Throughout the 19-year history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, only 47 men have ever been talented enough to call themselves a UFC champion. Who is the greatest? Who is the worst? There are many schools of thought when it comes to both answers.
Over the last week, I have analyzed the title reigns of every single champion who has ever worn a UFC championship belt. After crunching the numbers and then closely debating which intangibles would go on to break close ties, we find ourselves with a power ranking of each man to hold the strap.
Along the way, see if you can find the answers to some interesting UFC trivia. Who is the only fighter to win gold twice, but never successfully defend his belt? Who has the most reigns in the history of the UFC?
Without any further ado, here is the power ranking of every UFC champion in history.
OK. I lied. There is further ado.
This isn't some list of my favorites that were slapped together and put in an order of my choosing. Determining the order of this list has a very strict criteria.
Factors that went into the rankings include, but are not limited to:
- Number of successful title defenses
- Quality of opposition during title defenses
- Number of title reigns
- The manner in which your belt was won
- The manner in which your belt was lost
- Percentage of title defenses won via stoppage
I need to state this point, because if I don't, I guarantee that comments would be flooded with things like "but this guy's record is so much better."
Any achievements, milestones or wins that come before, after or between your UFC title reigns do not count. Only fights that occur while you are champion (including the fight where you win the title) have any bearing on this list.
Stripped of title
Josh Barnett holds the distinction of winning his world championship in a bout where he tested positive for three different anabolic steroids. By current MMA practices, the win would have been overturned, gone into the record books as a No Contest and Randy Couture would have kept his belt.
By this standard, Barnett is the worst of the worst considering that he doesn't deserve the right to call himself a champion in the first place.
Lost title to Randy Couture
Vitor Belfort might be Jonathan Snowden's least favorite fighter. Part of the reason for that lies in the dubious nature of his title win against Randy Couture. The fight lasted only 48 seconds and concluded when a grazing blow from Belfort's glove sliced open the eyelid of Couture, leaving the champion unable to see.
Belfort was dominated in the rematch, and his title reign was over almost as quickly as it began.
Why would a legend like Bas Rutten be ranked so low on this list? Probably because he is about as deserving of his belt as Barnett and Belfort.
The benefactor of a bad decision, Rutten won his UFC heavyweight championship in a controversial and hotly-contested split decision against Kevin Randleman.
Before defending his strap, Rutten decided that he belonged in the light heavyweight division and relinquished the title. He would retire from mixed martial arts due to training injuries before making his debut at the new weight class.
Reigns: 1 (interim)
Lost unification fight to Georges St-Pierre
Of the four fighters on this list who won an interim title, but never converted it into an undisputed title reign, Carlos Condit ranks the lowest. Unlike the other two, he did not defeat a former UFC champion to strap the interim belt around his waist.
Also, despite his third-round head kick that nearly shocked the world, he did not come as close to winning his fight than the next man on our countdown.
Reigns: 1 (interim)
Lost unification fight to Brock Lesnar
Many people forget that Shane Carwin once held the interim heavyweight championship. After all, his knockout win over Frank Mir to earn the strap was so close to his unification bout with Brock Lesnar that the creation of an interim title hardly seems necessary in hindsight.
Anyone who saw the first few minutes of Carwin's attempt to dethrone Lesnar would have assumed that the heavy onslaught was only going to end with a TKO victory for "The Engineer."
Josh Rosenthal determined that Lesnar wasn't finished yet, and Carwin exhausted himself by throwing punches. Lesnar would score the ultimate comeback by submitting his opponent in the next round.
Reigns: 1 (interim)
Lost to Frank Mir
Utilizing his signature "absorb a lot of damage but come from behind to submit you" style, Antonio Nogueira kicked off his UFC career by strapping the interim heavyweight championship around his waist.
Big Nog simply doesn't know when to back out of a fight. After battling a serious staph infection, Nogueira refused to pull out of his title defense against Frank Mir at UFC 92. It would be a grave mistake, as Mir outboxed the former PRIDE superstar before handing him the first TKO loss of his career.
Reigns: 1 (interim)
I'd love to rank Renan Barao higher on this list, but not only is he unproven with a belt around his waist, but he also didn't beat the reigning champion.
