I’m sure when some of you read the subject of this article, you’ll say “this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about, UFC doesn’t use ropes, it uses a cage, so the metaphor is lost.”

Didn’t like my pun because it referenced a boxing term that would’ve applied to the MMA company PRIDE but not UFC?  My apologies.  Now on to the meat of the article.

Aside from Fedor Emelianenko in the top spot, UFC has 7 of the next 10 fighters under contract in the highly respected USA Today rankings of MMA Heavyweights.  A couple months ago, things were looking great.  Brock Lesnar had shown up and coaxed legendary Randy Couture out of retirement, bringing the legitimate UFC Heavyweight Championship belt with him – effectively breathing life back into the division.  We got a great fight between those two prior to Brock moving on and facing Frank Mir to unify the Interim Championship with the legacy one.  Brock Lesnar won his rematch with Mir, and with each having a win over the other, it left people wondering about a third fight between the two.  We then got Nogueira vs Couture in a battle of legends.

A highly anticipated fight was then booked, with the undefeated Shane Carwin – who had NEVER let a fight exit the first round, getting his shot at the UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar.  The fight got delayed, as Lesnar reportedly had mono.  Then word came out that the fight may never happen, because Brock’s health was so bad that Dana White questioned whether Lesnar would EVER fight again.

Another young-yet-promising UFC Heavyweight, Junior dos Santos, got a fight setup to show what he can do against veteran Gabriel Gonzaga, but now Gonzaga has to bow out of that fight with a Staph infection.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was scheduled to fight Cain Velasquez (another promising UFC Heavyweight), but now that fight is going to be delayed at least into February as Nogueira has to deal with a Staph infection.

Randy Couture has moved down a weight class after losing to Nogueira, and having already fought Brandon Vera at Light Heavyweight, “The Natural” doesn’t seem to have any plans to hop back up into the division desperately in need of a name.

The UFC has done a decent job of finding young heavyweight fighters to come up through the division, and I’m sure at least one of them will emerge as a superstar in 2010.  With the recent season of The Ultimate Fighter focusing on the division, there will be some new, recognizeable fighters at Heavyweight for fans to watch develop, though plenty of analysts have mentioned that there’s not really any guys from the show with ton of talent, so aside from increased interest in under-card fights, UFC doesn’t gain too much in the division through this season of TUF.

It’s a shame that Frank Mir’s upcoming fight is against MMA veteran Cheick Kongo, because a fight between Mir and one of the younger UFC Heavyweights could’ve been a good measuring stick for both fighters and drawn significant interest, and to a lesser extent, the same could be said about a fight UFC could’ve setup for Kongo with a young opponent.    Now we get a fight which features two veterans trying to prove they can still compete against other veterans – a shame since the healthy talent in the division right now are the younger guys who need a chance to prove what they’ve got.

A few months from now, this article will be an after-thought, especially if Brock Lesnar heals up and is able to return to the octagon.  But for now, it’s a shame that such a promising division is greatly depleted in a time when so many promising fights were slated to occur.