At UFC 211, #StipeMiocic reaffirmed his status as the world’s best heavyweight with a first round KO of Junior dos Santos, the last man to defeat Miocic and, himself, a former UFC champion.
In doing so, the proud Ohio native tied the record for consecutive defenses of a UFC heavyweight championship, and continues to build a compelling case that he is, already, the organization’s best-ever big man.
Whether Miocic has done enough to distinguish himself from his historical peers is up for debate, but today, we’ll take an entirely subjective look at the UFC’s greatest heavyweights.
Quality of competition, and record against said competition, will be our primary criteria, though more nebulous concepts such as skill set and versatility will also factor in.
As this is a ranking of the UFC’s greatest heavyweights, PRIDE legend and Bellator 180 headliner Fedor Emelianenko will be exempt from this list, though other PRIDE competitors will be considered on the strength of their UFC runs.
5. Randy Couture
The quality of #RandyCouture's opposition is clearly not on the same level as some of the other entrants on this list, a consequence of his pioneer status within the sport. Where the six-time UFC titlist distinguishes himself is in his longevity and evolution. A three-time heavyweight champion who also won a heavyweight tournament in the promotion’s dark ages, Couture claimed victories over Vitor Belfort, Maurice Smith, Kevin Randleman and Pedro Rizzo within the first few years of his career alone.
After losing his championship to Josh Barnett in 2002, he moved to light heavyweight, where he again won UFC gold before dropping the last two entries of a trilogy against Chuck Liddell.
Subsequently, he retired, only to return in 2007, immediately booked opposite then-heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia. Coming out of retirement and at a clear size disadvantage, Couture’s chances seemed bleak, but he completely controlled the underrated Sylvia, winning every single round en route to a unanimous decision. Not bad for an old man.
4. Fabricio Werdum
#FabricioWerdum’s UFC run was defined by reinvention. Under #KingsMMA’s Rafael Cordeiro, the jiu-jitsu prodigy developed into one of the division’s most effective pressure kickboxers following a loss to Alistair Overeem just prior to his UFC return.
An upset win over Travis Browne resulted in an interim title opportunity, in which Werdum flattened Mark Hunt with a flying knee to claim the strap, before finally facing Cain Velasquez in a unification bout in Mexico City.
A prohibitive underdog, Werdum seemed unfazed, as he easily took apart Velasquez’s pressure game, dominating the clinch fight and tiring the immaculately conditioned Mexican, before securing a tight guillotine choke and eliciting a tap in the third round.
Though he would never defend the belt, his status as one of the greatest fighters in his division's history is already assured.
3. Cain Velasquez
#CainVelasquez has always been polarizing, relative to his historical contemporaries. He is, without doubt, one of the most skilled, ferocious, and physically gifted fighters ever to compete in the division, but has been largely hampered by injury.
Since claiming the UFC championship in 2010, he has gone 2-1 in a trilogy with Junior dos Santos, twice bested Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, and beaten Travis Browne in a tune-up fight.
Skill was never an issue for Velasquez, nor was dedication. He is considered by some, even to this day, to be the finest heavyweight in the history of the sport, but the juxtaposition between his resume and his ability is startling.
Velasquez has not yet reached the end of his career, and still possesses the potential to right this wrong, but until then, he remains at #3.
2. Junior dos Santos
Twice bested by Cain Velasquez, yes, but #JuniorDosSantos’ hit list is among the finest in the sport’s history: Mark Hunt, Stipe Miocic, Roy Nelson, Frank Mir, Ben Rothwell, Shane Carwin, Velasquez himself, Mirko "Cro Cop," and a very green Fabricio Werdum, among others.
His combination of lithe power punching, near-impenetrable takedown defense and tactical acumen established him as one of the most fearsome offensive fighters in the promotion's history.
Dos Santos holds victories over four past or future UFC heavyweight champions, along with an interim champion in Carwin. Though he would never reclaim the title, few men have fought such a stern line-up of competitors, and his success against this level of opposition warrants such high placement.
1. Stipe Miocic
Miocic, since a 2014 loss to Junior dos Santos, has stopped five, straight, world-class heavyweights, with four consecutive first-round knockouts, including a dominant TKO of dos Santos in a rematch.
First, he stopped Mark Hunt, who had just fallen to Fabricio Werdum for the interim heavyweight belt. Then, he faced Andrei Arlovski, who had won six-consecutive bouts in an electrifying career resurgence. Miocic finished Arlovski in under a minute. From there, he wrenched the heavyweight championship from Werdum, before defending it against Alistair Overeem and the aforementioned dos Santos, neither man surviving to the end of the first round.
Miocic holds the consistent minute-to-minute approach and tactical acumen of a lighter man, while also slowly revealing himself as one of the most offensively threatening fighters ever to compete in the division.
With promising prospects such as #FrancisNgannou in his future, Miocic’s story has not yet concluded, and the man primed to bring stability to the UFC’s most chaotic division is not content to rest on his laurels.
UFC Heavyweight Top-15:
- Champion - Stipe Miocic
- #1 - Fabricio Werdum
- #2 - Cain Velasquez
- #3 - Alistair Overeem
- #4 - Junior Dos Santos
- #5 - Francis Ngannou
- #6 - Derrick Lewis
- #7 - Mark Hunt
- #8 - Andrei Arlovski
- #9 - Travis Browne
- #10 - Alexander Volkov
- #11 - Stefan Struve
- #12 - Tim Johnson
- #13 - Marcin Tybura
- #14 - Aleksei Oleinik
- #15 - Daniel Omielanczuk