UFC 151: Jon Jones, Dan Henderson and the Defining Moments of MMA's 12 Best

Jonathan Snowden@JESnowdenCombat Sports Senior WriterAugust 23, 2012

UFC 151: Jon Jones, Dan Henderson and the Defining Moments of MMA's 12 Best

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    There are moments in every great athlete's career that stand out; snapshots that define who they are and what they were all about. More than any particular game or fight, these mental pictures are the first images that appear in our brains when we hear a great man's name.

    Some are little more than legend. Think about Babe Ruth famously calling his shot. It may be a Paul Bunyon-esque tale, but it's an indelible image nonetheless.

    Others we can see clearly thanks to the glory of television. Picture Michael Jordan, continuing his rise as Cavaliers defender Craig Ehlo begins his descent, calmly hitting a game-winning shot.

    Sometimes a moment crystallizes who a player is or what he represents. Like Pete Rose, brutally running down Indians catcher Ray Fosse in an All-Star game, risking injury for a meaningless score.

    Every great MMA fighter has a moment we'll never forget. For the top 12 of all time, ranked earlier this year, these are those memories.

12. Dan Henderson

1 of 12

    Wins: 29

    Winning Percentage: .78

    Winning Percentage Against Quality Opponents: .703

    Quality Wins: 19

    Finishing Percentage: .52

    Wins in Title Fights/Tournaments: 3 


    Defining Moment: Over more than a decade, Henderson has created a lot of memories. Heck, you could argue that his entire fight with Mauricio Rua was a defining moment, the two creating a classic that will stand the test of time.

    When I think of Dan Henderson, however, I can only picture one image: poor, doomed Michael Bisping circling the wrong way, walking right into Hendo's power hand.

11. Masakatsu Funaki

2 of 12

    Wins: 39

    Winning Percentage: .75

    Winning Percentage Against Quality Opponents: .521

    Quality Wins: 12

    Finishing Percentage: .97

    Wins in Title Fights/Tournaments: 2


    Defining Moment: In December of 1996, Funaki was crowned King of Pancrase for the first time, a reign with the life span of a fruit fly. He lost the championship almost immediately to his young protege, Yuki Kondo.

    It was often said Funaki could have easily beaten Kondo, in fact that he tapped him at will in practice, but wanted to give the rising star a chance as the promotion's top star. But by the end of the year, attendance was down and Funaki wanted another shot at the top spot. 

    In a rematch, Funaki showed his true mettle, submitting Kondo easily to resume his place as arguably the best fighter in Pancrase history.

10. Dan Severn

3 of 12

    Wins: 100

    Winning Percentage: .85

    Winning Percentage Against Quality Opponents: .545

    Quality Wins: 6

    Finishing Percentage: .77

    Wins in Title Fights/Tournaments: 3


    Defining Moment: Severn has had more than 100 fights. One hundred fights, yet he'll never top his very first. Severn picked poor Anthony Macias up and hit him with two German suplexes. The throws were right out of pro wrestling but, unbelievably, as real as it gets. 

    Announcer Jim Brown wasn't especially impressed, but everyone else was. Severn didn't just win a fight; he announced to the world that wrestling was a force to be reckoned with in MMA

9. Chuck Liddell

4 of 12

    Wins: 21

    Winning Percentage: .72

    Winning Percentage Against Quality Opponents: .652

    Quality Wins: 15

    Finishing Percentage: .67

    Wins in Title Fights/Tournaments: 5


    Defining Moment: By the time Liddell finally got Tito Ortiz in the cage, the former friends had become bitter rivals. So, landing shot after shot, dropping Ortiz to the mat and pounding his face into ground chuck must have felt pretty sweet.

8. Jon Jones

5 of 12

    Wins: 16

    Winning Percentage: .94

    Winning Percentage Against Quality Opponents: .888

    Quality Wins: 8

    Finishing Percentage: .81

    Wins in Title Fights/Tournaments: 4


    Defining Moment: Where to start? My favorite thing about Jones, a nice guy outside of the cage, is how absolutely brutal he is inside of the Octagon. He kicks right at the knee cap, drops crazy hard elbows and, once he chokes you out, simply drops your motionless body on the mat.

    His walk-off guillotine against Lyoto Machida was probably the most gangster moment in MMA history. 

7. Bas Rutten

6 of 12

    Wins: 28

    Winning Percentage: .88

    Winning Percentage Against Quality Opponents: .666

    Quality Wins: 8

    Finishing Percentage: .89

    Wins in Title Fights/Tournaments: 4


    Defining Moment: In many ways, Masakatsu Funaki made Bas Rutten's career. He signed him to fight for his Pancrase promotion, and when Rutten struggled, made sure he learned submissions so he could compete with the grappling masters in Japan.

