The 75 Greatest MMA Fighters of All Time and Their Career Defining Moments
Remember when Randy Couture came out of retirement and dominated Tim Sylvia? How about when Quinton Jackson shocked the world by knocking out Chuck Liddell in the first round? Or, when Georges St-Pierre captured his first welterweight championship by beating Matt Hughes in a rematch?
All of MMA's greatest fighters have career defining moments; instances that encapsulate them as a fighter, or that they will always be most remembered for.
These moments are inherently important. Some of them are significant solely because they'll help us to always remember the greats of the sport, but many of them have actually helped to shape the sport of mixed martial arts and bring it into the mainstream.
Today we take a walk down memory lane, examining the 75 greatest fighters in MMA history and the moments that defined their careers...
No. 75: Cristiane Santos
Career Defining Moment: Winning Strikeforce Women's Middleweight Championship
Cristiane Santos is the most dominant figure in women's MMA today. She would be way further up this list, the issue is the lack of depth in women's MMA right now. If some more viable contenders show up for Santos and she runs through them, you could see her approaching the top 50.
The biggest moment in Cristiane's career was when she defeated Gina Carano, who at that time was the face of women's MMA, and captured the Strikeforce Women's Middleweight Championship.
Since winning the belt she has defended it twice and dominated both bouts.
No. 74: Tatsuya Kawajiri
Career Defining Moment: Losing to Takanori Gomi at Pride Bushido 9
Tatsuya Kawajiri isn't known much amongst the casual fans, but he is widely respected by the more hardcore MMA enthusiasts.
A fighter's career defining performance isn't always a fight they win and such is the case with Tatsuya.
Although he has defeated many tough opponents in his career, Kawajiri's most memorable bout with Takanori Gomi in the Pride 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix.
The fight was all kinds of exciting and was named the Pride FC Fight of the Year 2005.
No. 73: Kevin Randleman
Career Defining Moment: Suplexing Fedor Emelianenko
It could be argued that Kevin Randleman deserves to be higher on this list, but with a record of 17-16, it's hard to have him ahead of a lot of the guys on this list.
Randleman is known best for executing a brutal suplex on heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko at Pride Critical Countdown 2004, a fight Kevin would eventually lose by submission.
The suplex was a perfect representation of what Randleman is best known for; raw power.
A close second for his notable performance would be winning the UFC Heavyweight Championship from Pete Williams at UFC 23.
No. 72: Ricco Rodriguez
Career Defining Moment: Defeating Randy Couture for the UFC Heavyweight Championship
Ricco Rodriguez was considered a destroyer in the UFC's heavyweight division, up until he lost his title to Tim Sylvia at UFC 41. Since then, he has become a journeyman MMA fighter and has lost to every high level fighter he's faced.
The peak of the dominant phase in Ricco's career was his victory over Randy Couture at UFC 39. Randy is one of the greatest fighters of all-time and Rodriguez managed to defeat him decisively, winning by fifth round submission due to elbows.
The win was the exclamation point on the most relevant phase of Ricco's fighting career.
No. 71: Genki Sudo
Career Defining Moment: Submitting Nate Marquardt at Pancrase - Breakthrough 11
As a fighter, Genki Sudo could be classified as a submission specialist. Throughout his career he used his technical abilities to win fights, winning 12 of his 16 by submission.
Genki`s submission victory over Nate Marquardt is a perfect representation of him using his knowledge and skill, as he had a significant size and strength disadvantage against Nate.
No. 70: Vitor Belfort
Career Defining Moment: Knocking out Wanderlei Silva at UFC Brazil
Vitor Belfort has been around the fight game for a long time and throughout his career he has been known chiefly for one aspect of his game —hand speed.
Belfort has lightning fast hands and the best they ever looked was in his fight with Wanderlei Silva way back in 1998.
After rocking Wanderlei with a couple solid punches, Vitor charged forward, unleashing a hellish flurry of punches. Shortly thereafter, the referee stopped the fight.
The amount of punches he landed in that short amount is staggering and to this day it is one of the most viewed and most talked about stoppages in MMA history.
