A few decades ago, mixed martial arts was a niche sport only the most hardcore martial arts fans knew about. Now, it’s emerged as the fastest growing sport on the planet, and many expect it to eventually surpass boxing in popularity at some point in the future.
What’s there not to like about mixed martial arts if you are into combat sports? Gone are the days people had to rely on their imagination to predict how different martial arts styles would match up against one another.
Thanks to MMA, we now get to see fighters with different fighting bases competing regularly for millions of fans all over the world.
The heavyweight division has always been a favorite with fans since it features the biggest and baddest men on the planet going against each other. The power displayed by these behemoths leaves fans in awe, and glad they are not on the receiving end of their attacks.
Their speed, not so much.
This article will discuss some of the best heavyweights who have ever walked laced up a pair of MMA gloves.
1) Alistair Overeem
A K-1 World Grand Prix champion, Alistair Overeem is one of the most decorated fighters to ever compete in the heavyweight division. At the peak of his career, Overeem had the most impressive physique in the history of the division, and an equally impressive 11-fight win streak that includes knocking out Brett Rogers to win Strikeforce’s heavyweight belt, winning the DREAM Heavyweight Championship, and stopping Brock Lesnar with a liver shot in his UFC debut. He worked his way up to a title shot against Stipe Miocic, and but ended up losing the fight.
2) Fedor Emelianenko
Appropriately nicknamed ‘The Last Emperor,’ you don’t get to call yourself a hardcore MMA fan if you don’t know who this guy is. Fedor Emelianenko is one of the early legends of the sport, winning 27 consecutive fights at the prime of his career.
The stoic Russian boasted a granite chin, unbreakable spirit, well-rounded martial arts skills, and incredible finishing power. All this came with a physique you would expect to find on a middle-aged plumber who hates working out.
At his prime, Fedor seemed invincible, and he holds wins against most of the early legends of the sport like Mark Coleman, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, and the late Kevin Randleman.
The toughness Fedor displayed during his win against Randleman was one of the many factors why the MMA world was so intrigued with him. Fedor survived a devastating German Suplex that looked like it might have broken his neck when it occurred, only to submit Randleman minutes later.
3) Daniel Cormier
Daniel Cormier would have been at the top of this list if he was able to win his rubber match against Stipe Miocic. Cormier is one of the most impressive people to ever step inside a cage. Coming into the sport with an Olympic-level wrestling base, Cormier ran right through the competition, winning the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, defeating big names like Josh Barnett and Antonio Silva along the way.
Cormier dropped down to the light-heavyweight division when he signed with the UFC, and his undefeated streak continued there until he went against Jon Jones for the promotion’s light-heavyweight belt.
A turn of fate lead to Jones being stripped of the belt due to legal issues, and Cormier ended up fighting Anthony Johnson for the vacant belt, winning the fight via rear-naked choke. Cormier defended the belt two times, lost to Jones, got the belt back when Jones tested positive for PEDs, then defended it one more time.
Cormier moved up to the heavyweight division to challenge Stipe Miocic for the belt, knocking him out in the first round. The win made Cormier the second double-champion in UFC history, and the only man to simultaneously hold the promotion’s light-heavyweight and heavyweight titles. Cormier successfully defended the belt against Derrick Lewis before losing his rematch against Stipe, then, losing the rubber match.
Cormier has hanged up his gloves since then, and he now spends most of his time coaching wrestling and working as a broadcaster. One of MMA’s Hall of Famers, two of the best fighters in the UFC’s history, Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic, are the only ones who can say they ever defeated him during his professional MMA career. No shame in losing to those guys.
4) Stipe Miocic
Stipe Miocic has never had the hype others on this list like Fedor or Overeem had at the peak of their primes, but he’s the longest-reigning heavyweight champion in the UFC’s history.
A golden gloves boxer and All-American wrestler, Miocic currently holds the record for the most consecutive title defenses in heavyweight history with three. He lost his fourth title defense against Daniel Cormier, then regained the title during his next fight. He defended the belt successfully once against Cormier before running into Francis Ngannou for a second time.
Miocic will likely run into Ngannou at some point in the near future, so his story is far from over.
5) Francis Ngannou
While some might feel like it’s a bit early to add Francis Ngannou to this list, “The Predator” is the UFC’s current heavyweight champion, and he has the potential to break all previous records in the division.
Ngannou started his UFC career with six straight finishes, with four of his opponents failing to make it out of the first round. The other two didn’t get to see the third round.
Ngannou’s impressive streak came to an abrupt end at UFC 220, losing his title shot against Stipe Miocic. He turned up the worst performance of his MMA career the next fight following the loss, failing to mount any significant offense against Derrick Lewis.
Francis followed that up with four straight knockouts against top contenders before knocking out Miocic during the second round of their rematch. MMA has never seen a finisher like Ngannou, and the significantly improved takedown defense he showed against Miocic shows he has all the tools he needs to dominate the UFC’s heavyweight division for a long time. Scary, scary time for heavyweights in the UFC.
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