In just over a month’s time, the UFC Heavyweight title will be on the line. Reigning champion Stipe Miocic is all set to defend against number one contender Francis Ngannou in the main event of UFC 260. So when the smoke clears, who will be next in line for a shot at the UFC Heavyweight title?
Interestingly, there are a number of high-level contenders in the division who could logically be given the next shot – and each fighter has reasons why they shouldn’t be given the shot, too.
So with that in mind, here are 5 fighters who could be next in line for a UFC Heavyweight title shot.
#1 Jon Jones (UFC record: 20-1-1)
The man who appears to be at the front of the queue – for now at least – when it comes to a UFC Heavyweight title shot is Jon Jones.
The former UFC Light Heavyweight champion has been talking of a move up to Heavyweight for some time now. And this year, it appears that he’s gone all in, judging by the social media posts that show him bulking up considerably.
UFC President Dana White has also suggested that Bones is next in line, recently claiming that a fight between Jones and whoever is the reigning UFC Heavyweight champ after UFC 260 could happen in the summer.
However, we still don’t really know whether Jones is on good terms with the UFC right now. After all, we’re less than a year removed from him, causing a major spat with the promotion over his paycheque.
In fact, it was down to this, rather than his move to Heavyweight, that initially caused Jones to relinquish the UFC Light Heavyweight crown.
If all goes well, it’s very likely that it’ll be Jones who is next in line for a shot at Miocic or Ngannou. However, it’s also easy to imagine a scenario in which Bones prices himself out of a potential title fight, opening the window for someone else.
#2 Derrick Lewis (UFC record: 16-5)
Arguably the man of the moment right now in the UFC Heavyweight division is Derrick Lewis.
The Black Beast defeated Curtis Blaydes in the main event of UFC Vegas 19 last weekend, picking up his 12th UFC knockout in the process – a UFC record for the Heavyweight division.
There are plenty of reasons why Lewis should be next in line for a UFC Heavyweight title shot. He’s on a four-fight winning streak right now and hasn’t lost since March 2019.
And prior to fighting him, it’s arguable that Blaydes was the top contender in the division – meaning Lewis should theoretically usurp that spot.
More to the point, The Black Beast is highly popular with the fans, and along with Miocic, is the only UFC fighter to hold a win over Ngannou. So if The Predator were to win the title, Lewis would have even more of a claim to a shot.
The drawback with Lewis is that for all of his KO power, he is a somewhat limited fighter – and he’s already had a shot at the UFC Heavyweight title, losing to Daniel Cormier in 2018.
Still, Lewis should probably be ranked as #2 in the division after his win over Blaydes – meaning he’s definitely in the mix.
#3 Jairzinho Rozenstruik (UFC record: 5-1) or Ciryl Gane (UFC record: 4-0)
Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Ciryl Gane are all set to face off in the main event of UFC Vegas 20 this weekend. And with both men ranked within the top five at Heavyweight, it’s conceivable that the winner could receive the next shot at the UFC Heavyweight title.
Of the two, it’s perhaps more likely that Gane would be able to jump the queue. Bon Gamin is not just undefeated in the UFC, he’s undefeated in MMA period and is seen by many observers as the best prospect in the division.
The French native hits remarkably hard but is also highly skilled in the clinch and on the ground too. A win over Rozenstruik would make him 5-0 in the UFC, and with a marketable look and style, it’s definitely possible that the UFC would want to push him hard.
Rozenstruik, meanwhile, would find it trickier to lay his claim – even with a win over Gane – if Ngannou were to unseat Miocic at UFC 260.
Bigi Boy famously found himself knocked out cold by Ngannou at UFC 249 last year in one of 2020s most memorable knockouts.
Outside of that, though, the Surinamese fighter has been perfect in the UFC, with knockouts over Andrei Arlovski, Alistair Overeem, and Junior Dos Santos on his ledger.
And so if Miocic were to win at UFC 260, Rozenstruik would be a fresh opponent for the champ and would make for an intriguing styles clash.
A title shot for either of these two fighters in 2021 would be somewhat unlikely but wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility either.
#4 Alexander Volkov (UFC record: 7-2)
One outside bet for the next shot at the UFC Heavyweight title would be towering Russian striker Alexander Volkov.
Drago was last seen earlier in February, picking up arguably the biggest win of his UFC career when he stopped Alistair Overeem in the second round. Prior to the fight, Overeem had been talking about a potential title shot later in 2021.
Now though, Volkov has surely stolen all of the Dutchman’s momentum. At 7-2, he boasts one of the strongest records in the UFC Heavyweight division. And his wins over Overeem and Fabricio Werdum – as well as Walt Harris and Greg Hardy – are impressive.
Of course, there are a couple of issues standing against Volkov. He was beaten pretty thoroughly by Curtis Blaydes in June 2020 and was also knocked out violently by Derrick Lewis in 2018. And to tell the truth, the Russian isn’t all that marketable.
However, he definitely deserves to be in the conversation. And if he could find himself on whatever card features the next UFC Heavyweight title fight after UFC 260, he could easily offer himself as a potential alternate should something happen to either of the men in the title clash.
#5 Stipe Miocic (UFC record: 16-3) or Francis Ngannou (UFC record: 10-2)
Given the UFC’s love for immediate rematches, there’s always the chance that the next UFC Heavyweight title shot simply goes to the loser of the upcoming Miocic vs. Ngannou clash.
In particular, if Miocic – who is now seen as the greatest Heavyweight in UFC history – were to fall, it’d almost be unfair to deny him a rematch.
After all, he gave Daniel Cormier an immediate one after he defeated DC in 2019, and he’s held the title or been the top contender in the division now since 2016.
If Ngannou were to lose to Miocic for a second time – following his first loss to the champ in 2018 – it’d perhaps be hard to justify a rematch.
However, if the fight turns out to be an instant classic, then the UFC may well bite. The promotion does have a history of such things, after all. And if they can’t come to terms with Jon Jones, another Miocic/Ngannou fight might be the best-drawing one they could put together.
Would it be good for the UFC Heavyweight division and its other contenders to go down this path? Absolutely not, but it still wouldn’t be a shocker to see the UFC do it anyway.