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1. Daniel Cormier (22-1, 1 NC)The best thing you can say about Cormier’s effort at UFC 230 was that it was predictable. “DC” landed multiple takedowns on underdog Derrick Lewis before securing a tapout with a rear-naked choke at the 2:14 mark of the second stanza. Cormier became the first fighter to defend titles from two divisions in UFC history. Cormier previously set March 20 as a retirement date, but he will now fight beyond his 40th birthday when he faces Stipe Miocic in a heavyweight championship rematch at UFC 241.
2. Stipe Miocic (18-3)Heavyweight title reigns are fleeting, even if you have authored the longest such reign in UFC history. That proved to be the case for Miocic, who fell to reigning light heavyweight king Daniel Cormier via first-round knockout in the UFC 226 headliner. The defeat snapped a six-fight winning streak for the Ohio firefighter, who had bested Francis Ngannou, Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem during his stay at the top. Miocic will get a chance to avenge his last defeat when he locks horns with Cormier in a heavyweight championship rematch on Aug. 17.
3. Francis Ngannou (14-3)Ngannou has the type of tantalizing power that can put anyone to sleep in a matter of seconds, and he showcased it once again at UFC on ESPN 3, where he dispatched Junior dos Santos in a little more than one minute in the evening’s headliner in Minneapolis. “The Predator” has now authored three consecutive first-round finishes, putting a disappointing two-fight skid in the first half of 2018 squarely in his rearview mirror. That run could put him in line to face the winner of the Daniel Cormier-Stipe Miocic title bout, which takes place at UFC 241 in August.
4. Junior dos Santos (21-6)Dos Santos’ mini-resurgence came to a screeching halt in the UFC on ESPN 3 headliner, where he was soundly defeated by Francis Ngannou via first-round technical knockout in Minneapolis. Prior to that, “Cigano” had climbed back into contention with successive triumphs over Blagoy Ivanov, Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis. Now 35 years old, it remains a question if wear and tear will eventually begin to catch up with the Brazilian veteran, but for now he’s still a Top 5 heavyweight talent.
5. Derrick Lewis (21-7)Lewis was one of the UFC’s breakout stars of 2018, defeating Marcin Tybura, Francis Ngannou and Alexander Volkov to earn a shot at Daniel Cormier’s heavyweight title at UFC 230. 2019 didn’t start out nearly as well for “The Black Beast,” who fell to Junior dos Santos via second-round technical knockout in the UFC Wichita headliner on March 9. On the heels of the first-two fight losing streak of his professional career, Lewis has some work to do to reach his previous heights. First, he’ll undergo knee surgery in hopes of a late 2019 return to the Octagon.
6. Alexander Volkov (30-7)Volkov was well on his way to his fifth consecutive Octagon triumph at UFC 229, as he was comfortably outlanding Derrick Lewis in the waning seconds of their featured bout. Then, “The Black Beast” crushed Volkov with a massive right hand and followed him to the mat, finishing the contest with powerful ground-and-pound at the 4:49 mark of the third frame. At 29 years old, Volkov still has plenty of time to contend for heavyweight gold in a shallow division. The Russian will supposed to return against Alistair Overeem at UFC Fight Night in St. Petersburg, Russia, on April 20, but Volkov was pulled from the bout due to a rumored USADA violation.
7. Curtis Blaydes (11-2)Blaydes got back to doing what he does best at UFC Nashville, as he dominated Justin Willis with his wrestling and ground-and-pound en route to a unanimous decision victory. Blaydes was in complete control, earning 30-25 and 30-26 scorecards en route to his fifth victory in his last six Octagon appearances. More importantly, “Razor” Blaydes showed he could bounce back from what could have been a disheartening 45-second technical knockout loss to Francis Ngannou in his previous fight. Thus far, Ngannou is the only man to defeat Blaydes — with two stoppage wins — in the UFC. A matchup with Shamil Abdurakhimov is next for Blaydes at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.
8. Alistair Overeem (45-17)Originally scheduled to face Alexander Volkov at UFC St. Petersburg, Overeem adjusted to an opponent change with no issue, as he stopped Alexey Oleynik via technical knockout 4:45 into the opening stanza of the evening’s headliner. “The Reem” gradually softened his foe with powerful knees, the last of which dropped Oleynik to the canvas. From there, Overeem unloaded with powerful ground-and-pound to earn his second consecutive win. The soon-to-be 39-year-old Dutchman appears to be interested in a rebooking with Volkov, and a third consecutive win could propel him right back into title contention.
9. Ryan Bader (27-5)Bader etched himself into history when he knocked out Fedor Emelianenko in the Bellator 214 headliner to become the first two-division champion in promotion history. After vanquishing “The Last Emperor,” Matt Mitrione and Muhammed Lawal to claim the vacant heavyweight crown, Bader, also the reigning 205-pound king, will make his first heavyweight title defense against Cheick Kongo in the Bellator 226 headliner in San Jose, Calif., on Sept. 7.
10. Alexey Oleynik (57-12-1)Oleynik was aggressive from the outset against Alistair Overeem in the UFC St. Petersburg headliner, and while he even outlanded his Dutch opponent, he ultimately fell victim to “The Reem’s” more accurate and powerful striking in the opening stanza. The Russian submission entered the matchup having won four of his last five UFC appearances and deserves credit for taking a tough matchup on short notice following Alexander Volkov’s exit from the card. Oleynik will take on Walt Harris at UFC on ESPN 4 in San Antonio on July 20.
Other Contenders: Cheick Kongo, Vitaly Minakov, Blagoy Ivanov, Justin Willis, Philipe Lins.
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