So in February of 2003, Ricco Rodriguez held the UFC Heavyweight Title with a scheduled defense against Tim Sylvia. Silvia would take out Rodriguez and become champion. He would defend the belt against Gan McGee in September and then controversy would strike the heavyweight title again. Silvia would test positive for steroids, and was stripped of the title. The Heavyweight title would not be contested again until June of 2004, when Silvia would return to face Frank Mir. Despite Mir’s resounding victory, bad luck of a different nature would set in.
Frank Mir would have a nearly career ending motorcycle accident, and the heavyweight title would be sidelined until February of 2005, when fast rising heavyweight Andrei Arlovsky would battle Tim Sylvia for an interim title.
Arlovsky would defend his title against Justin Eliers before being promoted to full champion when Mir’s rehabilitation from the injury was extending itself. Arlovsky would defend the title against Paul Buentello before a much anticipated rematch with Tim Sylvia. With the two defenses, Arlovsky became only the second champion to have defended the title at least twice, joining Randy Couture in that club.
In April of 2006, Tim Sylvia would beging his second reighn as UFC Heavyweight champion when he avenged his previous loss to Arlovski with a resounding KO. Silvia would become the third man to defend the title at least twice when he defeated Arlovski in the rubber match and also took out grappler Jeff Monson.
Come March of 2007, Sylvia would fail to keep the belt, as he lost to Randy Couture. Couture is now into his 3rd title reign at heavyweight. Couture would go on to defeat Brazilian Gabriel Gonzaga in his first title defense, making Couture the only man to defend the Heavyweight title 3 times total.
Now we are entering a new era, as Couture would stay sidelined for more than a year, and the UFC crowned Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera as the interim champion after he defeated Sylvia in February 0f 2008, almost a year since we had seen any version of the title at play.
But Randy would return for one more defense, and a gallant one it was. Couture would lose the title to Brock Lesnar in November of 2008, and the expected Brock Lesnar era looked imminent. In our final part, we will look at the Brock Lesnar era and put his title reign and career in perspective. It will be interesting to see what the pecking order is for what has been a volatile belt with more than a dozen changes (and many of them ugly strippings) since it’s inception.
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