1. Stipe Miocic (16-2)Having snatched the UFC heavyweight title from Fabricio Werdum in front of 45,000 Brazilians in May, Miocic received a homecoming of the highest order. The newly minted UFC heavyweight champ made his first title defense in his own backyard in Cleveland and stopped Alistair Overeem in under a round on Sept. 10. After his first successful title defense, most wondered if Miocic would defend against Werdum or another former champion in Cain Velasquez. However, with Miocic publicly stating he does not want to fight for the rest of the year, the UFC may be forced to do a Werdum-Velasquez rematch as a title eliminator.
2. Fabricio Werdum (21-6-1)Werdum in the UFC 203 co-main event replicated his April 2014 win over Travis Browne, earning another unanimous decision at the Hawaiian’s expense. With the victory, Werdum made it clear his sights were set on a championship rematch with the man who dethroned him in May: Stipe Miocic. Unfortunately for the Brazilian, the champion has stated he wants to take off the rest of 2016, which may lead Werdum into a rematch with Cain Velasquez in what would assuredly qualify as a definitive title eliminator.
3. Cain Velasquez (14-2)Despite 13 months away from the cage, the former UFC heavyweight champion looked outstanding in his return at UFC 200 in July, completely destroying Travis Browne inside of one round. Velasquez’s hope was to parlay such a brutal, dominant showing into another crack at the UFC championship against Stipe Miocic. However, with the UFC’s heavyweight kingpin looking to relax for the rest of 2016, Velasquez may wind up in a title eliminator scenario against Fabricio Werdum, the man who took the UFC gold from him in June 2015.
4. Alistair Overeem (41-15, 1 NC)Almost five years after his ballyhooed UFC debut, Overeem finally earned a UFC heavyweight title shot behind an impressive four-fight winning streak. However, “The Demolition Man” was on the wrong side of destruction at UFC 203 in Cleveland: He landed heavy blows on Stipe Miocic, but the UFC heavyweight champ rocked Overeem worse and eventually pounded him out cold in the first round.
5. Junior dos Santos (18-4)Dos Santos executed a perfect game plan in his April 10 bout with Ben Rothwell, as the hard-hitting Brazilian used his speed and boxing prowess to beat “Big Ben” to the punch for five rounds. It was the sharpest outing for “Cigano” since he lost his UFC heavyweight belt to Cain Velasquez in 2013; now, dos Santos will look to string together back-to-back wins for the first time since 2011.
6. Ben Rothwell (36-10)Rothwell’s surprise four-fight winning streak was snapped by Junior dos Santos in April, but the Wisconsin native was afforded a big-name fight in his return, signing on to face recently dethroned champ Fabricio Werdum at UFC 203 on Sept. 10. However, Rothwell suffered an undisclosed injury in training and was forced to pull out of the event, with Travis Browne stepping into his spot against the former UFC heavyweight boss.
7. Josh Barnett (35-8)Barnett was shocked, via submission no less, by Ben Rothwell in January. “The Warmaster” got right back to work in his next Octagon outing, however, choking out Andrei Arlovski in the third round in Hamburg, Germany, to earn another historically notable heavyweight scalp while keeping himself relevant at 38 years old.
8. Andrei Arlovski (25-13, 1 NC)Arlovski suffered his third consecutive loss to fellow former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett on Sept. 3 in Germany. Despite his third-round submission defeat adding to his losing streak and his being 37 years old, Arlovski remains a viable heavyweight due to his experience and athleticism, as well as a division that largely forgives advancing age.
9. Vitaly Minakov (18-0)Eighteen opponents have tested Minakov and every single one of them has failed. Most recently, it was long-time K-1 veteran Peter Graham on June 17, as he was victimized by an armbar from the Fight Nights Team star in 62 seconds. The question surrounding the former Bellator MMA heavyweight champ is not whether or not he is an elite heavyweight -- he most certainly is -- but whether or not he will ever become a full-time fighter and wind up in the UFC.
10. Travis Browne (18-5-1)Browne fell to 2-3 in his last five fights, having stepped in on short notice to replace Ben Rothwell against Fabricio Werdum at UFC 203. Werdum had previously bested him over 25 minutes back in April 2014. The Brazilian did the same thing in their rematch, this time over 15 minutes, as he handed Browne consecutive losses for the first time in his career and reinforced the stratification of the heavyweight elite.
Other Contenders: Mark Hunt, Cheick Kongo, Derrick Lewis, Brock Lesnar, Matt Mitrione
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