CLEVELAND, Ohio — Who’s the best MMA fighter of all time? It’s a query that many have tried to reply with no definitive final result.
A part of the issue is that because the rise of cage combating and the launch of the UFC, eras have come and gone. How do you assess fighters who dominated over a selected time that had weaker competitors in numerous promotions? May certainly one of at the moment’s rising stars take out a dominant drive like Chuck Liddell, Royce Gracie, Wanderlei Silva or Kazushi Sakuraba of their prime?
For our checklist of the 25 biggest MMA fighters of all time, we tried to steadiness the standards. A fighter’s total profession resume mattered. However not as a lot as their efficiency at their peak. The attention take a look at was vital. However not as vital because the competitors a fighter confronted and the way they dealt with that competitors.
Finally, we valued fighters who put collectively a number of wins (typically in a number of divisions) over others who had been thought-about among the many biggest of all time. You may say that produced recency bias, particularly contemplating pioneer Gracie didn’t make our checklist and that our No. 25 is an all-time fan favourite.
25. Chuck Liddell
May as properly begin this checklist with some controversy. For the file, I started watching the UFC in 2005. On the time, Chuck Liddell was the largest star and the individual most liable for making the game of MMA fashionable. He was a phenom and the truth that he barely made this checklist goes to upset old-school followers. But, it’s straightforward to neglect Liddell’s peak run didn’t final all that lengthy and it wasn’t in opposition to the hardest competitors. Throughout his seven-win run atop the UFC, 4 fights got here in opposition to Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture. Liddell was a human spotlight reel. However was he a greater combined martial artist than Cain Velasquez, Shogun Rua, Vito Belfort, Fabricio Werdum and Rampage Jackson, who had been thought-about for this last spot? In the long run, Liddell’s peak years and the best way he completed guys put him over the sting…simply barely.
24. Valentina Shevchenko
Some may discover it onerous to rank ladies and men collectively on an inventory like this. Not me. Most of the male fighters on this checklist by no means confronted one another both. Valentina Shevchenko is terrifying and the best feminine striker in MMA historical past. She’s picked aside the likes of Jessica Eye, Holly Holm, Joanna Jędrzejczyk and Julianna Pena. Her solely two losses since becoming a member of the UFC are to Amanda Nunes, the best feminine combined martial artist of all time. And there’s a strong case to be made that Shevchenko gained that second struggle.
23. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Had Massive Nog stopped combating after Satisfaction 24, he would nonetheless be thought-about an all-time nice. At that time, he was coming off a streak of 13 straight wins in opposition to top-notch competitors. Nogueira’s solely knock is that he couldn’t get previous Fedor Emelianenko in his prime. However nobody might. Massive Nog did earn huge wins over Heath Herring (to win the inaugural Satisfaction Heavyweight Championship), Bob Sapp, Dan Henderson, Ricco Rodriguez, Mirko Cro Crop, Fabricio Werdum and Tim Sylvia (for the UFC Heavyweight Championship). Nogueira was battle-worn by the point he obtained to the UFC and nonetheless managed to win a title within the high promotion on this planet.
22. Eddie Alvarez
To actually admire Eddie Alvarez, you need to look at his time in each the UFC and Bellator. He was nice in each and the competitors Alvarez confronted stays a who’s who in MMA at the moment. Alvarez at all times placed on a present for followers. His UFC stretch of beating Gilbert Melendez, Anthony Pettis and Rafael dos Anjos was pretty much as good because the light-weight division had seen. And allow us to not neglect that Alvarez was a welterweight champion early in his profession, showcasing his means to excel in a number of divisions.
21. Robbie Lawler
All through his profession, Robbie Lawler got here to complete fights. That didn’t get him too far throughout his first run within the UFC as soon as he bumped into elite competitors. But, Lawler’s second run within the promotion, which started in 2013, will put him within the Corridor of Fame sooner or later. His stretch as champion was nothing in need of sensible whereas holding two wins over Carlos Condit, Johny Hendricks and Rory McDonald (their second struggle is, in my view, probably the most entertaining battle in MMA historical past).
20. Israel Adesanya
Too quickly for Adesanya? Perhaps. However have a look at what he’s finished since getting into the UFC. In his final six fights, Adesanya has consecutive wins over Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva, Kelvin Gastelum, Robert Whitaker and Yoel Romero. Silva is an all-time nice, whereas Whitaker and Romero would have certainly made this checklist had they not run into Adesanya. The 30-year-old has earned his spot and can solely transfer up from right here.
