The heavyweight division is where the biggest and baddest of MMA superstars reign. One punch from a powerful heavyweight and it is lights out. The UFC is always looking for the next great heavyweight. Here are guys who have the potential to make it one day to the MMA world's grandest stage.
The overall success of these fighters is dependent on many factors. Almost all need better technique in their stand-up game and better conditioning. Hopefully they can stay healthy while putting in hard work. Here is a look at some current undefeated heavyweights that will look to breakthrough to the big leagues.
Vitaly Minakov (12-0)- This 4X Sambo world champion from Russia made a successful Bellator debut in November, TKO'ing Vladimir Starcencov in the second round. He since has KO'd Ron Sparks and Ryan Martinez. Minakov has 1st round KO wins over UFC vets Eddie Sanchez and Fabiano Scherner. The 6'3" Minakov has weighed from the mid 230's up to the mid 240's. His striking has been on point lately.
Volkan "Cousin" Oezdemer (9-0)- The Turkish born Swiss fighter primarily relies on his Muay Thai game and possesses a blue belt in BJJ. On March 13th, he won 3 fights in one night to capture the Valhalla "Battle of the Kings" tournament. The HW champ of Lions FC, Oezdemer will have to improve his grappling when he moves to the next level of competition. He next fights Matti Makela at SHC 8.
Blagoy Ivanov (8-0)- The 2008 Combat Sambo world champ successfully bounced back from being stabbed in February of 2012 to defeat Manny Lara at Bellator 99. Ivanov has three wins in Bellator, and also TKO'd Ricco Rodriguez in an MMA event in Moscow.
Karl "The Wrecking Machine" Etherton (9-0)- This English fighter has finished 8 of his opponents in the first round, including his Bellator debut against Jason Fish (2-3). Etherton, the UCC HW champion has not faced quality competition thus far in his career. Bigger fights are on the way for this heavy handed Brit. Etherton's grappling needs to improve by leaps and bounds for him to remain undefeated.
Marcin "Tybur" Tybura (9-0)- Tybura is a Polish heavyweight with 4 submissions and 3 TKO's on his resume. He seems to be at his best when he throws a few punches, backs his opponent against the fence, then lands a takedown. From there, Tybur has a solid submission game from top position and strong ground and pound. He has 3 straight wins in M-1, last submitting Konstantin Gluhov (26-13) and TKO'ing Chaban Ka (6-2) and Denis Komkin (13-12) to take the M-1 Grand Prix. He should face a tough test in Kenny Garner next for the M-1 HW title.
Levan Razmadze (5-0)- The Georgian(Russia) is a big heavyweight who has finished all opponents earning 3 submissions and 2 KO's. Razmadze was a member of the Georgian national judo team and an alternate in the 2008 Olympics. He has primarily competed in the Deep organization, with submission wins over Ryuta Noji (16-7) and Kazuhisa Tazawa (7-2).
Jan "The Saint" Jorgensen (6-0)- The 26 year old former defensive end from Brigham Young University utilizes his big power standing and his highschool wrestling background to get the fight to the mat. He has fought exclusively for the Utah promotion "Showdown Fights" earning 4 KO's and 1 submission as a professional. Jorgensen needs to improve his submission game when he does get the fight to the floor.
Rapheal Butler (6-0)- The 6'3" Minnesotan currently fights right near the 265 pound heavyweight limit. In his Bellator debut, Butler KO'd Jeremiah O'Neal. Before that, he KO'd previously undefeated Brett Murphy (6-1) in just 13 seconds. Butler is (35-12) as a pro boxer and will need to dramatically improve his wrestling and ground game as he progresses to the next level of competition. As a pro boxer, he TKO'd Lyle McDowell (27-13), Dan Ward (29-19) and MMA's Iron Man Travis Fulton.
Denis Smoldarev (5-0) Nicknamed "Brock Lesnar" in Estonia, this 6'5" 250 pound fighter has combat sambo, judo and kickboxing skills in his arsenal. 4 of his victories have come in M-1, last TKO'ing Ibragim Ibragimov (5-2). A shoulder injury forced him out of his last scheduled bout in M-1.
Gheorghe Ignat (5-0)- This 8X national Greco Roman champion from Romania currently trains at The Arena in San Diego. He is training BJJ with legends Saul and Xande Riberio and boasts 3 submission victories on his resume. His striking needs to improve greatly to get to the next level in MMA.
Hrvoje Slade (5-0)- This 23 year old Croatian 220 pound heavyweight might make the drop to 205 in the near future. He threw punches in bunches in his last fight to KO Marko Igrc (9-4), a light heavyweight, at House of Gladiators 1.
Ken Hasegawa (7-0)- At 5'11" this 220 pound Japanese heavyweight would likely drop to 205 in a bigger organization. So far he has fought all 7 times in the Deep organization, last earning a first round KO over Hirohid Fujinuma (12-5).
Jared Cannonier (4-0)- This Alaskan heavyweight has yet to fight outside his home state. He defeated Josh Ofir (7-3) in his last bout. All 4 of his fights have resulted in first round finishes.
Steve Mocco (3-0)- I'm adding Mocco because many fighters are declining bouts against him. A 2008 Olympian and NCAA champion in wrestling, Mocco recently has trained at American Top Team. After winning his first two bouts via submission, Mocco won a unanimous decision against Lew Polley.
*If you know of any undefeated heavyweight fighters who are under or close to 30 years old, have not yet fought in UFC, and have at least 4 wins with at least one win in 2012, please list them in the comments section and I'll have them posted.