Freelance: Ranking the Top UFC Heavyweight Fighters of All Time
Fans love big fighters because of the old line, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall” and the heavy leather they throw. Great moments come from great men. See where your favorite UFC big men rank in among the best of the 265-pound division!
10. Dan “The Beast” Severn
“The Beast” is the original “man’s man” and the original UFC heavyweight (at least, the original heavyweight that is of note.) Severn debuted at UFC 4: Revenge of the Warriors after a very successful run in amateur-style wrestling. He made it all the way to the semifinals of the UFC 4 tournament before falling to Royce Gracie by submission.
Severn would go on to win the UFC 5 tournament championship and the UFC SuperFight championship at UFC 6 during the original “no holds barred” era. He would also be part of the marquee bout for the inaugural event of World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) 1. The WEC would later become a sister promotion to the UFC.
Severn also had a somewhat successful career in pro wrestling—winning the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) championship twice and eventual working for the WWF/WWE. He retired from MMA in 2013 with his last notable win coming at King of the Cage: Texas in 2011.
To date, it is still believed that the 58-year-old Arizona State University wrestling Hall of Fame member still takes booking on pro wrestling’s independent circuit. His official MMA record stands at 101-19-7. He still trains MMA fighters and pro wrestlers and has a son, David, who is an accomplished wrestler in his own right.
9. Don “The Predator” Frye
Like his friend and fellow fotmer ASU wrestling coach Dan Severn, Don Frye was one of the first legitimate athletes to compete in the UFC in the early “Spectacle over sport” era. His run in the UFC may have been short, but it sure was memorable. Frye entered the organization at UFC 8 and won that tournament by knocking out three men in one night—one by doctor stoppage and one by submission (due to strikes.)
Frye also won the Ultimate Ultimate ’96 tournament and was the UFC 10 runner-up to Mark “The Hammer” Coleman. He is perhaps best remembered for his UFC debut at UFC 8, ironically an eight-second knockout of cab driver Thomas Ramirez (who allegedly had a fight record of 200-0 and weighed 410 pounds.)
After his tournament win in 1996, Frye went on to have an up-and-down run in Japan and for the rest of his MMA career before retiring from competition with an official record of 20-8-2, 1 No Contest. 18 of his victories are by stoppage with the wrestler having racked up 11 of those by submission.
Between 1998 to 2002 Frye performed for the world-famous New Japan Pro Wrestling, taking on the legendary Antonio Inoki. He’s been involved in acting since then and appears in the 2009 Johnny Depp film, Public Enemies about famed gangster and “public enemy No. 1” John Dillinger.
8. Mark “The Hammer” Coleman
Mark Coleman was the first person (at least in the UFC) to KO Don Frye. In addition to UFC 10, Coleman also won the UFC 11 tournament championship and cemented his place on this list by becoming the first-ever UFC heavyweight king. The NCAA and three-time Pan American freestyle wrestling champion had five subs and one KO between 1996-96 before, like Frye, having a turbulent time in Japan’s Pride FC that lasted until late October of 2006.
He retired in 2013 after three years without a fight (his last being a 2010 loss to Randy Couture.) UFC 10 was Coleman’s debut— his final victory came at their centennial event, UFC 100, a unanimous decision victory over Stephan Bonnar. Coleman and Frye entered the UFC Hall of Fame together last summer.
He also had an NJPW run with his friend, the late former UFC fighter, Kevin Randleman and was a 1992 Olympian.
7. Gary “Big Daddy” Goodridge
Perhaps the original Canadian of cage fighting, Gary Goodridge might be one of the best heavyweights to never win a major championship. Debuting at UFC 8, his last appearance came at UFC 19 where he finished Andre Roberts in just 43 seconds. However, the bulk of his success came under Pride FC where he amassed 10 victories.
“Big Daddy” retired with a 23-23-1 overall record (with 13 wins by KO/TKO) but having lost nine of his last 11 fights. Unfortunately, he struggles with the mental health issues including dementia and CTE brought on from his stand-up fighting style.
6. Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett
You have to make the list if you were the youngest UFC champion in history at one point. That champion was Josh Barnett at age 24. He was the final Pancrase Openweight champion, successfully defending his belt twice in addition to being the 2006 Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix Runner-Up.
