What does Gegard Mousasi, "King Mo" Lawal, Hector Lombard, Jon Jones, Ronaldo Souza, and a slue of other highly regarded mixed martial artists all have in common?
They are not in this list.
The following is who I consider to be the best pound for pound fighters in the world. I know a lot of you will hate this list, a lot of you will love it, but I know you will all have plenty of opinions on it.
Without any further adieu...
Whether or not you like him as a person, Nick Diaz is undeniably one of the best welterweights out there. The Cesar Gracie product is one of the best BJJ practitioners for mixed martial arts. Diaz is as tough as he is fearless, having one of the highest striking outputs in the sport and being able to absorb immeasurable amounts of punishment.
The Strikeforce Welterweight Champion’s brash persona keeps him in the MMA headlines. You will always want to see Diaz fight, even if it is to see him get his mouth shut.
Before coming to the UFC and moving back down to 170 pounds, Jake Shields was the Strikeforce Middleweight Champion, being pit against fighters much bigger than him. This did not stop Shields from racking up win after win after win, culminating in a five-round drubbing of the legendary Dan Henderson.
After winning a controversial split-decision over Martin Kampmann, Shields is now set to take on Georges St. Pierre for the UFC Welterweight Championship.
Shields’ wrestling and top control has allowed him to ride this wave to No. 1 contendership (hell, it is really all he has… the man’s punches are on par with molasses climbing uphill).
If Shields can reproduce his performance against “Hendo,” he may be the one to dethrone the welterweight king. Of course, he may just fall victim to the jab.
Yushin Okami is a straight forward fighter. He is not flashy, but “Thunder” is a large middleweight, with highly regarded wrestling and takedown defense, as well as crisp boxing and good power.
Chael Sonnen (the money laundering, hypo-my-scrotum-is-small-ism having, big mouth) is the only man to beat Okami since 2007.
Since the Sonnen loss, “Thunder” has picked up three straight victories, the last a unanimous decision over Nate Marquardt, giving Okami the next shot at the UFC middleweight crown.
Vitor Belfort burst onto the scene in 1996 at the tender age of 19, destroying his first four opponents with intense speed and power.
For a long time, Belfort seemingly had no interest in his career. However, finding God has brought new life into the career of “The Phenom.”
Belfort has taken out his last three opponents in devastating fashion, en route to a showdown with Anderson Silva for UFC middleweight gold.
Urijah Faber is one of the most exciting fighters you will ever have the privilege of watching. Faber is creative, fast-paced, relentless, etcetera and so on.
With two broken hands, Faber still out struck Mike Brown, and nearly finished the fight on two occasions, en route to a unanimous decision loss (obviously, I say he won) in their second meeting.
Since Brown-Faber II, “The California Kid” picked up a huge submission victory over Rafael Assuncao before being beat up by the phenomenal Jose Aldo for Aldo’s 145 lb. crown.
Faber has since dropped down to bantamweight, looking great in a quick choke out of Takeya Mizugaki. It will not be long before we see “The California Kid” vying for the UFC bantamweight championship.
For a long time, Lyoto Machida was thought to be unbeatable. The most revered karateka in mixed martial arts utilizes his elusive movement and strange angles to effectively confuse and counterstrike his opponents.
The problem with karatekas… their hands are often too low. This allowed the current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Mauricio Rua, to destroy “The Dragon” in their second meeting.
Machida’s style also cost him a controversial split-decision against Quinton Jackson, where most, including Jackson, believe the decision should have been Machida’s.
Quinton Jackson…he is a beast of a man. When he cares, “Rampage” hunts for the head and does not miss. When Jackson is looking for a check, he looks like he did against Rashad Evans (however, I’ll chalk the Evans fight up to cage rust).
When Jackson cares, his monstrous hands and wrestling will almost always take out his opponent. Unless, of course, you leg kick the bloody hell out of him (Forrest Griffin, anyone?).
With his immense power, Jackson will continue to hang around the top of the light heavyweight division...so long as he gives a damn.
Eddie Alvarez is one of the top lightweights in the world. He has not lost since a heel hook was applied by Shinya Aoki at the end of 2008. Since then, Alvarez has taken out top-tier opponents, such as Josh Neer and Roger Huerta.
Alavarez possesses great hands and the ability to put his opponents away. He has recently begun putting them away on the floor, with five out of his last six wins coming by way of a choke.
The Bellator FC lightweight champion continues to improve, and I would love to see the fight with Melendez come to fruition. Their common opponent in Aoki is the only reason I do not have Alavarez one spot higher. (I left Aoki out of the list, sue me…)
“El Nino” possesses a pair of one of the better hands in the lightweight division. Melendez’s ability to keep you from taking him down and pouring on the punishment has allowed him to be a dominant champion for Strikeforce. This is evidenced by Melendez’s five round domination of perennial top-10 lightweight, Shinya Aoki (who, might I add, just got KNOCKED OUT on New Year’s Eve… I digress…).
The sky is the limit for “El Nino.” Let’s get him in the cage with Alvarez!!
