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UFC champions in 2021: Who is the most dominant champion?

Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman are two of the UFC
Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman are two of the UFC's most dominant champions.
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 01 Mar 2021
Top 5 / Top 10
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2021 in the UFC is now underway, but UFC fans still have to wait a while for the year’s first title fight. That is scheduled for February’s UFC 258, as UFC Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman is set to defend against Gilbert Burns. The UFC’s current champions seem as strong as any crop in the promotion’s history, but who is the most dominant UFC champion right now?

It’s a tricky question. UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov would be the obvious choice, but The Eagle should be considered to be retired right now. So ignoring Khabib, who deserves this accolade?

Here is a look at some of the contenders.


#1 UFC Heavyweight champion: Stipe Miocic

Stipe Miocic has dominated the UFC
Stipe Miocic has dominated the UFC's Heavyweight division for five years.

Current UFC Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic is in his second reign with the gold right now, and it’s hard to dispute his dominance over the division.

Originally winning the title from Fabricio Werdum back in 2016, Miocic then defended it successfully against Alistair Overeem, Junior Dos Santos, and Francis Ngannou before falling to Daniel Cormier at UFC 226 in 2018.

However, Miocic regained his title at UFC 241, becoming the first man ever to stop Cormier in the process, and then hung onto the gold in their third meeting at UFC 252 last summer.

With a total of four successful UFC title defenses to his name, Miocic is already the UFC’s most decorated Heavyweight. And his wins over the likes of Cormier, Ngannou, and Overeem are still massively impressive.

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The only black mark on Miocic here? He simply hasn’t fought enough in recent years. With just four fights under his belt since 2018, he remains the UFC’s most dominant Heavyweight – but he isn’t their most dominant champion overall.


#2 UFC Middleweight champion: Israel Adesanya

Israel Adesanya has been flawless in his two UFC Middleweight title defenses.
Israel Adesanya has been flawless in his two UFC Middleweight title defenses.

It seems hard to believe that Israel Adesanya has only held the UFC Middleweight title since October 2019. Somehow, it feels like The Last Stylebender has been the titleholder in the division for much longer.

That might have to do with the fact that he’s been largely dominant over his first two challengers despite his short title reign. Perennial contender Yoel Romero was turned back at UFC 248, while the formerly unbeaten Paulo Costa was brushed aside at UFC 253 last September.

Adesanya comfortably fits the profile of a dominant UFC champion. He’s 20-0 in MMA, with nine of those victories coming in the UFC, and thus far, nobody’s really come close to defeating him.

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His KO victories over Costa and Robert Whittaker, in the fight that won him the title, were stunningly impressive.

The only thing preventing Adesanya from being considered the UFC’s most dominant champion right now is the fact that he’s scheduled to move up to 205lbs to challenge for the UFC Light Heavyweight title in March.

If he wins that title, too, he’ll go down as an all-time great. But he may well end up relinquishing the Middleweight title in the process, preventing him from more title defenses.


#3 UFC Welterweight champion: Kamaru Usman

Kamaru Usman is well on his way to a dominant UFC Welterweight title reign.
Kamaru Usman is well on his way to a dominant UFC Welterweight title reign.

2021’s first UFC title fight will see Kamaru Usman put his Welterweight crown on the line against top contender Gilbert Burns. If he can get past Durinho, then Usman will have three successful defenses under his belt.

The UFC’s Welterweight division has traditionally always had dominant champions, from Pat Miletich and Matt Hughes to Georges St. Pierre and Tyron Woodley. Usman looks set to follow in their footsteps, as his title defenses against Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal were tremendously impressive.

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The Nigerian Nightmare has been criticized at times for not being the most exciting champion. However, his blend of incredible pressure via his striking and wrestling has proven an irresistible combination thus far. Overall, Usman is 12-0 in the UFC.

Given the UFC Welterweight division’s massive talent depth, there should be plenty of potential contenders for Usman in the future, with names like Leon Edwards, Michael Chiesa, and Khamzat Chimaev instantly coming to mind.

However, The Nigerian Nightmare is equipped to turn back the challenge of any of them – making him a truly dominant champion.


