Josh Barnett (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Could Josh Barnett or Ben Rothwell Steal a Title Shot at UFC on Fox 18?

The UFC’s heavyweight division seems to always be just a bit different than any other weight class. Champions usually don’t hold on to the belt for as long. Add the fact that some of the past champions have succumbed to some very unlikely scenarios, such as Frank Mir’s bike accident, Randy Couture’s battle with the promotion and Brock Lesnar coming down with diverticulitis, just to name a few, and it seems like the UFC heavyweight division is always in some sort of chaos.

Even more recently, former champion Cain Velasquez was sidelined for prolonged periods of time while he was atop of the heavyweight mountain. Needless to say, the history of the heavyweight division has been a wacky one indeed.

Another unusual trend inside the division is the lack of contenders it generally produces. Unlike any other division, the case can be made for almost any of the top 10 to get a title shot after a win or two. In most weight classes, a fighter would have to win three or four in a row to even be considered for a fight with a top-ranked opponent, let alone a fight against the champ.


That is exactly why current heavyweight top contender Stipe Miocic’s situation is a bit different than most heavyweights before him. Not only has Miocic won what seems to be the minimum — two fights in a row, with a complete destruction of Mark Hunt and a quick TKO over former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski — for a title shot at heavyweight, but he is 5-1 overall in his past six fights with the lone loss to former UFC champion Junior dos Santos. Many would argue that Miocic should have won the dos Santos fight on the judges’ scorecards.

Given Miocic’s track record and the fact he is doing it in the UFC’s most shallow division, he seems to be the logical choice as the first opponent for the winner of next month’s heavyweight title clash between the aforementioned ex-champ Velasquez and current kingpin Fabricio Werdum. However, given the history of the unprecedented UFC heavyweight division, Miocic might not want to start counting his chickens just yet.

The reason for this is simple. In the upcoming UFC on Fox 18 show in Newark, N.J., longtime heavyweight staple Josh Barnett will square off against a streaking Ben Rothwell, who is quickly becoming a fan-favorite with his recent antics.

Will the UFC skip over Miocic and give the title shot to the winner of the Barnett-Rothwell fight? Is there any way the UFC can take away a shot it promised to Miocic less than a month ago? Well, c’mon now, we all know the answer to these questions.

In Barnett’s case, it would be a bit harder to persuade the UFC to give him the title shot over Miocic. However, Barnett can still make a compelling case. He will be on a two-fight winning streak if he were to claim a victory over Rothwell, a guy that many believe should already be fighting for a UFC belt. One thing Barnett has going for him is name recognition. He has been around the MMA game for a very long time and has fought a who’s who in the division dating back to 1997. He’s a respected veteran who is well liked by fans and peers alike. As such, he can make the case he would sell more pay-per-views than any of the current crop of up-and-coming heavyweight contenders. Of course, we all know that drawing more eyeballs is something that sits very well with the UFC.

Judging by Rothwell’s recent record, he can make a more convincing case that he should be the next man in line. Rothwell is on a three-fight winning streak that includes stoppage wins over Alistair Overeem and Matt Mitrione. With a win over Barnett, he would move to four victories in a row, a feat that has in the past warranted a shot at the heavyweight belt.

Should Miocic be the next man to try to add UFC gold to his resume? Yes, probably. Will he, though, even after the UFC has promised him the shot right after he TKO’d the surging Arlovski? No, at least not as long as Barnett and Rothwell are still scheduled to fight in the upcoming weeks. Should either of them look impressive and create some buzz around their performance — which, by the way, will be viewed by millions on free national TV — the UFC can very well take back its promise of a title shot to Miocic just as quickly as it awarded it to him after his win at UFC 195.

This is not to say Miocic will definitely lose the title shot he so badly wants. Nothing is guaranteed in this sport. As much as this is one of the oldest and most overused cliché’s in the sport, it seems to hold more merit whenever it’s used in conjunction with the UFC heavyweight division.