12. Dominick Cruz
Notable Wins: Brian Bowles, Joseph Benavidez, Urijah Faber, TJ Dillashaw, Demetrius Johnson
Notable MMA Title(s): WEC Bantamweight Champion, UFC Bantamweight Champion
Dominick Cruz’s fighting style and movement is so unique, you can solely watch his shadow and still be able to guess who it is. His movements makes him hard to hit and has frustrated many of his opponents. Often described as awkward, the way he patterned his footwork to dart in and out as well as shift between striking and takedown is a beautiful thing to see. Watch his warmups and observe how he purposely shuffle his footwork over and over as well smoothly switch stances. Dominick Cruz may never be a knockout or submission artist, but if you ever hear him speak about his beginnings in MMA, then you will understand that not being hit is number one on his priority list. Beside his outstanding fight record, what he brought to the MMA cage was something rarely seen by any other fighters.
11. Conor McGregor
Nickname: The Notorious
Notable Wins: Max Holloway, Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo, Nate Diaz, Eddie Alvarez
Notable MMA Title(s): UFC Featherweight Champion, UFC Lightweight Champion
Whether you enjoy his trash talking or not, Conor McGregor does “walk the walk.” Beside being a magnet for the media due to his brashness, he has successfully ascended and obtained both the UFC featherweight and lightweight titles in such a short amount of time. Conor may not be the first fighter to hold the UFC title at two different weight classes, but he is the first one to hold them both simultaneously. Additionally, Conor is a sensational southpaw fighter that may have one of the best left hand to grace MMA. His left punch has laser-like precision and has knocked down many durable fighters. In his fight with Jose Aldo, Conor only needed 13 seconds to win the UFC featherweight title and hand Jose his only knockout loss ever. Conor’s personality and confidence in himself grants him the ability play mental mind game that throws his opponents off. However, his mind games did not work against his most recent opponent, Khabib Nurmagomedov, losing to The Eagle in a pretty one-sided fight.
Conor is still young to the sport of MMA and his full potential is not yet known. He still has a lot of time to redeem his last lost. By the end of the day, he will most likely climb towards the top of this list if he keeps tacking on Ws.
10. Daniel Cormier
Notable Wins: Josh Barnett, Dan Henderson, Anthony Johnson, Alexander Gustafsson, Stipe Miocic
Notable MMA Title(s): UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, UFC Heavyweight Champion
Daniel Cormier found his way to MMA with a help from another veteran of the combat sport in Muhammed Lawal, also known as King Mo. As an All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State University and a participant in the 2004 Olympics, Cormier skills translate well to MMA and he has found success in both the heavyweight and light heavyweight division. With his win over Stipe Miocic, Daniel Cormier became one of only a handful of two-division champions in UFC history, and only the second person to hold it at the same time.
Before tossing Dan Henderson around the UFC Octagon like a ragdoll, he had no problem picking up and slamming one of the larger heavyweights in Josh Barnett so it is not a surprise that he would do well in the heavyweight division. Of course, this is not to say that he has not performed well against light heavyweight contenders. He has absolutely dominated everybody he has come across, except for one particular individual. The only man that truly stands in Cormier’s way of clearing all the naysayers about being the true UFC light heavyweight champion is Jon Jones.
9. B.J. Penn
Nickname: The Prodigy
Notable Wins: Matt Hughes, Diego Sanchez, Renzo Gracie, Jens Pulver
Notable MMA Title(s): UFC Welterweight Champion, UFC Lightweight Champion
Before being known as the Prodigy in MMA, B.J. Penn was a prodigy on the mats, particularly in Jiu-Jitsu. Not only is he is one of the all time fastest person to receive a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu, he also became the first American to win the Jiu Jitsu World Championship in Brazil. His grappling skills was obvious and a great factor in many of his victories. To back up his Jiu-Jitsu skills, he had great boxing skills that made him a formidable foe during the stand up portion of the fight. Many people new to the combat sport of MMA will question B.J. Penn’s legacy due to the wins and losses on his fight record. Without paying careful attention, they will miss the fact that B.J. Penn was game to fight anybody. He was naturally a lightweight, yet he fought as a welterweight, middleweight and even at open weight where he faced a 225 lb. Lyoto Machida. One of the most memorable scene associated with B.J. Penn was him licking the blood off his gloves after beating Joe Stevenson to a bloody mess. This and the fact that he became the UFC champion at two different weight classes will forever make him one of the all time greats.
