B/R MMA 125: Ranking the 125 Best Fighters in Mixed Martial Arts

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B/R MMA 125: Ranking the 125 Best Fighters in Mixed Martial Arts
USA TODAY Sports

From its earliest days, determining the best MMA fighter in the world has never been a particularly easy task. Even as Royce Gracie dominated the initial UFC tournaments in 1993 and 1994, challengers to his throne emerged overseas, his own brother Rickson at the front of the pack.

As the years have gone by and the sport has become more diverse—in size, technique and geography—winnowing a pool of hundreds down to one has become more and more difficult. How do you compare lightning-quick submission ace Rumina Sato with Ukrainian slugger Igor Vovchanchyn? Would Frank Shamrock's cardio and smarts outlast the creative flair of Japan's Kazushi Sakuraba?

Separated by continents, weight classes and promotional affiliation, there was no definitive method of determining who stood alone atop the heap. Unlike team sports, time-tested metrics to discern an athlete's worth were virtually nonexistent. Even today, most MMA stats are quantitative.

Fight Metric and others tally the number of strikes landed, submissions attempted or takedowns denied. But they do little to tell us which strikes really mattered or distinguish between failing to take down an Olympic medalist or failing to take down an overweight journeyman. 

While statistics have their place—and we've used them in a supplemental role to establish baseline standards of quality—ultimately, rating fighters is a subjective process. Right now, numbers alone can't tell the tale. Our team, including Hunter Homistek, Steven Rondina and Bleacher Report MMA editor Brian Oswald, watched thousands of hours of fights to determine where each of the world's top fighters stood in four key categories: wrestling, grappling, striking and fight IQ/intangibles. You can read more about the process here.

After breaking down each weight class, from the minuscule flyweights to the gargantuan heavyweights, we've now turned our attention to the grander picture. Many sites have a pound-for-pound top 10; ours now extends beyond 100 fighters.

Presented for your consideration, here is the MMA 125—the 125 very best male fighters in mixed martial arts. 

Disagree with any of our placements? Concerned by our calculations or the complete dearth of MMA math? Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments. 

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