Barao is the reigning interim champion in the bantamweight division, and it is reported that he will defend the belt against rising superstar Michael McDonald in the near future.
Lost to Murilo Bustamante
Dave Menne is probably the least memorable champion in UFC history. His championship win occurred on what's considered the promotion's worst fight card, and he never defended the belt.
It's not relative to his ranking, but it's notable that Menne has the worst UFC record of any champion, going 2-4 in the promotion.
Lost to Mark Coleman
Welcome to the first appearance of a UFC Hall of Famer in our countdown. Severn is actually not the lowest ranking fighter from the honorary group. Royce Gracie does not find himself on this list at all, as his only title bout ended in a draw.
Severn won the now-defunct UFC Superfight championship from Ken Shamrock at UFC 9. Unfortunately, the bout was atrocious and is widely considered to be the worst title bout in UFC history due to having more than 20 minutes of inactivity.
The Beast attempted to unify it with the UFC Heavyweight championship in his next appearance with the organization. In a surprise to many, Severn tapped out to a neck crank less than three minutes into his fight with Mark Coleman.
Lost to Tim Sylvia
While Ricco Rodriguez was a member of the heavyweight division's unfortunate Dark Age, he defeated one of the greatest champions of all-time in Randy Couture to capture his belt.
The man known as "Suave" came up short in his first title defense when he was knocked out by then-undefeated Tim Sylvia at UFC 41. The KO occurred only three minutes into the first round, which has a major impact on his list placement.
Lost to Junior dos Santos
While it hurts to rank such an incredible talent like Cain Velasquez so low in our list, the fact remains that his championship reign lasted exactly 64 seconds into his first defense.
Anyone can get caught with a punch, and that could very well be the case. Velasquez has the chance to greatly improve his ranking at UFC 155 when he rematches Junior dos Santos in hopes of reclaiming his belt.
Lost to Lyoto Machida
In terms of his championship reign, Rashad Evan's talent was not on display for much of it.
"Suga" won the belt via third-round TKO against Forrest Griffin after losing the first two rounds. When given the opportunity to defend his belt, he was completely outclassed by Lyoto Machida, succumbing to a knockout in the second round.
Evans looked for a second title reign in April, but ultimately fell short to champion Jon Jones.
Lost to Rich Franklin
The late, great Evan Tanner definitely went long before his time, but the former middleweight champion made his mark on the sport nonetheless.
Tanner did not defeat a champion to win his belt. He and David Terrell met to crown a new champion after Murilo Bustamante was stripped of his championship when he left the UFC for PRIDE.
It took less than one round for Tanner to win the belt, and it took Rich Franklin until late in the fourth round to finally stop the Texan and pry the belt from his fingers.
By taking out Ian McCall and Joseph Benavidez in his tournament bouts, Johnson faced the toughest road possible to win the inaugural flyweight championship.
We won't be able to judge his title reign until he has the first title defense, but for the time being, it's his division to rule. Top contender John Dodson will look to unseat Johnson at UFC on FOX 6 in January.
Lost to Rashad Evans
Forrest Griffin won his light heavyweight championship by getting the best of Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in a fight where he was a big underdog. The margin of victory wasn't much, but it was enough that the judges gave The Ultimate Fighter its first homegrown champion.
Griffin would not defend the belt successfully, however, as Rashad Evans turned the tides against him in Round 3 of their UFC 92 main event.
Lost to Jon Jones
Were it not for a poor decision at UFC 104, the two bouts against Lyoto Machida should have been the championship win and first title defense for Mauricio Shogun Rua. Unfortunately, the judges didn't see it that way.
The fact that Rua was able to, on two occasions, come out looking better than the seemingly unbeatable Machida boosts him above most other champions who never defended their belt.
With a full training camp, making it to the midpoint of a bout with Jon Jones is difficult to do. For Shogun Rua to do it on six weeks notice is indicative of the type of heart and determination it takes to be a world champion.
Lost to Maurice Smith
When the UFC decided to unify the Superfight and heavyweight championships, it was Mark Coleman who came out with the glory. By defeating Dan Severn in less than three minutes, "The Godfather of ground and pound" proved to the world that he was the best heavyweight fighter on the planet.
Unfortunately, Coleman would exhaust himself by trying to destroy challenger Maurice Smith. With Coleman too tired to push forward, his opponent picked him apart with leg kicks and punches to pick up a unanimous decision.
