The heavyweight division has always been a tumultuous one. It was one of the original weight classes created for the UFC and seems to have a revolving door of champions come through. Since Mark Coleman first one the belt at UFC 12 in 1997, there have been 15 different champions, and that's not including interim champions. With one of the most stacked divisions throughout the history of the UFC, there have been some amazing heavyweight fighters. Here are the eight best heavyweight champions. I will be keeping their whole career in mind, not just their run as a champion.
8. Mark Coleman
The original is still one of the best there ever was. A UFC Hall of Famer, Coleman won the belt by starting his professional MMA career 6-0. Though he lost the belt in his first title defense, it was in a Fight of the Year bout and he had a great career in the UFC when he wasn't the champ. He won both the UFC 10 and UFC 11 tournament and most of his losses came to all-time greats like Mauricio Rua and Randy Couture. His legacy as a fighter earned him his Hall of Fame honor and a spot on this list.
7. Frank Mir
One of the first heavyweights to prove that the division was not all about knockouts, Mir is one of the greatest submission artists of all time. He earned the belt by defeating Tim Sylvia at UFC 48 via a technical submission. He finished his career with eight submissions in the UFC, the most of any heavyweight ever and tied for third most in UFC history. Though he never successfully defended the belt, he went on to win an interim belt, fought for a second interim belt and competed in two more title shots. He is 16-11 in the UFC and is one of the all-time greats.
6. Brock Lesnar
If a couple more things in Lesnar's life went his way, he could very well have found himself at the top of the list. Lesnar won the heavyweight title in his fourth professional MMA fight and only his third in the UFC over Couture. He then went on to defend the belt in two consecutive fights, making him one of only four fighters to do so. However, Lesnar's hulking body began to fail him as he was diagnosed with diverticulitis and was sidelined for long stretches of time. He eventually lost the belt to Cain Velasquez and a devastating liver kick by Alistair Overeem made him retire from the sport all together.
His story was not yet over though, as he made his triumphant return to the Octagon for UFC 200 against Mark Hunt and won in dominating fashion. But the excitement couldn't last as it was later announced that Lesnar has been flagged for potential doping violations. Though there was no guarantee that he would fight again in the UFC, this definitely does not help his case. Lesnar had the raw talent to make a huge run as UFC champion, but his body failed him. But he still did enough to earn a spot on this list.
5. Tim Sylvia
Though I hate to admit it as someone who was not a fan of the Maine-iac growing up, he is one of the best heavyweights that the UFC has ever had. Sylvia is in the rare list of men who have successfully defended the heavyweight belt twice, is a two time champion of the sport and started his career 16-0. Sylvia may have never lost his belt to begin with if he had never failed a post-fight drug test. If he never came back from that, he would be far lower on this list if he even made it at all. But he came back, reclaimed the belt, successfully defended it and cemented himself as one of the best that has come through.
4. Stipe Miocic
Though the current champion has yet to defend his title, he has a pretty impressive track record to fall back on. Miocic was undefeated heading into the UFC, with a professional record of 6-0. Though he has broken that winning streak, he has still gone 9-2 inside the Octagon and both of those losses came in Fight of the Night performances. Miocic is currently on a three fight win streak that has seen him beat former interim champion Mark Hunt, former champion Andrei Arlovski and now former champ Fabricio Werdum to win the belt. He has earned two FOTN awards, three Performance of the Night awards and a Knockout of the Night award in his five years with the promotion and brought a championship to Cleveland even before LeBron James could. He is next set to defend his belt against Overeem at UFC 203 in Cleveland, and a win would put Miocic one step closer to climbing the all-time rankings of the heavyweight division.
3. Junior Dos Santos
One of only two men to beat the current champion, JDS has been a constant contender in the heavyweight division for nearly six years. He won his first nine fights in the UFC, which included defeating Velasquez for the belt and defending his title against Mir. He later lost the title to Velasquez before completing one of the most epic trilogies in UFC history against him in yet another title fight. He is 12-3 in the UFC, all three losses were against current top three fighters, has beaten the current champion and is still a top five fighter. JDS has proven time and time again that he is one of the best fighters to ever come from the heavyweight division.
2. Cain Velasquez
Velasquez is the best heavyweight of the modern era without question. He started his professional MMA career 9-0, eight of those wins by knockout. He is 12-2 in the UFC and both of his losses came in title fights against Dos Santos and Werdum. He successfully defended his belt two consecutive times, is a two-time champion and is still a contender for title in a tremendously top-heavy division. While Miocic and Overeem will be fighting at 203, Velasquez will be waiting after an impressive win over Travis Browne. Velasquez could become only the second fighter to ever win the title three times in the same division.
1. Randy Couture
"The Natural" may not be just the greatest heavyweight of all time, he may be the best UFC fighter of all time. This Hall of Famer has had probably the most historic career of any person in the history of MMA. A three-time heavyweight champion, Couture also held belts in the light heavyweight division. He won his first seven fights in the UFC, which included four title fights and finished with a UFC record of 10-4 as a heavyweight. He is one of only two men to hold belts in two divisions, was an ambassador to the UFC and successfully defended his belt a combined three times. He is the greatest heavyweight champion in the history of the sport.
(Images via MMAWeekly.com)