No. 69: Diego Sanchez
Career Defining Moment: Losing to BJ Penn in his first UFC title shot
It's difficult to choose a moment that defines Diego Sanchez' career; there have been so many great ones.
His bouts with Nick Diaz, Karo Parisyan, and Clay Guida were all incredible to watch and will likely be remembered for many years to come.
However, Diego's title fight with BJ Penn sticks out more in my mind than any of those other matches.
I think the most important thing that Sanchez has as a fighter is his indomitable spirit. The guy is really mentally strong and has tons of confidence in himself.
Despite being totally dominated by Penn, Diego showed how big his heart was in that fight, refusing to give up.
After being shut down for four rounds, Sanchez came out in the fifth round, still absolutely ready to go to war.
No. 68: Fabricio Werdum
Career Defining Moment: Becoming the first man to legitimately defeat Fedor Emelianenko
Fabricio Werdum is known for his Brazilian jiu-jitsu prowess and never has he put it on display more clearly than when he submitted Fedor Emelianenko.
At that time, Emelianenko was 31-1-0-1, with his only loss coming by doctor stoppage. He was considered by many to be the greatest fighter ever and seemed near unbeatable.
However, every fighter eventually learns that there's no such thing as being unbeatable and Fabricio taught Fedor that lesson.
Emelianenko rocked Werdum with some big punches early, but was over aggressive in going for the finish. Fabricio capitalized by locking up a triangle/armbar and Fedor was forced to tap.
No. 67: Pedro Rizzo
Career Defining Moment: First title fight with Randy Couture
Many fans remember Pedro Rizzo for his devastating leg kicks; he was one of the earlier fighters to show how effective they could be.
At UFC 31, Pedro put on the performance of his life, going all five rounds with UFC legend Randy Couture, in a fight for the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
Although Rizzo lost the decision, many believed that he could have been awarded the victory.
By the end of the fight, Pedro had landed so many leg kicks that Couture was barely able to walk.
No. 66: Mark Kerr
Career Defining Moment: Unique submission victory over Dan Bobish
Mark Kerr is one of the most decorated grapplers to compete in MMA and although he declined severely in the latter part of his career, he was extremely dominant at one point.
Having never fought for a championship, or beaten a truly significant fighter, it's tough to nail down his defining moment.
What I'll always remember Mark for is his submission victory over Dan Bobish. Kerr forced Dan to tap by jamming his chin into Bobish's eye.
No. 65: Eddie Alvarez
Career Defining Moment: Defeating Roger Huerta
Eddie Alvarez has the potential to be a lot higher on this list, he just needs to get into the UFC and start fighting some real competition.
Alvarez has been dominating fighters outside the UFC for years and so the question surrounding him has always been, "Can Eddie hang with the UFC's elite?".
That's why I believe his victory over Roger Huerta is his most important.
Barely a year before decisively losing to Sanchez, Huerta lost a close split-decision to Gray Maynard, who is the second-best lightweight in the UFC today.
If I'm doing the math correctly in my head, that pretty much proves that Eddie could be a huge force in the UFC's lightweight division.
No. 64: Alistair Overeem
Career Defining Moment: Beating Fabricio Werdum
Alistair Overeem has long been considered a force to be reckoned with in the heavyweight division, but all the while there have also been those doubting his abilities, citing the lack of top level competition he had faced.
Many wondered what would happen when Alistair finally took on a top ten heavyweight and they finally found out when he took on Fabricio Werdum earlier this year.
Overeem won the fight by unanimous decision. It wasn't a particularly impressive victory, but it was decisive, and it proved to everyone that he can hang with some of the best in the world.
No. 63: Gegard Mousasi
Career Defining Moment: Winning the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Championship
At just 26 years old and with more than 35 fights under his belt, Gegard Mousasi is one of the most promising fighters in mixed martial arts today.
Gegard has beat many quality fighters in his career, but no one truly elite, so it's hard to tie him down to one particular moment.
I'm going to say that his victory over Renato Sobral is his most significant to date because it earned him his most significant title thus far, the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Championship.
