Shane Carwin’s victory over Frank Mir on Saturday night at UFC 111 established more than just the next contender for Brock Lesnar’s title. It also marked the end of an era, and unveiled a new pecking order in the heavyweight division.

Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos have all now emerged as the four major forces in the UFC’s heavyweight class in 2010, while some established stars from the divisions recent past have began to fade.

The transition has been a smooth, steady process in recent times. Consider that just 18 months ago Randy Couture sat at the top of the ladder with one successful title defense against Gabe Gonzaga under his belt.

Below him familiar names like Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira stood in line waiting for their next shot at the title.

Lesnar’s victory over Couture in November of ’08 perhaps marked the start of the changing of the guard. Only a few months later Carwin decisively finished Gonzaga to mark himself out as a contender, while both Velasquez and Dos Santos stayed busy throughout 2009 carving their way through the ranks of the division.

The early months of 2010 have been where the new stars of the division have made a definitive statement however.

Cain Velasquez defeated PRIDE legend and former interim UFC champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Shane Carwin demolished former two-time champion Frank Mir, and Junior Dos Santos crushed former No.1 contender Gabriel Gonzaga.

All by KO, all in the first round. It’s doesn’t get any more emphatic than that.

The remarkable thing about it is the relative inexperience of the division’s new stars. Between the four of them they have a total of just 37 professional fights. Compare that to just Mir and Nogueira who have a combined record of 58 fights.

Despite that describing them as the “new breed” is perhaps a little ironic given that Lesnar is 32 years old and No.1 contender Carwin is 35. The other two are a little younger though – Velasquez being 27, while Dos Santos is just 25, ensuring that they should be regular fixtures in the top half of the division for some time to come.

These four aren’t the only new recruits currently invading the division however.

There are others like 22 year old Stefan Struve who is on a three-fight unbeaten run in the octagon, and 24 year old Todd Duffee who claimed the fastest recorded knockout in UFC history (7 seconds) in his debut last year.

Fighters like these are continuing to re-shape the heavyweight landscape, and turning it into one of the most exciting divisions in the sport at this moment in time.

Article By RossC

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