10 greatest and best MMA fighters of all time
When one talks about combat sports—discusses Mixed Martial Arts, boxing, Muay Thai or any other major sporting contest in the hurt business for that matter, the vast majority of fans and pundits have varied opinions as to who takes the cake as the GOAT of the sport.
Did someone say GOAT? Yep!
Although several great Shifus of old have panned the very concept of the Greatest Fighter Of All Time (GOAT) as a myth — an illusion— that hasn’t seemed to discourage admirers of the art of combat from according the position of The Greatest to a man/woman who they feel is…well, the greatest, very best fighter of all time.
Our sport of MMA has been witness to several such debates and discussions over the years, with the GOAT tag being attached to everyone right from the once invincible Fedor Emelianenko to the current critic-poster boy Jon Jones.
Now mind you, I’m a firm believer in the ancient teachings handed down to us by the world’s most respected martial arts gurus — the concept of GOAT is a myth, a lie, a façade. Why then do we choose to brand someone as the best fighter of all time? Well, because that’s what fans do! So, here goes:
#10 Randy Couture
Randy Couture is one of the smallest Heavyweight MMA combatants in the sport's young history. Did that deter him from bagging championship gold in the division of giants? Nope!
'The Natural' competed with the best of the best well into his forties and was more often than not the one standing tall at the end of the bout. Regardless of his inconsistent winning streaks, he has a strong case for being one of the best ever.
His wrestling was second to none, and the fact that he was able to attain unimaginable heights of success relatively late in his athletic career makes his accomplishments even more admirable. His army boxing background and Greco-Roman wrestling skills bag him the 10th spot on our MMA GOAT list.
#9 Dan Henderson
Dan Henderson fought the who’s who of MMA throughout his long and illustrious career that ended with him putting a hellacious beat-down on familiar foe Michael Bisping in their rematch.
Although he didn’t win the UFC Middleweight Championship on the judges’ scorecards, he proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that he can do more than just hang with the best well into his mid-40s.
Hendo’s deadly fists, his right hand in particular, and Olympic calibre wrestling saw him become the only man to simultaneously hold two belts in a major MMA promotion (Pride FC) well before Conor McGregor did the unthinkable in the UFC.
#8 Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Joanna Jedrzejczyk was the former Women’s Strawweight Champion and a highly decorated former Muay Thai champion.
Her strikes may not carry the sheer concussive power of someone like Cris Cyborg or Germaine De Randamie, but Joanna Champion causes the metaphorical death by a thousand cuts. She wears down her opponents with an insane barrage of punches, kicks, knees and elbows.
When it comes to the lighter classes in Women’s MMA, no one does it quite better than Joanna. Besides, with her vastly-improved grappling skills, the woman is the personification of a nightmare foe for every single fighter at 115 in the sport today.
She would look to regain he lost title when she faces Rose Namajuna in a much-anticipated rematch at UFC 223.
#7 Matt Hughes
Matt Hughes will go down as one of the greatest 170-pounders in MMA history, and rightfully so. He boasted an otherworldly wrestling acumen, with surprisingly snappy striking to boot.
Although most MMA pundits accord the Welterweight GOAT status to Hughes' arch rival and successor Georges St-Pierre, one simply cannot write the history of Mixed Martial Arts without a mention of the rugged country lad.
Matt Hughes ruled the UFC's 170-pound division for a long, long time and was widely regarded as the Best Welterweight in all of MMA at the time. Hughes' granite chin and chain-wrestling skills net him the 7th spot on our list.
#6 Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey is controversial, she's been branded fake, a fraud — nothing more than a media hype-job. However, the fact remains--she handily ran through some of the best female fighters on the planet and changed Women's combat sports forever.
Although Rousey never quite managed to mentally recover from the endless tirades of harsh criticism levied at her after the defeat to Holly Holm, her detractors cannot discredit her lengthy win-streak and string of highly technical submission finishes over world-class competition.
