UFC 153: The 15 Best Brazilian Fighters in MMA History
The influence that Brazil has had on mixed martial arts is absolutely undeniable. Jiu-jitsu is an art form developed in the country and has become a staple in the arsenal of every fighter alive.
In addition, the country has produced world champions in several weight classes, and many of the UFC's reigning champions are from the Land of the Holy Cross. Coincidence? I think not.
At UFC 153, the UFC returns to Brazil for the fourth time in less than 18 months. Every fight on the card will feature at least one Brazilian star, and it got us at B/R MMA thinking about the top Brazilian fighters in history.
Here is a list of the top 15 best Brazilian fighters in MMA history.
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Vai Cavalo is Portuguese for "Go Horse." It also happens to be the nickname of Brazilian heavyweight Fabricio Werdum. Werdum's career was given the green light after his spectacular submission win over Fedor Emelianenko in Strikeforce.
The monumental upset transformed Werdum from a notable into an MMA all-star overnight. Winning five of his past six bouts and seven of his past nine, Werdum has climbed to the No. 4 spot in the heavyweight rankings.
In the incredibly tough heavyweight division, Werdum has been able to defeat the likes of Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Gabriel Gonzaga, Roy Nelson and Bigfoot Silva.
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What does it mean when Anderson Silva says that you are better than him? Former WEC middleweight champion Paulo Filho was the recipient of that honor back in 2008.
Paulo Filho is ... absolute in this division, there’s nobody to beat him. In my opinion, he’s the best middleweight. I would never fight with Paulo. We almost train together, we’re always helping each other and (Josuel) Distak is our coach. There’s no chance to happen. People can complain, scream, whatever, but it won’t happen.
Filho opened his career with an incredible 16-0 record. With wins over the likes of Chael Sonnen, Murilo Rua and Ryo Chonan, there was some legitimate thought that Filo might be the best on the planet.
Unfortunately, Filho battled with substance abuse and negatively impacted his career until retirement in 2011.
In a surprise to many, Filho returned to MMA in early September and defeated Murilo Rua once again in only 47 seconds, although the stoppage is deemed to be somewhat premature.
Antonio Minotoro Nogueira
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The twin brother of former UFC and PRIDE champion Antonio Minotauro Nogueira, Lil Nog hasn't been able to strap gold around his waist, but his success has been monumental.
With wins over Kazushi Sakuraba, Alistair Overeem and Dan Henderson, there is little question that Lil Nog is one of the best fighters that the world has ever known.
If the injury bug decides to leave Nogueira alone, he might be back in early 2013. He has not fought since December of 2011 due to a knee injury.
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DJ Khaled might have had Renan Barao in mind when he wrote the party anthem "All I Do Is Win." Undefeated in his last 30 professional bouts, Barao hasn't lost a fight since a decision in his debut contest.
A well-rounded game has allowed this Nova Uniao fighter to climb the bantamweight mountain, which culminated in a victory against Urijah Faber to win the interim UFC bantamweight championship.
Barao might sit on the sidelines to wait on champion Dominick Cruz to return, although the 25-year-old could be the first interim champion to defend his belt since Big Nog in 2008.
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Speaking of reigning champions from Nova Uniao, it's time to talk about UFC featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo.
Well-versed in jiu-jitsu, it surprises many to see how impressive Aldo handles himself on the feet. Perhaps no performance was more impressive than "Junior's" eight-second knockout of Cub Swanson via flying double knee.
Sporting a record of 21-1, Aldo is one of only two Brazilians to put together at least three consecutive title defenses. Let's see if you can figure out who the other one is. Hint: He will appear on the last slide of this countdown.
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One of the few men in the world to attain the highest of jiu-jitsu honors, Rickson Gracie is an eighth-degree red and black belt and also holds a professional MMA record of 11 wins without ever tasting defeat.
Despite his half-brother Royce gaining worldwide fame for success in the early days of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Rickson was considered by many to be the true champion of the family.
Rickson never competed in the UFC and is currently enjoying his retirement from competition. It is a shame that his legacy will never grow into what it could have if he had ever competed on American soil or during the MMA explosion of the last seven years.
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While Jonathan Snowden may disagree with me, I feel like Vitor Belfort proved that he is one of the best in the sport on September 22. For any man to lock in a submission against Jon Jones was unthought of prior to the armbar that Belfort slapped onto "Bones."
Belfort is a pioneer of the sport, winning his UFC debut and the UFC 17 tournament before his 20th birthday. He would go on to win the UFC light heavyweight championship from Randy Couture and pick up highlight victories against Rich Franklin and Wanderlei Silva.
The Phenom may not have lived up to the hype that he once received, but he undoubtedly earned his placement in our countdown.
