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1. Daniel Cormier (22-1, 1 NC)The best thing you can say about Cormier’s effort at UFC 230 was that it was predictable. “DC” landed multiple takedowns on underdog Derrick Lewis before securing a tapout with a rear-naked choke at the 2:14 mark of the second stanza. Cormier became the first fighter to defend titles from two divisions in UFC history. He also set the stage for his anticipated showdown with Brock Lesnar early next year, targeting UFC 235 on March 2 for his farewell bout.
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. Derrick Lewis (21-6)It’s been a memorable run for Lewis, who notched wins over Alexander Volkov, Francis Ngannou and Marcin Tybura in 2018 to become a social media sensation and an unlikely No. 1 contender. “The Black Beast” looked predictably overmatched in losing to Daniel Cormier at UFC 230, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Houston native has bucked the odds to win nine of his last 11 promotional appearances. Lewis plans on taking a break and said after UFC 230 that the promotion can call him “before next summer.”.
4. Alexander Volkov (30-7)Volkov was well on his way to his fifth consecutive Octagon triumph at UFC 229, as he was comfortably outlanding Derrick Lewis in the waning seconds of their featured bout. Then, “The Black Beast” crushed Volkov with a massive right hand and followed him to the mat, finishing the contest with powerful ground-and-pound at the 4:49 mark of the third frame. At 29 years old, Volkov still has plenty of time to contend for heavyweight gold in a shallow division.
5. 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 41-year-old Brazilian called it a “misunderstanding” in a social media post shortly thereafter, but “Vai Cavalo” was recently handed a two-year sanction by USADA. Unless he is able to clear his name during an appeal process, Werdum won’t be able to return to UFC competition until he is nearly 43.
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. The process begins in a UFC Fight Night 141 rematch with Curtis Blaydes, whom Ngannou defeated via doctor stoppage in April 2016.
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. Blaydes has won four fights in a row and will get a chance to avenge his only career defeat when he faces Francis Ngannou at UFC Fight Night 141 on Nov. 24 in Beijing.
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. Overeem will return to action against Sergey Pavlovich at UFC Fight Night 141 in Beijing on Nov. 24.
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. Dos Santos will look to improve upon that showing when he faces prospect Tai Tuivasa at UFC Fight Night 142 on Dec. 1.
10. Alexey Oleynik (57-11-1)Oleynik officially ushered in the UFC’s Russian era with a first-round submission of Mark Hunt in the UFC Fight Night 136 headliner in Moscow. The 41-year-old “Boa Constrictor” is now 6-2 in the Las Vegas-based promotion since his 2014 debut, making him a sneaky contender in a division constantly in need of fresh faces.
Other Contenders: Vitaly Minakov, Mark Hunt, Cheick Kongo, Tai Tuivasa, Ryan Bader.
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