Barnett still competes for the UFC today but is out of competition at the moment due to a potential violation according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) although no more details are known at this time.
It could be argued that Barnett was equally if not more successful as a pro wrestler than as an MMA fighter. He wrestled more than 50 times for the abovementioned NJPW per the Internet Wrestling Database before competing for Impact Wrestling (formerly Total Nonstop Action or TNA Wrestling) in January. For quite a length of time, TNA was viewed as the best wrestling company second only to the giant that is the WWE.
Barnett’s MMA record sits at 35-8 with 29 finishes. He currently serves as a broadcast commentator for NJPW events on AXS TV alongside legend, Jim Ross.
5. Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski
Andrei Arlovski isn’t on this list solely thanks to his time as UFC heavyweight or interim heavyweight champion (although hopefully you’re starting to notice a trend here.) He had just one successful defense during both of those reigns as champion.
However, the now-38-year-old and still active UFC competitor (25-14-1 overall) is tied for the most KO wins in the organization’s history with nine and has the second-most wins in UFC heavyweight history with 13. He last won at UFC 191 against Frank Mir in 2015, winning a “Performance of the Night” bonus.
Arlovski is set to face Marcin Tybura on June 17 at UFC Fight Night 111. Former UFC women’s bantamweight (135-pound) champion Holly Holm is set to headline the event opposite Bethe “Pitbull” Correia.
4. Alistair “The Reem” Overeem
This British-Dutch legend is currently sits at an astounding 42-15, 1 No Contest overall with only four of those wins coming to him based on scoring (a massive collection of 38 finishes.) Overeem’s runs as a champion have come outside of the UFC for the now defunct DREAM and Strikeforce promotions respectively (the only heavyweight champion for either, although the DREAM belt was an interim title.)
Overeem is fresh off a shot at UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and rebounded by knocking out Mark “The Super Samoan” Hunt at UFC 209.
3. Frank Mir
Frank Mir’s accolades at 265 pounds should definitely land him in the UFC Hall of Fame in the future. The former UFC heavyweight and interim heavyweight top dog famously submitted WWE superstar Brock Lesnar in Lesnar’s UFC debut, has the most fights in division history (27,) most wins (16,) the most finishes (13,) most submissions (8,) and the most finishes in the first round (10.)
He’s tied for most overall UFC fights with Tito Ortiz and Michael Bisping and tied for the fourth most overall victories. Impressive enough? The now-37-year-old is effectively retired due to a testosterone issue involving USADA but last KOed Todd Duffee in a 73-second “Performance of the Night” award-winner in July of 2015.
2. Bas Rutten
The three-time Openweight “King of Pancrase” champion, Bas Rutten had possibly the fastest run to a UFC championship in history, winning the heavyweight belt in just two fights and then vacating the title to go lower in weight before retiring (28-4-1) at World Fighting Alliance (WFA’s) King of the Streets in July of 2006.
All of Rutten’s fights—including his minimal defeats—ended in the first round (although one round on his record went almost a half-hour under Japan’s rules.) Rutten also unified the King of Pancrase championship, having two successful defenses of that Pancrase title as well.
His entire career was spent with Pancrase with exception to his few UFC and WFA appearances which makes his UFC title win and sudden departure all the more surprising. Rutten went on to co-host the news/talk show Inside MMA until it wrapped up on September 30 of last year.
“El Guapo” (“The Handsome One”) had 25 wins by stoppage.
1. Randy “The Natural” Couture
Randy “The Natural” Couture just might be the greatest MMA fighter who’s ever lived (“Captain America” definitely has to be the first fighter to use two nicknames at the same time.) The three-time NCAA Division-I All-American was twice just shy of becoming an Olympian and the first UFC heavyweight king under the Zuffa, LLC/modern era banner, fighting (and beating) Pedro “The Rock” Rizzo at UFC 31.
Couture was the first fighter to win titles in two separate weight classes (heavyweight- three times, light heavyweight- two times) in addition to an interim heavyweight title and the UFC 13 tournament championship. His final fight was in 2011 against Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida but he remains active in the sport, trying to bring a union to MMA. Couture’s record sits at 19-11.
His last victory came in possibly the first UFC crossover fight against boxer James Toney.