While the Heavyweight division isn’t as stacked these days, it used to have the most accomplished fighters in MMA history. The Heavyweight division is the oldest division in MMA, so you can bet that it had tons of elite talent back in the day. Today we’ll be looking at 10 of the historically greatest Heavyweights in MMA history. The ranking criteria will be based on the following in order:
- Resume – Elite fighters that a fighter has defeated, when the elite fighters beaten were in their prime, or close to their prime
- Longevity – Period of time a fighter has managed to be at the very top of the game
- (Tie-Breaker) Title Wins – The amount of times a fighter has won and defended a title in a top promotion
- (Tie-Breaker) Official MMA Record – The amount of wins & losses a fighter has on their record
Now , before we go on to the top 10. here are some honorable mentions: Josh Barnett, Mark Coleman, Frank Mir, Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia, Bas Rutten, Brock Lesnar, Dan Severn, Mark Hunt, Igor Vovchanchyn, Ken Shamrock, Kevin Randleman.
#10 – Alistair Overeem: A former Strikeforce Heavyweight champion, and DREAM Heavyweight champion, Overeem has been fighting professionally since 1999, at the age of 19. He started off fighting in smaller promotions, before going on to Pride FC, and finding some success there. After that, he went on to dominate the Heavyweight landscape from 2007-2011, becoming the most feared Heavyweight at the time. In this time, he won the titles in DREAM and Strikeforce. Over his 20 year career, he has picked up wins over Vitor Belfort twice, Fabricio Werdum twice, Mark Hunt twice, Igor Vovchanchyn, Gary Goodridge, Kazuyuki Fujita, Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Stefan Struve, Roy Nelson, Junior dos Santos, Andre Arlovski, and Aleksei Oleinik. Having a record of 46-18, and still being able to stay at the top of the game to this day, has cemented Overeem as one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.
#9 – Mirko Filipovic: Mirko Filipovic, better known as Mirko Cro Cop, rose to power inside Pride FC, where he won countless fights with highlight-reel knockouts. He was most known for his lightning-quick left high kick, famously described as “right leg, hospital; left leg, cemetery.” Throughout his 18 year career, Cro Cop has won 38 times, lost 11 times, and had 2 draws on his record. He has beaten Kazuyuki Fujita twice, Kazushi Sakuraba, Heath Herring, Igor Vovchanchyn, Josh Barnett 3 times, Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman, Wanderlei Silva, Gabriel Gonzaga, Muhammad Lawal, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, and Roy Nelson. Cro Cop’s crowning achievement was being the winner of the 2006 Pride FC Open-Weight Grand Prix. By the time Pride FC disbanded, Cro Cop’s career was on the decline, and he had a mediocre run during his time in UFC. However, Cro Cop enjoyed a late-career resurgence, winning his last 10 fights. He announced his retirement from MMA a month after his last fight, due to a stroke he suffered.
#8 – Randy Couture: Being the first of only 7 people in history to win UFC gold in 2 different weight classes, Couture has cemented himself as an all time great in MMA History. Being the only fighter in UFC history to win a division belt 3 times, he was also the UFC 13 Heavyweight Tournament winner. He is tied for the record for the most wins in UFC Heavyweight Championship bouts, having 6 defenses under his name. From 1997 to 2008, he fought at the highest level of the game, at both 205 lbs and 265 lbs. His 19-11 record is deceiving, when you look at it. In his 14 year career, he has picked up wins at Heavyweight over Vitor Belfort, Maurice Smith, Jeremy Horn, Kevin Randleman, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, Pedro Rizzo, Tim Sylvia, and Gabriel Gonzaga. He has additional wins at Light Heavyweight over Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Vitor Belfort, Brandon Vera, and Mark Coleman, but these wins do not matter as this in only about Heavyweight success. I just wanted to emphasize how great Randy was, which is why I went into detail about his whole career. Because I am including only his Heavyweight career, he is this low on the list.
#7 – Junior dos Santos: After dominating local promotions, Junior burst onto the UFC HW scene in 2008, and quickly began picking off elite-level contenders. He ran through 5 top level competitors before getting a shot at the belt and winning it. To this day, he has managed to stay in the Top 10 in the Heavyweight rankings. With a record of 21-8, three of those 8 losses being his in his last 3 fights, dos Santos was a killer in his prime, picking up wins over Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve, Mirko Cro Cop, Gabriel Gonzaga, Roy Nelson, Shane Carwin, Frank Mir, Mark Hunt, Stipe Miocic, Ben Rothwell, Derrick Lewis, and Cain Velasquez, who he annihilated in under 2 minutes to win the UFC Heavyweight title. Almost none of those fights were competitive either. The reason he isn’t higher on the list is because he was only at the very top of the game for a year, defended the title only once, and got obliterated by Cain Velasquez in their next two fights. Something that is also notable is that he has gone 4-5 in competition since USADA came into effect.