No. 62: Jon Jones
Career Defining Moment: Becoming the youngest light heavyweight champion in UFC history
Jon Jones is one or two victories away from shooting way up this list.
At just 24 years old, Jon has already captured a UFC title, in one of the promotion's most stacked weight classes, and there seems to be no roof on this man's potential.
Before fighting Mauricio Rua earlier this year, many seemed unsure whether Jones had what it took to hang with the best. Jon had defeated some stiff competition, and done so in impressive fashion, but he hadn't faced any of the best guys in his weight class.
At UFC 128, Jones showed that the hype surrounding him was legitimate, completely owning Rua in all aspects of their fight and eventually winning by third-round TKO.
In doing so, Jones become the youngest champion ever in the UFC and cemented his place MMA history.
No. 61: Evan Tanner
Career Defining Moment: Comeback victory over Phil Baroni
If Evan Tanner had anything, it was heart.
He wasn't the most technically skilled fighter on the planet, but he had a huge desire to win, and that carried him through many of his fights.
Never did Evan show more heart than in his first fight with Phil Baroni.
Baroni completely overwhelmed Tanner in the early going of the fight, rocking Evan with big punches and nearly finishing the fight multiple times.
Keeping his composure, Tanner managed to weather the early storm and rally back.
Evan eventually managed to plant Phil on his back and let loose with some vicious ground and pound, finishing the fight by TKO.
No. 60: Gray Maynard
Career Defining Moment: Fighting to a draw with Frankie Edgar at UFC 125
Gray Maynard's true career defining moment may be coming up at UFC 136, when he takes on Frankie Edgar for the third time, but for now his moment is definitely their second fight.
Edgar and Gray fought for the second time earlier this year at UFC 125 and put on a performance that will definitely be a candidate for Fight of the Year. The bout ended in a split draw.
Not only did the fight prove to fans that Maynard can put on an exciting fight —some had been critical of some "boring" performances he had put on— it also proved that he has what it takes to a champion in the lightweight division.
No. 59: Andrei Arlovski
Career Defining Moment: Winning the UFC Heavyweight Championship
As is the case for many fighters on this list, Andrei Arlovski's career defining moment is also the most important moment in his career.
At UFC 51, Arlovski fought Tim Sylvia and won the fight by first-round submission with an Achilles lock to become the UFC heavyweight champion.
No. 58: Chael Sonnen
Career Defining Moment: Almost beating Anderson Silva
Going into his fight with Anderson Silva at UFC 117, Chael Sonnen vowed to be the first fighter in a long time to really bring the fight to Anderson and Chael did just what he said he would do.
Sonnen hardly took a step back the whole fight, constantly going for the takedown and, most of the time, getting it.
Silva spent four and half rounds of this fight on his back getting pounded, but, showing the heart of a champion, pulled off a triangle choke late in the fifth round.
It was a loss for Chael, but earned him more respect than any of his victories —until the whole PED thing.
No. 57: Junior Dos Santos
Career Defining Moment: Uppercut knockout of Fabricio Werdum
Junior Dos Santos has arguably the best boxing in MMA's heavyweight division today; that's what he's known for.
He doesn't really mix things up that much when he fights, but he gets away with it because that's how good Junior's hands are.
Nobody really knew how good Dos Santos' boxing was until he debuted at UFC 90, knocking out Fabricio Werdum with the most brutal uppercut in MMA history.
No. 56: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Career Defining Moment: Beating Alistair Overeem for the second time
While the name "Nogueira" is usually associated with Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is really more of a boxer than a submission specialist.
Perhaps the greatest testament to Rogerio's elite boxing skills was his second victory over Alistair Overeem. Alistair was so badly battered by Nogueira that Overeem's corner threw in the towel.
No. 55: Forrest Griffin
Career Defining Moment: Winning the first season of the Ultimate Fighter
It's not even a debatable thing that Forrest Griffin's career defining moment is his first fight with Stephan Bonnar.
The bout is considered by almost everyone to be the single most important fight in the history of mixed martial arts.
Do I really need to say anymore than that?
