Junior dos Santos awaits the winner of Brock Lesnar-Alistair Overeem. | Photo: Marcelo Alonso
1. Junior dos Santos (14-1)
Despite suffering a serious knee injury only 11 days prior, dos Santos did on Nov. 12 what no heavyweight before him could: stop Cain Velasquez. Now perched atop the ranks as the MMA world’s best big man, “Cigano” may undergo surgery before defending his UFC title against the winner of Dec. 30’s Brock Lesnar-Alistair Overeem clash.
2. Cain Velasquez (9-1)
American Kickboxing Academy’s star heavyweight suffered the first loss of his career in brutal fashion on Nov. 12, succumbing to punches in 64 seconds and dropping his UFC heavyweight title to Junior dos Santos. It’s now back to the drawing board for Velasquez, who will need to rehab a sprained knee before returning to action.
3. Alistair Overeem (35-11, 1 NC)
The main event of UFC 141 nearly hit a snag due to apparent miscommunication between Overeem and the Nevada State Athletic Commission over the state’s drug testing standards. However, on Dec. 13, the NSAC issued Overeem a conditional license to fight, keeping the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix champion on track for the biggest fight of his career, a Dec. 30 meeting with ex-UFC champ Brock Lesnar.
4. Fabricio Werdum (14-5-1)
In June 2010, Werdum shocked the world by becoming the first man to submit heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko. One year later, the Brazilian turned in a universally panned performance against Alistair Overeem. On Feb. 4, the 34-year-old will have a chance to show which one was the true “Vai Cavalo” when he faces hard-hitting vet Roy Nelson at UFC 143.
5. Brock Lesnar (5-2)
Sidelined for 14 months due to another bout with diverticulitis, Lesnar will move right back into the swing of things for his December return. The former UFC champ will try to snap the 11-fight unbeaten streak of ex-Strikeforce titleholder Alistair Overeem at UFC 141, with the winner guaranteed a shot at newly crowned divisional king Junior dos Santos.
6. Shane Carwin (12-2)
Faced with the first two-fight skid of his career after suffering losses to Brock Lesnar and Junior dos Santos, Carwin was expected to compete at UFC 141 in December. However, the Grudge Training Center product was dealt yet another injury setback in October and will instead undergo back surgery with eyes on a mid-2012 return.
7. Frank Mir (16-5)
Mir can now lay claim as the first man to both knock out and submit Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. The impressive and brutal submission came in their Dec. 10 rematch, when Mir snapped the Brazilian great’s right humerus with a vicious first-round kimura to settle their rivalry once and for all.
8. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (33-7-1, 1 NC)
Long regarded as one of MMA’s finest heavyweight grapplers, Nogueira suffered his first submission loss in more than 40 bouts on Dec. 10 when he had his right arm snapped by a Frank Mir kimura. The 35-year-old will undergo therapy, not surgery, on the broken limb and is expected to resume training in mid-2012.
9. Josh Barnett (31-5)
The sport’s preeminent catch-wrestling stylist added another major name to his resume on Sept. 10, handing fellow Pride veteran Sergei Kharitonov a first-round submission loss and advancing to the final of Strikeforce’s world heavyweight grand prix. Awaiting the “Warmaster” in the to-be-scheduled last round is unbeaten upstart and freestyle wrestling convert Daniel Cormier.
10. Daniel Cormier (9-0)
The two-time wrestling Olympian secured the biggest win of his short fighting career on Sept. 10, as he knocked out massive Brazilian Antonio Silva in the semifinals of Strikeforce’s world heavyweight grand prix. Less than two years into his MMA career, Cormier will now have the chance to tangle with all-time heavyweight great Josh Barnett in the tournament final, though the American Kickboxing Academy product’s broken hand may delay that bout.
Other contenders: Fedor Emelianenko, Cole Konrad, Roy Nelson, Brendan Schaub, Antonio Silva.
Continue Reading » MMA Light Heavyweight Rankings