1. Daniel Cormier (21-1)Cormier added to his legacy at UFC 226, becoming only the second simultaneous two-division titleholder in the promotion’s history with a first-round knockout of heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic in the main event. Cormier remains undefeated in the big man’s division, and based on a post-fight confrontation with current World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Brock Lesnar, he could remain at heavyweight for his next title defense.
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. Alexander Volkov (30-6)Volkov has a deceptive way of winning fights sometimes, but his methods are undeniably effective. After falling behind early against Fabricio Werdum at UFC Fight Night 127, “Drago” used his superior cardio and striking to prevail with a fourth-round knockout. The 29-year-old Russian has won four straight fights in the UFC -- the second-longest active winning streak in the heavyweight division -- and six straight overall, and he could be nearing a title shot following his signature triumph over Werdum.
4. 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 40-year-old Brazilian called it a “misunderstanding” in a social media post shortly thereafter, but “Vai Cavalo” will remain sidelined until the situation is resolved.
5. Derrick Lewis (20-5)Lewis was part of one of the worst bouts in recent memory, but fortunately for him, he ended up in the win column. “The Black Beast” combined with Francis Ngannou to land the second-fewest significant strikes in a three-round fight in UFC history, but the former Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder did enough to emerge with a decision victory at UFC 226. While the win over Ngannou does not do much to raise his stock, Lewis has nonetheless won eight of his last nine, making him one of the top contenders at heavyweight.
6. Francis Ngannou (11-3)Perhaps no fighter’s stock has fallen faster than that of Ngannou, who, after being dominated for five rounds by Stipe Moicic in a January title bout, looked completely gunshy against Derrick Lewis at UFC 226. After beginning his promotional tenure with six consecutive finishes, “The Predator” will have to recapture the killer instinct he showed during that run if he is to return to contention in the heavyweight division.
7. Curtis Blaydes (10-1)If there was any doubt before, there is none now: Blaydes is a serious threat to the heavyweight division. “Razor” Blaydes followed up a dominant decision win over Mark Hunt at UFC 221 with a bloody and brutal elbow-induced third-round finish of Alistair Overeem at UFC 225. The Chicago native’s wrestling base makes him a formidable foe for many heavyweights, but even more encouraging for his future is the killer instinct he showcased against “The Reem” after a relatively conservative start. Blaydes has won four in a row.
8. Alistair Overeem (43-17)Overeem never looked comfortable against Curtis Blaydes, as “The Reem” struggled to defend his adversary’s takedowns before suffering a violent defeat via elbows in their UFC 225 encounter. While Overeem remains one of the division’s most skilled strikers, back-to-back brutal knockout defeats at the hands of Blaydes and Francis Ngannou could signal the end of the Dutchman’s time as a top contender.
9. Junior dos Santos (19-5)Forced into a longer-than-desired absence due to a tainted supplement given to him by a Brazilian compounding pharmacy, dos Santos made a somewhat triumphant return at UFC Fight Night 133, where he earned a five-round decision over former Word Series of Fighting titlist Blagoy Ivanov. Still, the victory was not especially entertaining, as “Cigano” looked far removed from his heavyweight championship heyday. To ascend the rankings once more, the Brazilian must end his streak of alternating wins and losses, which dates back to 2012.
10. Vitaly Minakov (21-0)Will Bellator MMA ever want its former heavyweight champion back? Will the UFC ever make a serious offer? Minakov on Dec. 16 punched out a quality opponent in Tony Johnson in the second round, moving to 21-0 as a pro. Minakov’s exploits came under the banner of his native promotion, Fight Nights Global, igniting further questions as to whether or not the Russian heavyweight will sign another big-fight contract or stay with his home company.
Other Contenders: Mark Hunt, Cheick Kongo, Matt Mitrione, Alexey Oleynik, Tai Tuivasa.
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