Lost to Georges St-Pierre
A true champion doesn't care about the betting odds or his chances of success. He simply steps into the cage, follows his gameplan and hopes that things go as planned. Matt Serra illustrated these tenants when he bested Georges St-Pierre at UFC 69 to become UFC welterweight champion.
Serra's original title defense was supposed to be against Matt Hughes, but a herniated disc sent him to the sidelines. Upon his return, he met St-Pierre, who was then an interim champion, and lost late in the second round.
Regardless of whether or not you feel Serra is a flash in the pan, the fact remains that he knocked out the greatest welterweight of all-time, and did so in less than five minutes. To this day, he remains the only fighter to KO St-Pierre.
Lost to Matt Hughes
No champion in history has come as close to defending their belt but come up short, as Carlos Newton. After locking in a triangle choke on future Hall of Famer Matt Hughes, Newton had the bout in the bag.
Unfortunately for Newton and his legacy, Hughes would lift him into the arm and rest the champion against the cage in hopes of defending the choke. When he realized that he was going to sleep, he slammed Newton to the canvas, knocking him out in the process.
Hughes admitted later that he went unconscious from the choke.
Reigns: 2 (1 interim)
Vacated title due to injury; Lost unification fight with Brock Lesnar
The first time that Frank Mir became a world champion was when he broke the arm of undefeated champion Tim Sylvia in less than one minute. Unfortunately, he would not enter the cage again with his undisputed title, as a motorcycle accident put the jiu-jitsu legend on the sidelines and forced him to relinquish his belt.
His second tenure as champion didn't go much better. After winning the interim heavyweight title from Antonio Nogueira, Mir attempted to unify his belt with the one held by Brock Lesnar, but was beaten into a bloody and swollen mess at UFC 100.
Mir attempted to begin a third championship reign earlier this year, but came up short against Junior dos Santos, who knocked him out in the second round.
Stripped of title
Sean Sherk may not have been able to capture the UFC welterweight championship, but after the UFC reinstated their lightweight division, he was able to defeat Kenny Florian to stamp his page in the history books.
In his first defense, Sherk was able to use elite wrestling to defeat Hermes Franca.
Of all champions who successfully defended his belt, Sean Sherk belongs at the bottom of the heap. "The Muscle Shark" was stripped of his championship after the title defense when he tested positive for anabolic steroids. I'm not sure why this fight hasn't been changed to a No Contest.
Lost to Randy Couture
In the early days of the UFC, the strikers never fared too well against grapplers. For that reason, kickboxer Maurice Smith was not expected to defeat "the Godfather of ground and pound," Mark Coleman.
Smith shocked many by employing a strategy that saw Coleman gas out and then get picked apart with leg kicks and punches to lose the belt. This strategy is pointed to as one of the earliest MMA examples of outsmarting an opponent.
Following it up with a title defense over fellow striker Tank Abbott, Smith was a quality champion when he met Randy Couture in hopes of retaining his belt a second time. Unfortunately, it was not in the cards, as he lost a decision to "The Natural" at UFC Japan.
Always finding himself in fights that are both close and exciting, Benson Henderson battled fiercely for 25 minutes against well-seasoned champion Frankie Edgar to win his UFC lightweight championship.
Although the decision was justified, Edgar wouldn't settle for anything less than another go with "Smooth," and after another five rounds, the result was the same.
I'd love to rank Henderson higher on this list, but despite how close his title rematch with Frankie Edgar was, ultimately, it was a decision that the majority of spectators felt was incorrect. "Bendo" does have a successful defense on his record, but the level of success he actually earned is debatable.
Benson looks for his second title defense on December 8 when he meets Nate Diaz at UFC on FOX 5.
Who knows how incredible the legacy of Murilo Bustamante might have been had he not left the UFC for PRIDE in 2003? After all, the only loss of his career came at light heavyweight as a decision against Chuck Liddell.
As a middleweight, he won the belt from Dave Menne in his first fight and followed it up by submitting undefeated star Matt Lindland in his first title defense.
That was the end of his UFC tenure, which could have been much more successful when you consider how badly they were hurting for top middleweight talent.
The fact that he never lost his belt helps his rating, as does the fact that he finished both opponents during his championship run.
