Top 50 Fighters in MMA History: Is Fedor Emelianenko the Greatest Ever?
Though the origins of Mixed Martial Arts can be traced as far back as the Ancient Greeks, MMA as we know it began in 1993 with the first Ultimate Fighting Championship—a competition designed to pit various Martial Arts styles against one another to see which Art was most effective in combat.
From the humble and violent, style vs. style beginnings of UFC 1, the sport of Mixed Martial Arts has evolved into a fully fledged sport where competitors must train and become proficient in all aspects of the fight game.
While MMA as a sport is still in its infancy, there has been no shortage of great fighters who have competed within its confines.
Without any further ado, I present you with the 50 Greatest Fighters in MMA's young history.
50. Andrei Arlovski
While Arlovski has had a rough go of it as of late—currently riding a three-fight losing streak—there was a time when the former UFC Heavyweight Champion was one of the most feared and respected competitors in the sport.
49. Yuki Kondo
Yuki Kondo may not be a name that many casual MMA fans are familiar with but that doesn't make Kondo any less of fighter.
Kondo began his career in Pancrase in 1996 and he continues to compete to this day—winning the Pancrase Middleweight Championship in April of this year.
Aside from Pancrase, Kondo has competed in the UFC, Pride and Sengoku organizations.
48. Jeremy Horn
A veteran of over 100 mixed martial arts fights, Jeremy Horn has done everything in the sport accept win a major title and that will always hurt how his career is viewed.
47. Masakatsu Funaki
Co-founder of and former two-time King of Pancrase, Masakatsu Funaki was not only a tremendously gifted fighter but he helped to lay the ground work for Japanese MMA.
It's said that Funaki was so good that he would "carry" some of his opponents to create drama for the fans before ultimately defeating them.
46. Eddie Alvarez
Even though current Bellator Lightweight Champion, Eddie Alvarez, is only 26 years old he can already ready be considered one of the best.
If Alvarez can stay on his current path and continue to evolve and add new weapons there's no telling just how great he can become.
45. Jon Fitch
The best welterweight in the world not named Georges St. Pierre, Jon Fitch is as tough and talented a fighter as they come. His style may not be flashy but his combination of wrestling and a suffocating top game is effective none the less.
Should GSP ever decide to vacate his title and test his mettle in the middleweight division there is little doubt that it will be Jon Fitch who shall take control of the welterweight thrown.
44. Gilbert Melendez
Gilbert Melendez might just be the most underappreciated lightweight in MMA, but after his complete domination of Shinya Aoki at Strikeforce, Nashville should have erased any doubt surrounding his talent.
Melendez is the current Strikeforce Lightweight Champion and while Stirkeforce has done a good job of gathering talent to fill their roster the lightweight division remains thin. In order for Melendez to move up the rankings and solidify his legacy he will need to seek out a greater level of competition.
43. Hector Lombard
Former Olympian and current Cage Fighting Championship and Bellator Middleweight Champion, Hector Lomard, is a beast. While his resume is still lacking a truly marquee win, his talent and ability is undeniable.
It will only be a matter of time before Lombard is given the opportunity to compete against the elite, and when that time comes there will be no doubt about his place amongst the best.
42. Nick Diaz
Nick Diaz's career has had some ups and some downs but it finally seems as if it is all coming together for him. Now as the reigning Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Diaz is set to prove to the world just how talented he is.
41. Jake Shields
Currently riding a 14-fight win streak, Jake Shields finally proved that he is among the elite in MMA with his thorough domination of Dan Henderson.
Shields has held titles in both the middleweight and welterweight divisions but there has always been questions surrounding his level of competition. Now that Shields is a free agent look for the UFC to snatch up the reigning Strikeforce Middleweight Champion.
40. Guy Mezger
Former King of Pancrase and UFC 13 Lightweight Tournament winner, Guy Mezger, was one of the true pioneers in MMA and one of the first fighters to bring a truly well rounded attack to the table.
39. Jose Aldo
This ranking may be a little high considering Jose Aldo is still very young, but his performances in the cage speak for themselves.
Aldo is the reigning WEC Featherweight Champion and judging by his performances against formers champions Mike Brown and Urijah Faber are any indication, he will be holding on to that title for a very long time.
38. Jens Pulver
Jens Pulver was the first ever UFC Lightweight Champion and is one of only two men to have ever defeated BJ Penn at lightweight.
In many respects Pulver was like a miniature version of fellow MMA legend, Chuck Liddell, using his wrestling ability as a defensive tool to keep the fight on the feet and display his punching power.
As evident by his current five-fight losing streak, it appears that time has finally caught up with Pulver but he still remains one of the greatest ambassadors of the sport.
37. Frank Mir
Frank Mir is a former UFC Heavyweight and UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion.
In 2004, Mir's career almost came to an end when he was involved in a serious motorcycle accident three months after winning the UFC Heavyweight title. But Mir battled back through grit and determination to not only to get back to into the cage but to once again become a top heavyweight in MMA.
36. Rickson Gracie
Undefeated in MMA competition and two-time Vale Tudo Japan Champion, Rickson Gracie should be considered one of the fathers of modern MMA.
