How To Unify An Imaginary Title

Last night, Cain Velasquez crushed Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva in under two minutes. He unified the last set of titles that resided in hypotheticals.

On December 21, 1997 The UFC Heavyweight Championship was won by Randy Couture. He beat Maurice Smith by majority decision in Yokohama, Japan. In mid 1998, he refused to fight Bas Rutten, citing contract issues and signed to fight on the Vale Tudo Japan show instead. The title was vacated and Bas Rutten eventually beat Kevin Randleman to make the UFC Heavyweight title active again.

There is a concept boxing has of the ‘lineal champion’. To put it simply it’s “The man, who beat the man.” Randy didn’t lose his UFC title in the ring, he lost it in a boardroom. In lineal terms, Randy was still the champion. Brock Lesnar was champion in 2010. Cain Velasquez beat him. Therefore Cain was the UFC champion. The lineal title works on the same premise but contracts and governing bodies can’t stop a fighter defending it.

It wasn’t until Alistair Overeem hit the cage on December 30, 2011 that the lineal UFC heavyweight champion was in the octagon again. Here is it’s story.

Randy’s first fight after leaving the UFC was against Enson Inoue at Vale Tudo 1998. Inoue, who hadn’t fought in over a year since losing to Frank Shamrock via TKO, was a huge underdog. Couture shot in, took him down and got arm barred for his troubles. Bam. Looking at this from a boxing perspective, Inoue won the lineal UFC Heavyweight championship. It’s an inexact science but it works here. The guy who was the champion, lost to this guy, now he’s the champion.

The lineage of the title flows through the legendary Pride Grand Prix 2000, where Inoue lost a decision to Mark Kerr in the opening round in January. Kerr, in turn, lost it to Kazuyuki Fujita in the finals in March. Fujita was exhausted and his corner threw in the towel just two seconds into his next match with Mark Coleman.

Theres an argument to be made that Fujita would still hold the title but I’m confused enough as it is.

Coleman, after going on to win the Grand Prix, beats Allan Goes and then drops the title to Antonio ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira in 2001. Big Nog defends it six times before walking into the Russian brick wall of Fedor Emilianenko at Pride 25 in 2003.

Whichever way you want to look at it (and to be honest, I have a headache), as of January 1, 2005 FEDOR was the lineal UFC Heavyweight champion. At the time Fedor really was considered the best heavyweight on the planet. Frank Mir was UFC Heavyweight champion and was on the shelf due to being a fucking dumbass and crashing his motorbike. All the Tim Sylvias and Andrei Arlovskis in the world couldn’t add up to Fedor’s level of awesomeness at this time. Fedor never lost again in Pride, nor anywhere else until June 26, 2010.

By this time, the UFC had hit it’s stride. From near-bankruptcy in 2001, they had gone from strength to strength. Chuck Liddell had caught fire and drew some huge houses and PPVs for the UFC. Chuck and Tito Ortiz were the first main event to break the 1 million buys barrier for the UFC but the heavyweight division was still way behind Pride’s.

Brock Lesnar’s debut in 2008 led UFC to their biggest year ever in 2009. Brock broke a million buys with Randy in 2008 and Frank Mir in 2009. After the death of Pride, the UFC Heavyweight championship was the most prestigious in the game.

That lineal, ugh, lineage was still going around though. Fedor still hadn’t been beaten. That was until, shock of shocks, Fabricio Werdum of all people, locked in a triangle choke and Fedor nobly tapped once. It was a pretty big deal.

Werdum managed to drop it straight away to Alistair Overeem. He pulled guard like eight times in the fight and handed the win to Overeem rather than being beaten. Overeem managed to hammer Brock Lesnar before hilariously underestimating Bigfoot Silva and getting knocked the fuck out. It helped set the stage perfectly for last night.

In an alternate universe this would have been the biggest deal of all time. It was not though. Cain just casually took his crown as the best heavyweight fighter the world has even seen.

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