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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 mid-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. Recently, UFC president Dana White revealed that the promotion is planning on booking a trilogy fight between Cormier and Mioic. That bout likely won’t happen until mid-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. Rather than wait on Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic to conclude their championship trilogy, Ngannou will stay active and face Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the UFC Columbus main event on March 28.
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. Dos Santos will look to make a quick recovery when he meets Curtis Blaydes when the promotion heads to Raleigh, N.C. on Jan. 25.
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. Next up, Blaydes will square off against Junior dos Santos in the UFC Raleigh headliner on Jan. 25.
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. Next, Lewis will welcome Ilir Latifi to the heavyweight division at UFC 247.
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. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (10-0)Rozenstruik didn’t look quite ready for prime time during the early rounds of his headlining clash with Alistair Overeem at UFC on ESPN 7, but “Bigi Boy” landed a massive right hand to put his opponent away with just four seconds remaining in the fight. The result is a testament to the fight-ending power of Rozenstruik, whose four-fight KO/TKO streak is currently the longest in the Las Vegas-based promotion. Rozenstruik is nothing if not bold, as he called out fellow knockout artist Francis Ngannou following his victory. Rozenstruik will get his wish when he faces Ngannou at UFC Columbus on March 28.
9. Alistair Overeem (45-18)As he has aged, Overeem has adopted a conservative and efficient approach in the Octagon that has largely been successful. Unfortunately, “The Reem” was unable to make that style work for a full 25 minutes against Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the UFC on ESPN 7 headliner, as he was knocked out by a massive right hand at the 4:56 mark of Round 5. The loss has to be especially painful considering the 39-year-old Dutchman was well on his way to a decision victory prior to the decisive blow. In defeat, Overeem had a modest two-fight winning streak snapped along with his hopes of putting together another run at the UFC heavyweight belt.
10. 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. Bader was hoping to challenge for the Rizin light heavyweight crown at the end of the year, but when negotiations fell apart, he shifted his focus to defending his Bellator 205-pound belt next.
Other Contenders: Cheick Kongo, Walt Harris, Vitaly Minakov, Blagoy Ivanov, Justin Willis.
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