#6 – Cain Velasquez: Regarded by some to be the most complete MMA fighter of all time, Cain Velasquez was an absolute force in his prime. With a professional MMA record of 14-3, Cain was quite consistent during his MMA career, especially considering who he fought. After only 2 professional MMA fights. he made it into the UFC, and went on a tear through the heavyweight division, winning the title in just under 3 years. Velasquez’s wrestling background, along with his ferocious ground & pound, and his limitless cardio made him nigh-invincible at his peak. Cain won the belt twice, defending it twice in his second reign. In his career, Velasquez has picked up wins over Cheick Kongo, Ben Rothwell, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Brock Lesnar, Antonio Silva twice, Junior Dos Santos twice, and Travis Browne. The reason Cain isn’t higher on the list is because he faced the same people during his title reigns, and he was at the top of the game for a very short amount of time, lasting just over 3 years. His rise to the top was amazing, but his run at the top was repetitive. While he has had health problems, it’s notable that he has looked like a different man since USADA came into effect, and has only gone 1-1 since, before retiring from MMA, and going to pro wrestling. I am not saying he used them, and I’m not even saying that it’s bad if he did use them, because the great majority of MMA fighters were doping before USADA came into effect.
#5 – Fabricio Werdum: A former UFC Heavyweight champion, as well as a 4 time BJJ world champion, Werdum has cemented himself as a Top 5 Heavyweight of all time. With a solid record of 24-9, it’s even more impressive when you take into consideration all the elite talent he has beaten. Werdum has defeated Gabriel Gonzaga twice, Alistair Overeem, Brandon Vera, Antonio Silva, Fedor Emelianenko, Roy Nelson, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Travis Browne twice, Mark Hunt, Cain Velasquez, and Alexander Gustaffson. There are a few reasons why he isn not higher on the list. The first is because he never successfully defended his title once during his only reign. Just like Velasquez, Werdum had a short prime. He was at his best for only 4 years. Also, there are asterisks next to his 3 biggest wins, against Emelianenko, Nogueira, and Velasquez. While Fedor was undefeated for 10 years before facing Werdum, his career was declining beforehand, as he didn’t look untouchable in his last few fights before Werdum. Nogueira was also well past his prime when he lost to Werdum. In fact, prime Nogueira unanimously defeated Werdum. Velasquez was in his prime when he lost to Werdum, but he was not used to Mexico’s elevation level, so he didn’t have as much cardio for this fight as he usually did. Meanwhile, Werdum was training in Mexico for a month before Velasquez even got there, so he had the clear advantage in the fight. He still beat Cain fair & square, but it’s worth noting.
#4 – Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: Better known as “Big Nog”, Antonio Rodrido Nogueira was a Pride FC Heavyweight Champion, as well as an interim UFC Heavyweight Champion, Big Nog is 1 of only 3 MMA fighters to hold gold in both UFC and Pride FC. Nogueira was everything you could ask for in a mixed martial artist. He had exceptional submission skills, strong boxing, a steel chin, as well as the heart, grit, and determination required to go through the utmost amount of hardship in order to be victorious. Big Nog rose to prominence in Pride FC, and built his name there. By the time he got to the UFC, his best days were behind him, but he was still able to get some great wins there. With a solid MMA record of 34-10, only 4 of those losses were in his prime, all of those losses being by decision, with 2 of them being avenged later on. Big Nog was able to stay relevant in the game for the better part of a decade. In that time, he has defeated the likes of Jeremy Horn, Gary Gooridge, Mark Coleman, Heath Herring 3 times, Enson Inoue, Dan Henderson, Mirko Cro Cop, Fabricio Werdum, Josh Barnett, Tim Sylvia, and Randy Couture.