8. Chuck Liddell
Nickname: The Iceman
Notable Wins: Vitor Belfort, Alistair Overeem, Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva
Notable MMA Title(s): UFC Light Heavyweight Champion
Before his chin eventually gave away, Chuck Liddell was known for his granite chin and vicious hands. He knocked out some of the biggest names like Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture. Even though Chuck was a Division I NCAA wrestler, he used his grappling skills mainly for takedown defense in order to keep the fight standing up. This strategy and his aggressive nature that is willing to brawl and exchanges punches is what made his fights such a crowd pleaser. Chuck’s striking technique may not be the prettiest, but he damn made sure that each strike were thrown with ill intent. In his fight against Tito Ortiz, he forced Tito towards the cage and followed with a flurry of devastating punches. This scene has been shown on many highlights associated with Chuck. Although known for the power in his hands, people tend to forget that he diversified his striking with various leg kicks as well. Rewatch some of Chuck’s old fights and you will see a couple of opponents ending up with large thigh bruises, after it is all said and done.
7. Matt Hughes
Notable Wins: Sean Sherk, George St. Pierre, B.J.Penn, Renzo Gracie
Notable MMA Title(s): UFC Welterweight Champion
Matt Hughes is a UFC hall of famer and may simply be the definition of what it means to be “country strong.” Go watch his highlight reel and see how he simply picks up his opponent, who flails and tries to fight the inevitable, and slam them down on the ground. Of course, it does not hurt to be a two-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler as well. Matt Hughes had a diverse set of takedown techniques in his toolbox to get the opponent down. What made Matt stand out from other fighters with a wrestling background was that he was not simply satisfy with holding his opponent down. Matt’s ground and pound was no joke. Whether he is flattening out his opponent while being on their back or holding them down in side control, heavy ground and pounds followed shortly after. Furthermore, he had fantastic submission grappling skills to round out his ground game.
6. Demetrius Johnson
Nickname: Mighty Mouse
Notable Wins: Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson, Henry Cejudo, Miguel Torres
Notable MMA Title(s): UFC Flyweight Champion
Demetrius Johnson is UFC’s 1st and only UFC flyweight champion. He has been holding down the fort and is on the brink of breaking Anderson Silva’s record of consecutive title defenses. It is obvious that Demetrius is evolving his skills at such a rapid pace that he is pulling away from his fellow competition. At an earlier point in his career, Demetrius challenged Dominick Cruz for the UFC bantamweight title. Despite the loss, Demetrius’ talent was obvious and he really grew to his own when UFC created the flyweight division where he can fight at his ideal size. Examining his career, you can see how Demetrius progress from winning via the judges’ decision to finishing his opponents by either strikes and submissions. Additionally, Demetrius has the knack for neutralizing his opponents game and adapt quickly to any scenario, which is reminiscent of what GSP has done over the years. Fans are now wondering if there is anybody that can rival Demetrius’ high fight IQ, ridiculous speed and blend of striking, footwork and wrestling.
5. Fedor Emelianenko
Nickname: The Last Emperor
Notable Wins: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko Filipovic, Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski
Notable MMA Title(s): PRIDE Heavyweight Champion
Fedor came to MMA as a decorated Combat Sambo champion. Combat Sambo is a martial arts that closely resembles MMA, except for a special uniform that practitioners have to wear. Therefore, combat sambo helped Fedor transitioned smoothly to MMA with superior grappling skills and the striking ability to complement it as well. Fedor has always been a stoic figure that rarely express emotions before, during or after his fights. Throughout Fedor’s career, he never had an imposing physique like Kevin Randleman. More often than not, he showed up to the fight with a paunch belly and his overall size was relatively diminutive compared to his heavyweight opponents. One thing you will quickly learn as you watch his fights is that you should never judge a book by its cover. Irregardless of his body build, his talent and technique always stood out. Furthermore, he is consistently mentioned as the best heavyweight fighter ever and has the record to back it up. Excluding a no-contest result for an accidental headbutt during a fight, Fedor amassed an impressive 27 straight wins before losing by the hands of Fabricio Werdum.
