A lineal champion is described as “a world championship title held initially by an undisputed champion and subsequently by a fighter who defeats the reigning champion in a match at that weight class”.
In the world of boxing, there can be confusion surrounding lineal championships due to the existence of multiple championship titles and sanctioning bodies. However, for those who follow the UFC, it’s a different story. The UFC has one title per weight class, making it easier to keep track of the lineal championships.
Who is the UFC’s Lineal Heavyweight Champion?
The current UFC Lineal Heavyweight Champion is Francis “The Predator” Ngannou from Cameroon. Ngannou earned the title by defeating Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 on March 17, 2020. Although Ngannou vacated the title after just one defense due to a contract dispute with the UFC, he still retained his status as the lineal champion because he was not defeated as a champion.
Jon Jones has since claimed the heavyweight title, but he did not defeat Ngannou for the championship, which means Ngannou still holds the lineal championship. Ngannou will only lose his lineal champion status if he is defeated by another fighter in the heavyweight division.
Timeline: The UFC’s Lineal Heavyweight Championship
Royce Gracie won the very first UFC tournament on Nov 12, 1993, by submitting Gerard Gordeau by rear-naked choke, becoming the very first UFC champion. He then moved to PRIDE Fighting Championships and entered the PRIDE 2000 World Grand Prix on May 1, 2000, losing to Kazushi Sakuraba. Gracie quit on his stool after battling Sakuraba for 90 minutes.
Sakuraba progressed to the semifinals — on the very same night as defeating Gracie — and lost to Igor Vovchancyn, retiring by exhaustion after the first round. Again on the same night, Vovchancyn progressed to the finals and lost by KO to Mark Coleman.
Emilianenko held onto the title for seven more years before his first true defeat, by triangle choke to Fabricio Werdum at Strikeforce – Fedor vs. Werdum on June 26, 2010. Werdum then went on to lose by unanimous decision to Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem at Strikeforce – Overeem Vs. Werdum on June 18 2011.
Antonio Silva derailed Overeem’s UFC hype by knocking him out in round three at UFC 156 on Feb 2, 2013. A few months later on May 25, 2013, Cain Velasquez defended his UFC title at UFC 160 and knocked out Silva in the first round, unifying the regular and lineal UFC heavyweight championships.
Werdum returned once more and submited Velasquez at UFC 188 on June 13, 2015. He was then KO’d by Stipe Miocic at UFC 198 on May 14, 2016. Miocic defended the championship for over two years before being knocked out by Daniel Cormier who moved up a weight class to become a double-champ at UFC 226 on July 7, 2018.
Miocic avenged his loss on August 17, 2019, by KO’ing Daniel Cormier in the rematch at UFC 241. Miocic defended his belt in the trilogy against Cormier, before being knocked out cold by Francis Ngannou at UFC 260 on March 27, 2021.
Ngannou vacated the title and left the UFC with the lineal championship in January 2023. He still hasn’t fought outside the UFC and remains the lineal UFC heavyweight champion.