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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Maurice Smith (1997)

Grade: B-

Having spent most of his combat sports career alternating between MMA and kickboxing, Smith was much more successful in the latter. A multiple world champion in kickboxing, Smith never could gain much momentum in MMA with a career 14-14 record and his only time being over .500 following his professional debut at 1-0.

Of course, Smith would also be a world champion in MMA after pulling off one of the greatest upsets in promotional history at the time he took the belt off Mark Coleman. In a fight that would enter double overtime, a factor that no longer exists in the current UFC, Smith gassed Coleman out early before turning him into a human punching bag late.

As impressive as winning a UFC title is, there is no overstating how much Smith was not supposed to win the fight with Coleman. Smith is still and will likely always be the only fighter to win a UFC belt with a losing record and entered the fight off a win over 3-2 Kazunari Murakami. Of his seven losses entering his UFC debut, Smith lost five fights by submission, making him seem like a perfect first title defense for Coleman with his accomplished striking background.

After shocking the MMA world, Smith would go on to defend the belt three months later, becoming the first fighter to do so. Smith would finish the popular brawler Tank Abbott with leg kicks but lost his belt in the following months to Randy Couture at UFC Japan.

Unfortunately, as a kickboxer in the early days of the UFC, Smith was unable to effectively stop takedowns, causing his championship tenure to end with just three takedowns from Couture.

While not overly outstanding, Smith's title reign is one that most will remember for his upset win over Coleman but is more admirable upon a closer look than many give him credit for.