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Where We Stand: Heavyweight Division

While Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier have a trilogy fight to consider, the future of the division continues to take shape.

It seems like more than any other division, the shape of the heavyweight ranks can change in a blink. As people almost always say when the big guys get into the Octagon: It only takes one. And each of the top contenders in the division possess that fight-changing power or skillset to nullify said power, making for tension-filled fights. Unfortunately for a few of the rising contenders, the impending trilogy between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier almost has the division on hold until the two have their rubber match.

While the heavyweight ranks allow athletes to extend their careers without the normal worry of cutting weight, the division is starting to see a wave of new blood make their way to the promotion, adding some new flavors into an always exhilarating weight class.

Here’s a look at the heavyweight division:

More Divisional Breakdowns: Strawweight Women's Flyweight | Women's Bantamweight | Women's Featherweight | Flyweight | Bantamweight | Featherweight | Lightweight | Welterweight | Middleweight | Light Heavyweight

Champion: Stipe Miocic
(19-3, 15 KOs)

Last Fight: TKO Win vs Daniel Cormier (8/17/2019)

Next fight: N/A

Stipe Miocic: Top 5 Finishes
Stipe Miocic: Top 5 Finishes

Outlook: It feels odd to say Stipe Miocic’s legacy was in the balance when he stepped in for his rematch against Daniel Cormier given that he had previously defended the title more times than any other heavyweight, but that was a bit of the vibe heading into UFC 241. Though Miocic seemed a half-step behind Cormier to start the fight, the Ohio-native started to get his feet underneath him in the third round before stunning Cormier with several body shots that led to the finishing sequence. The price to hear “And New” once again, though, was steep, as Miocic is still recovering from an eye injury he suffered in the fight. And when he is healed, almost everyone expects a third fight between the two. Miocic showed his chin is much sturdier than what he showed in the first bout, but Cormier’s quickness appeared to be a major advantage in the second fight as well. The third bout might see more grappling and wrestling, and if Miocic keeps his belt, he might have a rematch with Francis Ngannou afterward. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, indeed.

1) Daniel Cormier
(22-2, 1 No Contest, 10 KOs, 5 Submissions)

Last Fight: TKO Loss vs Stipe Miocic (8/17/2019)

Next fight: N/A

Outlook: Daniel Cormier has made it pretty clear that he believes his rubber match against Stipe Miocic will be his final fight, but the former double-champ also said he would retire by 40 years old. That said, Cormier looked as good and fresh as one could hope in his second heavyweight title defense. Although “DC” admits he probably should’ve wrestled more and was still dealing with some back issues, he appeared nimble and powerful against the much larger man. Everybody wants to pull a Georges St-Pierre and go out on top, and Cormier has already shown he can do just that in a third fight against Miocic, and he’s willing to wait for it as Miocic heals. What’s certain, though, is win or lose, Cormier is one of the best competitors to grace the Octagon.

2) Francis Ngannou
(14-3, 10 KOs, 4 Submissions)

Last Fight: TKO win vs Junior Dos Santos (6/20/2019)

Next fight: N/A

Francis Ngannou: Why I Fight
Francis Ngannou: Why I Fight

Outlook: The near-consensus scariest man on the roster turned the last year-and-a-half into a bit of a redemption tour after disappointing performances in his title shot against Stipe Miocic and subsequent, surprisingly dull, fight against Derrick Lewis. He more than bounced back by disposing of Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos in a combined two minutes and 22 seconds, solidifying himself as the most deserving of the next title shot. Unfortunately, though, he is at the mercy of the timing of that trilogy, which is probably why he accepted a fight against the fast-rising Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Ngannou feels as though he has the best boxing on the roster, and he definitely has the most power. His fight IQ seems improved with each outing, but whether he can stretch that power past the first round hasn’t quite been proven mainly because he hasn’t allowed it. A rematch with Stipe Miocic is all that’s left from Ngannou taking the heavyweight crown, and it seems more likely with each soul-destroying punch he throws.

