names such as Brazilian fighters Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez, Dutchman Alastair Overeem and current American champ Stipe Miocic who kept the intrigue at the top going, but underneath, the pool of talent was almost dry.
After Miocic defeated the Cameroonian specimen Francis Ngannou in his most recent defence, in a fight where a 240lb champion was made to look small, the future for the heavyweight division looked a little threadbare.
But as the heavyweight gods would have it, emerging new talent was formed and the prospect for titanic showdowns in the near future is brightening once again.
Australia can look forward to a new heavyweight talent in Tai ‘Bam Bam’ Tuivasa, who recently vanquished the 39-year-old Belarussian Pitbull, Arlovski. Flabby but fast and powerful, with an actual personality to boot, he’s sure to fill Mark Hunt’s boots admirably in fights to come.
America can eagerly anticipate the emergence of Curtis ‘Razor’ Blaydes, a powerful wrestler who’s also honing his striking at the same rate as his once-soft physique, who in his last fight possibly finally put paid to 37-year-old Alistair Overeem’s impossibly long career with a few beautiful, brutal elbows.
UFC 226 on July 7th has a heavyweight, sure-fire slobber-knocker in the offing between two exciting contenders with boulders for fists; the aforementioned Ngannou takes on swangin-and-bangin’ specialist Derrick Lewis in a fight in which loosing teeth and a knock-out are all but guaranteed.
Fans of the big men may have felt starved of fare over the last few years, but the near future promises a bit of a feast to come.
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