Lost to Shogun Rua
When Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida met Rashad Evans at UFC 98, it was a battle of undefeated light heavyweights. Each fighter had left a trail of bodies along the way, so when they met for the belt, few could have anticipated how one-sided of a matchup it would be.
Machida dominated Evans, eventually knocking him out in the second round. The win was so monumental for the division that many officially welcomed us to "The Machida Era."
In his first title defense, Machida had a closely contested bout with Shogun Rua. It was a fight that several believed he lost, but the judges dissented.
Because the decision was deemed as highly controversial, a rematch was booked for the two. This time, it wouldn't go to the scorecards. The Dragon was knocked out by Rua, and The Machida Era was over.
Lost to Randy Couture
Kevin Randleman is another fighter who, like Shogun Rua, should have an additional title defense on his record. After being handed the raw end of a controversial split decision, Randleman's first crack at the title saw the belt go to Bas Rutten.
He wouldn't let opportunity slip through his fingers the second time around, as he outworked top contender Pete Williams to strap the heavyweight championship around his waist.
After a successful defense against the always dangerous Pedro Rizzo, Randleman looked to best Randy Couture. Although "The Monster" had his moments in the contest, he was stopped via strikes in the third round.
The rise of Junior dos Santos has been meteoric in nature, and just as impactful. In the main event of the inaugural UFC on FOX event, JDS challenged undefeated monster Cain Velasquez. It took him only 64 seconds to slay the mighty beast and add a dazzling gold belt to his collection of awards.
At UFC 146, he was scheduled to face Alistair Overeem in his first title defense, but was forced to settle for Frank Mir instead after Overeem failed a pre-fight drug test. Mir also fell victim to the mighty punching power of JDS, but was able to make it into the second round.
Personally, I don't think that Junior dos Santos belongs above the star on the next slide. This is due to the fact that Mir was not a deserving title challenger, and therefore, I cannot view his title defense as being as important. That might be a bit controversial based on the next fighter's fall from grace, as well as Cigano's status as an incumbent.
Lost to Forrest Griffin
Quinton Jackson is one of few PRIDE superstars who found considerable success under the UFC banner. In his title opportunity, he viciously knocked out dominant champion Chuck Liddell in less than two minutes. The win skyrocketed the star of Rampage, and his first title defense did even more for his career.
In his first title defense, Rampage defeated dual-divisional champion Dan Henderson, who moved over from PRIDE with both belts still wrapped around his waist.
The third championship bout for Jackson was an epic war with Ultimate Fighter winner Forrest Griffin. After five rounds of tight-knit action, Griffin was awarded a razor-thin decision, which forever ended the title run of the future A-Team star.
Lost to Dan Severn
Ken Shamrock is the inaugural UFC Superfight champion, although the belt didn't last for long. He originally went to a Draw with Royce Gracie in a fight that was intended to crown the first champion. However, he later won a bout with Dan Severn to claim the belt.
While Shamrock technically has two defenses of his Superfight championship, one of those came by way of Draw against Oleg Taktarov after 33 minutes of fighting that did not a finish. The other defense came with a kneebar submission over Kimo Leopoldo.
The belt changed hands when Shamrock and Severn met once against at UFC 9. Featuring nearly 20 minutes of no action whatsoever, the bout goes down in history as one of the worst that the sport has ever seen. Shamrock lost the contest via split decision.
Lost to Anderson Silva
The legacy of Rich Franklin is that he is the best middleweight not named Anderson Silva to compete in the UFC. However, I'm not really sure that's true.
After nearly four full rounds of action, Franklin was able to stop defending champion Evan Tanner in order to wrap middleweight gold around his waist.
Franklin does have the bragging rights of being a champion who successfully defended his belt on two occasions; however, wins over Nate Quarry and David Loiseau don't exactly scream Hall of Fame material.
The championship tenure of "Ace" ended quite abruptly when he was violently dethroned by Anderson Silva with an array of clinch knees.
Lost to Tim Sylvia
One of the most popular heavyweights in UFC history, Andrei Arlovski surprised many when he submitted Tim Sylvia to claim the interim heavyweight championship. After all, when given a step up in competition against the likes of Pedro Rizzo and Ricco Rodriguez, the fighter from Belarus was unable to come out on top.
