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5 upcoming UFC heavyweight fights to look forward to

Jon Jones (left), Stipe Miocic (centre), Francis Ngannou (right)
Jon Jones (left), Stipe Miocic (centre), Francis Ngannou (right)
ANALYST
Modified 23 Mar 2021
Top 5 / Top 10

UFC heavyweight fighters are explosive. Just look at the power that exists in the top 10. From Francis Ngannou and Derrick Lewis to Tom Aspinall and Tai Tuivasa, knockout power exists throughout the division.

The likes of Stipe Miocic bring technical striking abilities; Alexey Oleinik and Alexander Romanov bring submission skills. The UFC's heavyweight roster is an all-round pool of talent.

2021 has already brought some incredible matchups to our screens. In the very first event of the year, we were treated to 15 minutes of Carlos Felipe and Justin Tafa throwing hands. A win for Alexander Volkov followed before Derrick Lewis provided one of the most memorable UFC moments of the year so far.

In the main event of UFC Vegas 19, Lewis knocked out Curtis Blaydes. Providing a scary reminder of the power these heavyweights possess, 'The Black Beast' pummelled Blaydes with a clean uppercut. You often can’t blink when the heavyweights are in action.

Five UFC heavyweight fights to look forward to:

The rest of the year is sure to have some more classic matchups in the division. On that note, here are five confirmed or rumoured upcoming fights in the UFC heavyweight division to watch out for.


#1 Walt Harris vs Marcin Tybura

Walt Harris (left) and Marcin Tybura (right)
Walt Harris (left) and Marcin Tybura (right)

Since the tragic death of his stepdaughter, Walt Harris has struggled to regain form in the UFC.

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In the summer of 2019, 'The Big Ticket' won consecutive fights against Sergey Spivak and Aleksei Oleinik. Since his return, the 37-year-old has fallen to two tough opponents, Alistair Overeem and Alexander Volkov.

Harris is set to face the high-flying Marcin Tybura in his first visit to the UFC octagon this year. There’s no sugar-coating the importance of the fight for Harris; it's a must win.

Marcin Tybura is the heavyweight incarnation of Jan 'Polish power' Blachowicz. The 35-year-old was set to face Blagoy Ivanov this month, but the Bulgarian withdrew because of injury.

Tybura (21-6) is riding a four-fight winning streak, with victories over Spivak, Maxim Grishin, Ben Rothwell and Greg Hardy.

With Tybura pushing for a higher ranking and Harris looking to bounce back from consecutive losses, there is a lot at stake in this UFC heavyweight duel. The two top-15 heavyweights are slated to collide on June 5.


#2 Ben Rothwell vs Philipe Lins

Ben Rothwell (left) and Philipe Lins (right)
Ben Rothwell (left) and Philipe Lins (right)
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Ben Rothwell is a veteran of the UFC heavyweight division. In 15 walks to the UFC Octagon, 'Big Ben' has locked horns with the best. He has stood across the likes of Cain Velasquez, Mark Hunt, Alistair Overeem, Junior Dos Santos and Andrei Arlovski. Despite being 39, Rothwell is not done yet.

After snapping a losing streak with a KO win over Stefan Struve, Rothwell welcomed Ovince Saint Preux to the division last May. After an enthralling three rounds, he sent Saint Preux back to light heavyweight.

However, a defeat to Tybura in October leaves Rothwell needing to rebound quickly in 2021.

Meanwhile, Brazilian Philipe Lins was held in high regard when he signed for the UFC. 4-0 under the PFL banner, 'Monstro' won the 2018 heavyweight championship. However, defeats to Andrei Arlovski and Tanner Boser have left Lins needing his first UFC win against Rothwell to avoid the chopping block.

After this fight was shelved earlier this month due to an injury, the rescheduled bout is expected to go down on UFC's May 8 Fight Night card.


#3 Ilir Latifi vs Tanner Boser

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Ilir Latifi (left) and Tanner Boser (right)
Ilir Latifi (left) and Tanner Boser (right)

Tanner Boser is one of the most exciting heavyweight prospects. The potential of the 29-year-old is clear to see. Two wins in the space of a month last summer announced his arrival in the UFC heavyweight division.

However, knockout victories over Lins and Raphael Pessoa were followed by a disappointing loss to former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski.

After the fight, Boser took to social media to express disdain at his performance and vowed to improve. His chance to do so in 2021 is almost here now.

Intriguingly, Boser is expected to face Ilir Latifi on the same UFC card as Harris vs Tybura.

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Latifi, a long-time light heavyweight, made the switch after back-to-back losses to Corey Anderson and Volkan Oezdemir. In a tough welcome to the UFC heavyweight division, 'The Sledgehammer' fell to Derrick Lewis early last year.

Seemingly comfortable at a heavier weight, Latifi will look to secure his first UFC heavyweight win against Boser on June 5.


#4 Shamil Abdurakhimov vs Augusto Sakai

Shamil Abdurakhimov (left) and Augusto Sakai (right)
Shamil Abdurakhimov (left) and Augusto Sakai (right)

Brazil’s Augusto Sakai is arguably the most promising fighter in the UFC heavyweight division. Since earning a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series Brazil 1 in 2018, he has been nothing short of impressive.

Wins against Chase Sherman, Andrei Arlovski, Marcin Tybura and Blagoy Ivanov means Sakai is 4-0 in the UFC heading into his first main-event bout. The 29-year-old was finished in the final round by former-title challenger Alistair Overeem, though.

Sakai (15-2-1) will face fellow top-15 UFC heavyweight Shamil Abdurakhimov in May. The Russian confirmed the bout earlier this year on social media.

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The return of 'Abrek' is highly anticipated.

The 39-year-old will be fighting for the first time since a TKO defeat to Curtis Blaydes in 2019. Abdurakhimov had won three straight fights against Sherman, Arlovski and Tybura prior to his meeting with 'Razor'.

This matchup is set for the first UFC event in May.


#5 Stipe Miocic vs Francis Ngannou - UFC Heavyweight Championship

Stipe Miocic (left) and Francis Ngannou (right)
Stipe Miocic (left) and Francis Ngannou (right)

The 'biggest, baddest rematch', Stipe Miocic vs Francis Ngannou 2, is finally here. This weekend’s UFC 260 main event will feature a blockbuster clash between arguably the greatest heavyweight of all time (Miocic) and possibly the hardest hitter in MMA (Ngannou).

The pair first collided in 2018. Miocic won that bout by unanimous decision.

Ngannou has been on a tear in the division since then. Leaving a destructive trail behind him, 'The Predator' knocked out Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos and Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the three years since his first UFC championship fight.

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While the Cameroonian bas worked explosively to make himself the number one contender, Miocic has established himself as the greatest heavyweight of all time after a trilogy with Daniel Cormier.

The 28-year-old will look to combine his takedowns and high-volume striking to neutralise the threat of Francis Ngannou, which he successfully managed to do in their first clash.

Miocic’s place at the top of the UFC food chain will be on the line. There aren't many much-watch fights like this one.

Published 23 Mar 2021, 20:30 IST
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