1. Stipe Miocic (16-2)The Cleveland Indians lost the World Series and the Browns have not won a game yet on the gridiron, but Miocic will at least get a few extra months to hang onto the UFC heavyweight title. After a successful and thrilling first defense over Alistair Overeem in Cleveland in September, Miocic will take a few months off while the Dec. 30 rematch between Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum plays out.
2. Fabricio Werdum (21-6-1)At UFC 203 in September, Werdum inched closer to another crack at the UFC heavyweight title, which he dropped to Stipe Miocic in front of 45,000 Brazilians at UFC 198 in May. After dominating Travis Browne for 15 minutes, Werdum on Dec. 30 will rematch the man from whom he won the UFC strap -- Cain Velasquez -- in what amounts to a title eliminator at UFC 207.
3. Cain Velasquez (14-2)Velasquez will seek to avenge his heavyweight title loss to Fabricio Werdum on Dec. 30 at UFC 207, where a win would assuredly earn him a crack at champion Stipe Miocic. In the meantime, Velasquez is finding ways to stay in the headlines as one of the initial members of the Creative Artists Agency-backed MMA Athletes Association.
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 the 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)The former Bellator MMA heavyweight champion has been content to wait out his contract with the promotion in hopes of moving to the UFC, and now, he is closer to his wish. Minakov has reportedly received an offer from the UFC that he is keen to accept, putting his undefeated career back on track and offering the UFC heavyweight division a new, immediate contender.
10. Derrick Lewis (17-4, 1 NC)A four-fight winning streak in the always-needy UFC heavyweight division gave Lewis a headlining spot in Albany, New York, where he faced Dagestan’s Shamil Abdurakhimov on Dec. 9. The bout was hardly a breakthrough for Lewis -- in fact, it was awful, and he trailed 30-27 on all three judges’ cards when the fight was stopped – but “The Black Beast” earned a fourth-round TKO, upping his UFC record to 7-2.
Other Contenders: Travis Browne, Mark Hunt, Cheick Kongo, Brock Lesnar, Francis Ngannou
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