The belt was promoted to the undisputed heavyweight championship when Frank Mir didn't appear capable of returning to the Octagon and was stripped of his title.
Arlovski scored first-round knockouts over the likes of Justin Eilers and Paul Buentello to defend his belt, but came up short in a rematch against Tim Sylvia.
Nearly claiming the belt a second time, Arlovski was unable to overcome Sylvia in the rubber match and has not fought for UFC gold since.
Inaugural UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver is one of the greatest fighters to compete in the division, but is also the product of an era where being well-rounded wasn't necessary in order to win world championships.
Not only was Pulver undefeated in the UFC before his title opportunity, but he won the vacant title against highly-regarded Caol Uno back in 2001 before defending it against the top two contenders in the world: BJ Penn and Dennis Hallman.
As did several of the UFC's early champions, Pulver left the organization without ever losing the belt, leaving us to wonder what could have been.
Although Dominick Cruz has four title defenses to his credit, this list only views the accomplishments of UFC bouts, so WEC fights against Joseph Benavidez and Scott Jorgensen do not factor into his ranking.
Coming into the UFC as the inaugural bantamweight champion, Cruz has since won decisions against former featherweight champion Urijah Faber and future flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson to secure his place at the top of the division.
After tearing his ACL, Cruz has been out of action and is not expected to compete in until late 2013. Upon his return, he will meet whoever holds the interim bantamweight championship, currently possessed by Renan Barao.
Lost to Benson Henderson
Speaking of impressive lightweight champions...
When Frankie Edgar dethroned BJ Penn for the UFC lightweight championship, he became only the second man in that weight class to beat the Hawaiian.
Edgar would successfully defend against Penn in the rematch and come out with the belt after two bouts with Gray Maynard, although the first encounter was a draw.
The New Jersey native put on a great showing against former WEC champion Benson Henderson, but lost his belt after five rounds of exciting action. He lost a controversial decision in the rematch, which saw his exit from the division.
Forfeitted title; lost to Randy Couture
Undefeated heavyweight Tim Sylvia was once the most intimidating man in the UFC. After quickly knocking out reigning champion Ricco Rodriguez, he then knocked out challenger Dan McGee in less than two minutes.
In the post-fight drug test, Sylvia's lab work came back positive for the anabolic steroid Stanozolol. Showing true class, Sylvia volunteered to surrender his belt and did not claim innocence.
It would take three more attempts before Sylvia put a belt back around his waist. Losing fights to Frank Mir and Andrei Arlovski, there was a gap lasting nearly three years between Sylvia's reigns.
The Maine native avenged his previous loss to Arlovski at UFC 59 to regain his belt. He would go on to win a rubber match against "The Pitbull" and then another title defense against Jeff Monson. This feat made Sylvia the first heavyweight to successfully defend the belt three times.
Randy Couture defeated Sylvia via decision to win the belt in the 2007 Fight of the Year.
Lost to Cain Velasquez
The incredible rise of Brock Lesnar is only matched by his rapid decline. In his fourth professional fight, he was able to get the better of Hall of Famer competitor Randy Couture, earning a TKO victory to claim the UFC heavyweight championship.
In his next two fights, Lesnar defeated interim title holders Frank Mir and Shane Carwin. This feat is commonly overlooked, even though the DeathClutch fighter the only man in UFC history to earn consecutive wins over three reigning world champions.
Before the fight with Shane Carwin, Lesnar was diagnosed with diverticulitis, an intestinal condition that forced the champion to tremendously alter his lifestyle, training regimen and diet.
Whether or not that played a factor in his downfall is a commonly debated topic; however, the fact remains that Lesnar lost his title in a one-sided beatdown at the hands of Cain Velasquez at UFC 121.
Lost to Carlos Newton
Four title defenses or not, Pat Miletich doesn't quite make it into the top 10 of our countdown.
Title defenses include some rather unimpressive names such as:
- Jorge Patino - lost last two fights before title shot
- Andre Pederneiras - professional record of 1-0 before title shot
- John Alessio - received title fight in UFC debut
- Kenichi Yamamoto - fighter who won only five of his 18 career bouts
When finally given a stiff test, Miletich lost his belt via submission in a fight with Carlos Newton. As if losing wasn't enough, the fact that Miletich submitted to a bulldog choke makes this loss even more embarrassing.