The light heavyweight division is a historically stacked division—probably the most highly regarded group of fighters in the world. So, to be the No. 2 is no small feat. Rashad Evans happens to be the man filling that spot.
Evans has always been able to use quality head movement and good boxing skills to allow himself to get in and use his wrestling to smother his opponents. “Suga” has shown the ability to win fights with his hands, with a huge knockout of Chuck Lidell and a TKO over Forrest Griffin in a championship match.
Evans took a unanimous decision in May over Quinton Jackson, and will face Mauricio Rua in March for a chance to reclaim the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
Stylistically, I cannot stand watching him, but Jon Fitch does nothing but beat the best fighters out there, unless your name is Georges St. Pierre.
Since being romped by GSP for five rounds, Fitch has rattled off five straight decision victories, most recently holding down Thiago Alves for three rounds.
Being that “Rush” has yet to leave the division, Jon Fitch will remain the No. 2 welterweight in the world. Personally, I believe Penn will beat Fitch wherever the fight goes, but if Fitch can pull out a sixth consecutive win, UFC brass will be all but forced to give Fitch a rematch with GSP.
Do not even start with me.
Brock Lesnar was thrown to the wolves, and he dismantled Heath Herring, Randy Couture, Frank Mir, and came back from a first round beating to submit Shane Carwin.
Lesnar got carried away and should have been a lot more cautious with Cain Velasquez. Maybe he should have forced the issue with his wrestling, but what is done is done.
When Lesnar comes back, and I definitely believe he will, he will be an improved fighter. Hopefully, Lesnar will get some better boxing under his belt and continue to be a brooding force in a highly competitive heavyweight division.
Really quickly… Chael, you are a dumb@$$!!
With that said, Chael Sonnen is possibly the best wrestler in the game. Sonnen takes his opponents down at will, staying highly active using great ground and pound.
The chink in Sonnen’s armor has always been submission defense. Seven of his 11 losses have come by way of submission (he would probably tell you he never tapped in any one of them… I digress). Oh, yeah…his mouth does not help him out, either.
There is no denying that Fedor is possibly the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. It took an entire decade for a man to beat “The Last Emperor.”
Fedor has almost no weaknesses—he is able to take you out standing, he can submit you at will, or he can just ground and pound the life out of you. However, no matter who you are, you do not wildly jump into the guard of the best heavyweight BJJ practitioner on the planet. The end result is your first loss and everyone beginning to believe you are not that good any longer.
But, everyone loses (unless your name is Rocky Marciano, but that is boxing). Fedor can easily turn it around by winning Strikeforce's eight-man heavyweight tournament. I
just hope it ends with Fedor vs. Overeem… the chills up and down my spine are intense for that one.
Personally, I believe Reem to be one of the best FIGHTERS on earth. Knowing that he has not fought the very best competition in MMA is why I am leaving Overeem out of the top-10. But, no one can say “Demolition Man” does not live up to the moniker.
Overeem’s 19-second slaying of up-and-comer Todd Duffee was one for the highlight reel. It showed the kind of skills Reem possesses in the stand-up game. However, let us not forget Overeem is a high-level grappler, having 19 victories by way of submission.
Overeem is a mammoth of a man, and I hope that we get to see him face Fedor in the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament.
No matter how you slice it, B.J. Penn is one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time. “The Prodigy” fights in multiple weight classes, and tends to dominate. Hell, Penn fought Lyoto Machida in an open weight competition, albeit losing a split decision. HE FOUGHT A LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT AN ONLY LOST BY SPLIT DECISION!! Oh, yeah, he just knocked Matt Hughes out in 21 seconds.
Penn is the epitome of a true fighter—not caring how big or small you are. “The Prodigy” is one of the greatest jiu-jitsu practitioners in the sport, and possesses the best boxing skills in the business (just ask Freddie Roach), allowing him to be competitive with anyone he faces (some argue Penn won the first fight with GSP...I'm just saying).
If Penn beats Jon Fitch at UFC 127, we just might get to see a third installment of the GSP-B.J. Penn saga sooner then we expect.
Since his submission loss to Urijah Faber in 2007, Dominick Cruz has become one of the best, and most unorthodox, fighters on the planet.
With a relentless pace, great transitional wrestling, and an unusual head and body movement that would make a whirling dervish dizzy, “The Dominator” has beaten the best the bantamweight division has to offer. In the WEC’s send off event, Cruz landed a near record-breaking 283 strikes on contender Scott Jorgensen to defend his WEC bantamweight crown and become the first ever UFC Bantamweight Champion.
Being that I believe it is a lock that The Ultimate FIghter 13 will feature Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir to complete their trilogy, I hope TUF 14 pits Cruz against his nemesis Urijah Faber for the gold.
Please, keep making “The Answer” an underdog in his fights, it seems to make Edgar rise to the occasion every time out.
His wrestling ability, pace, and improved boxing and Thai striking have made Frankie Edgar the lightweight king of the world. Edgar beat up B.J. Penn twice and came back from a first-round annihilation at the hands of old foe Gray Maynard. Even though it was a draw, I believe Frankie took rounds 2-5 of the New Year’s Day event.