4. Khabib Nurmagomedov
Notable Wins: Conor McGregor, Rafael Dos Anjos, Michael Johnson, Edson Barboza
Notable MMA Title(s): WEC Featherweight Champion, UFC Featherweight Champion
After last night’s crazy UFC 229 win over Conor McGregor, Khabib has to be on the list as one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. With his superior cardio and grappling, he has been able to amass a record of 27-0, which is unheard of in MMA. It is time to admit that Khabib is a different type of animal. The argument that he has never faced real competition can be put to rest. He has been able to maul everyone that they have put in front of him. People know exactly what he is going to do when he gets in there, but they are still unable to stop him. If he keeps up this run and gets a few more wins from worthy opponents in the division, he will be the GOAT, no doubt.
3. Jon Jones
Notable Wins: Shogun Rua, Quinton Jackson, Daniel Cormier (2), Alexander Gustafsson (2), Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort
Notable MMA Title(s): UFC Light Heavyweight Champion
In 2011, Jon Jones beat Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to become the UFC youngest champion at the age of 23. He was a phenomenal prospect that rapidly rise through the ranks and is still dominating his competition to this day. At the time of this writing, Jon’s record would be flawless if he did not throw an illegal elbow that disqualified him from his match with Matt Hamill, which was a match that he was clearly winning. Combining his unique physical attributes of having an 84 inch wingspan and the willingness to challenge himself by forcing the action where his opponent had the advantage shows mental toughness and a skill beyond his years. For example, he out-struck Shogun Rua, submitted Vitor Belfort and took Daniel Cormier down multiple times.
With his latest (and second) win over Alexander Gustafsson, he put himself back in the running for the title of GOAT. Now if he can keep himself out of controversy and string together a few consecutive wins against notable challengers, there is no reason not to consider him the greatest of all time.
Most pundit would agree that Jon Jones’ only weakness is his own self. If he can clean up his act outside the ring while staying motivated for each fight, his reign of terror in the Octagon will continue.
2. Anderson Silva
Nickname: The Spider
Notable Wins: Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen, Forrest Griffin, Vitor Belfort
Notable MMA Title(s): UFC Middleweight Champion
Even though Anderson Silva was a high level black belt in Jiu Jitsu, it was his striking skills that made him excel in the UFC Octagon. In his prime, Anderson’s standup skills were so far above anyone else in his division that he often played with his opponent. He incorporated Muay Thai fundamentals like clinches, knees and elbows during his fights and did it all while looking smooth and effortless. Furthermore, Anderson’s counter striking was top notch and made a lot of his opponents look like fools as they continuously whiff on their punches. The best example of this is Anderson’s fight with Forrest Griffin, the former UFC lightweight champion, where Forrest was so embarrassed by what occurred that he ran out of the octagon shortly after recovering from being knocked out. With all the talent he demonstrated in the ring, Anderson’s playfulness and the way he would mock his opponent and back himself up against the cage showed his boldness and lack of fear. Plus, no one could forget his matrix like ability to dodge strikes and return fire immediately.
The 43 year old has a rumored upcoming fight with young prospect Israel Adesanya. They are both coming off recent wins off of Derek Brunson and are both high level strikers. So it should be interesting how the fight will turn out, if it happens.
1. George St. Pierre
Notable Wins: BJ Penn, Matt Hughes, Carlos Condit, Jake Shields, Nick Diaz
Notable MMA Title(s): UFC Welterweight Champion
George St. Pierre is considered one of the nicest guy in MMA and yet at the same time one of the deadliest. His well-rounded skills lend itself to make him a master at shutting his opponent’s game down. Even though GSP was physically strong, he never had natural knockout power. However, what he did have was the keen ability to take his opponent down with a great sense of timing. This accomplishment was quite mind blowing due to the fact that he did not come to MMA with a wrestling pedigree like other Olympian or Division I wrestlers in the UFC. Yet, his takedowns and ability to control his opponent on the ground marks many fans’ memory of him. Another thing that made him great was his willingness to train with other high caliber fighters at well known fight gyms. Some of the famous gyms he trained at includes Jackson-Wink MMA, Tristar Gym and even at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Gym. As they say, “Iron sharpens iron.”
With his latest win against Michael Bisping at UFC 217, GSP further solidifies his name in the annals of mixed martial arts. While fans saw a noticeably slower and more tired GSP at UFC 217, the fact that he was able to move 15 pounds after a four-year absence to take the best away from a champ is absolutely amazing.
Click “next page” to see our honorable mention or go back to the first page.