Just like Dominick Cruz, Jose Aldo is a fighter who has additional title defenses prior to his time in the UFC, although this list only considers UFC contests as eligible for consideration.
Since joining the UFC's roster as the inaugural featherweight champion, Aldo has put together a flawless 3-0 record. Each of those defenses came against a worthy and dangerous opponent.
The first of which came against Mark Hominick at UFC 129, where the champion would survive a late rally from the Canadian for a unanimous decision win.
Next on Aldo's plate was former two-time lightweight contender Kenny Florian. Jose showed great discipline and the ability to alter a gameplan as needed, winning himself another decision.
Most recently, Aldo knocked out undefeated contender Chad Mendes earlier this year for his third successful defense.
At UFC 156, Aldo looks for defense No. 4 when he meets former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar.
Frank Shamrock is an MMA pioneer who does not get the respect that he is due. Because he is underrepresented in the eyes of the UFC, the media tends to portray Shamrock as if he is some sort of superhero who ruled MMA with an iron fist.
Somewhere in the middle lies the true value of Frank Shamrock. He was a quality champion who defended his belt on four occasions, although three of those challengers were men who didn't deserve the opportunity they had received.
Why didn't three of those contenders deserve title shots?
- Igor Zinoviev had not won either of his last two fights
- Jeremy Horn had only won two of his last six fights
- John Lober lost five of his last six fights
The most impressive thing, in my opinion, about Frank Shamrock's title reign is the fact that he was able to not only beat, but finish the man who would rule the light heavyweight division for the next three years: Tito Ortiz.
Shamrock vacated his belt when he left the UFC in 1999.
Vacated title; Lost to Frankie Edgar
Not only did BJ Penn win two world championships, but he did so in different weight classes. As one of only two men to reach this milestone, he is a surefire member of the UFC Hall of Fame.
Penn failed twice to capture the UFC lightweight championship, so when he moved up to welterweight and challenged Matt Hughes, few thought that he would be successful.
After submitting Hughes with a rear-naked choke, Penn shockingly left the UFC and gave up the title that he worked so hard to achieve.
In 2007, Sean Sherk was stripped of the lightweight championship due to a failed drug test. To crown a new champion, Penn and Ultimate Fighter winner Joe Stevenson were tapped to fight for the vacant title.
With another one-sided beating in the record books, Penn had his second title, and he would go on to defend it three times, against Sherk, Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez.
Ultimately, "The Prodigy" lost the belt after a close fight with Frankie Edgar in Abu Dhabi at UFC 112.
Lost to Randy Couture
Unable to dethrone champion Frank Shamrock, Tito Ortiz did not win UFC gold until Shamrock relinquished his belt. Ortiz would win a five-round decision over Wanderlei Silva at UFC 25 to win the vacant title.
Even though Tito Ortiz has more successful defenses of the light heavyweight championship than any other fighter, he does not take the top honors in his weight class.
Ortiz would benefit from favorable booking and lackluster opponents during his title reign. Through five defenses, "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" took on the likes of:
- Yuki Kondo - a natural middleweight fighting at 205
- Evan Tanner - a natural middleweight fighting at 205
- Elvis Sinosic - only God knows how he got a title shot
- Vladimir Matyshenko - stepped in for an injured Vitor Belfort on a few days notice
- Ken Shamrock - aged veteran past his prime
When a real test was put in front of Ortiz in the form of Chuck Liddell, he balked at the idea. Refusing to fight based on a supposed agreement between the two former training partners, Ortiz avoided the matchup, but lost his belt in a fight against Randy Couture.
Lost to Rampage Jackson
Chuck Liddell had the hardest time getting the UFC light heavyweight championship around his waist. After champion Tito Ortiz ducked a potential matchup, Liddell had to wait for an interim title to be created.
As was the fate of many title hopefuls, Liddell came up short against Randy Couture in the interim belt. Later down the line, he earned a rematch and knocked out "The Natural" to capture gold.
Not only did Liddell defend his belt four times, but he did so against two of the men who had previously defeated him (Randy Couture and Jeremy Horn). The other two victories under his reign came against top challengers Bablu Sobral and Ortiz.
