The next generation: Five rising UFC heavyweight stars

Regardless of what your MMA preferences may be, there’s no denying the entertainment value associated with heavyweight division.

From brutal knockouts to absolute slugfests there really isn’t a whole lot to dislike. Still, in a game like mixed martial arts, everyone needs to adapt and evolve.

The next generation of heavyweight contenders are piecing together an entirely new reputation for the division. Instead of being all about power, we’re seeing precision and poise are coming more into the mix. You’ve got wrestlers, jiu-jitsu specialists and, yes, the KO artists.

This weekend will see Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Ciryl Gane go to war in a fascinating heavyweight bout. In celebration of that, we’re going to run through five contenders to keep an eye on this year and beyond.

P.S: We know Francis Ngannou is a monster – which is why his rise is near enough complete as he prepares to battle Stipe Miocic for the UFC Heavyweight Championship next month, live on BT Sport.

Jairzinho Rozenstruik

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Bigi Boy isn’t someone you want to mess with.

This man is on an absolute tear with an 11-1 record, the only loss being to Ngannou. He’s freakishly quick, scarily powerful and has even won a fight in the last five seconds of a five-round scrap. The guy is a problem and that’s becoming apparent to everyone in the top 15.

Tom Aspinall

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As humble as he is talented, Tom Aspinall is one of English MMA’s great title hopes in the UFC. The 27-year-old is 3-0 in the promotion, trains with Darren Till and just submitted Andrei Arlovski. If those aren’t worthwhile credentials then we don’t know what would be.

Alexander Volkov

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Alexander Volkov hasn’t been without his hiccups against the likes of Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes. Yet between his height, his jab and his movement, “Drago” is the dark horse of the heavyweights.

Just go back and look at what he did to Alistair Overeem if you don’t believe us.

Chris Daukaus

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There’s an unassuming element to Chris Daukaus that’s difficult not to love. Maybe it’s due to the fact he’s also a police officer, or perhaps that he’s just loads of fun to watch. The Philadelphia native has unlimited potential and is just waiting to showcase that to the rest of the top ten.

Ciryl Gane

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It’s rare to see such exquisite elegance from a man of Ciryl Gane’s size, but here we are.

He can submit, bludgeon or secure a decision in the blink of an eye – and versatility is sorely needed in this era.

Between him and Jairzinho, it’s impossible to picture anything other than fireworks on Saturday night.

Featured image credit: Getty