The UFC Heavyweight division has produced legends of Mixed Martial Arts. Mark Coleman, Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn, all heavyweight fighters that dominated in the UFC at over 205lbs. Now the UFC has world class fighters like Cain Velasquez, Fabricio Werdum and current UFC Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic, but you can’t help feel that the division isn’t spoilt for choice when it comes to serious contenders at this moment in time and new blood is needed soon before the well of UFC’s heavyweight talent runs dry. This is why I have compiled a list of 5 heavyweight fighters that the UFC needs to sign:
Hailing from Sofia, Bulgaria, Blagoi Ivanov is a Bulgarian brute that very few people will want to come up against. Ivanov is an International Master of Sports in the Soviet form of combat Sambo as well as a black belt in Judo, the former fighting style he is a gold medallist in at the World Sambo Championships. Although he is not very tall for a heavyweight standing at only 5ft 11in, he still clocks in at 251lbs or 18 stone, which should give you quite a frightening idea of his muscle mass and the power this man possesses.
Blagoi has 14 wins in his 16 MMA fights, with only one loss and one no contest on his record. He is the current WSOF Heavyweight champion and has been since June of last year, making two defences so far, and is ranked as the #8 best fighter outside of the UFC. Ivanov is clearly a dominant and imposing fighter, it’s a wonder the UFC haven’t picked him up already and given the current main eventers in the heavyweight division some much needed fresh competition.
Tony Johnson Jr.
Standing at 6ft 1in and weighing at a colossal 264 lbs, one pound shy of the upper weight limit of the heavyweight class, the nickname “Hulk” doesn’t seem too far-fetched. If his stature wasn’t striking enough, his impressive back tattoo that goes over his shoulders makes him even more memorable and is a testament to the man’s toughness. Johnson is a part of the American Kickboxing Academy and is also an excellent wrestler, able to dominate his opponent on the ground for the majority of his fights.
Johnson is a former KOTC heavyweight champion and has won 10 of his 13 MMA fights, half of those wins by knockout which shows the power he has in his hands to end a fight. The other five wins are by decision, showing Johnson’s dominance on the ground with his wrestling. Tony has already fought a current UFC competitor in the form of Derrick Lewis when the two were at Bellator; beating Lewis by unanimous decision, so a rematch in the UFC with Lewis now a much better fighter would be an eagerly anticipated bout and another reason why Johnson should be signed to the UFC.
A familiar face to any UFC fan, Cheick Kongo is somewhat of a UFC veteran and had a long and successful UFC run; winning 11 of his eighteen fights in the UFC, losing 6 and drawing 1, and even winning the Knockout of the Year award for his knockout against Pat Barry. He is now competing and Bellator and won his last 3 fights in a row, the most recent against the aforementioned Tony Johnson back in September, showing how commanding he is in the heavyweight division.
Kongo has an expanded repertoire of fighting styles; with black belts in karate and kendo as well as extensive Muay Thai, kickboxing, Savate and Greco-Roman wrestling training. Cheick Kongo is truly an excellent fighter and has stated before he is always open to a return to the UFC, so a UFC homecoming from the 25–10–2 French native isn’t off the cards and I imagine he would be welcomed back with open arms.
Towering over his competition at 6ft 5in tall, Denis “The Russian Bogatyr” Goltsov is another Sambo fighter from Eastern Europe that could be a force in UFC’s heavyweight division. Starting off with quite a mediocre MMA record of 5-4, he has since won his last 13 fights in a row in spectacular fashion with the majority of those wins coming from knockouts and submissions. At only 26 years old too he still has quite a career ahead of him.
Goltsov can be classed as a jack of all trades, but certainly not a master of none, as he can finish fights seemingly anywhere in the cage by submission and a variety of strikes; his most recent victory against Paul Buentello was by knockout from a
vicious head kick, something not too common by heavyweights. Goltsov has yet to compete in any of the world renowned MMA promotions so far, so UFC snapping him up now and making him compete against the world’s best could be quite a spectacle.
The easiest way to describe Vitaly Minakov is Fedor Emelianenko-esque. This undefeated Russian fighter has incredibly striking resemblances to arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time, so much so Minakov has even donned the nickname “The New Emperor”, referencing Fedor’s moniker of “The Last Emperor”. So many similarities, and he is just as dominant as Fedor in his prime.
Minakov is undefeated in his 18 professional MMA fights; usually finishing his opponents with both punches and submissions and only has 2 decision wins to his name. Vitaly can certainly finish a fight, a quality UFC is always looking for as exciting finishes sell pay-per-views. It’s no surprise he can finish fights with ease, Minakov has extensive background in sambo, where he is a 1st Razryad Grand Master, as well as being a black belt in judo (both of these ranks Fedor has also acquired). He is even a four time sambo world championship gold medallist and is Master of Sports in Freestyle Wrestling.
Minakov is ranked as the #13 best pound for pound fighter in the world and is ranked the best fighter outside of the UFC, so surely the world’s greatest MMA promotion should try sign him. The UFC have been snubbed by Fedor in the past in favour of Bellator and other promotions so, in my opinion, they can’t let the new and improved version of “The Last Emperor”, in the form of the domineering Vitaly Minakov, slip through their fingers.
By Harry Robinson