Her grappling is something that budding fighters should learn from, and while her striking remains rather basic, she more than made up for it with her heart and tenacity. Regardless of whether she returns to the Octagon, her legacy as one of the very best is already secure.
#5 Daniel Cormier
Daniel Cormier is often judged by his 2015 loss to arch-rival Jon Jones and for dropping the rematch at UFC 214 to the very same foe.
Nevertheless, DC has lately been the recipient of considerable empathy with regards to the UFC Light-Heavyweight title scenario, given the fact that Jones failed a steroid test after his KO win over Cormier.
Regardless of what happens from this point going forward, Cormier’s legacy as one of the best ever is already secure. DC’s wrestling and sneakily proficient boxing make him a nightmare matchup for any and every fighter in the history of combat sports. That brings me to…
#4 Jon Jones and Anderson Silva
Jon Jones and Anderson Silva, irrespective of their steroid use, are two of the best MMA tacticians to ever lace up the 4oz gloves.
Jones is one of the most unorthodox strikers MMA has ever seen, right from spinning elbows, to flying knees; superman punches to oblique kicks—the man does everything. Add to that his excellent wrestling game and deceptive BJJ skills, and you have a lean, mean killing machine.
On the other hand, Anderson Silva’s precision, timing and distance, particularly on the feet, are…dare I say, unmatched. Especially during his prime, Silva knocked out people from awkward angles and defied the laws of gravity with his insane bobbing and weaving — the likes of which you won't get to see outside the realm of the cream of the crop in professional boxing. The Spider truly is one of the GOATs!
#3 Demetrius Johnson
Demetrius Johnson is one of the most well-rounded fighters of all time. ‘Might Mouse’ is near-perfect in every aspect of combat.
He has beaten every single opponent put in front of him, and apart from early setbacks against bigger foes in his career; he rallied to become one of the greatest fighters of all time. His wrestling is second to none, and his BJJ game is top notch as well, what with his last second submission finish of Kyoji Horiguchi out of nowhere.
Additionally, his striking is unique in the sense that he can catch you from awkward angles and still generate enough torque and leverage to both deliver decent power, whilst simultaneously maintaining balance. DJ truly is the perfect prototype for an MMA combatant.
#2 Georges St-Pierre
Georges St-Pierre returned to his former stomping grounds at Middleweight and even though he had to bow out due to injury after scripting a triumphant return, GSP is a legend.
GSP ruled the UFC’s 170-pound division for years and has avenged both of his losses in spectacular fashion, making him virtually undefeated. The man was initially a feared karateka who could knock the living daylights out of people with his excellent crisp combinations.
However, an upset KO loss to Matt Serra caused ‘Rush’ to drastically change his fighting style from a high-risk striker to a tactical wrestle-boxer. St-Pierre turned into one of MMA’s best wrestlers in the latter half of his career and left the sport on his own terms.
Regardless, of what happens in his career—now that he’s decided to come back—the man will go down as one of the all-time greats in MMA, not only owing to his excellent striking but also his top-heavy wrestling game.
#1 Fedor Emelianenko
Fedor Emelianenko is often criticized by the vast majority of MMA fans and critics for allegedly padding his record and ‘running’ from world class opposition in the UFC. Nonsense, I say!
Fedor fought the very best in the world in MMA’s most notorious weight-class, ergo the Heavyweight division. ‘The Last Emperor’ ruled the division of giants with an iron fist for a decade, and only seemed to fall off track towards the fag end of his career.
His Sambo-centric wrestling, lethal KO power and excellent Jiu-Jitsu helped him slay the biggest names in MMA back in the day, including Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic, Antonio Nogueira, Andrei Arlovski, and Mark Hunt to name a few.
His timing was otherworldly and sense of calm downright frightening. To rule a division of giant destroyers, being a 5’11” relatively small fighter, is no small feat, mind you. And Fedor did just that.
Long live the Last Emperor!
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