Who Would Compete in UFC 1 If It Happened Today?
In November 1993, the UFC began with an eight-man tournament designed to determine the most effective style of combat in the world. By winning three fights in one night, Royce Gracie introduced the power of jiu-jitsu to the world and laid the foundation for something bigger than he'd ever imagined.
Today, the UFC features fighters well versed in all disciplines of martial arts. Though many fighters still have certain aspects that they are stronger in—as is the case with most athletes in other sports—the competitors now understand the importance of being able to attack and defend from all positions.
Because some of the best athletes in the sport today were not extraordinarily great in one disciple before debuting in MMA, they may have been left out of the fold if the UFC began today. However, multiple current champions would still be called upon to represent their base discipline.
If UFC 1 were to take place this weekend, here are eight current fighters who would most likely represent the various aspects of MMA.
Karate: Lyoto Machida
Few have been able to effectively use karate in MMA, but Lyoto Machida revived the discipline by rising to the top of the light heavyweight division with his unique style.
For years, no fighter could find an answer for Machida's unorthodox striking. Not until his 17th fight and second defense as UFC champion was Machida defeated for the first time by Mauricio Rua.
Arguments could be made for many different fighters to represent the other disciplines that will appear on this list, but no other karate-based fighter can match what Machida has done in MMA.
Muay Thai: Anderson Silva
Quite possibly the most dangerous striker in the history of MMA, Anderson Silva dismantled a potential UFC Hall of Famer twice with knees in the clinch.
After forcing Rich Franklin to change divisions, Anderson Silva continued his destruction of every fighter the UFC threw at him, becoming recognized by many as the greatest fighter in MMA history.
Submitted twice before joining the UFC and never known for having great takedown defense, Silva's muay thai style carried him to most of his many victories inside the Octagon.
Judo: Ronda Rousey
A bronze medalist in judo at the 2008 Olympics, Ronda Rousey is probably the most accomplished judoka competing in MMA.
Though she hasn't earned nearly as impressive hardware in MMA yet, Rousey won her first four fights via armbar and will look to do the same in her first title fight against Miesha Tate.
Not only has Rousey helped grow women's MMA through her self-promotion, but she has also become a great example for how well success in judo can translate to success in MMA.
Remember, there were no rules at UFC 1, so would it really have been that much more shocking to see a woman competing against men?
Kickboxing: Alistair Overeem
As a former K-1 Grand Prix champion, Alistair Overeem is one of the most lethal strikers in MMA today.
Until a single one of his body kicks left Brock Lesnar unable to defend himself, Overeem still had plenty of doubters. However, Overeem is now the top contender to Junior dos Santos' heavyweight title.
There isn't a fighter out there who would better represent kickboxing in MMA than Overeem.
Boxing: Junior dos Santos
Junior dos Santos' boxing was so effective in the early stages of his UFC career that opponents never even had the chance to test his unexplored ground game.
After knocking out most of the first seven fighters placed in front of him under the UFC banner, Dos Santos was awarded a title shot against Cain Velasquez, who the Brazilian also knocked out in the first round.
His success in MMA has even led Dos Santos to consider representing Brazil as a boxer in the Olympics.
Freestyle Wrestling: Chael Sonnen
Although most of his success as an amateur wrestler came in the Greco-Roman style, Chael Sonnen has developed one of the most explosive double-leg takedowns in MMA.
Michael Bisping became one of the few fighters to give Sonnen trouble in taking the fight to the ground, but the self-proclaimed champion was even able to take the Englishman to the canvas on multiple occasions at UFC on FOX 2.
Georges St-Pierre may be recognized by many for having the best wrestling in MMA, but the Canadian never competed in wrestling prior to becoming a mixed martial artist.
Sonnen may have never won a national title in folkstyle wrestling or competed in freestyle wrestling in the Olympics, but his ability to take any opponent he faces to the ground with his double-leg makes him the best representative of freestyle wrestling in the sport.
Greco-Roman Wrestling: Jon Jones
Though Jon Jones never competed on a world stage in amateur wrestling, he has shown that he would have been capable of doing so by dismantling some of the best light heavyweights in MMA history.
Not long after winning an NJCAA wrestling championship in 2006, Jones dropped out of college to pursue a career in MMA.
Though fighters like Dan Henderson may have accomplished more in the Greco-Roman wrestling world, Jones has used the discipline better than any other in the realm of MMA.
Using his outstanding clinch game to take opponents to the ground, Jones evolved into one of the brightest prospects in MMA history. Now, Jones is well on his way to fulfilling expectations and becoming one of the most successful champions in the sport.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: Rousimar Palhares
A silver medalist at the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships, Rousimar Palhares is one of the most dangerous submission specialists inside and out of the Octagon.
Even against well-versed grapplers who know his most dangerous weapon is his leg locks, Palhares is still able to attack the legs of his opponents and force submissions.
There may be better pure jiu-jitsu practitioners out there, such as Andre Galvao and Roger Gracie, but Palhares has arguably done the best job of transforming his grappling game to be effective in MMA.