#3 – Daniel Cormier – One of the greatest mixed martial artists in history, Daniel Cormier enjoyed success in both the Heavyweight division and the Light Heavyweight division, holding both UFC belts simultaneously. Cormier is the second fighter in UFC history to hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously and is the first to defend titles in two different divisions. Starting out as an NCAA Divison 1 All American, and then going on to become a member of the USA Olympic wrestling team, Cormier transitioned perfectly to MMA. Early in his career, he fought in Strikeforce, winning the Heavyweight Grand Prix in 2012. In his time in Strikeforce, DC went undefeated, tearing through the Heavyweight division. He then went to UFC, and eventually settled in the Light Heavyweight division for 4 years, winning the title, and defending it 3 times. He then went up to Heavyweight and won the title there too, defending it once. With an excellent record of 22-3 over a 11 year career, Cormier has defeated the likes of Antonio Silva, Josh Barnett, Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, Stipe Miocic, and Derrick Lewis. Before facing Miocic for the second time, Cormier was flawless at Heavyweight, with one judge scoring one round against him when he faced Josh Barnett. He additionally has wins over Dan Henderson, Anthony Johnson twice, Alexander Gustaffson, Anderson Silva, and Volkan Oezdemir, all at Light Heavyweight. Again, his Light Heavyweight career has nothing to do with his placement on this specific list, I just wanted to emphasize on just how good he was.
#2 – Stipe Miocic: The Greatest Heavyweight in UFC History, Stipe Miocic will undoubtedly go down as an all time great. With an excellent record of 20-3 in just 10 years, Miocic is a 2 time UFC Heavyweight champion, with a record-breaking 3 defenses in his first reign, and 1 defense in his current reign. Miocic has dominated the Heavyweight scene for 5 years now, and is still currently doing so. He went through a murderer’s row of competitors, that no other UFC Heavyweight could ever compete with. He has defeated Roy Nelson, Gabriel Gonzaga, Fabio Maldonado, Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos, Francis Ngannou, and Daniel Cormier twice. Out of his 3 losses against Stefan Struve, Junior dos Santos, and Daniel Cormier, he has avenged 2 of them, against dos Santos and Cormier. The only reason he didn’t avenge his loss to Struve is because he never had the chance to face him in a rematch, because Struve can’t even get ranked. Moreover, Junior dos Santos is the only guy to beat Stipe Miocic in competition without using eye pokes to help him out, and that fight was a close decision, that some thought Stipe had done enough to win. The reasons he isn’t at the number 1 spot is because he has never looked truly unbeatable, as well as the fact that he has had half as many fights as the number 1 spot on the list. Don’t get me wrong, Stipe has a clear argument for be number 1, but there is also a clear argument against that, which was just mentioned. With a few more top wins over a period of more time, he may go to the number 1 spot. But for now, he is number 2.
#1 – Fedor Emelianenko: The greatest heavyweight of all-time was absolutely invincible in his prime. With a record of 39-6, Fedor dominated the MMA world for 10 years, and was at the very top of PRIDE FC, where literally everyone used performance-enhancing drugs. Emelianenko had knockout power in his hands, could submit opponents from virtually any position and wielded perhaps the most ferocious ground-and-pound in the history of the sport. He was the Pride FC Heavyweight champion, defending the title 3 times. Throughout his career, he has ran through Ricardo Arona, Renato Sobral, Heath Herring, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira twice, Kazuyuki Fujita, Gary Goodridge, Mark Coleman twice, Kevin Randleman, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, Mirko Cro Cop, Mark Hunt, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, Pedro Rizzo, Frank Mir, Chael Sonnen, and Quinton Jackson. Out of Fedor’s 6 losses, only 1 was during the time he was in his prime, but it was an unfair loss, because Fedor wasn’t able to continue due to his eye being compromised. The rest of his losses were when he was well out of prime. Guys like Fabricio Werdum, Bigfoot Silva, and Dan Henderson that Fedor lost to when he was out of prime, have all lost to guys Prime Fedor has decimated, with Werdum losing to Big Nog and Arlovski, Silva losing to Arlovski, and Hendo losing to Big Nog. I am simply using this argument to show that these fighters that beat Fedor were not a level above. Moreover, Fedor’s losses to Ryan Bader and Matt Mitrione were when he was over 40 years of age, and merely a shell of his former self. When it comes down to it, only Stipe can match Fedor’s resume, but Stipe never had that aura of invincibility that prime Fedor had, and Stipe has not been dominating for nearly as long. In conclusion, Fedor Emelianenko is the greatest Heavyweight of all time!
Tell us what you think! Where do we have it right, and where do you think we got it wrong? Who did we leave off, and what does your Top-10 Heavyweight list look like? Don’t forget to bookmark our page and check back often for more predictions and fight coverage. If you like what you see, go ahead and give our Facebook page a like and follow us on Instagram @fightsportfocus