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1. Daniel Cormier (22-1, 1 NC)The best thing you can say about Cormier’s effort at UFC 230 was that it was predictable. “DC” landed multiple takedowns on underdog Derrick Lewis before securing a tapout with a rear-naked choke at the 2:14 mark of the second stanza. Cormier became the first fighter to defend titles from two divisions in UFC history. He also set the stage for his anticipated showdown with Brock Lesnar early next year, targeting UFC 235 on March 2 for his farewell bout.
2. Stipe Miocic (18-3)Heavyweight title reigns are fleeting, even if you have authored the longest such reign in UFC history. That proved to be the case for Miocic, who fell to reigning light heavyweight king Daniel Cormier via first-round knockout in the UFC 226 headliner. The defeat snapped a six-fight winning streak for the Ohio firefighter, who had bested Francis Ngannou, Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem during his stay at the top.
3. Derrick Lewis (21-6)It’s been a memorable run for Lewis, who notched wins over Alexander Volkov, Francis Ngannou and Marcin Tybura in 2018 to become a social media sensation and an unlikely No. 1 contender. “The Black Beast” looked predictably overmatched in losing to Daniel Cormier at UFC 230, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Houston native has bucked the odds to win nine of his last 11 promotional appearances. Lewis plans on taking a break and said after UFC 230 that the promotion can call him “before next summer.”.
4. Alexander Volkov (30-7)Volkov was well on his way to his fifth consecutive Octagon triumph at UFC 229, as he was comfortably outlanding Derrick Lewis in the waning seconds of their featured bout. Then, “The Black Beast” crushed Volkov with a massive right hand and followed him to the mat, finishing the contest with powerful ground-and-pound at the 4:49 mark of the third frame. At 29 years old, Volkov still has plenty of time to contend for heavyweight gold in a shallow division.
5. Francis Ngannou (12-3)Ngannou recaptured the form that made him one of the sport’s fastest rising stars at UFC Fight Night Beijing, where he need just 45 seconds to stop Curtis Blaydes in the evening’s headliner at Cadillac Arena. Not only did Ngannou earn a second triumph over Blaydes, but he erased some of the sting of back-to-back lackluster performances against Stipe Moicic and Derrick Lewis in his previous two Octagon appearances.
6. Curtis Blaydes (10-2)Blaydes carried a six-fight unbeaten streak into his rematch against Francis Ngannou at UFC Fight Night 141, but it appears “The Predator” has his number. Ngannou earned his second victory over Blaydes in Beijing, stopping the American wrestler just 45 seconds into their headlining bout in Beijing. For Blaydes, the disappointing setback put a halt to any talks of title contention. Nonetheless, the 27-year-old has vowed to bounce back from the loss.
7. Alistair Overeem (44-17)A move to Elevation Fight Team provided Overeem with a fresh outlook following consecutive brutal knockout losses, and “The Reem” responded with a first-round stoppage of Sergey Pavlovich in the UFC Fight Night 141 co-main event. The 38-year-old Dutchman showcased formidable ground-and-pound in handing the Pavlovich, a UFC newcomer, his first career defeat. Overeem is now 9-6 during his tenure with the Las Vegas-based promotion.
8. Junior dos Santos (20-5)Up-and-coming heavyweights cannot take dos Santos lightly. “Cigano” proved how dangerous he can be in the UFC Night 142 headliner, as he capitalized on Tai Tuivasa’s aggression to earn a second-round TKO in Adelaide, Australia. The Brazilian has won three of his last four Octagon appearances and targeted a rematch with Alistair Overeem in his post-fight Octagon interview.
9. Fabricio Werdum (23-8-1)Werdum was reportedly going to headline the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s debut in Russia against Alexey Oleynik on Sept. 15, but a potential anti-doping violation for a failed out-of-competition drug test appears to have nixed those plans. The 41-year-old Brazilian called it a “misunderstanding” in a social media post shortly thereafter, but “Vai Cavalo” was recently handed a two-year sanction by USADA. Unless he is able to clear his name during an appeal process, Werdum won’t be able to return to UFC competition until he is nearly 43.
10. Alexey Oleynik (57-11-1)Oleynik officially ushered in the UFC’s Russian era with a first-round submission of Mark Hunt in the UFC Fight Night 136 headliner in Moscow. The 41-year-old “Boa Constrictor” is now 6-2 in the Las Vegas-based promotion since his 2014 debut, making him a sneaky contender in a division constantly in need of fresh faces.
Other Contenders: Vitaly Minakov, Cheick Kongo, Tai Tuivasa, Ryan Bader, Justin Willis.
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