No. 54: Hayato Sakurai
Career Defining Moment: Second victory over Shinya Aoki
Hayato Sakurai has defeated lightweight legend Shinya Aoki twice in his career and I believe the second defeat was the more significant.
The first time he defeated Aoki, Shinya was not yet established as one of the best in the world.
The second time round, Aoki was a much more experienced fighter and held in much higher regard within the MMA community, and so that win was much more important.
No. 53: Cain Velasquez
Career Defining Moment: Becoming the first ever Mexican UFC heavyweight champion
Like many other young fighters on this list, Cain Velasquez is just a few victories away from really shooting up the ranks.
At UFC 121, Velasquez reached the highest mark of success in MMA —other than maybe a Hall of Fame induction— he won a UFC championship.
Cain earned the belt from Brock Lesnar, defeating the now-former champ by first-round TKO.
In doing so, Velasquez became the first Mexican fighter to hold to UFC Heavyweight Championship.
No. 52: Frankie Edgar
Career Defining Moment: Beating BJ Penn for the second time
At UFC 112, Frankie Edgar defeated BJ Penn to win himself the UFC lightweight championship. However, it was a very close fight and many believed that Penn should have been given the victory.
Because of this, people had little respect for Frankie as a champion and BJ was given an immediate rematch.
In the second fight, Edgar proved that he did deserve to be champion, decisively winning every round of the fight.
On the back of that performance, Frankie finally earned the respect he deserves as a UFC champion.
No. 51: Yuki Kondo
Career Defining Moment: Knocking out Frank Shamrock
Yuki Kondo is one of the older fighters that not a lot of people are familiar with, but this guy was a beast in his day.
In 1996, Yuki fought one of the best ever in the form of Frank Shamrock and won the fight decisively, knocking Frank out with a kick.
Since then, Kondo has had a long and pretty successful career, but his bout with Frank early in his career remains his most significant victory.
No. 50: Gilbert Melendez
Career Defining Moment: Winning rematch with Josh Thomson
It always means a lot when a fighter is able to avenge a loss.
At Strikeforce: Evolution, Gilbert Melendez fought Josh Thomson for the second time, after dropping a decision loss to him in 2008.
Melendez won the fight, unquestionably, showing that he had improved more than Josh since they last fought.
In beating Thomson, Gilbert also managed to reclaim his Strikeforce Lightweight Championship.
No. 49: Jeremy Horn
Career Defining Moment: Submitting Chuck Liddell at UFC 19
Jeremy Horn is one of the greatest journeyman fighters in the history of the sport, but that makes it pretty hard to pick a career defining moment for him —journeyman fighters tend to have many basically meaningless fights.
However, Horn is one of very few men to defeat a not passed-prime Chuck Liddell and that is quite the feather in a fighter's cap.
When Jeremy and Chuck fought for the first time, Horn caught Liddell in an arm-triangle choke near the end of round one and Chuck ended up going unconscious just as the round ended.
No. 48: Jon Fitch
Career Defining Moment: Losing to Georges St-Pierre
Jon Fitch gained more fans from his one loss in the Octagon than from any of his thirteen victories with the UFC.
At UFC 87, Fitch and Georges St-Pierre met in the cage with the welterweight championship on the line.
Jon was thoroughly dominated by the champion in all aspects of the fight, but he managed to hang in there for all five rounds. It was one of the gutsiest performances in UFC history and Fitch earned the respect of many fans, just based on how much damage he was able to absorb.
This was also an important fight for Fitch because it showed him what things he still needed to work on and, since then, he has become a better fighter (though still probably not good enough to takeout GSP).
No. 47: Guy Mezger
Career Defining Moment: Winning the UFC 13 Tournament
As far as MMA in the 90's goes, the most significant thing a fighter could accomplish was winning a UFC tournament.
Guy Mezger managed to win the UFC 13 tournament and he did so by defeating one of the all-time greats, Tito Ortiz, via guillotine choke.
No. 46: Nate Marquardt
photo courtesty of MMAjunkie.com
Career Defining Moment: Defeating Shonie Carter to become Pancrase' first middleweight champion
Despite his long tenure in the UFC and all of the success that he found there, Nate Marquardt is still recognized by many as "the King of Pancrase".
