In the week leading up to UFC 160, headlined by a brace of top drawer heavyweight fights, I am reminded that there is an enduring fascination with the big men. It’s not that I ever forget, it’s just that in the run up to a Heavyweight title fight, something in my gut always starts to get more excited than usual by a common or garden UFC card or almost any other standard title defence.
In the past year or so, I’ve been insanely excited for three title matches – two, Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen II and GSP vs. Nick Diaz were down to extant feuds and an almost unprecedented promotional bandwagon. The third, was Junior dos Santos defending his Heavyweight title against Cain Velasquez.
Sure, they’d fought before and rematches always carry a little extra weight, but neither of these guys is prone to smack talk. The hype for this was simply because this was a collision between the two very best heavyweight fighters in the world.
That has a certain ring to it… Heavyweight Champion of the World.
The Baddest Man on the Planet.
The guy who we all believe, is the true #1 mixed martial artist on the planet, because let’s be honest… no matter how good a middleweight or a featherweight is… they’re not gonna win a fistfight with the very best guy who weighs 50-100lbs more than them…
I remember the liner notes to a WWF computer game I had back in the day (1999) which stated that pro wrestling basically came down to the visceral joy of watching great big people beat up on other great big people.
That attraction counts just as much for MMA because heavyweights are freaks. The concept of an athlete that weighs well over 200lbs just strikes most people as abnormal.
While lighter weight fighters are by no means universally small, or even average – most fighters as far down as Welterweight or even Lightweight would constitute ‘big lads’ by any normal measurement – the heavyweights stand out. Variously big heavy guys, or super tall guys (or somewhere in between) always attract attention. When two such gets get down to fight each other, people in the surrounding postcode put down their drinks and watch, or turn the TV down cause that sounds like thunder.
The fact that the best heavyweights have truly world class skills in their disciplines – can you fault Frank Mir or Roy Nelson’s Juijitsu, Junior dos Santos or Mark Hunt’s boxing or Cain Velasquez’s wrestling? – is almost coincidental.
The real appeal is in the sheer terrifying force of their strikes and takedowns.
Anyone with a high school level command of physics will tell you that there is little more impressive than great big things crashing into one another at speed (I could go into the equations, but do you really want to read that stuff? Didn’t think so…)
We frequently run out of words to describe the damage that heavyweights do to each other, but comparisons to sledgehammers, gorillas and car crashes are not in their case, exaggerations.
Look at Antonio Silva’s KO of Alistair Overeem or Mark Hunt’s jaw breaking effort against Stefan Struve. If any of those blows had connected with me, then I’d be dead. Not dazed, knocked out or merely injured. Dead. You simply have to respect that kind of power.
This weekend, the cream of the heavyweight crop are set to collide once more. Like most of the rest of you, I’ll be watching with anticipation, awe and just a little dread.
The heavyweights are walking, can you hear the thunder of their footsteps?