While he can make controversial statements about current fighters from time to time, there is no denying the impact that Rickson and his family have had on the sport.
35. Mike Brown
A former WEC featherweight champion, Mike Brown can be credited as one of the guys to really put that division on the map.
Even though he has had a rough go of it recently—losing two of his last three via stoppage—he still remains on the top fighters at 145.
34. Josh Barnett
The only man in the history of MMA to have tested positive for PEDs on three separate occasions, Barnett, despite his ability, will forever have his legacy marred.
Barnett was the youngest ever to win at UFC championship and he is also a former King of Pancrase Open weight Champion.
33. Sean Sherk
A former UFC lightweight champion and powerful wrestler, Sean Sherk helped to bring the UFC lightweight division out of the shadows and into the forefront.
As of late Sherk has fallen in love with his striking and it has cost him—losing two of his last three—but he is remains a respected force in the division.
32. Tim Sylvia
He may be nothing more than a novelty at this point in his career, but there was once a time when Sylvia was a respected and feared two-time UFC heavyweight champion.
Some will say that during that time all of the "real" talent was fighting in Pride but Sylvia was dominate none the less.
31. Norifumi Yamamoto
An extremely well-rounded and aggressive fighter, Yamamoto has made his name in the Japanese Shooto and K-1 organizations.
Yamamoto recently got himself back into the win column at DREAM 14 after dropping two straight fights to heavy underdogs.
30. Shinya Aoki
Current DREAM and WAMMA lightweight champion and a former Shooto middleweight champion, Aoki is one of the best pure grapplers in MMA today and has shown that greatness in one area of MMA can still lead to a successful career.
29. Pat Miletich
Miletich was the winner of UFC 16's lightweight tournament and would later become the UFC's first ever welterweight champion.
More so than in his fighting career, Miletich's impact on the sport can be seen as a trainer and coach. His school, Miletich Fighting Systems, has been the home to numerous contenders and champions throughout the years.
28. Rich Franklin
A former UFC middleweight champion, Rich Franklin was the predecessor to the current reign of Anderson Silva.
Still a tremendous fighter, Franklin finds himself in limbo and on the outside looking in of both the middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions.
27. Takanori Gomi
2005 Pride Lightweight Grand Prix winner and the first and only ever Pride lightweight champion, Gomi is easily one of the top two lightweight fighters of all-time.
26. Lyoto Machida
While he may drink his own urine morning in an effort to cleanse his body, there is no question that Lyoto Machida is one of the best modern era fighters.
Not only did Machida make Karate cool again but he proved the when integrated with the other various aspects of MMA it can still be an effective art.
25. Miguel Torres
His resume may not have very many names the casual fan could recognize on it but the doesn't take away from Torres' impact on the sport.
The former WEC bantamweight champion, Torres, and his run of dominance were a key factor in bringing the 135lb division into the mainstream of the MMA community.
24. Urijah Faber
While it is beginning to look as if the featherweight division has finally caught up with and perhaps even surpassed him there is no question that without Faber and his marketability the featherweight division would still be MMA's best kept secret.
23. Quinton Jackson
It can be said that no one in MMA has accomplished more with natural talent and raw ability than Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
In his last bout against rival, Rashad Evans, it is becoming clear that the sport may finally be passing Jackson by. If he wishes to still be a force in MMA it is apparent that he must evolve or drift into obscurity.
22. Mauricio Rua
2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix Champion and now UFC Light-heavyweight Champion, Shogun has long been one of the most feared and respected fighters in the world.
While his transition from the Pride ring to the UFC Octagon was not as smooth as many had suspected, Shogun has returned to his old form and now looks to cement his legacy as potentially the greatest light-heavyweight of all time.
21. Kazushi Sakuraba
The UFC Ultimate Japan Heavyweight Tournament winner and better known as "The Gracie Hunter", Sakuraba single handedly erased the aura of invincibility that surrounded the Gracie Family in MMA competition.
The thing that keeps Sakuraba from being higher on the list is his inconsistency.
20. Frank Shamrock
A former Interim King of Pancrase and the first ever UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion, Frank Shamrock was one of the first MMA combatants to evolve past the singular style approach.
Being proficient in striking, submissions, and grappling, Shamrock was able to attack his opponent’s weaknesses rather than simply playing to his strengths.
19. Dan Henderson
UFC 17 Middleweight Tournament winner, 2005 Pride Welterweight Grand Prix winner and the only man to not only hold two Pride Championships but hold them concurrently, Dan Henderson is simply a legend.
With his Olympic wrestling base, granite chin, and powerful overhand right, Henderson has long been a force at both 185 and 205.
18. Mirko Filipovic
Winner of the 2006 Pride Open Weight Grand Prix, Cro Cop is one of the most devastating pure strikers to ever compete in MMA.
While there is no question that Cro Cop is a great fighter and one of the best ever, his inability to capture a major title outside of winning the Open Weight Grand Prix will always detract from his legacy.
