With respect to skilled fighters starting at 125 pounds, the best of the best heavyweights are truly the world's baddest men. There's a reason, after all, that combat sports promoters created weight classes—and it wasn't to save the big guys from the psychological harm that comes from an embarrassing loss to a smaller man.
In fighting, bigger is better. Not always more skilled, more diverse or more interesting. But, ultimately, better.
Over the next two weeks, we'll be rating the 125 best fighters in the world, looking more toward the future than the past. Using statistics from Fight Metric (available for UFC fighters only) and our own subjective analysis, our team has taken the sport's top fighters and rated them on a 100-point scale. We'll cover the hummingbird-quick flyweights and the middleweights who combine strength and speed in dizzying combination.
Click here to read the full introduction and explanation for how we scored the fighters.
It all starts with the grizzly bears who occupy the heavyweight division. They may not be the most skilled—something we've discovered over the course of countless hours of video review—but size and strength cure many technical ills, and that, the heavyweights have in spades.
The silhouette of the MMA heavyweight has changed quite a bit from the sport's formative era. Potbellied sluggers like Tank Abbott and Scott Ferrozzo are the past, confined to old videos or some guy's backyard. The modern Octagon is instead home to sleek athletes like Cain Velasquez and Stipe Miocic, men with much more to offer than a mere willingness to give and take punishment.
Being big and strong is no longer enough. In short, a modern heavyweight looks an awful lot like an actual mixed martial artist. And that, friends, is called progress.
Our team has rated the top 15 heavyweights in the world. You can read more about the criteria in the following slide, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.