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A Tale of Two Heavyweight Divisions

Today, Pride announced that its heavyweight champion, Fedor Emelianenko, hurt his hand and will be unable to fight Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic at the next Pride. But, no worries, because Pride found the best replacement possible – former champion Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira. We move from one all-time classic match-up to another.

Meanwhile, the UFC heavyweight title was thrown into disarray yesterday when Tim Sylvia was stripped of the belt after testing positive for steroids.

The title had lost some of its luster before this fiasco (when was the last time a heavyweight world championship was second billing to a light-heavyweight title fight – in MMA or boxing – like when Sylvia’s title defense played second fiddle to the Tito-Couture fight?), and this is going to hurt it even further. Plus, since the UFC roster has very little depth at heavyweight, the UFC had limited options to put together a fight to crown a new champion.

Josh Barnett, who is responsible for some of that lost luster since he was stripped of the title last July after testing positive for steroids, has a bad relationship with the UFC. He has been fighting in Japan.

Randy Couture, who lost to the belt to Barnett but then beat Pedro Rizzo to regain it after the title became vacant, is now the UFC’s light-heavyweight champion.

Former champion Mark Coleman is coming of neck surgery and has said he only wants to fight in Japan.

Pedro Rizzo has already lost 3 title fights, and is no longer under contract.

Andrei Arlovsky looked good in his last two fights. But he lost the two fights before that to Pedro Rizzo and Ricco Rodriguez.

Ricco Rodriguez, lost the title when he was KTFO by Sylvia and lost his next fight to Minotauro n Pride. Nevertheless, it looks like he’ll fight against . . .

Frank Mir, who in his last three fights got his ass kicked by Ian Freeman, beat an old and slow Tank Abbott, and won by disqualification against Wes Sims after Sims stomped him in the face.

This is hardly the momentum the UFC would want to have built for a heavyweight title fight. But, with a very thin talent roster at heavyweight, the UFC was left with almost no choice.

In many ways Pride drives me crazy (especially with its pro-wrestling antics). But, there can be no doubt that right now it is the most exciting MMA organization in the world.

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