The UFC heavyweight division is a weight category that has stagnated somewhat in recent years.
Since 2018, Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic have traded the belt back and forth. During this time, veterans such as Alistair Overeem and Junior Dos Santos rose and fell in the rankings. It seemed to be an endless cycle, doomed to continue repeating itself.
There are of course exceptions, such as the near-unstoppable Francis Ngannou. But even he hit a career roadblock, in the form of Miocic.
However, in this once veteran dominated division, there are suddenly legitimate new contenders rising up through the ranks. Whether this is via Dana White’s Contender Series or through outside promotions, the sudden talent pool at heavyweight is currently undeniable. Admittedly, the reason why these fighters are having so much success may be due to the lack of talent outside of the top 10.
Regardless, there is undeniable talent floating around the 265-pound capped division.
Most notable is Cyril Gane who has taken the UFC by storm since signing in 2019. The Frenchman almost appears to be a new breed of heavyweight. He utilizes movement and agility in a way that has not been seen in the division before.
A focus on skill and athleticism over pure knockout power that the likes of Derrick Lewis so heavily rely on. Gane also has a range of finishes on his record — three different submission victories, including most notably a heel hook against Don’Tale Mayes.
However, Gane proved that he doesn’t need to look for a finish in order to pick up a win. Against Tanner Boser, the rising contender picked his opponent apart for three rounds, never looking out of control. And yet again, in his most recent fight, Gane went out and knocked out UFC veteran Junior Dos Santos within two rounds. Gane’s success has since granted him a top 5 bout against Jairzinho Rozenstruik as the pair headlines UFC Fight Night 186.
However, Gane is only the pinnacle of this apparent new strain of heavyweight fighter.
There are several more making their way through the UFC roster. One of which currently has the chance to get a ranking by his name in the not so distant future. That man is the Liverpudlian Tom Aspinall. A teammate of UFC middleweight Darren Till at Team Kaobon, Aspinall has looked near equally impressive to Gane since entering the UFC. Aspinall relies heavily on movement despite having incredible power.
Two first-round knockout stoppages against Jake Collier and Alan Baudot have been enough to warrant a fight against perennial gatekeeper Andrei Arlovski. “The Pitbull” is a solid benchmark for a new Heavyweight to test themselves against.
Tanner Boser, who despite his aforementioned loss to Gane, was somewhat of a rising prospect himself, found Arlovski too wily to defeat over three rounds. Should Aspinall defeat Arlovski, his transition from prospect to a contender will be close to complete.
Alexander Romanov, Juan Espino, and Chris Daukaus are also off to impressive starts to their UFC careers. With two wins apiece, they all have the potential to swiftly ascend the rankings. Romanov especially looks like he could have a bright future with an undefeated 13-0 record. The Moldovan fighter has an impressive wrestling game the likes of which is rarely seen up north o 207-pounds. Whilst he has yet to face any top-level competition, there is undeniable potential there.
As an honorable mention, Jared Vanderaa, an alumnus of DWCS, is set to make his UFC debut against Sergei Spivak in the near future. Vanderaa is a well-rounded fighter with a variety of finishes on his record.
What are your thoughts on the future of the heavyweight division? Let us know in the comments.