1. Cain Velasquez (13-1)
Velasquez removed any doubt as to who is the best heavyweight in the world by administering a brutal beating to Junior dos Santos at UFC 166. The final bout of the trilogy was never really in doubt, as the American Kickboxing Academy representative dominated in the clinch and rarely allowed his opponent any space to unleash his formidable boxing. Velasquez dropped his opponent in the third round and earned the stoppage in late in the fifth, where dos Santos wilted after hitting his head on the canvas on a failed guillotine attempt.
2. Junior dos Santos (16-3)
No one can question the heart of “Cigano,” but the former heavyweight champ is likely to remain exactly that as long as Cain Velasquez is atop the division. The Brazilian was unable to deal with the constant pressure of the American Kickboxing Academy standout at UFC 166, eventually losing via technical knockout in the fifth round. Despite back-to-back lopsided defeats to Velasquez, dos Santos remains a clear No. 2 in the weight class.
3. Fabricio Werdum (17-5-1)
Werdum proved he is deserving of serious title consideration at UFC on Fuel TV 10, as he became just the second man to ever submit Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, forcing “Minotauro” to tap to an armbar in the second round of the June 8 headliner. Barring injury, Werdum will be next in line to face Cain Velasquez in 2014.
4. Daniel Cormier (13-0)
A significantly lighter Cormier kept his unblemished record intact at UFC 166, cruising to a clear-cut unanimous verdict over Roy Nelson in the co-main event. The two-time Olympian never let “Big Country” get comfortable, as he wore down Nelson with clinches and takedowns early and attacked with a versatile standup arsenal late. Cormier, who weighed in at 224 pounds prior to the bout, expects to compete at light heavyweight upon returning to the Octagon.
5. Antonio Silva (18-5)
Back-to-back finishes of Alistair Overeem and Travis Browne earned “Bigfoot” a rematch with Cain Velasquez, but that is where the magic ran out for the 6-foot-4 heavyweight. Silva once again succumbed to first-round punches from Velasquez at UFC 160, ending the Brazilian’s hopes of claiming UFC gold anytime in the near future. The Strikeforce veteran will attempt to get back on the winning track in December, when he squares off with former K-1 standout Mark Hunt in Australia.
6. Josh Barnett (33-6)
After more than 4,000 days away from the Octagon, Barnett reminded everyone why he is one of the world’s best heavyweights at UFC 164. The expected grappling duel with Frank Mir never transpired, as “The Warmaster” controlled the abbreviated heavyweight clash in the clinch, finishing his opponent with a vicious knee and punches on the mat. Next, the former heavyweight ruler meets Travis Browne at UFC 168.
7. Frank Mir (16-8)
Mir’s highly anticipated showdown with Josh Barnett was over before it could really get going. Barnett battered Mir in the clinch, landing punches, elbows and knees before one final, thudding knee strike swiftly dropped the Jackson’s MMA representative. Barnett sealed the victory with follow-up punches, giving Mir three straight defeats for the first time in his career. It could very well be do or die for the jiu-jitsu ace in his next bout, as he clashes with Alistair Overeem on Feb. 1.
8. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (34-8-1, 1 NC)
Nogueira continued his recent trend of alternating wins and losses, as he followed an October 2012 triumph over Dave Herman with a submission defeat to Fabricio Werdum at UFC on Fuel TV 10. Do not expect the 37-year-old “Minotauro” to hang it up anytime soon, however. Although he may no longer be a title contender, Nogueira is arguably Brazil’s most beloved fighter and should continue to catch marquee fights in the UFC.
9. Travis Browne (15-1-1)
Despite a flashy record and more than his share of dominant victories, Browne entered his co-headlining bout with Alistair Overeem at UFC Fight Night 26 as a relatively unknown commodity. Some serious resilience followed by a highlight-reel front kick did plenty to change that perception, however, as Browne’s first-round stoppage of the “Demolition Man” has made the 6-foot-7 Hawaiian a serious player in the heavyweight division. Browne will look to continue his ascent on Dec. 28, when he locks horns with Josh Barnett in Las Vegas.
10. Gabriel Gonzaga (16-7)
Onetime title contender Gonzaga has surged back into relevance with three resounding wins in 2013. After an April loss to Travis Browne, “Napao” has finished two opponents in a combined 1:50, first punching out Dave Herman at UFC 162 and then demolishing Shawn Jordan at UFC 166.
Other contenders:Mark Hunt, Stipe Miocic, Roy Nelson, Alistair Overeem , Stefan Struve.
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