    That's what made Rutten's destruction of Funaki so poignant—and may explain the Japanese star's cryptic smile after he had taken his lumps.

6. Wanderlei Silva

7 of 12

    Wins: 34

    Winning Percentage: .76

    Winning Percentage Against Quality Opponents: .625

    Quality Wins: 15

    Finishing Percentage: .70

    Wins in Title Fights/Tournaments: 6


    Defining Moment:  Kazushi Sakuraba had just written his name into the MMA history books with victories over four members of the legendary Gracie family.

    One guess if Silva gave a damn.

    He took it to Sakuraba like no one ever had, knocking him flat in just over a minute-and-a-half. Suddenly the Brazilian was in the running; not just for the top spot in his weight class in Pride, but for the honor of being the best fighter in the sport.

5. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

8 of 12

    Wins: 33

    Winning Percentage: .83

    Winning Percentage Against Quality Opponents: .708

    Quality Wins: 17

    Finishing Percentage: .70

    Wins in Title Fights/Tournaments: 4


    Defining Moment: Tim Sylvia hit Nogueira with everything but the kitchen sink at UFC 81. And if they allowed sinks in the cage, he would have hit him with that too. Even limited to fists and feet, Sylvia was close to crushing the spirits of Pride fans everywhere. Nogueira was one of the Japanese promotion's best fighters, and a win by the "Maine-iac" would have been a huge statement.

    Things seemed dire for the Brazilian star, who remarkably managed a third-round sweep and eventually secured a guillotine for the win.

4. Georges St-Pierre

9 of 12

    Wins: 22

    Winning Percentage: .92

    Winning Percentage Against Quality Opponents: .875

    Quality Wins: 14

    Finishing Percentage: .59

    Wins in Title Fights/Tournaments: 9


    Defining Moment: St-Pierre had fallen short the first time he fought the legendary Matt Hughes. He got a little intimidated by the moment and the opponent. But after his UFC 56 win over Sean Sherk, the young Canadian felt ready, famously dropping to his knees and begging for a title shot:

    I'm going to go on my knees like that and ask the UFC management to give me a world title shot...Please. I want the belt so bad. Give it to me.

3. Matt Hughes

10 of 12

    Wins: 45

    Winning Percentage: .83

    Winning Percentage Against Quality Opponents: .695

    Quality Wins: 16

    Finishing Percentage: .78

    Wins in Title Fights/Tournaments: 9


    Defining Moment: Hughes looked all but finished against archenemy Frank Trigg. He had been hit in the family jewels and knocked silly. Trigg seemed seconds away from taking the UFC welterweight championship. 

    When he woke up, Hughes wasn't confused, shaken or scared. He was mad. I pick up the tale first told at MMA Nation:

    An angry Hughes was a dangerous Hughes. He escaped a rear-naked choke attempt, picked Trigg up on his shoulders and ran across the cage to slam his opponent on the ground. Literally ran. From the brink of defeat to amazing action in the blink of an eye—only Matt Hughes could conceive of it, let alone pull it off. Huge elbows bloodied Trigg and a rear-naked choke finished the fight.

    Dana White called it the best fight in UFC history. Who are we to disagree?

2. Fedor Emelianenko

11 of 12

    Wins: 33

    Winning Percentage: .89

    Winning Percentage Against Quality Opponents: .764

    Quality Wins: 13

    Finishing Percentage: .76

    Wins in Title Fights/Tournaments: 7


    Defining Moment: Some fighters are known for their ability to take punishment. But there is only one Fedor Emelianenko.

    Somehow the Russian great survived being launched right on his head, courtesy of former NCAA champion Kevin Randleman. Not only did Fedor survive, he never changed expressions. Emelianenko came back less than a minute later to submit Randleman in the first round.

1. Anderson Silva

12 of 12

    Wins: 31

    Winning Percentage: .89

    Winning Percentage Against Quality Opponents: .888

    Quality Wins: 16

    Finishing Percentage: .77

    Wins in Title Fights/Tournaments: 12


    Defining Moment: Silva has so many great moments, from the incredible come-from-behind win over Chael Sonnen at UFC 117 to his amazing front kick to the face of Vitor Belfort. My favorite Silva moment, however, came in the Sonnen rematch at UFC 148. A triumphant Silva, after a heated pre-fight confrontation with his challenger, invited him to a barbecue after the fight.