Grading every heavyweight champion in UFC history

The heavyweight division is in a bit of a stalemate as fans wait for the promotion to announce what it will do with Jon Jones, Stipe Miocic and Tom Aspinall.

Jul 7, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (blue gloves) celebrates beating Stipe Miocic (red
Jul 7, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (blue gloves) celebrates beating Stipe Miocic (red / Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
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Mark Coleman (1997)

Grade: D

Coleman rightfully gets a ton of credit and recognition for his career as a whole for being the first man ever to put on a UFC belt as a divisional champion. He will always be considered a pioneer of MMA but the biggest knock of his career will always be his lackluster title reign that left a lot to be desired.

When Coleman got the belt, it seemingly was a perfect fit. He had an undefeated record, a decorated freestyle wrestling background at Miami University and just looked the part of what many would believe a UFC champion should be. Coleman was the perfect face for the UFC at the time, making his short period as champion a letdown in most fans' eyes.

Just five months after submitting Dan Severn to win the belt, Coleman faced the 5-7 Maurice Smith, a fight that many expected the new king to dominate. The matchup would ultimately be much more competitive than most believed and though entertaining, Coleman would fatigue late and lose a decision to Smith, thus ending his reign.

To that point in his career, Coleman had already won two heavyweight tournaments at UFC 10 and 11, respectively, with wins over several notable fighters including Severn, Don Frye and Gary Goodridge. Many saw the young wrestler as unbeatable, particularly with all six of his wins by finish in convincing fashion.

Following the loss, Coleman would never return to his status as UFC champion and would go on to lose three more bouts despite the UFC promoting the next event he appeared in as "Redemption" for his return. Nonetheless, Coleman would see another title five years later by winning the PRIDE 2000 Openweight Grand Prix Tournament, defeating Akira Shoji, Kazuyuki Fujita and Igor Vovchanchyn all in the same night.