MMA Top 10 Heavyweights: Daniel Cormier Shows He's for Real

It's been a busy time in the heavyweight division in mixed martial arts: The UFC has announced that Cain Velasquez will defend the heavyweight title against Junior dos Santos on Fox, that Brock Lesnar will return against former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem in what should be the year's biggest pay-per-view, and that Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will attempt to continue his comeback with a rematch against Frank Mir.

But the most exciting thing to happen in the heavyweight division recently has been the emergence of Daniel Cormier.

Cormier didn't just win against Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix semifinal. He won in devastating fashion and did it by out-striking Silva, not by out-wrestling him, which most people thought was Cormier's only path to victory. The victory vaults Cormier into the heavyweight Top 10, which is below.

Top 10 Heavyweights in MMA
(Editor's note: The individual fighter's ranking the last time we did heavyweights are in parentheses.)

1. Cain Velasquez (1): The champion will finally return to the Octagon against Junior dos Santos in November, after more than a year away. He says he's at full strength after shoulder surgery. He'll need to be against dos Santos, who's a better striker than anyone Velasquez has ever faced.

2. Junior dos Santos (2): In a sign of how big the dos Santos-Velasquez fight is going to be, Fox was advertising it during its Week 1 NFL games. That's the kind of promotion that will bring these two heavyweights -- and the UFC -- to a whole new audience.

3. Alistair Overeem (3): By signing to face Lesnar at the end of the year, Overeem has accepted the biggest challenge of his MMA career: Overeem has never faced anyone as physically strong as Lesnar, or anyone with Lesnar's wrestling pedigree. Overeem won't be able to throw Lesnar around or bully him in the clinch, the way he's been able to do against so many of his recent opponents.

4. Brock Lesnar (4): The big problem Lesnar had in his last two fights is that he didn't react well to getting hit in the face by Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez. That could become an even bigger problem when he faces Overeem, who's an absolutely devastating striker.

5. Fabricio Werdum (5): Werdum is the best Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioner in the heavyweight division and a threat to submit anyone he faces, but at the moment it's hard to see where he goes: Fans aren't exactly clamoring to see him again after his lackluster performance in his June loss to Overeem, and the uncertain future of Strikeforce may have him waiting around for a while before he finds his next fight.

6. Daniel Cormier (NR): Cormier is an Olympic wrestler and maybe the best pure wrestler in all of MMA, but what's so impressive about Cormier is how far his striking has come. Cormier made a conscious effort to turn himself into a well-rounded mixed martial artist rather than simply a wrestler who plays to his strengths in the cage, and the results on display in his knockout win over Bigfoot were stunning. Cormier is now 9-0 and a real force in the heavyweight division.

7. Shane Carwin (7): Carwin is now on a two-fight losing streak, but there's no shame in losing to Lesnar and dos Santos. The bigger question facing Carwin is whether he's lost some of his devastating power. The 36-year-old, 255-pound Carwin who lost to dos Santos didnt' look nearly as powerful as the 35-year-old, 265-pound Carwin who knocked out Frank Mir.

8. Frank Mir (8): Mir should be favored to beat Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira again in their December rematch. If he does, he'll position himself to make another run at the UFC heavyweight title in 2012, although he'll have to get in line behind the Lesnar-Overeem winner.

9. Josh Barnett (10): Barnett is now on an eight-fight winning streak, and he hasn't lost since meeting Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in Pride in 2006. He'll have his hands full in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix final, however, as he won't be able to take down Daniel Cormier and control him on the ground, which was Barnett's path to victory over Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov.

10. Antonio Silva (6): The way Silva dropped like a sack of potatoes against Cormier raises some questions about his striking defense, but Silva is still a big talent who could potentially have some very interesting matchups against heavyweights in either Strikeforce or the UFC.

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