In The Wake Of Fedor Emelianenko's Loss, Brock Lesnar And Shane Carwin Meet For Heavyweight Supremacy

With Fedor Emelianenko out of the way, the UFC 116 clash between Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin will provide MMA with a new #1 fighter in the heavyweight division. (photo: Jon Kopaloff/Getty)

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In The Wake Of Fedor Emelianenko's Loss, Brock Lesnar And Shane Carwin Meet For Heavyweight Supremacy

This past Saturday was the first of two consecutive weekends that were to showcase the top three heavyweights in the world.  #1 Fedor Emelianenko was supposed to do his job and dispatch with respected but written-off Fabricio Werdum while #2 Brock Lesnar and #3 Shane Carwin would meet on July 3 to determine the man who would be poised to take the Russian's top spot.

As I wrote before Saturday's Strikeforce event:

The only thing keeping Fedor on that pedestal right now is the fact that Lesnar, Carwin, Velasquez and dos Santos don't have the established resume yet, but one of them will within six months.  Assuming the Lesnar/Carwin winner faces Cain Velasquez in 4-6 months, it would be an absurdity to think that the winner of that fight is not the world's current #1 heavyweight.  The UFC "big four," representing 4 of the top 5 heavyweights in the world, are all going to continue to battle it out in the UFC shark tank while Fedor hangs out in the lazy river with marginal top ten fighters.  At some point the competition a man faces has to matter in determining who the best in the world is at that moment.  Once one of the UFC heavyweights has established himself and gotten the two big wins they need, it will be time to re-evaluate who is the heavyweight top dog.

Werdum changed the entire narrative of the two weekends by skillfully locking an overaggressive Fedor in a triangle choke and handing the Russian his first loss in a decade.  The result opened the door for Lesnar or Carwin to win and move into the #1 spot immediately.  No more was their ascension to the #1 ranking going to be blocked by fans and media potentially being too willing to allow Fedor to skate on fighting less than the best. 

While there is a fair amount of legitimacy to saying that the importance of rankings is often overstated there is also the fact that this ushers in a new era of mixed martial arts.  Fedor remained the lone fighter who was able to claim the #1 spot outside of a Zuffa promotion (UFC and WEC).  With his loss the UFC now is poised to be able to say with all seriousness that to be the best fighter in the world you have to fight under their banner.  Luke Thomas expands:

That's true, but you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette. While White and all of MMA fandom lost out on what could've been gigantic fights, the coffin closed on another lingering argument that simply wouldn't go away. It's now official: the UFC is the NFL of MMA. They now house the number one fighter in every single division (bantamweight and above) and solid majority of the rest of the top contenders in each division. That criteria itself was part of Nate's argument about why the UFC shouldn't be considered the NFL of MMA. With that T crossed and I dotted, the debate is over.

Moreover, one wonders if other organizations will even have the capability to ever produce another division leader (they certainly will not at heavyweight). It's conceivable the Japanese organizations, for all their floundering, could produce a fighter who holds the top spot in the lighter weight classes, but it's unlikely unless they demonstrate some kind of unheralded dominance. They'd have to string together a huge line of dominating wins against whatever competition can be cobbled together. And without access to the rest of the highly-ranked division housed Stateside, climbing the rankings ladder to the top spot is going to prove difficult.

This is one of those rare moments where fan and media rankings matter in a deep and meaningful way in the true context of the sport.

Enjoy Saturday night, MMA fans.  Once the UFC 116 main event winner has his hand raised it's the start of a new era for the sport.

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