19. Dan Henderson
After turning into a standout together with his epic bouts in Satisfaction, Dan Henderson’s arrival to the UFC was a lot anticipated. But it surely didn’t go as deliberate the primary time round. Nonetheless, his KO of Michael Bisping may be the most effective end in UFC historical past. Henderson moved on to Strikeforce, the place he regained his mojo and took out the good Fedor Emelianenko. Upon his return to the UFC, Hendo gave us one of many biggest fights in MMA historical past in opposition to Shogun Rua.
18. B.J. Penn
We now have to look previous the final a number of years of B.J. Penn’s profession, as a result of, fairly frankly, they’ve been onerous watch. But, throughout his prime, Penn was one of the thrilling fighters in MMA. He made some odd profession decisions throughout his first run with the UFC. However his uncooked expertise was unmatched. After getting bounced from welterweight by Matt Hughes in 2006, Penn moved again all the way down to light-weight and was unstoppable. His 5 wins within the division (4 of which got here with the UFC Light-weight Championship on the road) had been all finishes. Penn did try to return to welterweight, dropping to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 94. But, by then he was cemented as icon.
17. Henry Cejudo
Two years in the past, it’s onerous to think about we’d be placing Henry Cejudo on this checklist. His UFC profession had been a combined bag, starting with two losses — one to Demetrious Johnson after which a break up resolution to Joseph Benavidez after Cejudo was deducted a degree for low blows. Then got here one of many biggest runs in UFC historical past. Cejudo shocked the world and beat Johnson of their carefully contested rematch. Cejudo’s final six wins are as spectacular as nearly any on this checklist, together with wins over TJ Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz. In between these fights, Cejudo turned a two-division champ after KO’ing Marlon Moraes to win the UFC Bantamweight Championship.
16. Matt Hughes
Coming earlier than Georges St-Pierre is not any straightforward job from a historic standpoint. However Matt Hughes definitely made the UFC Welterweight Division. Hughes gained the championship nearly accidentally, in a double knockout in opposition to Carlos Newton that went Hughes’ manner. From then on, Hughes was a monster. He beat Newton decisively in a rematch after which scored spectacular wins in opposition to Sean Sherk and Frank Trigg. BJ Penn upset Hughes at UFC 46. However Hughes would finally go on to avenge that loss. The competitors at welterweight would get higher after Hughes’ run was over. However he has holds wins over two of the largest names on this checklist of their prime (together with Georges St-Pierre). That, and Hughes’ unprecedented dominance will get him right here.
15. Randy Couture
Randy Couture had one of many biggest careers in MMA historical past. But it surely was a curler coaster experience, making it onerous to find out when his prime was. Couture had as many as 4 nice runs with the UFC. The legend of “The Pure” started with two superb fights in opposition to Pedro Rizzo. He would go on to lose to Josh Barnett (who examined optimistic for banned substances) and Ricco Rodriguez the next yr. But, Couture bounced again at mild heavyweight, beating Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz and splitting a two-fight sequence with Vitor Belfort. It wasn’t a stretch of dominance like a number of the others on this checklist. But it surely was a formidable displaying in two extremely aggressive divisions. There’s one thing to be stated for remaining in your prime for such a protracted interval.
14. Frankie Edgar
Everybody’s favourite underdog till he turned one of many biggest fighters in historical past. Frankie Edgar at all times appeared undersized. However that by no means stopped him from beating the most effective lightweights on the planet, together with Sean Sherk, Hermes Franca, Jim Miller, Tyson Griffin and BJ Penn (twice). Edgar was the person who stopped Penn’s greatest profession stretch. Two questionable resolution losses to Benson Henderson pushed Edgar as much as featherweight the place he, once more, turned a title contender with wins over elite fighters. Edgar is among the greatest combined martial artists of all time in two divisions. Few can say that.
12. Max Holloway
Latest losses shouldn’t taint what Max Holloway has achieved over the previous six years. Since dropping back-to-back fights to Dennis Bermudez and Conor McGregor early in his profession, Holloway has 14 wins with most of them are in opposition to robust competitors. That checklist consists of Frankie Edgar, Brian Ortega, Jose Aldo (twice), Anthony Pettis, Ricardo Lamas, Jeremy Stevens, Charles Oliveira and Cub Swanson. You would say he over-reached in making an attempt to turn out to be a two-division champ in opposition to Dustin Poirier. However Holloway has an opportunity to avenge his current loss at featherweight in opposition to Alexander Volkanovski. Ought to he do this, Holloway’s legacy as the best featherweight of all time may very well be assured.
12. Dominick Cruz
If it weren’t for accidents, Dominick Cruz may need the best profession of any MMA fighter. And but, it’s nonetheless fairly spectacular the best way it’s. Upon Cruz’s return to the WEC in 2008, he turned a well-rounded drive, beating future UFC title contenders like Joseph Benavidez and Ian McCall earlier than getting his rematch in opposition to Urijah Faber and successful the UFC Bantamweight Championship at UFC 132. Cruz dominated that struggle. However the crown jewel of his profession could also be his win over Demetrious Johnson at bantamweight. It’s the one clear minimize win somebody has over Johnson in his prime.
