Brazil has always been well-represented in the UFC. The South American nation has produced 19 world champions in the promotion so far and will likely deliver many more down the line.
Royce Gracie, the first-ever UFC champion, was a pioneer of the sport and Brazilian MMA in particular. The grappling phenom famously emerged victorious at the promotion's inaugural event back in 1993, paving the way for subsequent generations of his compatriots.
The likes of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mauricio Rua, Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort, Junior dos Santos, Fabricio Werdum, Glover Texeira, Rafael dos Anjos, Deiveson Figueiredo, Jessica Andrade and Charles Oliveira have all featured in championship bouts in the promotion.
However, only a handful of Brazilians have recorded two or more title defenses in the world's premier MMA promotion. On that note, here are the five most dominant Brazilian champions in UFC history.
#5. Cris Cyborg – former UFC women's featherweight champion
Cris Cyborg's time in the UFC may have ended unceremoniously. Regardless, before her exit from the promotion, she enjoyed a year-long reign atop the women's featherweight division. In fact, the company created a 145-pound weight class for women just to accommodate Cyborg in the first place.
Cyborg is a former Srikeforce and Invincta featherweight champion. Between 2009 and 2016, all but one of her professional fights were championship bouts and she had seemingly cleaned out the division in Invicta. Having already defended her title three times, the masses started clamoring for a move to the UFC.
However, the promotion didn't have a featherweight division at the time. Cyborg was scheduled to fight in the bantamweight division in her first two appearances in the famed octagon, but grueling weight cuts prompted the UFC brass to make them catchweight bouts.
After Cyborg emerged victorious in two 140-pound catchweight fights, the promotion created a featherweight division. With a vacant title on the line, the Brazilian took on Tonya Evinger in 2017, where she came out on top to further solidify her claim to being the best female fighter on the planet.
In her first title defense, she cruised to a unanimous decision win over Holly Holm. Three months later, she retained her title for the second time with a TKO victory against Yana Kunitskaya. With no new contenders on the horizon, Cyborg accepted a fight against then-bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes.
Nunes produced one of the biggest shocks in women's MMA history at UFC 232, coming away with a stunning 51-second KO victory to become a two-division titleholder. This was Cyborg's first loss in over 13 years.
#4. Renan Barao – former UFC bantamweight champion
Going into 2014, Renan Barao, the then-UFC bantamweight champion, was regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. At the time, he held a near-perfect professional record of 32-1 (1 NC), with the solitary blemish coming in his first-ever pro MMA fight.
Barao previously hadn't tasted defeat in almost a decade and was reigning over the 135-pound weight class with an iron fist. He captured the belt in 2012 with a win over Urijah Faber and went on to record three title defenses–against Eddie Wineland, Michael McDonald, and Faber again.
Barao looked set to rule over the bantamweight division for a long time, as there were seemingly no holes in his game. He had effective striking, lethal submission skills and impaccable takedown defense, making him a real force to be reckoned with at 135 pounds. Considering the lack of depth in the division at the time, it appeared as though he wouldn't be dethroned anytime soon.
Just under four months after his second victory over Urijah Faber, the MMA world witnessed a massive shock as TUF alum T.J. Dillashaw became the new banatmweight champion.
Dillashaw was a massive underdog going into the bout. Nevertheless, he dominated Barao throughout their fight and eventually came away with a fifth-round TKO victory, ending the Brazilian's nine-year unbeaten run.
#3. Amanda Nunes – former UFC women's bantamweight champion
Amanda Nunes is one of the greatest female fighters to ever grace the octagon. After going 2-1 in her first three fights in the UFC, Nunes was regarded as just another competitor in the women's bantamweight division, back when Ronda Rousey was the reigning champion.
Nunes made her way up the rankings with wins over Shayna Baszler, Sara McMann and Valentina Shevchenko to earn a title shot. In 2016, she won the title with a scorching first-round submission victory over Miesha Tate.
She then beat Rousey, cementing her status as the best female at 135 pounds in the world. With no new contenders for then-featherweight queen Cris Cyborg, Nunes made a successful move up a division to become the first-ever two-division female champion.
All the way until late 2021, Nunes held the No.1 spot in the women's pound-for-pound rankings. She defended her bantamweight title five times, in addition to defending her featherweight strap twice. It felt as though the self-proclaimed GOAT was running out of real challengers going into UFC 269, where she took on Julianna Pena, who was 2-2 in her last four fights.
Pena took the fight to Nunes unlike anyone had done previously, repeatedly catching the long-reigning titleholder with her jab. In the second round, the champion looked noticeably fatigued. Sensing her opportunity, Pena dragged the Brazilian down to the mat and locked in a rear-naked choke to complete one of the biggest upsets in combat sports history.
#2. Jose Aldo – former UFC featherweight champion
At the height of his powers, Jose Aldo was one of the most dominant UFC champions ever. Despite his losses to former featherweight king Max Holloway and reigning titleholder Alexander Volkanovski, Aldo still has a legitimate case for being the greatest 145-pounder in promotional history, considering his incredible five-year unbeaten run atop the division.
In actuality, Aldo's unbeaten run at 145 pounds was over a decade long. He was the reigning champion in the WEC before the UFC's absorption of the former's roster and was directly handed the featherweight belt in his new promotion.
In many ways, Jose Aldo was way ahead of his time. While the calf-kick is a prevalent weapon in MMA today, the technique hasn't been around for all that long. Aldo was well-known for his ability to cause devastatingly crippling damage to his opponent's legs en route to winning fights. His slick Muay Thai and sprawl-and-brawl approach made him one of the most well-rounded fighters at the time.
Unfortunately for Aldo, the nature of his eventual title loss will forever taint the greatness of his scintillating championship run. Conor McGregor shook up the MMA world in style at UFC 194, knocking out the long-reigning champion just 17 seconds into their bout and handing the Brazilian his first loss since 2005.
#1. Anderson Silva – former UFC middleweight champion
Between 2006 and 2013, there were no fighters like Anderson Silva. In his prime, Silva was renowned for his fight-ending ability. Upon joining the UFC, he went on a scorching 16-fight winning streak, comprising 14 finishes. His incredible run saw 'The Spider' cement his legacy as one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time.
Most of the bouts in the Brazilian's 15-fight win streak were middleweight championship matchups. He became the 185-pound champion in 2006 and went on to defend his title 10 times. Such was his dominance, he would regularly take up light heavyweight bouts when there was no clear-cut No.1 contender at middleweight.
With each title defense, Silva seemingly became even more untouchable. At times, it almost felt like he was bored in the octagon and would resort to showboating to make the fights somewhat competitive.
In 2013, the dominant Brazilian champion took on Chris Weidman. Weidman held a perfect 9-0 professional record and was coming off a statement-making TKO victory over Mark Munhoz. Few could have predicted the stunning nature of the American's impending knockout victory.
Silva unwisely utilized his trademark taunting tactics in the second round, mocking his opponent while showboating. Unfazed, Weidman closed the distance and finished 'The Spider' with a barrage of punches.