Junior dos Santos is already on his way to becoming the most dominant heavyweight champion in UFC history. With one more victory, the Brazilian will tie the record for most consecutive title defenses in the division's history, and he will be given a chance to pick up that win against an opponent he has already defeated.
In December, dos Santos will meet Cain Velasquez in a rematch of a fight the current champion won by knockout in only 64 seconds. The original meeting between the two fighters marked the first ever Fox-televised MMA bout and earned dos Santos the heavyweight championship.
Stipe Miocic and Stefan Struve, two heavyweight prospects quickly rising to contender status, will square off in late-September in a bout that dos Santos will likely have his eye on. The winner of that UFC on Fuel TV 5 main event could find themselves in a fight with the heavyweight champion before long.
Without further delay, let's take a look at the 10 best heavyweights competing in MMA today.
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Most Recent Fight: Won against Chad Griggs at UFC 145
Next Fight: Antonio Silva at UFC on FX 5
Previous Ranking: 9
With his submission win over UFC newcomer Chad Griggs, Travis Browne remained undefeated through his first 14 professional fights. In his 15th bout, Browne will have a chance to show he's one of the top heavyweights in the world against Antonio Silva.
The lone hiccup of Browne's career came in a draw against Cheick Kongo. Though with three straight impressive wins since that lackluster showing against the Frenchman, Browne has already gone a long way toward erasing that draw from the memories of his few critics.
Most Recent Fight: Won against Dave Herman at UFC 146
Next Fight: Shane Carwin at The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale
Previous Ranking: 10
After losing back-to-back fights against Junior dos Santos and Frank Mir, Roy Nelson is quietly creeping his way back into the heavyweight title picture after winning two of his past three fights. As a result of his recent success, Nelson earned a spot as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter opposite Shane Carwin.
If Nelson can pick up a win over the oft-injured Carwin at the conclusion of the reality series, he could find himself within one win of a title shot.
Most Recent Fight: Won against Cheick Kongo at UFC 144
Next Fight: TBD
Previous Ranking: 8
A six-fight losing streak looked to be the end of Mark Hunt's UFC career in September 2010, but the New Zealand native has miraculously stormed back with three straight wins and finds himself in contention for a heavyweight title shot.
Unfortunately, injury halted the 38-year-old's rise, as he was forced out of a bout against Stefan Struve and has not received a new opponent as of yet.
Most Recent Fight: Lost against Daniel Cormier at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier
Next Fight: TBD
Previous Ranking: 7
Josh Barnett's march toward the UFC hit a snag in his latest appearance, when he had an eight-fight winning streak halted by Daniel Cormier. With that loss, the 34-year-old has one fight left on his Strikeforce contract to prove himself to the UFC brass.
Released from the UFC due to a positive drug test in March 2002, Barnett has been at odds with UFC president Dana White for much of the past decade. A strong showing in his final Strikeforce fight could be enough for Barnett to earn a second life with the UFC, though.
Record: 33-7-1, 1 NC
Most Recent Fight: Lost against Frank Mir at UFC 140
Next Fight: TBD
Previous Ranking: 6
Though some speculated a horrific arm injury suffered in a bout with Mir could mark the end of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's illustrious career, the heavyweight appears to be making strides toward returning to the Octagon. The Brazilian was even briefly linked to a bout against Cheick Kongo until it was determined his arm had not fully healed.
At 36 years old, Nogueira remains a top heavyweight, having only lost against Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir during his time with the UFC.
Most Recent Fight: Lost against Junior dos Santos at UFC 146
Next Fight: Daniel Cormier at TBD
Previous Ranking: 5
Frank Mir will go down as one of the better heavyweights in MMA history, but he's running out of time to earn another championship before he calls it a career. The former UFC champion has been defeated in his past three title fights and is now making a one-fight move to Strikeforce for a bout with Cormier that he hopes will reignite one last title run.
A motorcycle accident derailed what could have been a legendary title run for Mir, but the fact that he has been able to come back from said accident and perform at an elite level has made Mir's career into a great story on its own.
Most Recent Fight: Won against Josh Barnett at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier
Next Fight: Frank Mir at TBD
Previous Ranking: 3
Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion Daniel Cormier is already a top heavyweight after beating Barnett, but he will have a chance to validate his standing when he meets Mir in his final Strikeforce appearance.
Whether he wins or loses against Mir, Cormier is destined for a move to the UFC. However, a decisive win over Mir could earn Cormier an immediate title shot upon his arrival to the Octagon.
Most Recent Fight: Won against Mike Russow at UFC 147
Next Fight: TBD
Previous Ranking: 4
Fabricio Werdum showed the UFC that they had made a mistake by letting him go after a loss to Junior dos Santos in October 2008, and the UFC responded by inviting Werdum to return to the Octagon upon the termination of Strikeforce's heavyweight division.
Already, Werdum has picked up two UFC wins over Roy Nelson and Mike Russow and appears determined to earn a rematch with now-champion Dos Santos.
Most Recent Fight: Won against Antonio Silva at UFC 146
Next Fight: Junior dos Santos at UFC 155
Previous Ranking: 2
It took Cain Velasquez only one dominant victory to earn his rematch with Dos Santos for the heavyweight title. When Velasquez first met Dos Santos, both fighters were dealing with injuries they had to battle through to avoid ruining the UFC's first Fox-televised event.
Hopefully, when they meet in December, Velasquez and Dos Santos will both be completely healthy so as to remove any doubt about who the better fighter really is.
Most Recent Fight: Won against Frank Mir at UFC 146
Next Fight: Cain Velasquez at UFC 155
Previous Ranking: 1
In May, Junior dos Santos picked up the first title defense of his career. In December, Dos Santos will already be attempting to tie the record for most consecutive heavyweight title defenses.
A rematch with Velasquez will allow Dos Santos to prove injuries played no part in the outcome of the first fight between the pair of elite heavyweights. Though in his second meeting with Velasquez, Dos Santos will undoubtedly be forced to defend more of Velasquez's takedowns.