B/R Official Rankings for April: The Top 10 Heavyweights in MMA
If you haven’t heard the news, the heavyweight scene was shaken Wednesday when the Nevada State Athletic Commission announced that UFC No. 1 contender Alistair Overeem had failed a surprise drug test at the press conference for his upcoming UFC 146 bout with Junior dos Santos.
There wasn’t a lot of MMA news over the past month given the lack of major events from the Strikeforce or UFC brands, but the heavyweight rankings are now in serious disarray following one of the consensus top fighters potentially being suspended.
These rankings are the combined efforts of some of Bleacher Report MMA's best writers, as we continue to try and provide you with the best content on the web.
10. Antonio Silva
Photo Credit: Esther Lin/Combat Lifestyle
Most Recent Fight: Loss to Daniel Cormier at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov
Next Scheduled Fight: Roy Nelson at UFC 146
Previous Ranking: 10
Best known for his suprisingly dominant victory over former Pride heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio “Big Foot” Silva got knocked back to reality in his most recent bout against Daniel Cormier this past September.
The loss derailed what was beginning to look like an unstoppable force for an eventual heavyweight title run, but has not seemed to stop his momentum with moving up in his career overall. In fact, Silva has since signed a contract with the UFC and is expected to fight fan favorite Roy Nelson next month at UFC 146.
9. Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images
Record: 33-7-1 [1 NC]
Most Recent Fight: Loss to Frank Mir at UFC 140
Next Scheduled Fight: N/A
Previous Ranking: 9
Though he is almost certainly in the twilight of his career, Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira will attempt to make a return to the cage after a horrifying injury he suffered at the hands of Frank Mir in their bout at UFC 140.
The top UFC contenders clashed at the event, with Nogueira claiming that he was not 100 percent due to injury in their first bout back in 2008. Nogueira lost that first fight and was beaten even worse in the second contest when Mir snapped his arm with a kimura in the first round.
It remains to be seen when Nogueira will be able to get back in the cage, but if the injury doesn’t set him back permanently, looked for this legendary veteran to get right back in the mix within the heavyweight division.
8. Josh Barnett
Photo Credit: Ken Pisha/MMAWeekly
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Sergei Kharitonov at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov
Next Scheduled Fight: Daniel Cormier at Strikeforce: San Jose
Previous Ranking: 8
If it wasn’t for his repeated banned substance offenses, Josh Barnett might find himself ranked even higher on this list of the top 10 heavyweights in the sport.
From a pure resume standpoint, not many come close to touching what Josh Barnett has done. Victories over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Sergei Kharitonov, Jeff Monson, Alexander Emelianenko, Randy Couture and many others put him in an elite class of fighters in the history of the entire sport.
Add to that the fact that Barnett is currently riding an eight-fight win streak, and it’s easy to see why “The Warmaster” is ranked as high as No. 5 on one of our experts’ rankings.
7. Daniel Cormier
Photo Credit: Esther Lin/Strikeforce
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Antonio Silva at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov
Next Scheduled Fight: Josh Barnett at Strikeforce: San Jose
Previous Ranking: 7
From one Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix finalist to another, Daniel Cormier checks in one spot above Josh Barnett for the second straight month.
A dark-horse replacement candidate in the tournament itself, Cormier filled in for former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem when he opted to leave the tournament early in order to make an immediate move to the UFC. Cormier made the most of his opportunity by knocking out Antonio Silva in the first round of their Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix semifinal bout.
Cormier is the only undefeated fighter in the top-10 of the heavyweight rankings, but the lack of depth in the opponents he has fought has led some experts to rank him lower than they otherwise might. A win over Josh Barnett in the finals could silence those critics and really catapult Cormier up the rankings.
6. Fabricio Werdum
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Roy Nelson at UFC 143
Next Scheduled Fight: N/A
Previous Ranking: 6
After a rather uninspiring performance against former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum got back on the right side of the win/loss column when he picked apart Roy Nelson on his way to a unanimous decision victory at UFC 143.
Werdum’s improved striking was on display as he punished “Big Country” with some unbelievably brutal knees, punches and elbows. If it wasn’t for Nelson having a head of stone, Werdum would’ve almost certainly earned a knockout that night in addition to his “Fight of the Night” bonus.
The victory over Nelson won’t put Werdum on the map like his shocking submission of Fedor Emelianenko did, but the fact that it took place in the UFC against a legitimate opponent has put Werdum solidly back in the top 10 without much debate from our experts.
