It could possibly be argued the 2010’s opened and closed with essentially the most dominant UFC champion residing within the light-weight division. Previous to the start of the last decade, BJ Penn was coming off a dominant efficiency over Diego Sanchez and no person noticed him dropping the belt any time quickly. As everyone knows, he by no means gained one other struggle at 155 ever once more. Whereas I’m not saying Khabib Nurmagomedov isn’t going to win one other struggle at light-weight once more, he did enter this decade with an analogous stature to Penn. When Khabib claimed the crown, he put an finish to a tumultuous decade as eight completely different males laid declare to the UFC light-weight title, 9 when you embody Tony Ferguson’s interim reign. It wasn’t all that completely different in Bellator both as there have been eight separate reigns of their group’s light-weight title, although it was solely 5 completely different males who claimed the belt. At the least WSOF had consistency with Justin Gaethje….
1. Khabib Nurmagomedov: It’s laborious to argue with undefeated… and Khabib has by no means misplaced a struggle in his skilled MMA profession. Including to the already spectacular feat is the style by which Khabib has been decimating his opponents. Keep in mind his 21 takedowns of Abel Trujillo? How about Khabib telling Michael Johnson he should quit as a result of Khabib “should be champion,” all whereas pounding Johnson into the mat. Maybe most memorable was his assault on Dillon Danis, which got here solely after Khabib compelled Danis’ teammate, Conor McGregor, to faucet out in one of many greatest grudge matches in UFC historical past. It could possibly be argued Khabib was essentially the most dominant determine of the last decade in all of MMA, not simply within the light-weight division.
2. Tony Ferguson: There’s a purpose the UFC retains attempting to pit Khabib in opposition to Ferguson. Ferguson is presently driving a 12-fight win streak. The start of the streak featured some less-than stellar opposition, however he’s been disposing of one of the best of the division since then… apart from Khabib after all. Regardless, names like Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, Kevin Lee, Rafael dos Anjos, and Edson Barboza have fallen to Ferguson. Ferguson’s confidence and creativity are unmatched, making him the most probably contestant to hold an L on Khabib… if they’ll ever make it to the cage.
3. Eddie Alvarez: Alvarez had his share of up’s and down’s all through the last decade, however he was additionally the primary fighter to carry titles in each Bellator and the UFC, making two claims on the Bellator title. Even when he got here out on the quick finish of the stick the primary time he clashed with Michael Chandler, it was an all-time basic. Their second struggle wasn’t too dangerous both, which Alvarez did win. The Underground King was additionally the primary to hold a loss on Justin Gaethje. Along with his a number of title reigns within the high two MMA organizations of the last decade, it could possibly be argued Alvarez was essentially the most adorned fighter of the 2010’s.
4. Dustin Poirier: The Diamond solely spent about half of the last decade at light-weight, however he made essentially the most of his time at 155. He went 11-3, 1 NC with wins over a number of of his fellow rivals to be one of the best lightweights for the last decade. Alvarez. Gaethje. Pettis. Even Max Holloway in a light-weight contest. Jim Miller can also be a notable title and his win over Diego Ferreira is trying higher on a regular basis. Of these eleven wins, eight averted the usage of judges. He additionally had a stretch of six fights the place he took house 4 FOTN’s and a separate efficiency bonus. At 31, Poirier nonetheless has loads of time so as to add to his general legacy.
5. Anthony Pettis: Pettis is a tough one to put. If we’re going strictly off his efficiency over the primary half of the last decade, few can match, a lot much less high, his accomplishments. He went 9-1, captured the WEC light-weight title, the UFC light-weight title, snagged seven efficiency bonuses, and ended up on the Wheaties field. Then got here the second half of the last decade, that includes some dalliances at featherweight and welterweight. His document at light-weight: 2-5, together with what was formally a catchweight as Michael Chiesa missed weight. To his credit score, Pettis by no means went down simple, however his poor second half of the last decade can’t be ignored. Sadly, many have forgotten simply how superior his first half of the last decade was too.
