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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Josh Barnett (2002)

Grade: F

For his entire career, Barnett is obviously worth much more than this grade but we are only concerned about his UFC championship reign, essentially meaning we are only looking at one highly controversial fight.

To his credit, Barnett impressively beat Randy Couture to win the belt, who was arguably the best fighter of all time in 2002. The win came after going 3-1 in the UFC and 12-1 overall with wins over eventual title challengers Gan McGee and Dan Severn. Then just 24 years old, Barnett had also become the youngest UFC champion in history and would hold that record until 2011 when Jon Jones claimed gold at 23.

But shortly after the dust had settled from his win, Barnett tested positive for illegal PEDs for the second consecutive fight and became the first UFC champion to be stripped of the belt for such reasons. In the current rules of the UFC and particularly the recently-ended USADA era, a penalty of that magnitude in recent years would likely have resulted in a no-contest and Barnett never being credited as a UFC champion.

To this day, many fans do not credit Barnett's UFC championship but the former prodigy is still given his due by the promotion on official records.

Given the nature of his victory and lack of a single title defense, it is hard to give Barnett anything more than the lowest possible grade. After having the title stripped, Barnett left the UFC and did not compete in the octagon again until 2013 when he would fight five more times before complications with USADA caused his release.

Throughout the course of his career, Barnett would test positive for multiple banned substances several more times and despite last competing in 2016 still has yet to declare himself as retired.