17. BJ Penn
One of only two men to ever win UFC titles in two different weight classes, BJ Penn certainly lives up to his nickname, "The Prodigy".
While he did lose his title to a very game, Frankie Edgar, in his last outing, his legacy is still being written and his time as a great fighter is far from over.
16. Georges St. Pierre
Current and reigning UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre signifies the latest evolution MMA has seen in its fighters. Not only is GSP skilled in all aspects of the fight game, but he is an elite athletic specimen.
With great speed, fluidity and power GSP can impose his will in such a way that he currently looks unstoppable at 170.
15. Dan Severn
UFC 5 Tournament winner, UFC Ultimate Ultimate 1995 Tournament winner, UFC Superfight winner, and a member of the UFC Hall of Fame, Dan Severn is one of the true pioneers of the sport.
Now in his early 50s, Severn continues to compete in various regional promotions and just so happens to be riding a four-fight win streak.
14. Igor Vovchanchyn
While he never captured a major title in the world of MMA, Igor Vovchanchyn was one of the sport's pioneers and one of the greatest fighters that most fans have never heard of.
13. Anderson Silva
Current and seemingly invincible UFC Middleweight Champion, Anderson Silva, is riding a UFC record 11-fight win streak in the Octagon which includes a UFC record of six consecutive title defenses.
If Silva ever makes a full time jump to the light-heavyweight division and is able to capture a title their I have little doubt that he will be catapulted into the top five fighters in MMA history.
12. Mark Coleman
UFC 10 & 11 Tournaments winner, 2000 Pride Open Weight Grand Prix winner, and the first ever UFC Heavyweight Champion, Mark Coleman may be best known for bringing the popular style of "Ground and Pound" to the forefront of MMA.
11. Ken Shamrock
1994 King of Pancrase, King of Pancrase 24-man Tournament winner, three-time UFC Superfight winner, and member of the UFC Hall of Fame, Ken Shamrock has been as part of the sport since its modern inception.
While the sport passed him by long ago, Shamrock still seeks to compete and it's rumored that he will be fighting fellow MMA pioneer and legend, Mark Coleman later this summer.
10. Tito Ortiz
Former five-time defending UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion, Tito Ortiz and his brash personality have played a key role in bringing the UFC to where it is today.
Like many others on this list, Ortiz's time in the spot-light has come and gone but his impact on the sport and his reign of dominance will always be remembered.
9. Don Frye
UFC 8 Tournament and Ultimate Ultimate 96 Tournament winner, Don Frye has been in some of the most memorable MMA fights of all-time.
While there is no question that Frye was a great fighter and competitor, his mystique and legend have grown over the years to Chuck Norris like proportions.
8. Matt Hughes
A former two-time UFC Welterweight Champion and recent inductee into the UFC Hall of Fame, Matt Hughes was the definition of dominance during his reign atop the 170lb ladder.
Hughes has defeated every UFC welterweight champion except for his friend and mentor, Pat Miletich.
7. Bas Rutten
A three-time King of Pancrase and former UFC Heavyweight Champion, Bas Rutten was a pioneer and remains to this day one of the sport’s biggest supporters and advocates.
6. Chuck Liddell
Former UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion and UFC Hall of Famer, Chuck Liddell was one of the most feared fighters during his reign as champ and was an instrumental figure in helping the UFC and MMA to reach a more mainstream audience.
Liddell is famous for using his wrestling in reverse to keep fights standing allowing him to utilize his vicious KO power.
5. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Former Interim UFC Heavyweight Champion and the first ever Pride FC Heavyweight Champion, Big Nog has been a part of more epic and memorable bouts than anyone else on this list.
Sadly though, it looks as if all of those battles and punishment Nog has taken over his career has finally caught up with him and is now on the down slope of his career.
4. Royce Gracie
Winner of the UFC 1, 3 and 4 Tournaments and a Member of the UFC Hall of Fame, Royce Gracie was not only a great fighter but he and his family were instrumental in the birth of Modern MMA.
3. Wanderlei Silva
2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix winner and Pride Middleweight Champion from 2001 to 2007, Silva's dominance in the Pride organization can be matched by only one man—who will be making his appearance on this list shortly.
While Silva has always been an extremely talented fighter his true greatness lies in his willingness to through caution to the wind and put on a show for the fans.
2. Randy Couture
UFC 13 Heavyweight Tournament winner, three-time UFC Heavyweight Champion, two-time UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion and member of the UFC Hall of Fame, Randy Couture was the first man to ever hold a UFC title in two difference weight classes and has been involved in more title bouts than anyone in UFC history.
While his record may not be as impressive as others on the list, Couture's ability to continually challenge and compete with the best makes him great.
1. Fedor Emelianenko
Simply put, Fedor is the most dominant and impressive fighter that the young sport of MMA has ever seen and has yet to really suffer a legitimate defeat.
Fedort is tremendous in all areas of MMA but rather than looking to exploit the weaknesses of his opponents, he looks to attack their strengths.
While his level of competition can and must be questioned since the fall of the Pride organization, Fedor has already cemented his legacy as the Greatest of All Time.