(16-3, 12 KOs, 4 Submissions)
Last Fight: KO Win vs Stipe Miocic (3/27/21)
Next fight: N/A
Outlook: The man some christened as a champion in waiting early in his UFC career made good on that potential in his second shot at Miocic at UFC 260. Ngannou, now the heavyweight king, has a plethora of directions to go with his first title defense. One avenue is the trilogy bout with Miocic. With the two even at one win apiece, the fight certainly makes sense and would be intriguing. Of course, there’s also the looming specter of Jon Jones, who has committed himself to a move up to the heavyweight ranks after his historic run at 205 pounds. Pitting the roster’s scariest finisher and the greatest light heavyweight of all-time against each other is surely a show-stopping matchup dripping with high-stakes, high-intrigue and a whole lot of narrative potential. The two have traded jabs over social media and in the press, so the interest is obviously there.
The options are open for the newly minted champion and based on how he’s looked on his latest streak up the division, it’s difficult to imagine what it will take for someone to unseat “The Predator.”
(20-4, 15 KOs)
Last Fight: KO Loss vs Francis Ngannou (3/27/21)
Next fight: N/A
Outlook: It’s an interesting time for the most accomplished heavyweight champion in UFC history. Any time a new champion takes the throne, rarely does the future look so cloudy. There’s often a fight or two out there that could lead back to a title shot or perhaps there’s a clear indication that an immediate rematch is in order. For Miocic, he certainly has a case for the latter. He and Ngannou each hold a win over the other, so naturally, a trilogy is there to be had, but there is Jon Jones in the middle of it all, as mentioned before. Miocic might have to wait, and based on how he bided his time for more than a year after losing to Daniel Cormier in their first encounter, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him do the same here.
(25-7, 20 KOs, 1 Submission)
Last Fight: KO Win vs Curtis Blaydes (2/20/21)
Next fight: N/A
Outlook: The UFC Knockout King solidified his place at the top of the heavyweight division with his stunning finish of Curtis Blaydes in February. Lewis has ripped off four straight wins after losing his title bid against Daniel Cormier at UFC 230 and his ensuing fight against Junior Dos Santos. Since then, Lewis has looked strong, fast and healthy – a scary prospect for all heavyweights. Certainly, “The Black Beast” has earned a respectable call for a shot at Ngannou, a man he already holds a decision win over and a fight the two surely want to run back given the muted nature of their first encounter. If Ngannou is tied up in a trilogy with Miocic or an epic duel with Jones, Lewis isn’t one to sit and wait, necessarily. He appears willing to fight all comers that make sense, which could include the fast-rising Ciryl Gane, Jairzinho Rozenstruik or maybe even a rematch with Alexander Volkov, who has pieced together a pair of nice wins. If Miocic is willing to participate in a non-title fight for the first time in more than five years, Lewis is probably the fight that makes the most sense. In short, Lewis has options if he doesn’t want to sit and wait for a title shot.
(14-3, 10 KOs)
Last Fight: KO Loss vs Derrick Lewis (2/20/21)
Next fight: N/A
Outlook: Blaydes is undoubtedly one of the most physically dominant fighters in the heavyweight division, often wrestling his foes into a puddle of exhaustion and pain. Only two men have bested Blaydes, and unfortunately for the Chicago native, one of them is the current champion. Twice, Ngannou earned TKO wins over Blaydes, and his most recent loss to Lewis puts him in a difficult spot. Unless Miocic expresses some desire to fight Blaydes, he’ll likely have to fight lower-ranked opponents until the gridlock up top figures itself out. Fortunately, Blaydes is on the younger side, having just turned 30 in February. There are plenty of fights out there for him as well. Gane, Rozenstruik and Walt Harris are all Top 8 fighters whom Blaydes hasn’t faced yet, so while he is within shouting distance of a title shot, he at least has fights to take until then.
(8-0, 3 KOs, 3 Submissions)
Last Fight: Unanimous Decision Win vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik (2/27/21)
Next fight: N/A
Outlook: “Bon Gamin” is the new, shiny, terrifying presence at the top of the heavyweight division. The Frenchman is less than two years into his UFC career and less than three years into professional mixed martial arts as a whole, so the drooling over the 30-year-old’s potential is understandable. Gane moves especially well for someone of his stature and overall physique, and he’s shown the ability to not only hang with some of the most skilled heavyweights on the roster, but outclass and outmaneuver them. He’s not a strict power-puncher, and his comfort on the ground makes him a bit of a puzzle. His win over Rozenstruik left some a little cold in terms of Gane’s cruise to a decision, but the skill set is all there. As the newest face in the heavyweights’ top-tier, almost any fight is available to him save for those actually in the title picture. Gane probably needs another signature, emphatic win before calling for a shot at the belt currently occupied by his friend, Ngannou, but he also has the benefit of time.
(33-8, 22 KOs, 3 Submissions)
Last Fight: TKO Win vs Alistair Overeem (2/6/2021)
Next fight: N/A
Outlook: Debatably, Volkov was about 12 seconds from the heavyweight title picture when Derrick Lewis scored his last-second knockout win over the Russian at UFC 229. Volkov was riding in on a four-fight winning streak in the UFC and fresh off a knockout win over Fabricio Werdum, but as they always say with heavyweights, one punch changed everything, and Volkov was forced to rebuild. After splitting his next two fights against Greg Hardy and Curtis Blaydes, Volkov rebounded with an in-form and in-control performance over Walt Harris on UFC Fight Island. He subsequently earned another second-round TKO against Alistair Overeem. His only losses have come against Lewis and Blaydes, which is nothing to scoff at whatsoever. Volkov probably isn’t in the immediate title picture, but the 32-year-old has shown the skills and improvements necessary to hang around at the top for a while. Fights against Gane or Rozenstruik both make sense, and one could argue for a rematch against Lewis.
In the Mix: Jon Jones, Jairzinho Rozenstruik
Outlook: “Bones” made his intentions clear after vacating his long-held light heavyweight title: he wants to challenge for heavyweight gold. Having taken the time to mold his body into a proper physique for the division, his name was on the tip of everyone’s tongue after Ngannou captured the belt. The two have bantered about a potential bout on social media before, and it seems like the interest is mutual. From the outside, Ngannou vs Jones could turn into one of the most anticipated fights in UFC history.
Elsewhere, a crop of young heavyweights has risen on the precipice of the top-10. Augusto Sakai lost a bid to announce himself against Alistair Overeem, but he’s a prospect for which people still hold optimism. Chris Daukaus has quietly put together several impressive performances, including his most recent win over Aleksei Oleinik. Tom Aspinall is another young heavyweight recently entering the rankings, but he’s keen on fighting as much as possible to gain experience before shooting for the top of the division. Jairzinho Rozenstruik is in an interesting spot having lost to Gane. He had a fast rise up the rankings, so he has a bevy of options to string together a handful of wins before making another bid for a title shot.