In the fifth and final installment of my UFC divisional rankings, we look at the heavyweight division.
Ever since Brock Lesnar entered the division, it has been all about the "Next Big Thing", but Lesnar hasn't fought since UFC 100 as he's battled an illness that has forced him out.
The "Big Boy" division, as I like to call it, is more than just Lesnar now, though. For the first time in a long time, the UFC has a deep heavyweight division, balanced with up-and-coming stars and veteran talents.
Look no further than the up coming brawl between Cain Velasquez (7-0) and Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera (32-5-1), a veteran of nearly 40 MMA fights.
So while Lesnar remains the champion until proven otherwise, there certainly is no shortage of talent.
Champion: Brock Lesnar
No. 1 contender(s): Shane Carwin, Frank Mir
One win away (4-6): Cain Velasquez, Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera, Junior Dos Santos
Two wins away (7-8): Gabriel Gonzaga, Cheick Kongo
Three wins away (9-12): Roy Nelson, Todd Duffee, Pat Barry, Stefan Struve
Bottom tier (13+): Gilbert Yvel, Mirko Cro Cop, Ben Rothwell, Antoni Hardonk, Mostapha Al-Turk, Paul Buentello, Chris Tuchscherer, Mike Russow
Where have you been?: Heath Herring. Probably in the three wins away range when he gets back.
Analysis: Depending on the outcome of next week's press conference with Lesnar, the Mir/Carwin battle at UFC 111 could be for the interim belt or the true heavyweight strap.
Either way, we're probably looking at a mid-summer showdown between the Mir/Carwin winner and Lesnar. But that's not even where it gets interesting.
Noguiera and Velasquez do battle in a few weeks time at UFC 109, while perhaps the most intriguing heavyweight prospect -- Junior Dos Santos (10-1) -- takes on Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC on Versus 1 March 21st in a matchup that will do plenty for both fighters if they can prevail.
Then there's guys like Kongo, Duffee and Barry who are explosive in their own right but may just need some time to further develop their games.
This is a division to watch going forward in 2010 and beyond.