#4 UFC Featherweight and Bantamweight champion: Amanda Nunes

Amanda Nunes rules over two of the UFC
Amanda Nunes rules over two of the UFC's divisions with an iron fist.

The only double champion on this list, Amanda Nunes, has held the UFC Bantamweight title since 2016 and the UFC Featherweight title since December 2018. And unlike the UFC’s past double champions, The Lioness has been comfortable with holding and defending both titles.

Most recently, she defended her Featherweight crown against Felicia Spencer, while 2019 saw her successfully defend both titles against Germaine de Randamie and Holly Holm respectively.

Overall, Nunes has made a massively impressive six UFC title defenses overall, with four coming at Bantamweight and two at Featherweight. And more importantly, none of her opponents have even come close to dethroning her.

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Of those six defenses, Nunes has finished three of them before the final buzzer and been the clear-cut winner in the others.

Scheduled to defend her Featherweight crown against Megan Anderson at UFC 259 in March, nobody really expects Nunes to lose. And that’s the only black mark against her, really. Her division – particularly Featherweight – are relatively thin on talent, meaning it’s hard to take Nunes’ opponents all that seriously.

However, that isn’t the Lioness's fault, who can only defeat the opponents in front of her. And in that sense, she’s been remarkably dominant.


#5 UFC Flyweight champion: Valentina Shevchenko

Nobody has come close to beating UFC Flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko.
Nobody has come close to beating UFC Flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko.

The UFC Women’s Flyweight division was introduced in 2017, and while Nicco Montano became the inaugural champion, the division has quickly become dominated by current champion Valentina Shevchenko.

The Bullet didn’t actually defeat Montano for the title. Instead, she claimed the belt following Montano’s stripping by defeating Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231 in December 2018. And since then, Shevchenko has proven to be unstoppable.

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Despite only holding the title for two years, The Bullet has already reeled off four straight title defenses, defeating Jessica Eye, Liz Carmouche, Katlyn Chookagian, and Jennifer Maia. And all four women were beaten in a one-sided fashion, with Eye and Chookagian falling by TKO.

Essentially, there doesn’t appear to be a Flyweight on the UFC’s roster who can even come close to challenging Shevchenko. And in essence, that’s the problem.

Is Shevchenko dominant because she’s a tremendous fighter with top-level skills in all areas? Absolutely. But is her dominance even more pronounced because she competes in arguably the UFC’s weakest division? Well, yes.

The UFC Women’s Flyweight is still very much a work in progress, and with that in mind, it might be some time until we find a challenger worthy of pushing The Bullet to the limit. She’s definitely dominant, but it’s hard not to consider that dominance with a caveat.


In conclusion...

Kamaru Usman is perhaps the UFC
Kamaru Usman is perhaps the UFC's most dominant champion right now.

It’d probably be fair to say that two of the UFC’s three female champions – Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko – have dominated their respective divisions more than any other UFC champion in recent memory.

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However, it’d also be fair to suggest that the duo have been so dominant because they compete in three of the UFC’s weakest divisions. There can be little doubt that Strawweight is the UFC’s most talent-loaded female division – and so it’s unsurprising that we’ve seen more title changes there than we have at Flyweight, Bantamweight, or Featherweight.

Stipe Miocic, meanwhile, can probably be counted out of this discussion. He’s definitely a tremendous champion, but his lighter schedule over the past three years – he’s fought one opponent, Cormier, since mid-2018 – means there are a number of question marks over him.

That leaves Kamaru Usman and Israel Adesanya, and the two African-born UFC champions are hard to split. Both men have been incredibly dominant in the UFC, both before and during their title reigns.

However, it seems like The Last Stylebender will attempt to follow in the footsteps of fighters like Conor McGregor and Daniel Cormier, rather than maintaining his dominance in his own weight class.

On the other hand, Usman appears to have one goal in mind – to usurp the great Georges St. Pierre’s spot as the greatest Welterweight champion of all time.

The Nigerian Nightmare has a long way to go before he does that, but if he can beat Gilbert Burns, then he’s well on his way. And when all is considered, right now, Usman should be seen as the UFC’s most dominant current champion.

Published 21 Jan 2021, 19:51 IST
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