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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Randy Couture (1997, 2000-2002 and 2007-2008)

Grade: A

Looking at his career as a whole, Couture is often underrated as one of the most influential fighters of all time. Having won a UFC belt on five separate occasions, a record that will likely remain unbeaten, Couture spent much of his 30-fight career with the UFC spanning from 1997 to 2011.

At heavyweight, Couture was the UFC champion on three separate occasions, racking up a total of six championship wins. The former Greco-Roman wrestler spent the middle portion of his career at light heavyweight but for the purposes of this list, we are only looking at his career in the heaviest weight class in the octagon.

Couture first won the belt in his fourth professional fight, being the first fighter in the UFC to exploit the lack of wrestling in Maurice Smith's arsenal. He would never defend that belt but gained it back three years later in his return to the promotion with a thoroughly dominant performance against Kevin Randleman.

In his second stint as champion, Couture broke the then-record for most heavyweight title defenses with consecutive wins over Pedro Rizzo. Couture would lose the title to Josh Barnett in his first championship loss, but in a performance that many consider tainted due to Barnett testing positive for PEDs.

It was after his second title reign that Couture would drop down to light heavyweight but return to his original division in 2007 and set another record. At the age of 43, Couture became the oldest fighter to win a UFC championship with a five-round decision over Tim Sylvia.

Couture's record still stands as of 2024 and likely will last the test of time. His subsequential title defense over Gabriel Gonzaga made him the oldest UFC champion of all time, holding the belt until he lost to Brock Lesnar at the age of 45.