Cain Velasquez will meet Junior dos Santos in November. | Photo: Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog.com
1. Cain Velasquez (9-0)
The hope was that Velasquez would make the first defense of his UFC heavyweight title in April or May against Junior dos Santos. However, rehab did not mend his torn rotator cuff, and surgery became a necessity. The American Kickboxing Academy product now appears to be on track for a Nov. 19 title tilt with “Cigano” in San Jose, Calif.
2. Junior dos Santos (13-1)
Dos Santos took a chance, and it paid off. Instead of sitting on the shelf while UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez recuperated from shoulder surgery, No. 1 contender “Cigano” took a June 11 bout with Shane Carwin, a replacement for original opponent Brock Lesnar. The Brazilian boxed his way to a unanimous decision win, taking Carwin the distance for the first time in his career and keeping his trajectory for his Nov. 19 showdown with Velasquez.
3. Alistair Overeem (35-11, 1 NC)
Overeem looked like he might be on his way to winning the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix. However, all of a sudden, Overeem was no longer Strikeforce champion or under Strikeforce employ. For now, the focus will be repairing relations between Overeem's management, Golden Glory, and Zuffa to allow for "The Demolition Man" to return to action against elite-level heavyweights.
4. Fabricio Werdum (14-5-1)
On June 18, 51 weeks after submitting Fedor Emelianenko in a shocking upset, Werdum found himself in an entirely different type of fight. Despite showing flashes of strong standup, the Brazilian spent much of his Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix quarterfinal attempting to pull guard and lure Alistair Overeem into his realm. The Dutchman stayed upright for almost the entire bout and did enough to walk away with a unanimous decision, evening the pair’s series at 1-1.
5. Brock Lesnar (5-2)
He has had nearly 12 inches of his colon removed on account of his latest diverticulitis battle, but Lesnar is about ready to return to action and is on pace for a return as early as December. Currently, the opponent of preference is Alistair Overeem, but if that bout cannot be made, a rubber match with Frank Mir might be the fight.
6. Shane Carwin (12-2)
Carwin did not tire as he did in his title fight with Brock Lesnar, but the massive Coloradoan had little answer for Junior dos Santos’ strong striking in a three-round decision loss on June 11. After beginning his career with 12 consecutive stoppage wins, Carwin has now lost two in a row and will need to rebound in his next trip to the Octagon to stay among the company’s top big men.
7. Frank Mir (15-5)
His May win over Roy Nelson now already in the rearview mirror, Mir might soon meet up with an old nemesis. If Zuffa cannot come to terms with Alistair Overeem for a bout with Brock Lesnar in late 2011 or early 2012, Mir might get his chance to take the trilogy against Lesnar instead.
8. Antonio Silva (16-2)
Antonio Silva was preparing for a major fight against Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix favorite Alistair Overeem. However, the dissolution of the relationship between Zuffa and Overeem's management company, Golden Glory, means that the mammoth Brazilian will have a new semifinal opponent come Sept. 10 -- two-time Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier.
9. Josh Barnett (30-5)
Competing for the first time in 11 months, the newly re-nicknamed “War Master” Barnett simply outclassed Brett Rogers in their June 18 Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix quarterfinal. Awaiting Barnett in the next round of the tournament on Sept. 10 in Cincinnati is Russian slugger Sergei Kharitonov, with a spot in the final on the line.
10. Brendan Schaub (8-1)
In his last outing in March, Schaub laid waste to a faded star in Mirko Filipovic. This time, in front of a hostile crowd in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he will try to do likewise to another aging star and one of Brazil's fighting idols in former Pride Fighting Championships and interim UFC heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Other contenders: Fedor Emelianenko, Sergei Kharitonov, Cole Konrad, Roy Nelson, Mike Russow.
* With his July 30 loss to Dan Henderson, previously ninth-ranked Fedor Emelianenko falls to the contenders list.
Continue Reading » MMA Light Heavyweight Rankings