The UFC heavyweight division is one of the oldest and most well-defined divisions in MMA history and has for the most part, held the moniker of being the division of the baddest men in the world quite well bearing witness to some of the most iconic moments in the sports, dominant champions and superstars and incredible title reigns.
In the past 25 years, we’ve witnessed Mark Coleman stomping across the cage to submit Dan Severn to become the first ever UFC heavyweight champion, we witnessed the return of Randy “the Natural” Couture to become a three-time UFC heavyweight champion at 43, the unprecedented and shocking success of WWE superstar, Brock Lesnar, the rise of Cain Velasquez and his epic trilogy with Junior Dos Santos.
However, to the fan with the keen eye, it is undeniable that the once riveting division that played second party to some of the biggest MMA events in its prime has begun to lose its steam in the last few years, particularly in the second half of the previous decade.
The PPV numbers haven’t been as earth shattering as they could be, there has been a decided lack of competition as old legends begin to fade and age away and Stipe Miocic’s almost untouchable dominance at the top of the division lead to a complete lack of exciting title challengers. Francis Ngannou, the only man hyped enough to do the job, failed miserably when he did get his shot at the belt.
However, the last 2 years have borne witness to a series of events and match-ups that spelt an insane resurgence for the division, and in the position, it stands today, the beginning of a new era that could witness the rebirth of the division with newfound excitement, activity and attention.
It all started with the arrival of Light Heavyweight Champion, Daniel Cormier who came with the intention of sealing his place in the age of double champions and did just that with a spectacular knockout of Miocic. The spell was thus broken and for the first time in a long time, it seemed like Stipe had found an equal, a man who actually posed a legitimate threat to his long-standing supremacy. Cormier wasted no time basking in his new found glory and immediately took out Derrick Lewis in his first Heavyweight title defense (more about that later).
Just as it seemed that the tables had finally turned, Stipe returned, seemingly out of nowhere with 11 liver shots that got his hand raised again. The fight that ensued was one of the most exciting heavyweight fights witnessed in a long time and the rivalry between these two dominant forces of the sport. Both of whom were now in contention for the title of the greatest fighter of all time. This was an exciting time for the fans of the sport and drew many eyes to the division. A third fight was unquestionably to be next and saw Stipe securing his spot as one of the greatest fighters ever in an action-packed high pace fight.
Today, the division finds itself in a unique position with several rejuvenated and competitive contenders ready to lay their claim to the throne. Derrick Lewis finds himself fresh off a knockout win over one of the most dangerous divisional contenders in Curtis Blaydes. This win, among the recent run through a list of divisional elites places him as a serious threat at MMA’s most dangerous weight class.
“The Black Beast” is a legitimate wild-man who may find himself fighting for the number 1 contender’s spot or even the title, very soon.
The division has also witnessed the rise of Surinamese brawler Jairzinho Rozenstruik who bounced back after a devastating loss to Francis Ngannou to get a solid win over Dos Santos.
While he continues to remain a dangerous contender in the top 10 with endless potential, he got outclassed in masterful performance by one of the most exciting MMA prospects in the last two years, Ciryl Gane who with this win, finds himself in a position to call out a top 5 fighter and fight his way to a title shot.
The division is now primed for a rematch between Miocic and a resurgent Ngannou at UFC 260 who seems more violent than ever after absolutely destroying Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos and the aforementioned Rozenstruik… all in a matter of seconds.
And if that weren’t enough, the division is set to witness the arrival of former Light Heavyweight Champion and one of the greatest fighters of all time, Jon Jones who has set his eyes on the heavyweight strap. His clash with the winner of Ngannou-Stipe and the possible arrival of middleweight champion and now light heavyweight contender Israel Adesanya could spell fireworks in the division, being as explosive as it is without Israel.
And thus, the UFC heavyweight division finds itself heating up again with fresh rivalries, new talent, fiery competition and contention. The direction it’s headed in, it would be foolish to ignore this insane resurgence.