3) Curtis Blaydes
(13-2, 1 NC, 10 KOs)

Last Fight: TKO win vs Junior Dos Santos (1/25/2020)

Next fight: N/A

RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 25:  in their welterweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at PNC Arena on January 25, 2020 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 25: in their welterweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at PNC Arena on January 25, 2020 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Outlook: In a universe where Francis Ngannou doesn’t exist, Curtis Blaydes is the clear-cut next in line. He dominated each of his wins, and surprisingly, he didn’t need to secure a takedown against Junior Dos Santos, instead besting the perennial contender on the feet. That said, Blaydes makes it clear he intends to be the “heavyweight Khabib” and dominate by way of his wrestling acumen. That makes a hypothetical fight with Daniel Cormier incredibly enticing, but also unlikely because Cormier seems laser-focused on Miocic. He’ll have to wait for Ngannou to get his shot as well after falling to him twice. Blaydes’ situation is a little comparable to that of Justin Gaethje, who needs to wait for a deserving contender to get their shot but also has to probably wait for a rematch to be held, as well. Blaydes is only 29, though, and while he isn’t looking to waste time, his ever-improving skill set suggests he’ll get his turn soon enough.

4) Junior Dos Santos
(21-7, 15 KOs, 1 Submission)

Last Fight: TKO loss vs Curtis Blaydes (1/25/2020)

Next fight: N/A

Junior Dos Santos UFC Wichita Victory

Outlook: Considering Junior Dos Santos made his UFC debut in 2008 and won the belt back in 2011, it’s pretty wild to realize the Brazilian is only 36 years old, younger than Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier. One of the last holdovers from a previous era of the sport, Dos Santos continues to look as spry as ever with his signature positive attitude outside of the Octagon. Inside the cage, he remains one of the more creative and diverse strikers in the division. Back-to-back knockout wins over Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis had “Cigano” knocking on the door of yet another title shot until he ran into Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes. That said, he remains one of the best in the division and seems far from hanging up the gloves.

5) Derrick Lewis
(23-7, 18 KOs, 1 Submission)

Last Fight: Unanimous Decision Win vs Ilir Latifi (2/8/2020)

Next fight: N/A

UFC 247: Derrick Lewis - Top Finishes
UFC 247: Derrick Lewis - Top Finishes

Outlook: A forever fan-favorite who might be the best Instagram follow and the most unpredictable Octagon interview, Derrick Lewis has looked as well-rounded and fit as ever in his last two fights against Blagoy Ivanov and Ilir Latifi. Although that might seems strange on face value given that those both went to the judges’ scorecards, Lewis’ refocused strength and conditioning paid off in both fights. After recovering from ACL surgery, Lewis seemed a bit slimmer against Ivanov and threw bombs well into the final moments of the fights. And in his hometown of Houston, he threw several flying knees, which few would’ve expected from him. With his back problems and knee injury seemingly behind him, Lewis has several years of brawling ahead, and whoever wishes to declare themselves an elite heavyweight can’t ignore “The Black Beast.”

In The Mix:
Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Alexander Volkov, Walt Harris, Jon Jones

Outlook: Jairzinho Rozenstruik had a “rookie” year equaled by few others on the roster, earning knockout wins in all four of his appearances, including the second-fastest finish against Allen Crowder (nine seconds) and the latest finish in the division’s history against Alistair Overeem (4:56 of the fifth round). “Bigi Boy” seems to possess that weird power that people don’t understand until they feel it, and he was one of the few humans who wanted to fight Francis Ngannou. Although that bout is postponed, it is a surefire test to see how real Rozenstruik is. Meanwhile, Alexander Volkov and Walt Harris are more established presences seeking their way to the top. Volkov’s march was temporarily halted by suspension, but he made relatively easy work of Greg Hardy in Russia. He and Curtis Blaydes have circled around a date, which is an intriguing and fun stylistic matchup. Walt Harris nearly had his chance to prove his worthiness as a contender after scoring back-to-back first-minute finishes until personal tragedy struck. His bout with Alistair Overeem is eventually coming though, it seems. And then there’s Jon Jones. The longtime light heavyweight king has mentioned his interest in moving up to heavyweight for a bit now and is interested in a superfight against Stipe Miocic. A lot of parts need to fall in place for that to happen, but when one of the greatest of all-time expresses interest to move into a new division, the entire roster takes notice.