UFC 146 was designed to both showcase and shake up the promotion's heavyweight division and it accomplished both objectives in spades.
The morning after Saturday's event finds a division that looks much clearer than it did just a short time ago. At the top of the division remains world heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos, who looked just as good as advertised in his first title defense. His opponent, Frank Mir, did not fare nearly as well, getting brutalized and flailing around in a scary manner towards the end of the fight. Mir had been looking like he had something left in the tank. After the dos Santos fight, he is looking like he should probably start thinking about retiring for his own good.
Former champ Cain Velasquez looked even more impressive in his co-main event fight, absolutely decimating Antonio Silva and leaving "Bigfoot" a bloody mess as he completely manhandled his much larger opponent with ease. Velasquez looks bound for his rematch against dos Santos sooner, rather than later, although UFC might try to string that one along to try to build maximum anticipation.
Roy Nelson looked terrific knocking out Dave Herman with one punch. "Big Country" will always be a humongous fan favorite -- and for good reason -- but he did himself a huge favor with that shocking win, as he could now be seen as a legit threat in a pinch. There are always chances a whole string of competitors could flame out or get injured at once. Nelson would be a great stopgap opponent for a high-profile fighter if necessary. A few more wins like this one, however, could place Nelson back in the title picture as someone more than an alternate.
Shane del Rosario against Stipe Miocic was a can't-miss proposition for Dana White and the UFC: if del Rosario won in his UFC debut, he would have been an instant threat. Instead, you had Miocic winning in very impressive fashion and his undefeated record suddenly meaning a lot more. It may take one or two more fights for him to enter title discussions, but he's not on everyone's radar. His stock was certainly boosted the most of any heavyweight last night and is poised to really make his mark.
Stefan Struve proved he's one of the biggest true grappling and submission threats in the division with his freaky armbar on Lavar Johnson. While Struve is not likely to get a call for a title shot any time soon, he stays strong and continues to plug away. Struve is a much more risky example of "in case of emergency main event break glass" fighter, but he has the talent and the grappling skills that he won't be laughed out of the building if the UFC needs to pair up a name heavyweight with someone in a pinch. The Struves and Nelsons of this world should never be dismissed out of hand. They're invaluable to an MMA promotion.
So while Velasquez, dos Santos and Miocic come out of the night as the biggest winners, the UFC heavyweigt division did nothing but strengthen itself. After some lean years, the tremendous depth is extremely welcome. And of course, there's always a chance Brock Lesnar might come back.
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