In the UFC, Marquardt was good, but in Pancrase, he was one of the best ever.
When Nate defeated Shonie Carter back in 2000, he became the first ever Pancrase middleweight champion and it was also the first time that he won a major title.
No. 45: Rashad Evans
Career Defining Moment: Brutally knocking out Chuck Liddell
Rashad's highlight reel knockouts of Forrest Griffin and Sean Salmon come close, but nothing quite touches his KO of Chuck Liddell.
The punch Evans landed on Chuck's jaw is one of the most memorable strikes in MMA history and was what really established Rashad as a serious title contender at 205lbs.
No. 44: Don Frye
Career Defining Moment: Winning Ultimate Ultimate 96 Tournament
Don Frye is a two-time tournament winner with the UFC and I believe his second tournament victory at "Ultimate Ultimate 96" was the more memorable one.
Frye took on Tank Abbott in the finals in what ended up being one of the greatest comeback victories off all-time.
Abbott rocked Don with a vicious flurry in the early going and followed up with a barbaric looking barrage of punches.
Frye, known for having an excellent chin, managed to survive the early onslaught and turn the tables on a clearly gassed Tank, eventually sinking in a rear-naked choke and winning the fight.
No. 43: Masakatsu Funaki
Career Defining Moment: Submitting Ken Shamrock in Pancrase
Masakatsu Funaki is widely regarded as the most successful fighter in the history of Pancrase and is actually the co-founder of the company.
During his time in Pancrase, Funaki defeated legends like Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock and Bas Rutten.
All of these victories are impressive, but I have to give the nod to his win over Ken. Funaki was known for his submission skills and really showed them off by submitting K. Shamrock, who also known as a submission specialist.
No. 42: Jake Shields
Career Defining Moment: Defeating Dan Henderson
Most people have the attitude that mixed martial artists fighting outside the UFC are inherently worse than those inside the UFC and only fight in smaller promotions because they can't cut it in the big leagues.
A lot of the time, that ideal is rings true, but there are quite a few exceptions to the rule, one of whom is Jake Shields.
When UFC and Pride veteran Dan Henderson left the UFC and wound up fighting Jake Shields for the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship, many expected Henderson to walk right through Jake.
Eager to show that there was still some world class talent left outside the UFC, Shields pulled off the win over Dan, despite almost getting KO'd in the first round.
It was a huge victory for Shields because he defended his title, beat a legend of the sport and showed that he has what it takes to compete with the UFC's best.
No. 41: Ricardo Arona
Career Defining Moment: Defeating Dan Henderson
Ricardo Arona has a reputation as one of the best grapplers ever to compete in MMA. His submission grappling record is incredible and his MMA record, while not as polished, is still quite good.
The most impressive display of grappling that Ricardo put on during his time with the sport was against Dan Henderson.
Henderson is known for his wrestling abilities, competing in the Olympics at one point, and Arona managed to best him, en route to a split-decision victory.
No. 40: Jens Pulver
Career Defining Moment: Defending UFC Lightweight Championship against BJ Penn
Due to his significant decline over the past few years, a lot of people have forgotten just how good Jens Pulver was at one point.
At one point in time, Pulver was one of the most feared lightweights on the planet and a dominant force in the world of mixed martial arts.
After winning the UFC Lightweight Championship and defending it once, Jens was assigned the toughest test of his career —fighting BJ Penn.
Penn dominated much of the early rounds, but Pulver dug deep and managed to do enough in later rounds to earn the decision.
No. 39: Rickson Gracie
Career Defining Moment: Submitting Masakatsu Funaki and retiring undefeated
You have to respect a fighter who goes out on top.
In the year 2000, he submitted Masakatsu Funaki in the first round, pushing his record to an impressive 11-0, and then decided to call it quits. All of his victories came by submission.
No. 38: Dominick Cruz
Career Defining Moment: Avenging only loss to Urijah Faber
Dominick Cruz is one of the best fighters on the planet, today, but he has a bit more work to do if he wants to slide up the all-time rankings; a couple more title defenses and you'll see him nearing the top 25.