6. Rafael dos Anjos: It appears to be like like dos Anjos could also be nearing the top of the road as he has dropped 4 of his final 5. Nonetheless, these have been all at welterweight. What did dos Anjos do at light-weight? He went 13-5, captured the UFC light-weight title, and put a foul sufficient beatdown on Pettis when he wrested the belt away from him that Pettis has by no means been the identical fighter since. When dos Anjos was at his peak, solely one of the best of the previous decade have been capable of cling losses on him: Khabib, Ferguson, and Alvarez. Had he been capable of make it for his scheduled contest in opposition to McGregor in 2016, the legacy of dos Anjos would probably be very completely different from what it presently is.
7. Benson Henderson: Given his tendency to rely closely on some favorable – generally questionable — judging, many would have simply assumed Henderson gone away. Regardless, Henderson, like Pettis, was the WEC light-weight champion and the UFC light-weight champion. Not like Pettis, Henderson was capable of safe a protection of the WEC belt and delivered two extra profitable defenses of the UFC belt than Pettis. In fact, Henderson additionally misplaced each of these belts to Pettis… which is why he’s ranked decrease than Pettis. Total, Henderson went 16-6 at 155, wins over Cerrone, Gilbert Melendez, Nate Diaz, Frankie Edgar, and Josh Thomson amongst his victims. That’s a resume that may’t be ignored.
8. Donald Cerrone: There are two issues Cowboy is thought for. Arising quick when the lights are brightest and being keen to throw down with anybody, anytime, anyplace. Cerrone fought 26 instances at 155 throughout the decade, greater than anybody else on this checklist. That isn’t even counting the extra 10 instances he fought at welterweight. It isn’t like he at all times misplaced when dealing with the elite. Cerrone captured wins over Alvarez and Henderson within the course of and secured 11 of his 14 efficiency bonuses for the last decade at 155. Imagine it or not, Cerrone isn’t finished fairly but both.
9. Justin Gaethje: It’s laborious to foretell what Gaethje’s document would have been had he fought competitors nearer to his degree for almost all of his profession versus doing his factor within the WSOF. Nonetheless, Gaethje gained the primary 18 fights of his profession, defended his WSOF title a complete of 5 instances – with out formally dropping it, vacating it on his method to the UFC – and developed a status as essentially the most persistently thrilling fighter of his time. Nobody else has ever gained efficiency bonuses of their first six UFC contests. Since struggling his first two profession losses, Gaethje has adjusted and made himself a greater fighter, annihilating his subsequent three opponents earlier than the primary spherical was out. Given the quantity of harm he takes, we should always take pleasure in Gaethje whereas we will.
10. Michael Chandler: The three-time Bellator light-weight champion has had a number of stops and begins to his profession. He laid declare to the Bellator light-weight title 3 times all through the last decade, beating Alvarez to assert it the primary time immediately basic. Regardless that he got here out on the quick finish of the stick of their sophomore effort, it was a fairly rattling good struggle too. Wins over Patricky Friere and Henderson have been spectacular for his resume as nicely. His accomplishments have been sufficient that many imagine he’s the best fighter within the historical past of the Bellator group.
Honorable Mentions: Conor McGregor, Frankie Edgar, Edson Barboza, Nate Diaz, Will Brooks, Gilbert Melendez.
McGregor did lay declare to the UFC light-weight title… however he solely had Four light-weight contests for the last decade, going 2-2 in these. Had Edgar spent extra time at light-weight, he assuredly could be on the checklist too. Barboza was the unsung hero of the division, preventing all the highest guys… and arising quick in opposition to them. Diaz is a famous person, however his excursions to welterweight and lengthy absences harm his resume. Brooks fell off a cliff after a stellar run in Bellator. Melendez might have been one of the best light-weight to open the last decade… however he didn’t preserve that standing deep sufficient into the last decade.