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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. The promotion is reportedly planning on booking a trilogy bout between Miocic and Cormier, but it likely won’t occur until 2020 as the champion recovers from an eye injury.
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. Recently, UFC president Dana White revealed that the promotion is planning on booking a trilogy fight between Cormier and Mioic. That bout isn’t likely to happen until 2020, as Miocic needs to recover from an eye injury suffered in their last fight.
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, although he may be forced to wait until Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier complete their trilogy sometime next year.
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 was supposed to return to the Octagon against Alexander Volkov in Moscow on Nov. 9, but a bacterial infection forced him to withdraw from that contest.
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 (22-7)Sporting an improved physique, Lewis battled through three tough rounds to take a unanimous verdict against the durable Blagoy Ivanov at UFC 244. “The Black Beast” landed his share of heavy shots and was able to escape a few precarious positions on the ground to earn his 13th Octagon triumph at heavyweight. It was a welcome return to the win column for the Houston native, who had been finished in back-to-back outings by Junior dos Santos and Daniel Cormier.
7. Alexander Volkov (31-7)Faced with an inexperienced opponent on short notice, Volkov authored a veteran performance against Greg Hardy at UFC Fight Night 163, picking his foe apart with straight punches and kicks at range to earn a unanimous decision in Moscow. Volkov’s cautious effort may have been a product of his last bout, when he was ahead on the scorecards against Derrick Lewis before losing via knockout with 11 seconds left in Round 3 at UFC 229. The 31-year-old Russian has won seven of his last eight professional fights.
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 was expected to square off against the surging Walt Harris in the UFC on ESPN 7 headliner in Washington, D.C, but the tragic disappearance of Harris’ stepdaughter forced “The Big Ticket” to withdraw from the contest. Instead, Overeem will square off against Suriname native Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
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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