11. Daniel Cormier
Is simple to deal with Cormier’s profession as him being the best mild heavyweight in UFC historical past not named Jon Jones. However take into account earlier than Cormier joined the UFC he was dominating heavyweights like Antonio Silva and Josh Barnett in Strikeforce. Cormier’s coming-out get together was a dominant efficiency in opposition to Frank Mir in Cormier’s UFC debut. Cormier by no means coasted on his wrestling, although he might have, turning into a formidable striker. If he beats Stipe Miocic at UFC 241, Cormier will go down as the best heavyweight in UFC historical past. It’s onerous to get previous the 2 losses to Jon Jones (granted, one was overturned on account of a optimistic drug take a look at by Jones). And perhaps we’re short-changing Cormier due to them. However he nonetheless makes the top-10.
10. Amanda Nunes
Some MMA purists gained’t wish to see a lady this excessive on the checklist. They’ll say Amanda Nunes didn’t face the identical stage of competitors as the lads. However take the best feminine MMA fighters of all time and Nunes has crushed all that had been prepared to face her, normally in spectacular style. That features Cris Cyborg, Holly Holm, Miesha Tate, Holly Holm and Valentina Shevchenko (twice). After an uneven begin to her profession, the previous half-decade has seen Nunes be as dominant as any fighter – male or feminine – in UFC historical past. Oh, and he or she’s a double champion who has efficiently defended BOTH of her titles.
9. Stipe Miocic
From a profession standpoint, a TKO loss to Stefan Struve hurts Stipe Miocic’s resume a bit. However he turned a distinct fighter after that. After dropping a detailed struggle to Junior dos Santos in 2014, Miocic fine-tuned his expertise and went on the best run within the historical past for a UFC Heavyweight Division that’s as aggressive as its ever been. Miocic is a quiet man. However his wins from 2015 on communicate for themselves: Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, Junior dos Santos (in a decisive rematch). These are all Corridor of Fame stage names. Miocic additionally beat Francis Ngannou at UFC 220, controlling a seemingly unstoppable drive that will very properly be the way forward for the heavyweight division. Miocic’s last standing on this checklist shall be decided by his trilogy struggle in opposition to Daniel Cormier in August. One other win for both fighter might very properly them into the highest 5.
8. Jose Aldo
While you consider Jose Aldo, it’s straightforward to image his 13-second knockout loss to Conor McGregor at UFC 194. Positive, it could have been good to see Aldo attempt to avenge that loss. However what he achieved earlier than that struggle was astonishing. Aldo was an murderer throughout his early days at WEC, together with his breakthrough efficiency coming when he TKO’d Cub Swanson with a flying knee at WEC 41. Aldo then dominated the promotion’s mega-stars Mike Brown and Urijah Faber. When he joined the UFC, Aldo all however closed out the featherweight division till he bumped into McGregor’s fist. There are some individuals excessive sufficient on Aldo to place him atop of this checklist. I’m not fairly as offered on the energy his competitors, particularly after losses to Conor McGregor and Max Holloway. However that’s simply me.
7. Conor McGregor
Is Conor McGregor actually retired? If he’s, he’s is an icon. No query. Don’t let the hype and showmanship idiot you. McGregor was a dominant drive possessing a left-hand for the ages. Following the momentum of an early win in opposition to Max Holloway in 2013, McGregor beat Diego Brandao (a former “The Final Fighter” winner), powerful veteran Dennis Siver, longtime contender Chad Mendes and put Jose Aldo’s lights out. McGregor then misplaced to Nate Diaz in a struggle the previous was successful till he ran out of gasoline. McGregor would avenge that loss in a traditional rematch earlier than beating Eddie Alvarez to turn out to be a two-division champion. If McGregor desires to maneuver into the highest 5 on this checklist, he’ll have to struggle Khabib Nurmagomedov once more and win. However there’s no denying his greatness even with out that rematch.
6. Khabib Nurmagomedov
Nurmagomedov continues to be on the early levels of his profession, which is frightening. He’s undefeated and the reply to the query of whether or not anybody can beat him seems to be no. His first true take a look at, at the very least on paper, got here in opposition to Rafael dos Anjos a UFC occasion in 2014. That struggle was not aggressive. In truth, none of Nurmagomedov’s fights within the UFC have been, regardless of top-notch opponents like Michael Johnson, Edson Barboza, Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. It’s onerous to argue with Nurmagomedov’s dominance up till this level. He nonetheless has some work to do in clearing out the division. But, a win over Justin Gaethje in September (a struggle Nurmagomedov shall be favored to win) after which perhaps Tony Ferguson may do this.
