Ranking MMA's Top 10 Heavyweights Outside of Zuffa Umbrella
When it comes to the heavyweight division, Strikeforce and the UFC would appear, on the surface, to have a stranglehold on all top level talent that the world has to offer.
We all know their names, we all know their recent fight history, and we all know (roughly) where they belong in the rankings. But what about everybody else? The fighting world doesn't end with Zuffa, after all.
With thousands upon thousands of heavyweights around the world competing, who are the best outside of the Zuffa umbrella?
#10. Chris Barnett
Barnett is a bit of a cult hero on the Florida regional scene.
Having gone 5-0 in his home state, Floridians have been able to get an up close and personal look at what the 5'9", 265 pound Taekwondo black belt is capable of.
Having spent most of his career fighting for XFC, Barnett has an overall record of 7-1 including five wins by (T)KO.
Bellator veteran Eric Prindle was able to grapple his way to a decision victory over Barnett at a 2010 Singapore event, but Barnett rebounded with the biggest win of his career, a second round TKO thrashing of American Top Team's Mario Rinaldi.
#9. Konstantin Gluhov
Konstantin Gluhov is a little known Latvian heavyweight kick-boxing specialist.
Sporting a 29-11-1 professional kickboxing record, Gluhov has been riding the momentum gained from his 2010 K-1 World GP Selection run into the mixed martial arts arena, riding a six-fight win streak in the combat sport.
A lethal striker, Gluhov has finished three of his last four opponents with the always feared punch to the body, crippling Jessie Gibbs, Ruslan Magomedov and Valdas Pocevicius.
Gluhov can't seem to get the break of a big-name win, however, having dropped a decision to UFC veteran Dan Evensen in 2007 and suffering a TKO defeat at the hands of Ibragim Magomedov in 2008.
#8. Mike Hayes
Mike "300" Hayes was remarkably close to advancing to the semifinals of the Bellator heavyweight tournament in 2010, losing in the quarterfinals to Alexey Oleinik by way of split decision.
The 15-4 mixed martial artist rebounded from the early tournament loss by finishing his next three opponents in the Rumble on the Ridge promotion, two by way of rear naked choke.
#7. Alexey Oleinik
Oleinik was a participant in the inaugural Bellator heavyweight tournament, defeating Mike Hayes by split decision in the quarterfinals before losing by way of TKO to Neil Grove in the semifinals.
A blackbelt in both judo and ju-jitsu, Oleinik holds notable victories over Sherman Pendergarst, Jessie Gibbs, and Thiago Santos. His notable losses include Chris Tuchscherer and Chael Sonnen.
Oleinik rebounded from his Bellator tournament loss by defeating Ernest Kostanyan via rear naked choke in the first round of their encounter in Moscow.
#6. Damian Grabowski
While Damian Grabowski isn't well known stateside, he is widely considered the top heavyweight fighter that Poland has to offer.
Introduced to the American market at Bellator 25 as part of their inagural heavyweight tournament, Grabowski, 12-0 at the time, defeated Scott Barrett by unanimous decision, earning the right to move into the semifinals.
Cole Konrad awaited him there, and Grabowski's holes were shown. Unable to stop the takedowns of the two time NCAA champion wrestler, Grabowski was out worked for 15 minutes and lost the unanimous decision.
#5. Shamil Abdurahimov
Abdurahimov is a little known heavyweight grappling specialist from Russia.
Armed with dangerous strikes from top control and an effective elusive bottom game, Abdurahimov has made short work of most of his opponents, earning a finish in 10 of his 12 wins.
With only one loss to his record, a unanimous decision to Thiago Santos, Abdurahimov has become the face of the Abu Dhabi Fighting Championships.
Upon joining the promotion, Abdurahimov was a little known prospect added into their 2010 Openweight Grand Prix.
After earning a close split decision upset over Jeff Monson in the opening round, Abdurahimov went on to finish Sokoudjou in the semifinals and Marcos Oliveira in the finals by way of TKO to win the tournament.
#4. Aleksander Emelianenko
The less notorious Emelianenko brother, Aleksander has made quite a name for himself in Europe and Russia.
A master of Judo and Sambo, Aleksander also posseses heavy hands. He supports his gold medal efforts in European Sambo Championships (1999) and the World Sambo Championships (2003, 2004, 2006) with nine wins by way of strikes, including victories over notables Ibragim Magomedov, Sergei Khraitonov and James Thompson in 2004, when beating Thompson wasn't a relative guarantee.
He isn't higher on this list due to losing his last fight at the hands of Peter Graham by way of TKO (leg kicks). It should be noted that the fight used a special rule, allowing no more than 30 seconds on the ground before being stood up.
#3. Neil Grove
Neil Grove is a strikers delight.
Sporting a black belt in Goju-ryu Karate, Grove has steamrolled his way to an 11-3-1 MMA record. Grove caught the eye of many at a July 2007 Cage Rage event. Grove, stepping in on two days notice, knocked out the heavily favored James Thompson in just 10 seconds.
He holds notable victories over James McSweeney, Eddie Sanchez, Alexey Oleinik and Zak Jensen.
Having finished everyone mentioned by way of strikes, this UFC veteran has proven to be a dangerous fighter for anyone.
#2. Pedro Rizzo
A veteran of the sport, Rizzo has seen his career take him all over the world.
From top ranked UFC heavyweight to an unsuccessful run in PRIDE, Rizzo has seen it all. Currently riding a three-fight win streak, Rizzo has taken out Jeff Monson, Gary Goodridge and Ken Shamrock since his embarrassing first-round knockout loss to Gilbert Yvel.
Known for his vicious leg kick attack on Randy Couture at UFC 31, Rizzo has finished both Shamrock and Dan Severn with the technique.
#1. Cole Konrad
Bellator Heavyweight champion Cole Konrad is widely regarded as a top flight heavyweight prospect in MMA.
A two-time NCAA champion wrestler at the University of Minnesota, Konrad went undefeated his junior and senior years in amateur competition. In 2005, before winning his first NCAA title, he took home gold at the Pan American Championships at 120 kilograms.
Since transitioning into mixed martial arts, Konrad has continued his winning ways. With a current record of 8-0, Konrad holds wins over notables Paul Buentello, Neil Grove and Damian Grabowski.
A complete bear of a man, this Brock Lesnar training partner is quickly making a name for himself outside of the Zuffa umbrella.
Continue reading at Top 10 Non-Zuffa Light Heavyweights
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