The modern day mixed martial arts heavyweight tends to be a streaking athlete. Four- and five- fight winning streaks followed by a loss or two is the norm for many MMA big men. Long gone are the days of heavyweights holding onto titles for extended periods of time. Since 2012, the only person to defend the UFC heavyweight title more than once was Cain Velasquez, who did it twice. A well planned four-fight win streak can put a fighter into title contention in the UFC. That’s why today, more than ever, the heavyweight landscape in the UFC is a very dangerous place for inconsistent heavyweights.
Last weekend at UFC Fight Night 104, Washington State native Anthony Hamilton, suffered a devastating knockout loss to Marcel Fortuna. For Hamilton, this was his second straight loss and the first time he has suffered back-to-back defeats since 2012. While Hamilton is a highly-regarded heavyweight, he is the absolute picture of inconsistency. Going into his fight at UFC Fight Night 104, he had alternated wins and losses in his previous 7 fights; had he won on Saturday, it would have been 8 in a row. Instead, the 36-year-old Hamilton was knocked out inside the first round, landing face first on the canvas. The knockout loss was made to look worse by Hamilton when he struggled to get to his feet, stumbling backward into the arms of the referee. He is currently 3-5 in the UFC and at 36 years old, he should be on the back end of his career. However, with a shallow heavyweight division and champions who cannot seem to hold onto the belt, Hamilton is still an important commodity in the division, regardless of his age or wellness. Inconsistent or not, he still has a great value in the division.
Another fighter who has used streaking career arcs to find himself on the wrong end of a few solid punches is former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski. At one time, Arlovski was one of the biggest stars in the UFC. He picked up the UFC heavyweight title, defended it a couple times, and he even left the UFC on a three-fight win streak. Unlike Hamilton, Arlovski has been one of the fighters who has found a way to build impressive win streaks and find himself back at the top of the heavyweight division. The problem for him is after finding his footing, he is thrown into the cage with top-ten fighters who often have the edge in power, speed, and age. As a result, Arlovski has fallen victim to many of the world’s top heavyweights. To make matters worse, of Arlovski’s 14 career losses, 10 of those have come by knockout. I am not a doctor but that seems like a lot of punishment for one human brain to have to take. He is currently riding a four-fight losing streak and somehow still remains on the UFC active roster. His position in the rankings has changed but the need for big men has not.
There seems to be no line in the sand that a fighter has to cross to get the boot from the UFC heavyweight division. Some of the world’s heaviest hitters are coming to the cage on three- and four- fight losing streaks. Still, it seems that those with inconsistent records and devastating losses are still safe to roam the division with fighters who can put down their opponents with no more than a stiff jab. The marketability of fighters who have less than flattering records as of late like Roy Nelson, Frank Mir, and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva will continue to be a factor when it comes time to book heavyweight fights. While the wellness of these fighters has been a topic of conversation for many in recent months it doesn’t seem to change the fact that this division needs depth, inconsistent or not.