1. Fabricio Werdum (20-5-1)Werdum became the 14th undisputed UFC heavyweight champion on June 13, unifying his interim title with that of two-time champ Cain Velasquez by submitting the American Kickboxing Academy star via a third-round guillotine choke. Once considered a one-dimensional grappler with limited striking, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has evolved into a well-rounded mixed martial artist, as evidenced by the potent standup which precipitated his finish of Velasquez and previous stoppage of Mark Hunt. Since rejoining the UFC three years ago, Werdum has gone 6-0 with two submissions and two knockouts.
2. Cain Velasquez (13-2)Returning from an injury-laden layoff of nearly two years, Velasquez struggled mightily and ultimately surrendered his heavyweight crown to Fabricio Werdum at UFC 188. Whether due to ring rust or the Mexico City altitude, Velasquez faded fast after the opening round; by the third frame, Werdum’s strikes rocked him into an ill-advised takedown attempt which ended in a guillotine choke submission. It was the first submission loss of Velasquez’s career and his first defeat since falling to Junior dos Santos in November 2011.
3. Junior dos Santos (17-3)Dos Santos continues to beat every UFC heavyweight not named Cain Velasquez. “Cigano” did not have an easy time on Dec. 13, but the Brazilian weathered an early assault from Stipe Miocic and came on strong in the latter frames of their five-round affair to earn a unanimous decision. While another title shot remains out of reach for the time being, dos Santos’ well-honed boxing and seemingly unbreakable chin make him a tough matchup for any man in the division.
4. Stipe Miocic (13-2)Miocic was utterly dominant in his victory over Mark Hunt on May 10, mauling the famously durable kickboxer with ground-and-pound for the better part of five rounds before finally earning an overdue referee stoppage. The win saw the Ohioan rebound from a grueling December loss against Junior dos Santos. Now 7-2 inside the Octagon, Miocic continues to inch closer to title contention.
5. Andrei Arlovski (24-10, 1 NC)Arlovski posted a win over former training partner Travis Browne in a strong contender for “Round of the Year” at UFC 187, where the big men traded big shots until the punching power of “The Pit Bull” prevailed. With his third victory in a year since rejoining the UFC, the former champ not only made a statement as a potential contender but also showed that his once-questioned chin can still hold up under fire.
6. Travis Browne (17-3-1)Browne came up on the wrong end of a back-and-forth brawl with Andrei Arlovski at UFC 187, succumbing to punches from the ex-UFC champ late in the first round. It was just the second stoppage loss in 21 professional fights for the towering Hawaiian, who holds a record of 4-2 with four knockouts over the past two years.
7. Ben Rothwell (35-9)Rothwell used an unorthodox guillotine choke to submit hard-hitting Matt Mitrione on June 6, propelling the 15-year veteran up the ranks in the UFC’s wide-open heavyweight division. It was the Wisconsinite’s third win in as many years, following stoppages of Alistair Overeem and Brandon Vera. Afterward, Rothwell called for a No. 1 contender’s bout with Andrei Arlovski, a man to whom he lost via knockout in 2008.
8. Mark Hunt (10-10-1)Hunt suffered the worst beating of his career at the hands of Stipe Miocic, who disfigured “The Super Samoan” with hard strikes on the feet and the floor in front of an Australian crowd on May 10. The 41-year-old rarely looked competitive in his second consecutive defeat, which came six months after he failed to capture the UFC interim heavyweight belt in a knockout loss to Fabricio Werdum.
9. Alistair Overeem (39-14, 1 NC)Overeem had an up-and-down 2014, a loss to Ben Rothwell sandwiched between wins over Frank Mir and Stefan Struve. The powerful Dutchman got his 2015 campaign off to a good start on March 14 with a sterling three-round performance against Roy Nelson in which he outstruck “Big Country” nearly three to one. His victory against Nelson put Overeem on the first winning streak of his UFC career.
10. Frank Mir (18-9)Mir’s career appeared to be drawing to a close after he suffered four straight losses in the Octagon, but the two-time UFC champ had other ideas. In the span of five months, Mir has authored crushing knockouts of Brazilian big man Antonio Silva and power-punching prospect Todd Duffee, making the 36-year-old a dangerous opponent in the heavyweight division once again.
Other Contenders: Mirko Filipovic, Matt Mitrione, Alexey Oleinik, Stephan Puetz, Antonio Silva.
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