Cruz' career defining moment was definitely when he defeated Urijah Faber at UFC 132, retaining his UFC Bantamweight Championship.
Dominick and Urijah had a ton of bad blood going into the fight, neither guy liked the other one, and Faber was and is the only man to ever defeat Cruz.
In one fight, Dominick managed to defeat his rival, avenge his only loss, and defend his title.
No. 37: Paulo Filho
Career Defining Moment: Submitting Chael Sonnen
Paulo Filho is a grappling expert and one of the most successful fighters in terms of adapting his grappling for MMA.
At WEC 31, he defended his middleweight championship against Chael Sonnen.
Sonnen dominated much of the fight, but his notoriously poor submission defense gave way to Filho's crafty jiu-jitsu, and Paul was able to catch an armbar late in the second round.
No. 36: Mike Brown
Career Defining Moment: Winning the WEC Featherweight Championship
Capturing a championship belt is the career defining moment for most of the all-time greats and Mike Brown is no exception.
At WEC 36, Brown defeated Urijah Faber by TKO in the first round. This was a huge win for Mike, considering that Faber was a dominant champion at the time and seemed practically unbeatable.
No. 35: Tim Sylvia
Career Defining Moment: Winning rubber match against Andrei Arlovski
For a period of time, Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski were considered the two best heavyweights in the UFC.
Heading into their third fight, their feud was tied at 1-1.
Arlovski won the first fight by submission. Sylvia won the second fight by TKO.
The third fight was set up to decide once and for all who the best heavyweight fighter in the UFC was.
The fight was relatively uneventful, with both fighters being tentative due to their respect for the other's power, but Tim was ultimately able to earn the unanimous decision.
It may not have been Sylvia's most entertaining fight, but the implications of his victory were huge.
No. 34: Josh Barnett
Career Defining Moment: Winning UFC Heavyweight Championship
Although Josh Barnett's reign as UFC heavyweight champion was short —he was stripped of the title after testing positive for banned substances— it is still the greatest accomplishment in his fighting career.
Josh fought Randy Couture at UFC 36, with the UFC Heavyweight Championship on the line, and one the fight with a convincing second-round TKO.
The fight is career defining for him because it was his greatest accomplishment, but also because he was busted for PEDs, which has been sort of a theme throughout his career.
No. 33: Sean Sherk
Career Defining Moment: Capturing UFC lightweight championship
When Sean Sherk took on Kenny Florian for the UFC Lightweight Championship at UFC 64, it was Sean's second crack at UFC gold, the first being against Matt Hughes at UFC 42.
At this point, Sherk had already had a long and successful career, but a UFC championship eluded him, and he refused to be denied it a second time.
Sean had a shaky fight against Florian, getting cut early in the fight and bleeding pretty profusely throughout the whole thing, but he managed to stick it out and use his wrestling to get the decision victory.
Thank the heavens the fight wasn't any longer than it was. Sherk lost so much blood in this one that people thought he might pass out before the bout was over.
No. 32: Norifumi Yamamoto
Career Defining Moment: Four-second flying knee KO
Norifumi Yamamoto is one of the most exciting fighters in mixed martial arts today. His relevance seems to be fading these days, but you can still always count on this guy to put on a hell of a show.
If there's one moment in his career that can sum up his aggressive and entertaining style of fighting, it's his four-second flying knee KO over Kazayuki Miyata, which was one of the fastest knockouts in MMA history.
No. 31: Frank Mir
Career Defining Moment: Snapping Tim Sylvia's forearm
Though he has worked hard over the past few years to round out his game, Frank Mir will always be most recognized for his submission game.
When Frank fought Tim Sylvia at UFC 48, he caught Tim with an armbar in the first round. Sylvia refused to tap and Mir ended up breaking Tim's forearm.
After the fight, they showed the replay in slow motion and you could actually see the bone in Tim's arm snap.
Not only was this a career defining moment for Frank, it might be the most recognizable submission in UFC history.