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Although heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko called PRIDE his home, it is not a Russian who holds most of the records from that organization. Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva holds the records for:
- Most Wins
- Most Consecutive Wins
- Most Knockouts
- Most Successful Total Title Defenses
- Most Successful Consecutive Title Defenses
- Longest Undefeated Streak
In addition, the longtime middleweight champion won the 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix and has victories over Kazushi Sakuraba, Rampage Jackson, Dan Henderson and Ricardo Arona to his credit.
His time in the UFC hasn't been so kind, but Silva is one of the most successful and popular fighters that MMA has ever seen.
Cristiane 'Cyborg' Santos
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Go ahead and get out your groans now. Everyone now knows that the muscle-bound women's champion with an inhuman physique was competing under the influence of anabolic steroids. Based on her physical appearance, few were surprised by her failed post-fight urinalysis.
That being said, Cyborg is one of the greatest female fighters to ever step into the cage. While steroids will boost your physical strength, they don't help you avoid strikes, nor do they make you a technically-sound striker with the ability to shrug off takedown attempts.
Cyborg is a vicious monster who has defeated the best women's featherweights that the world can offer. It is not fair to assume that her entire career was under the influence of steroids, but because we can never know for sure, that is what many will perceive to be true.
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Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida is one of few karate practitioners to find true success in the modern era of MMA. Kicking off his career with 16 consecutive wins, the Dragon has stepped into the cage with some of the biggest stars that the sport has ever seen.
Machida was such an unstoppable force that his title reign was immediately dubbed the Machida Era due to his seemingly invulnerable nature. After dominant victories over Rashad Evans, Tito Ortiz and Thiago Silva, it was hard to picture anyone getting passed The Dragon.
The Dragon knocked out Randy Couture and Ryan Bader in spectacular fashion in two of his past three bouts. Originally thought to be in line for a title shot, Machida is currently rumored to be in preparation for a fight with Dan Henderson.
Antonio Minotauro Nogueira
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The more successful of the Nogueira brothers, Minotauro "Big Nog" Nogueira has the distinction of being the only man to win championship gold in both the UFC and PRIDE heavyweight divisions.
Nogueira is known for his inhuman ability to absorb punishment and continue pressing forward like a zombie. His epic battles with Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia and Bob Sapp illustrate his ability to come out on top of a fight in which he has been rocked in a major way.
With career wins against the aforementioned trio, as well as Fabricio Werdum, Mirko Cro Cop and Heath Herring, it's clear to see why Big Nog is one of the most popular fighters to come out of Brazil.
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Shogun was long considered to be the uncrowned middleweight champion of PRIDE. His skills were perceived as superior to the rest of his division, although his biggest test was reigning champion Wanderlei Silva.
The bout would never take place, as Rua and Silva have a fraternal bond that could not be broken. Rua would never strap on the PRIDE championship, but he did win the 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix and later knock out Lyoto Machida to win the UFC light-heavyweight championship.
With victories over Alistair Overeem, Chuck Liddell, Rampage Jackson, Forrest Griffin, Kevin Randleman, Lil Nog and several others, there is little question as to why the 21-6 fighter from Curitiba has a place in this list.
Junior Dos Santos
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The reigning UFC heavyweight champion has tasted defeat only once in his 16-fight career, and to his credit, he already has victories over the likes of Cain Velasquez, Frank Mir, Shane Carwin, Fabricio Werdum, Roy Nelson and Mirko Cro Cop.
In the world of mixed martial arts, developing and utilizing well-rounded skills appears to be the only way for any fighter to strap gold around his waist. While Junior dos Santos is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he has never needed to display his ground skills, as his boxing has been more than enough for any opponent to defend.
In the UFC heavyweight division, there is a diverse landscape of strikers, wrestlers and jiu-jitsu practitioners. For JDS to sit above them all is a true testament to his greatness.
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The original Brazilian to make waves in mixed martial arts is none other than UFC Hall of Famer and the winner of UFC 1, 2 and 4, Royce Gracie.
With his family's namesake form of self-defense on his side, Gracie would put together an unbelievable record of 11-0-1 before leaving the UFC in 1995, and by winning each of his 11 bouts via submission, the Gracie jiu-jitsu system was undoubtedly the future of the sport.
Gracie will go down in the history books as a legend, although he does not deserve the distinction of being called the best Brazilian fighter in history. That title belongs to...
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As the greatest fighter in the history of MMA, by default, he also happens to be the best fighter to come out of Brazil.
With 15 wins in the UFC, Silva has competed in two weight classes and finished many of the best fighters on the planet while shattering countless records along the way.
The list of Silva victims is long and full of all stars, such as Rich Franklin (twice), Chael Sonnen (twice), Dan Henderson, Forrest Griffin, Nate Marquardt, Yushin Okami, Demian Maia, Chris Leben and more.
Silva looks to extend his winning streak on October 13 when he makes a third trip to light heavyweight. This time around, he looks to become the first man to knock out Ultimate Fighter star Stephan Bonnar.