For the past few years it has seemed that the largest and hardest hitting division in the UFC has been the most inconsistent with acquiring new talent.The top of the rankings in the division have consisted of older fighters who have been veterans around the world of mixed martial arts for a very long time.
To start off the year in 2016, the average age for the heavyweight division was 34 years old and champions seemed to be recycled between just a select few fighters who were all the top contenders continuously. Many people wondered if the division would begin to fade due to the inability for the promotion to find new and exciting talent.
It now seems that they have found a way to solve that problem with two new dangerous fighters, that can easily be title contenders by the years end.
Ngannou is a 30 year old 10-1 fighter, 5-0 in the UFC with all wins coming via finish, who fights out of France and is being talked about as one of the deadliest fighters in the UFC. UFC president Dana White went on the record to say that he believes Ngannou has the potential to not only be a champion, but a fighter that can hold onto the belt for many years to come. Ngannou had his first big step up in competition most recently against Andrei Arlovski, a veteran of the UFC and a former champion. He was featured on the big Fox card, an event that always gives fighters a chance to gain a ton of exposure. Francis delivered big time. Ngannou was able to make quick work of Arlovski by finishing him with brutal strikes in the first round.
Now, the Frenchman has been bumped up in the rankings to be currently ranked number 6 and the opponents he will face will only be more dangerous for him going forward. Ngannou seemed eager to test himself against the best of the best, calling out Alistair Overeem and former world champions Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velazquez. With Stipe Miocic now set to have a rematch against Dos Santos and Overeem booked against Mark Hunt, a phenomenal fight to see who the next possible title contender is as well a way to see how truly talented Ngannou is, would be a bout against Cain Velasquez. Regardless of his next opponent, Ngannou has the skills to be a force in the heavyweight division and can possibly be a future star for the promotion.
Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis has been the most active heavyweight fighter in the division in recent years. Lewis made his debut in April of 2014 for the UFC and looked impressive by defeating Jack May via ground and pound in the first round. Lewis is 9-2 in the UFC and is currently riding the momentum of a 6 fight win streak. Of Lewis's 9 UFC wins, 8 have been knockout finishes and he has shown that he has the one punch power to knock out any fighter in the division. Lewis had his most impressive win of his career most recently when he brutally knocked out Travis Browne as the main event at Fight Night; Nova Scotia. Browne, although he has been inconsistent in his recent fights is a dangerous fight for anyone in the division. Lewis being able to put him away impressively was exactly what he needed to become a serious force in the division. Not only does Lewis have a very fan friendly style of recklessly throwing punches with bad intentions with every strike, he also has a personality that grows his following especially on social media.
Lewis has made a big name for himself in the past year and now he is ranked number 7 and is in a position to set himself up as a possible contender for the title. Similarly to Ngannou, he is a new addition to the top of the rankings in the division and is a win or two away from being able to compete for a championship.
A possible fight against the winner of Mark Hunt and Alistair Overeem should be next for Lewis. The only other fight for “The Black Beast” at the moment that would make sense would be a collision with heavyweight mainstay Ben Rothwell.
With these two fresh faces in a division that has seemed to be stuck in the mud when it comes to acquiring new talent, it will be very interesting to see by the end of the calendar year what the division rankings will look like, as well as who the champion will be. With two new competitors that are hungry and ready to make a name for themselves, could this be the heavyweight division becoming relevant again?
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