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1. Stipe Miocic (19-3)Down on the scorecards after three rounds, Miocic showed the ability to adjust at UFC 241, as he attacked Daniel Cormier’s body to set up a fourth-round technical knockout victory in their rematch in Anaheim, Calif. Not only was it a nice rebound from his KO loss to “DC” in their first meeting at UFC 226, but it refocused talks on Miocic as potentially the greatest heavyweight of all-time. The Ohio-based firefighter now owns five victories in UFC title bouts, the second most in the history of the heavyweight division.
2. Daniel Cormier (22-2, 1 NC)For three rounds, Cormier waded forward with total disregard for Stipe Miocic’s power in the UFC 241 headliner. That approach ultimately failed him in the fourth stanza, however, as Miocic began to dig to the body. Those blows gradually accumulated until Miocic was able to hurt “DC” and flurry for the finish at the 4:09 mark of the period. Now, instead of contemplating a trilogy bout with Jon Jones, Cormier will sit down with his family to make an “educated decision” regarding his fighting future. With no belt in his possession, any possible matchup with Jones would almost certainly have to occur at 205 pounds.
3. Francis Ngannou (14-3)Ngannou has the type of tantalizing power that can put anyone to sleep in a matter of seconds, and he showcased it once again at UFC on ESPN 3, where he dispatched Junior dos Santos in a little more than one minute in the evening’s headliner in Minneapolis. “The Predator” has now authored three consecutive first-round finishes, putting a disappointing two-fight skid in the first half of 2018 squarely in his rearview mirror. That run could put him in line for another heavyweight title shot.
4. Junior dos Santos (21-6)Dos Santos’ mini-resurgence came to a screeching halt in the UFC on ESPN 3 headliner, where he was soundly defeated by Francis Ngannou via first-round technical knockout in Minneapolis. Prior to that, “Cigano” had climbed back into contention with successive triumphs over Blagoy Ivanov, Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis. Now 35 years old, it remains a question if wear and tear will eventually begin to catch up with the Brazilian veteran, but for now he’s still a Top 5 heavyweight talent. He will return to the Octagon with an interesting matchup against Alexander Volkov in Moscow on Nov. 9.
5. Curtis Blaydes (12-2)Blaydes absolutely overwhelmed Shamil Abdurakhimov at UFC 242, relying on takedowns and powerful ground-and-pound to to earn a technical knockout stoppage at the 2:22 mark of Round 2 in Abu Dhabi. Few in the division possess the frightening top position power of Blaydes, who punctuated his latest triumph with a brutal elbow that cut his foe open. “Razor” is now 7-2 with one no contest in UFC competition, and his only two setbacks have come at the hands of top contender Francis Ngannou.
6. Derrick Lewis (21-7)Lewis was one of the UFC’s breakout stars of 2018, defeating Marcin Tybura, Francis Ngannou and Alexander Volkov to earn a shot at Daniel Cormier’s heavyweight title at UFC 230. 2019 didn’t start out nearly as well for “The Black Beast,” who fell to Junior dos Santos via second-round technical knockout in the UFC Wichita headliner on March 9. On the heels of the first-two fight losing streak of his professional career, Lewis has some work to do to reach his previous heights. He’ll make his return from knee surgery against Blagoy Ivanov at UFC 244 in New York on Nov. 2.
7. 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. The Russian will return to action against former champion Junior dos Santos at UFC Moscow on Nov. 9.
8. Alistair Overeem (45-17)Originally scheduled to face Alexander Volkov at UFC St. Petersburg, Overeem adjusted to an opponent change with no issue, as he stopped Alexey Oleynik via technical knockout 4:45 into the opening stanza of the evening’s headliner. “The Reem” gradually softened his foe with powerful knees, the last of which dropped Oleynik to the canvas. From there, Overeem unloaded with powerful ground-and-pound to earn his second consecutive win. Overeem will attempt to make a statement when he squares off against the surging Walt Harris in the UFC on ESPN 7 headliner in Washington, D.C.
9. Ryan Bader (27-5, 1 NC)Bader was never in danger against Cheick Kongo in the Bellator 226 headliner, as he rattled the Frenchman on the feet before taking his opponent down and imposing his will on the mat. However, the bout ended prematurely due to an inadvertent eye poke from the Power MMA Team representative. As a result, Bader has a no contest on his record but is unbeaten in his last eight bouts dating back to September 2016. A rematch with Kongo could be in the offing, but it’s worth nothing that Bader hasn’t defended his light heavyweight crown since November 2017.
10. Cheick Kongo (30-10-2, 1 NC)Kongo didn’t technically lose against Ryan Bader at Bellator 226, but there was nothing he showed during their short-lived bout in San Jose, Calif., that indicated he would seriously threaten the heavyweight king. Nonetheless, since the fight ended due to an eye poke just 3:52 into Round 1, it’s only logical to think the 44-year-old Frenchman might be in line for a rematch. Prior to the debacle against Bader, Kongo had won eight consecutive outings under the Bellator MMA banner.
Other Contenders: Walt Harris, Vitaly Minakov, Blagoy Ivanov, Justin Willis, Sergei Kharitonov.
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