Liddell nearly avenged every loss from his career in what was intended to be his fifth title defense against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. When Jackson knocked Liddell out, his career never recovered, but his incredible title reign still lives in our memories as one of the greatest solo runs in MMA history.
Stripped, Lost to Josh Barnett, Lost to Vitor Belfort. Lost To Chuck Liddell, Lost to Brock Lesnar
Randy Couture truly is a freak of nature to be a five-time champion across two weight classes. His title wins came against incredible talent:
- Won a decision against Maurice Smith
- Won via TKO against Kevin Randleman
- Won a decision against Tito Ortiz
- Won via TKO against Vitor Belfort
- Won via decision against Tim Sylvia
If you are a five-time champion, that means that you also lost your belt five times, right? Let's look at the title losses of Randy Couture and see why they aren't as relevant as his wins.
- Stripped of his belt after leaving the UFC due to a contract dispute
- Defeated by a man who tested positive for anabolic steroids
- Eyelid sliced open by a grazing punch and couldn't continue
- Defeated by Chuck Liddell
- Defeated by Brock Lesnar
The argument against Couture's greatness is his inability to defend the belt. With five reigns, it's disappointing that he only defended the belt successfully during two of them.
During his second reign as heavyweight champion, he twice defeated Pedro Rizzo (although once was quite controversial). In his final reign as heavyweight champion, he had a successful defense against Gabriel Gonzaga.
Love him or hate him, but Jon Jones has made quick work of the best light heavyweights on the planet.
After an injury to Rashad Evans, Jones was asked to step in on six weeks notice to fight champion Shogun Rua at UFC 128. With stellar striking on his side, Jones hurt Rua early and won the belt in a one-sided contest.
Since that time, "Bones" has thoroughly dominated former champions Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort to prove himself as the greatest light heavyweight in UFC history.
Jones is the only champion to successfully defend his belt against four former champions from his division. The fact that he has done it in such impressive fashion allows him to rank so high in our countdown.
The champion will look to extend his reign when he faces former middleweight Chael Sonnen after coaching an upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Lost to BJ Penn; Lost to Georges St-Pierre
Once seen as the greatest welterweight in UFC history, Matt Hughes enjoyed two dominant title reigns with the organization.
After knocking out Carlos Newton with a nasty powerbomb, Hughes would successfully defend his belt in a rematch. Other defenses during his first reign include wins over Hayoto Sakurai, Gil Castillo, Sean Sherk and Frank Trigg.
After losing his belt to BJ Penn, "The Prodigy" left the organization. Hughes would defeat Georges St-Pierre to win the vacant title and begin his second reign. During that title run, he picked up successful defenses by avenging the loss to Penn and winning a second bout with Trigg.
The total number of defenses should be nine; however, fights against Joe Riggs and Royce Gracie were contested as catchweight encounters, so the belt was not on the line.
His last reign ended when Hughes granted a rematch to Georges St-Pierre at UFC 65.
Hughes has only lost in title fights against two men, and both of those fighters find themselves in the top 10 of this countdown. Not too shabby for the Illinois farmboy.
Although Georges St-Pierre proved himself superior to Matt Hughes by winning two of their three matchups, he officially passed his nemesis at UFC 154 when he tied the divisional record for title defenses.
GSP won his championship by knocking out Hughes in their second meeting at UFC 65. It wasn't a long reign, though, as he was stunned by underdog Matt Serra in his first defense.
The Canadian not only avenged that loss by taking the belt back from Serra, but he has since gone on to have the most impressive run in welterweight history.
Now sporting nine consecutive wins in title bouts, with seven title defenses, the man known as "Rush" has earned this prestigious in our countdown.
Was there any question?
I'm pretty sure that you guys don't need a biography of Anderson Silva, so how about some fun facts about the champion?
Fun Fact No.. 1: Of all 46 fighters who have been a UFC champion, Anderson Silva has more successful title defenses than the first 30 title reigns that kicked off this countdown.
Fun Fact No. 2: No other fighter with a single reign has successfully defended his belt more than five times. Silva has doubled that number.
Just for fun, let's run down the list of victims who Silva has defended his belt against: Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, Nate Marquardt, Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort, Yushin Okami, Patrick Cote, Thales Leites and Demian Maia.