5. Anderson Silva
From April 2006 via October 2012, Silva recorded 17 consecutive wins, 16 within the UFC. But it surely wasn’t simply that streak (bested solely by Jones when it comes to UFC wins), it was the best way Silva destroyed individuals. In his UFC debut, Silva brutalized Chris Leben, one of many hardest guys within the promotion’s historical past. 4 months later, he would KO Wealthy Franklin to win the UFC Middleweight Championship. Franklin, a future Corridor of Famer, was unstoppable for 2 years earlier than Silva made him seem like a scrub. Most of Silva’s fights weren’t near aggressive. He made fighters like Dan Henderson, Patrick Cote and Franklin (once more) look common. Silva answered a detailed name to Chael Sonnen with dominating wins in opposition to Vitor Belfort, Yushin Okami and Sonnen in a fast rematch. And when Silva obtained bored throughout that point, he beat up and embarrassed mild heavyweights like Stephan Bonnar, Forrest Griffin and James Irvin. Sure, Silva was dominant in an period the place the competitors wasn’t as robust as it’s now. However was that simply because Silva made these guys look so dangerous?
4. Demetrious Johnson
Johnson’s peak interval should be ongoing. His one loss since 2013 was a break up resolution to Henry Cejudo (a fighter he TKO’d throughout their first struggle) that would have gone both manner. Johnson left no query about who was the most effective on this planet throughout his fights, dominating every opponent in each side of MMA. The one knock in opposition to Johnson is that he by no means went up a division after clearing out flyweight. May he have captured two UFC belts whereas nonetheless in his prime? We are able to assume sure. However we might by no means know.
3. Fedor Emelianenko
There’s this concept that Fedor Emelianenko’s all-time ranking takes a success as a result of he by no means fought within the UFC. By way of taking a look at a complete profession resume, maybe that’s true. But when we’re simply taking a look at fighters’ prime durations, Emelianenko lays declare to probably the most spectacular streak in MMA historical past with 27 consecutive wins. And he did it in opposition to a number of the all-time greats, together with Mark Coleman (twice), Kevin Randleman, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (twice), Mirko Cro Cop and Mark Hunt. Emelianenko’s dominance ran from 2000-2009. Throughout that point, there isn’t a UFC champion that might have been favored in a struggle in opposition to him. Sure, it could have been good to see him take out the entire UFC’s elite throughout that point (Although, he beat a number of of them in different promotions). But it surely shouldn’t take away from his Mt. Rushmore of MMA standing.
2. Jon Jones
Jon “Bones” Jones didn’t waste any time making a reputation for himself within the UFC. His spinning again elbow in opposition to Stephan Bonnar at UFC 94 is a star-is-born second. However Jones’ first really nice efficiency was technically a loss. He demolished Matt Hamill solely to be disqualified for utilizing unlawful downward elbows. Hamill might barely stand to awarded the victory. From that time on, Jones was unstoppable. He didn’t simply beat individuals. He demolished them, together with seven (sure, seven!) surefire, future UFC Corridor of Famers. Most of these victories coming through finishes. You would perhaps make the case Jones wasn’t the identical after his traditional struggle with Alexander Gustafsson. But, he went on to beat Glover Teixeira and Ovince Saint Preux (with out surrendering round to both) and scored two wins over Daniel Cormier (Although, one was overturned on account of a optimistic drug take a look at). Jones’ current fights haven’t been all that entertaining, particularly his razor-close resolution win in opposition to Dominick Reyes. However he’s nonetheless the champ and a possible transfer to heavyweight would solely additional his legend.
1. Georges St. Pierre
St. Pierre gained the UFC Welterweight Championship from Matt Hughes in spectacular style (TKO) in 2006. He took his first challenger for that belt – a recreation Matt Serra – evenly, resulting in one of many biggest upsets in UFC historical past. Nevertheless, Pierre’s subsequent run with the title was flawless, showcasing probably the most well-rounded talent set of any fighter in MMA historical past. From his second win over Hughes and retribution in opposition to Serra on, Pierre barely misplaced a spherical, dominating Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn, Thiago Alves, Dan Hardy, Josh Koscheck, Jake Fields, Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz of their prime. And dominate isn’t a powerful sufficient phrase. Most of these fights had been barely aggressive in opposition to fighters who had been among the many division’s elite. By the point Pierre obtained to Johny Hendricks, a struggle he gained controversially, Pierre had one foot out the door. But, throughout his peak, he was simply the best athlete the UFC. His return bout in opposition to Michael Bisping to win the UFC Middleweight Championship in 2017 was simply the icing on the cake.