The heavyweight division has its share of big names, and a few more are on the way when Zuffa absorbs Strikeforce’s heavyweight division into the UFC in the coming year. Daniel Cormier, winner of Strikeforce’s Heavyweight Grand Prix, is sure to get a high-profile opponent for his debut. And though Josh Barnett has had past issues with Dana White and the UFC, he’d be wise to set them aside and return, if possible.
Most of the division has already been pillaged with Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and others already making the jump and fighting in the UFC. But with Overeem’s suspension lasting until December and Silva coming off of a slaughter by Cain Velasquez, neither made the list.
Highly touted prospect Stipe Miocic was on the rise before losing to Stefan Struve this past weekend. He’s off the list for now, but could easily reappear with a few more wins under his belt.
Other fighters that would normally be found on a heavyweight ranking, such as Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mike Russow, or Shane Carwin are nowhere to be found. While all three are good fighters, they’re coming off of losses and aren’t close to contention right now – remember, that’s what the list is all about.
Champion: Junior Dos Santos
Like Jon Jones, the question wasn’t so much if JDS would win a title, but when he would. He made quick work Cain Velasquez on FOX and ran through Frank Mir with similar ease. Next up, he’ll attempt the rare feat of defending the Heavyweight Championship twice.
Contenders: Cain Velasquez, Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve
The former champion bounced back from his first loss in gruesome fashion against Antonio Silva. And with the top of the ladder a little bare, a rematch with Dos Santos is on the books. No matter what happens the second time around, it can’t be any worse than the first for Velasquez.
As for Werdum, he’s certainly making the most of his second stint in the UFC. After beating up on Roy Nelson in February, he returned to Brazil last month to knock out Mike Russow mid-way through the first round. With another win, Werdum could be next in line for a title shot.
In The Discussion: Frank Mir, Mark Hunt
Title challengers coming off of a loss will either end up in the “Contenders” group, the “In The Discussion” group, or fall completely off of the ladder. I thought about taking Mir off of the list altogether, mostly because I see the JDS fight being his last title shot. But after realizing that his last three losses have been title fights of some form, he stays for now.
As for Mark Hunt, his recent win streak is a surprise to those who know the story behind his UFC entry. He’s now 3-1 in the organization and knocking on the door to contention. There was a huge social media push to give Hunt the title shot against JDS, instead of Mir. Though unsuccessful, he’s quickly becoming a household name in the division.
On The Rise: Travis Browne
Travis Browne (13-0-1) is one of the division’s best kept secrets, but with a win next week he won’t stay quiet for long. He KO’d Struve last year, drew with Cheick Kongo back in 2010, and can also get it done with his the ground game (last win via arm triangle). He can officially move into the discussion with another impressive performance.
Travis Browne vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva – UFC on Fox 4 (October 5)
Junior Dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez – UFC 155 (December 29)