The new UFC heavyweight champion and divisional ruler is Junior dos Santos. | Photo: Dave Mandel
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 hulking Dutch “Demolition Man” split from his longtime camp at Golden Glory in September and has since taken up residence at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas to prepare for his UFC debut. The stakes could hardly be higher for Overeem’s first time in the Octagon, as the winner of his Dec. 30 collision with Brock Lesnar will become the No. 1 contender for Junior dos Santos’ title.
4. Fabricio Werdum (14-5-1)
On June 18, 51 weeks after submitting Fedor Emelianenko in a shocking upset, Werdum found himself in an entirely different type of fight. Despite showing flashes of strong standup, the Brazilian spent much of his Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix quarterfinal attempting to pull guard and lure Alistair Overeem into his realm. The Dutchman stayed upright for almost the entire bout and did enough to walk away with a unanimous decision, evening the pair’s series at 1-1.
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 (15-5)
Mir will attempt to follow up on a dominant May decision over Roy Nelson against an old foe. Having already punched out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in December 2008, Mir will have the chance to prove it was no fluke when he meets the Pride legend for a second time on Dec. 10.
8. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (33-6-1, 1 NC)
Having been punched out in two of his last three starts -- the first stoppage losses of his storied career -- Nogueira was in need of a statement win. That’s exactly what he got on Aug. 27, when, before a riotous hometown crowd in Rio de Janeiro, “Big Nog” defied bookmakers and served hot prospect Brendan Schaub a first-round knockout. The 35-year-old will have revenge on his mind for his next bout: On Dec. 10, Nogueira will try to avenge his first knockout loss when he rematches Frank Mir.
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