5. Shane Carwin
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images
Most Recent Fight: Loss to Junior dos Santos at UFC 131
Next Scheduled Fight: N/A
Previous Ranking: 5
It has now been over two years since the last time Shane Carwin had his hand raised in a UFC cage, yet there seems to be enough belief among the fans and the experts that there really hasn’t been much debate about him remaining a top-five heavyweight in all of MMA.
The biggest reason that Carwin hasn’t earned a victory in over two years is because he has spent a significant amount of time on the disabled list with various injuries. At the moment, he is repairing from back surgery, which is expected to put him out until mid-2012.
Carwin’s sledgehammer-like hands make him a dangerous opponent for any opponent, but he has to get back in the cage if he hopes to hold this high of a ranking, especially with fighters like Werdum, Cormier and Barnett nipping at his heels.
4. Frank Mir
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Minotauro Nogueira at UFC 140
Next Scheduled Fight: Cain Velasquez at UFC 146
Previous Ranking: 4
Shane Carwin hasn’t won in two years, but perhaps the reason that he has remained ranked so high is because the last time he did win was in a crushing victory over another top-five opponent, Frank Mir, at UFC 111.
While Carwin’s stock has dropped significantly since that night, Mir’s stock has gone in the opposite direction and risen like a rocket.
Having now earned three straight victories in the UFC, including a “prove it” win over Minotauro Nogueira at UFC 140, Mir is now set to fight Cain Velasquez at UFC 146 in what is likely a No. 1 contenders’ bout.
3. Cain Velasquez
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Most Recent Fight: Loss to Junior dos Santos at UFC on Fox 1
Next Scheduled Fight: Frank Mir at UFC 146
Previous Ranking: 3
“The true hero is flawed. The true test of a champion is not whether he can triumph, but whether he can overcome obstacles - preferably of his own making - in order to triumph.”
- Garth Stein, The Art of Racing in the Rain
Former UFC champion Cain Velasquez seemed to be on the path to certain dominance within the heavyweight division. His victories over the likes of Cheick Kongo and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira earned him the first title shot of his career at UFC 121. He took advantage of it by crushing Brock Lesnar in a one-sided first round knockout victory. But shortly thereafter, MMA fans learned that Velasquez had torn his rotator cuff and would require surgery.
Recovery put the champion out of commission for over a year before he finally returned in his first title defense against Junior dos Santos in the main event of the inaugural UFC on FOX card.
The bout didn’t last long, as dos Santos caught him early with a punch, eventually stopping him just 64 seconds into the first round.
Now ready to compete again, Cain Velasquez must prove that he can overcome the obstacles in his way to become a champion again. He is looking for the quickest path to get back in the cage and win back his gold.
2. Alistair Overeem
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Record: 36-11 [1 NC]
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Brock Lesnar at UFC 141
Next Scheduled Fight: Junior dos Santos at UFC 146
Previous Ranking: 2
Mir and Velasquez were set to fight in a No. 1 contenders’ bout, but there are now rumors that we might see one of them promoted to an immediate title fight.
The reason, of course, is Wednesday’s news that current No. 1 contender Alistair Overeem had failed a pre-fight drug test at the most recent UFC 146 press conference.
A former light heavyweight, Overeem has put on an almost unbelievable amount of mass over the past few years. But unlike many others who put on weight in the form of fat, Overeem seemed to be a freak of nature who was padding on muscles on top of muscles to the point that he practically looked like a 250-pound bodybuilder.
As it turns out, perhaps those results truly were unbelievable.
Pending a possible appeal, Overeem will miss his scheduled UFC 146 bout, which could open the door for either Mir or Velasquez to take his spot in the heavyweight championship main event against Junior dos Santos.
The next few days and weeks will be interesting.
1. Junior Dos Santos
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Cain Velasquez at UFC on Fox 1
Next Scheduled Fight: Alistair Overeem at UFC 146
Previous Ranking: 1
Now an impressive 8-0 in his UFC career, Junior dos Santos checks once again as the unanimous selection as the best heavyweight mixed martial artist on the planet.
Dos Santos’ only real challenger for that title was Alistair Overeem, who now has as many questions circling his legitimacy as other stars like Josh Barnett and Chael Sonnen, who have taken quite a bit of heat for their failed tests.
The UFC heavyweight champion now sits without an opponent at UFC 146, and in a card that was built around his fight with Overeem, it could potentially be too late for the UFC to promote another fighter to the main event.
Then again, we’ve seen situations like this before and the UFC has almost always come through, so don’t count Junior dos Santos out of this card quite yet. You never know what Dana White has up his sleeve.