The UFC have an interesting dilemma with their heavyweight division.
Reigning heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou has fought the last bout of his current deal with the promotion and he's also allowed to test the free agent market at the end of the year.
It remains to be seen whether Ngannou will re-sign with the promotion. Regardless of his decision, he’s expected to be out of action with injury for close to a year.
‘The Predator’ has undergone knee surgery, so the promotion will not have its champion active for the foreseeable future.
In the meantime, there are still plenty of intriguing fights the promotion could book to keep the title picture active.
They could decide to have non-title fights serve as a title-eliminator for a potential interim title. This list will look at five UFC heavyweight fights that could take place while Ngannou recovers from injury.
#5. No.7 ranked UFC heavyweight Alexander Volkov vs. No.8 ranked Jairzinho Rozenstruik
‘Drago’ was submitted by Tom Aspinall in the first round of their bout this past weekend.
‘Bigi Boy’, on the other hand, is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Curtis Blaydes. Both need a big win to get back into title contention, so fighting each other could be the best option.
Volkov has had a successful MMA career so far. The former Bellator heavyweight champion has knocked out former champions including Fabricio Werdum and former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem.
Rozenstruik has been one of the most entertaining heavyweights since joining the promotion in 2019.
The former kickboxer began his tenure in UFC with four straight knockout wins. But is 2-3 in his last five fights and is scheduled to fight Marcin Tybura next month. If he gets past Tybura, a bout with Volkov would be a logical next bout.
#4) Former interim UFC heavyweight champion Cyril Gane vs. Curtis Blaydes
Former interim UFC heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane would be the perfect test for Jon Jones at heavyweight. He has excellent striking and moves very well for a man his size. Gane is coming off his title loss to reigning champion Francis Ngannou, so Jones would be competing against a top heavyweight.
‘Bones’ has committed to a move to heavyweight, but the promotion has yet to officially book him in a fight. The promotion might be better off booking two title eliminator bouts with the winners fighting for the interim title. It would give buy them more time to negotiate a new deal with Ngannou and ensure there’s clarity in the division.
‘Bon Gammin’ is looking to bounce back from his first career loss. A big win, especially against somebody as accomplished as Jones would definitely strengthen his argument for a rematch with ‘The Predator.’
#3. Former UFC title challenger Derrick Lewis vs. Tom Aspinall
Based on their recent performances, Derrick Lewis and Tom Aspinall could be on a collision course in the UFC heavyweight division. Both are known for their knockouts, so it would make sense to match them up.
Despite a knockout loss to Tai Tuivasa in February, Lewis remains one of the most popular fighters on the roster. His entertaining style has made his fights must-see. He holds the record for most knockout wins in the promotion’s history.
Aspinall, on the other hand, has proven to be a knockout artist on the rise in the heavyweight division.
Nine of his 12 wins have come by knockout. He is on an eight-fight winning streak and has three-straight Performance of the Night bonuses.
Aspinall is coming off an impressive win over Alexandeer Volkov. He showed that he’s more than a one-dimensional striker by submitting Volkov with an armbar at 3:45 of the first round.
#2. Former interim UFC heavyweight champion Ciryl Gane vs. Tai Tuivasa
Tai Tuivasa has quickly ascended the UFC heavyweight rankings and has set himself up for another big fight. He is coming off an impressive knockout over former title challenger Derrick Lewis.
‘Bam Bam’ had to go through some adversity as Lewis had ground control. But he managed to regroup and dropped ‘The Black Beast’ with a powerful elbow. Tuivasa has also become increasingly popular. His shoey celebrations have taken a life of their own and have become his signature post-fight.
Ciryl Gane hasn’t been announced for any upcoming bouts, so he’d be a logical opponent for ‘Bam Bam.’
He is coming off his first career loss to Francis Ngannou, where the champion showed significant improvements in his wrestling. Despite the loss, Gane remains the No.1 ranked heavyweight and could still earn a future title shot or interim title shot.
#1. Former UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic vs. Jon Jones
Former UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic vs. former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones is the most logical heavyweight bout to book.
With Ngannou inactive for the time being, Miocic vs. Jones could serve as an interim title bout. The promotion will most likely have to create an interim title. Also, depending on the timetable for ‘The Predator’s' return, it wouldn’t be far-fetched if the winner ended up defending it.
‘Bones’ is yet to make his heavyweight debut after relinquishing the light heavyweight championship in 2020. He has the skillset to replicate the success he had at 205lbs.
It’ll be interesting to see what else he’s added to his arsenal since training with former two-division champion Henry Cejudo.
Despite losing the heavyweight championship to Ngannou, Miocic is still one of the top fighters in the division.
It was no fluke that he was the most successful heavyweight champion in the promotion’s history. He would be a great first matchup for Jones and an indicator on how he measures up at heavyweight.