The 10 Most Complete Fighters in MMA
In its beginnings, MMA was a sport that matched style against style. However, in today's version of MMA, fighters must be well-versed in all the styles that the sport is comprised of in order to be successful.
If a fighter neglects training in any area, they are likely to have that hole in their game exploited by most, if not all, of their opponents. This is why none of the current UFC champions can be accurately classified as one-dimensional fighters.
In fact, all the UFC's titleholders would be described by many as the most well-rounded athletes competing in MMA today. These are the most complete fighters in the sport.
10. Joseph Benavidez
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Prior to his move to the flyweight division, Joseph Benavidez was viewed primarily as a ground-and-pound specialist. However, with one punch, Benavidez woke critics up to how dangerous he can be on his feet.
An 11-second knockout of former Shooto champion Yasuhiro Urushitani moved Benavidez along to the first ever flyweight title fight in UFC history. With an outstanding ground game to go with his suddenly scary striking, Benavidez is a favorite to hold the 125-pound belt in the near future.
Benavidez has recorded eight submission wins in his career and now holds four wins via knockout. The Team Alpha Male member has never been finished in any of his fights, with his only losses coming in hard-fought bouts with bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
9. Carlos Condit
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With 26 stoppage victories comprised of an equal amount of knockouts and submissions, interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit is as diverse a finisher as they come in MMA. Whether standing or on the ground, opponents are never safe when inside the cage with Condit.
The Greg Jackson-trained fighter has been under fire from fans ever since he showed masterful game planning against Nick Diaz, but Condit critics need to realize that fight marked only the second time he had picked up a win via decision in 28 career victories.
Condit is equally hard to finish, having never been knocked out in his career. The jiu-jitsu brown belt has been submitted a few times before, but he hasn't been forced to tap in more than six years.
8. Dominick Cruz
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Dominick Cruz hasn't earned four straight bantamweight title defenses by falling back on his wrestling roots. Instead, Cruz has developed a unique yet effective striking game highlighted by awkward footwork and head movement that seems to confuse opponents.
Having out-landed his opponents in nine of his past 10 fights, Cruz has become one of the most complete fighters in the sport. Don't let his constantly improving striking fool you, though. Cruz remains an excellent wrestling, having scored 41 takedowns compared to his opponents' four in his past seven outings.
As well-rounded as Cruz has become, he has a serious threat awaiting him at the end of his recovery from a knee injury. That threat could be an even more complete fighter than Cruz is.
7. Renan Barao
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Renan Barao is currently the bantamweight division's interim champion, but he could be the undisputed 135-pound titleholder before long. In his past two fights, the 25-year-old Brazilian arguably looked more dominant against Urijah Faber and Scott Jorgensen than fellow bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz did against the same opposition.
Undefeated in four trips to the Octagon, Barao has not been taken down during his UFC career. The Nova Uniao fighter has also out-landed each of his UFC opponents by at least a margin of 17 significant strikes.
Even if an opponent is able to take Barao to the ground, the Brazilian is still dangerous fighting off of his back. The black belt has submitted 13 of the 29 opponents he has defeated.
6. Jose Aldo
Renan Barao may have reached the point where he is at today due in part to his training with featherweight champion Jose Aldo at Nova Uniao. Aldo is one of the most dynamic strikers in the game and has a jiu-jitsu black belt to match.
Aldo has only been taken down three times in his 11 fights under the Zuffa banner. The Brazilian's solid takedown defense has enabled him to wreak havoc on his opposition, whether it be with his shin digging into Urijah Faber's thigh or with both of his knees gashing Cub Swanson in a single leap.
There have been some moments in which Aldo has looked mortal when forced to fight off of his back for extended periods of time, but those instances have been so few and far between that it makes much more sense to attribute a showing like the one Aldo had against Mark Hominick to poor weight management and illness.
5. Frankie Edgar
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It's hard enough for a fighter to win a UFC title competing in their ideal weight division. Frankie Edgar became one of the best fighters of all-time in a division many believed he had no business fighting in.
Never finished in his MMA career, Edgar has an equal number of knockouts and submissions to his name. Edgar out-boxed B.J. Penn and out-wrestled Gray Maynard during his reign as lightweight champion.
Although Edgar was chased from the 155-pound division after a controversial loss to Benson Henderson, he remains one of the most well-rounded fighters in the sport, and he will get the chance to prove it in a featherweight title fight against Jose Aldo at UFC 153.
4. Benson Henderson
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A taekwondo black belt, jiu-jitsu brown belt and NAIA All-American in wrestling, Benson Henderson has all the tools an elite fighter needs in modern MMA. So, the former WEC champion's meteoric rise inside the Octagon should have come as no surprise to anyone who followed his pre-UFC career.
Henderson utilizes powerful leg kicks on his feet, employs relentlessness in his takedown attempts and has displayed little need for oxygen in defending 14 submission attempts throughout his first five UFC bouts.
With Edgar out of the lightweight title picture, Henderson could eventually become one of the more dominant champions the lightweight division has seen during a time when the weight class is otherwise insanely competitive.
3. Jon Jones
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When all is said and done, Jon Jones could be the most complete fighter to step foot into the Octagon. However, even as he prepares to defend the light heavyweight title, the 25-year-old Jones is still developing as a fighter, which is just awful for anyone with title aspirations in the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions.
Jones already has some of the best clinch work and ground striking the MMA world has ever seen. Submission wins over Quinton Jackson and Lyoto Machida showed that Jones could be developing black belt-level jiu-jitsu. Moreover, the stepping elbows Jones landed on Rashad Evans may have previewed the next evolution in the champion's skill set.
We have not seen Jones forced to fight off of his back for an extended period of time. His wrestling is so strong that we may never see him in that position. Until we do, though, it'd be unfair to assume he's more well-rounded than the two fighters ranked above him on this list.
2. Anderson Silva
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Anderson Silva's series of fights with Chael Sonnen developed a line of thought that the world's greatest fighter had this massive hole in his game with sub-par takedown defense. That is not the case, though. Sonnen's takedowns are just extremely effective.
In the past five years, Sonnen is the only fighter to score more than one takedown in a fight against Silva, and "The Spider" eventually found a way to beat Sonnen on the ground in the fight where that feat was accomplished. Silva also beat Travis Lutter off of his back in the only other UFC fight where he was grounded on more than one occasion.
Even at 37 years old, Silva is a fighter nobody wants to stand with and a fighter who opponents only hope to survive against on the ground.
1. Georges St-Pierre
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Until he shows otherwise, Georges St-Pierre is the most complete fighter currently competing in MMA.
The only time St-Pierre has ever been out-struck in the UFC was in his infamous loss to Matt Serra, which helped fuel St-Pierre to become the more well-rounded fighter that he is today—or at least hopes to still be after a significant knee injury.
Despite coming from no wrestling background, St-Pierre has averaged 1.28 takedowns per round over 18 UFC appearances. He even out-wrestled NCAA champion wrestler Josh Koscheck not once, but twice.
In the history of MMA, no fighter has been able to so easily dictate where his fights take place over such a long period of time as St-Pierre has. While he may not match Anderson Silva's streak of UFC title defenses, St-Pierre is the epitome of MMA success.
Statistics via Fightmetric.com.