Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Strictly looking at Wanderlei Silva's light heavyweight fights is what gets him the nod as the 205-lb GOAT.
Unsurprisingly, this is one of the hardest divisions to sort through, and there are many fighters who are worth bringing up.
Ultimately, few would disagree that this list boils down to choosing between Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Jon Jones, Frank Shamrock and Randy Couture.
Randy Couture gets cut based on the fact that most of his accomplishments came as a heavyweight. Frank Shamrock also finds himself on the outside looking in. While he was the original UFC light heavyweight champion, the bulk of his light heavyweight career was concentrated into a two-year stretch that many other fighters have matched.
The toughest cut is Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. While Jackson is almost the only fighter to have true UFC success after leaving Pride, beating Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson, his title reign was relatively brief. In addition, he has struggled against other fighters on this list (except for Liddell).
So now, how to rank the others?
Tito Ortiz has the longest title reign and most defenses of the belt. Additionally, he was by far the UFC's biggest draw from 2000 to 2004 and was one of the UFC's top light heavyweights until 2006. That said, there is no ignoring or defending the horrible stretch between back-to-back wins against Ken Shamrock and retirement, when he went 1-7-1. This period badly tarnished an otherwise stellar career.
“Shogun” Rua comes in at the fourth spot. Rua was the clear-cut No. 2 middleweight in Pride, going 12-1 in the promotion. His lone loss came via a fluke, when he broke his arm defending a takedown from Mark Coleman. In the UFC, he took the belt from Lyoto Machida. He can reasonably be slotted higher, and at age 30, he still has time to step over at least a couple of fighters ahead of him.
Chuck Liddell earns third place on the list. He is probably the UFC's best light heavyweight champ to date, given his multiple wins over both Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz. However, much like Ortiz, the tail end of his career was very, very bad.
Jon Jones gets penciled in at No. 2. Jones is by far the most athletically gifted fighter in light heavyweight history. If he keeps winning, he will become the greatest light heavyweight of all time. A strong case can be made that he already is the greatest light heavyweight ever, but given his youth and short career so far, it feels premature to give him the top spot.
That spot belongs to Wanderlei Silva. Silva's dominance in Pride from 1999 to 2005 was as amazing a stretch in MMA as anything we have ever seen. You might already be scrolling down to post inflammatory comments, but Silva gets this spot on a technicality. While he is 3-7 over his last 10 fights, he has only fought at light heavyweight four times during that stretch. This ultimately leaves him with a nearly flawless resume at 205 lbs, which is enough to slot him in as the top light heavyweight of all time.
1- Wanderlei Silva
2- Jon Jones
3- Chuck Liddell
4- Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
5- Tito Ortiz