The rematch is imminent and the third installment of the Edgar-Maynard Thrillogy (I should trademark that) should be as electrifying as the second.
When Frankie wins that (yeah, I said it), I cannot wait to see “The Answer” go toe-to-toe with the ever-exciting Anthony Pettis.
Fabricio Werdum is probably the best heavyweight jiu-jitsu artist on earth. I know a Nogueira who may feel differently about that, but I believe Werdum would win in a rematch.
Since receiving a beating from Junior dos Santos, and subsequently his walking papers from the UFC, “Vai Cavalo” has become one of the top heavyweights in the world, and, in my eyes, one of the top-10 fighters in the world, culminating in being the first and only man to defeat Fedor Emelianenko.
I cannot wait to see him put his grappling prowess to the test against Alistair Overeem for the Strikeforce Heavyweight Championship in the opening round of their heavyweight tourney.
With the exception of a submission loss earlier in his career, Junior dos Santos has been unstoppable. Actually, with the exception of Roy Nelson, all “Cigano” does is stop people.
Junior dos Santos is undoubtedly the best technical striker in the UFC’s heavyweight division (I cannot go with the whole scope of MMA heavyweights because of that guy who eats horse meat). “Cigano” has punched his way through Werdum, “Cro Cop”, Struve, Gonzaga, Nelson, etcetera and so on.
Had Lesnar been receiving shots from dos Santos in stead of Cain Velasquez, Lesnar might not have had the brain tissue left to write a book (not saying Cain does not hit like a mule kicks, I am just saying dos Santos HITS LIKE A MULE KICKS).
I would love to see “Cigano” get a match-up with Shane Carwin or Brock Lesnar before his title bout with Velasquez finally comes to fruition. Hopefully, he does not lose and get derailed from title contention, but I doubt it.
World class wrestling skills? Check. Crisp and improving boxing? Check. Power in both hands? Check. Add making Brock Lesnar look like he has never been in a fight in his life and you have the No. 1 heavyweight in the world, Cain Velasquez.
Velasquez’s rise to the top has been a thing of beauty. Watching him destroy world-class fighters such as Cheik Congo, Ben Rothwell, Rodgrigo Nogueira, culminating with a first-round dismantling of Brock Lesnar to capture the UFC Heavyweight Championship has been an amazing sight.
It is unfortunate we will have to wait for his meeting with Junior dos Santos due to a shoulder injury requiring surgery.
When it happens, be ready for a war between the two best heavyweight fighters on the planet.
If it was not for the man next in this list, Jose Aldo would be No. 3 on the pound for pound list.
“Scarface” (and no, the scar is not from eating… anyway) apparently has no weaknesses. Aldo’s takedown defense is impeccable, along with his BJJ. Aldo is probably the best Muay Thai striker in the game, outside of (maybe) Edson Barboza, Jr. and Anderson Silva. Ask Urijah Faber about Aldo’s leg kicks.
Jose Aldo has run through the best in the 145-pound division and is the first ever UFC Featherweight Champion.
At the tender age of 24, Aldo has years of domination ahead of him.
For a while, Mauricio Rua was thought to be the best fighter on earth.
In 2005, “Shogun” took out four top-10 light heavyweights en route to becoming the Pride Grand Prix Champion. Unfortunately for Rua, injuries (most notably his knee) kept him from reaching his full potential.
Fast forward to 2009: We have a knock out of Chuck Lidell, a highly controversial decision loss to Lyoto Machida, and finally, in 2010, a tremendous knock out of “The Dragon” to capture UFC light heavyweight gold.
In March, Rua will finally be defending that crown, after another knee surgery, against Rashad Evans. I am not worried, however. I almost guarantee “Shogun” will show why he is the best light heavyweight in the game.
Georges St. Pierre…three-time “Canadian Athlete of the Year.” Georges St. Pierre… he largest draw in MMA outside of Brock Lesnar (they are pretty much the same in that respect). And oh, and he is the most dominant UFC welterweight champion—the most dominant anywhere actually—in the history of the organization. The man has won 30 consecutive rounds.
“Rush” has beaten everyone at 170 pounds with nearly an unfair ability to do EVERYTHING. St. Pierre is the best wrestler in the division, the best grappler, the best striker…“Rush” is the quintessence of mixed martial arts.
So, why only No. 2? Pierre has not been finishing fights, nor has he stepped outside of his class. Until he can be successful at another weight class, or at least starts finishing fights, he will remain at No. 2.
What does not having a loss since 2004 (not counting a disqualification against Okami), being 12-0 in the UFC, and having eight of those 12 victories being title defenses (six of which were finishes) make you? The No. 1 pound for pound mixed martial artist in the world, Anderson Silva.
If “The Spider” wanted to, he could have dismantled Chael Sonnen with knees, elbows, and punches. Instead, Chael had his big mouth going, talked some smack about the Nogueira brothers (and anyone else he could think of), and got tapped in a fight reminiscent of almost any bout featuring Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Silva is able to beat you anywhere—standing or on the ground. Silva finishes fights and he has fought successfully in three different weight classes. This is why he is the pound for pound king of MMA.