No. 30: Shinya Aoki
Career Defining Moment: Hitting a gogoplata from mount
Shinya Aoki is jiu-jitsu wizard. 18 of his 28 wins have come by submission and he has more than one win by gogoplata, which is something not a lot of fighters can say.
The gogoplata is one of the rarest and most difficult submissions to pull off and so it's a very fitting representation of Aoki's crafty submission skills.
The G'plata he hit from mount on Katsuhiko Nagata at Dream 4 is a particularly fitting representation of his skills because that's an unusual position to transition from.
No. 29: Miguel Torres
Career Defining Moment: Defending bantamweight championship against Takeya Mizugaki
Miguel Torres is known for two things: Being a former WEC bantamweight champion and putting on really exciting fights.
At WEC 40, Miguel defended his bantamweight championship against Takeya Mizugaki. It was an incredible fight, earning Fight of the Night honors, and Torres managed to walk away with the decision victory, retaining his title.
No. 28: Pat Miletich
Career Defining Moment: Becoming the first ever UFC welterweight champion
Pat Miletich doesn't get much recognition from the UFC because of his frayed relationship with Dana White, but the man is unquestionably one of the most dominant figures from the early days of the sport and MMA wouldn't be quite the same without him.
At UFC Rio, Miletich defeated Mikey Burnett by split-decision to become the first welterweight champion ever in the UFC.
Not only was he the first man to hold the belt, but he was also won of the most dominant, successfully defending it four times.
No. 27: Urijah Faber
Career Defining Moment: Submitting Dominick Cruz
Urijah Faber is a former WEC featherweight champion and one of the most dominant there ever was. He won the belt in 2006 and defended it five times before losing it.
Easily the toughest fighter he faced before losing his title was now-long time rival Dominick Cruz.
Cruz was undefeated at the time and thought to be a tough test for the champ.
However, Dominick made the mistake of shooting on Faber, while leaving his neck exposed, and ended up caught in a guillotine choke. Urijah is known for his slick ground game and was easily able to finish the fight with that choke.
A close second for Faber's career defining moment is his fight with Jose Aldo, in which he was pounded on for all five rounds, but showed tremendous heart.
No. 26: Lyoto Machida
Career Defining Moment: Beating Rashad Evans to win the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship
Lyoto Machida is one the most unique and unusual fighters to ever compete in the UFC.
His championship fight against Rashad Evans is his most notable performance for a few reasons:
-He won the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship
-He knocked Rashad out, making him the first man to defeat Evans
-Rashad was mocking Machida's power right before he got knocked out
-The face Rashad made after being knocked out was hilarious.
No. 25: Takanori Gomi
Career Defining Moment: Winning Pride Lightweight Grand-Prix
Despite being pretty inconsistent in the past couple years, Takanori Gomi is still probably the second greatest lightweight fighter of all-time.
The height of his legendary career was winning the Pride lightweight Grand Prix back in 2005.
In the finals, Takanori was facing another very dangerous lightweight, Hayato Sakurai. Gomi has always been recognized as having some of the most powerful hands in the lightweight division and he put them on display in that fight, knocking Hayato out in under four minutes.
No. 24: Rich Franklin
Career Defining Moment: Winning UFC Middleweight Championship
Rich Franklin is one the best fighters to ever compete in the UFC and his crowning achievement was winning the middleweight championship.
Rich met veteran Evan Tanner at UFC 53 and defeated Evan for the second time, when the fight was stopped by doctor's in the forth round.
If it were not for the existence of Anderson Silva, Franklin likely could have had one of the longest and most dominant title reigns in UFC history; Rich never lost to anyone in the middleweight division, but Silva.
No. 23: Jose Aldo
Career Defining Moment: Dominating Urijah Faber
Since entering the WEC in 2008, Jose Aldo has looked near unstoppable. He's the current UFC featherweight champion and has defended the belt three times, the most impressive of which was against Urijah Faber.
Aldo has won a bunch of fights in quick, brutal fashion, but his victory over Faber was impressive because it was so drawn out.
Jose just owned Urijah in all areas for five rounds. We really got to see him use his full range of skills and it was this fight that woke a lot of people up to just how good Aldo is.
No. 22: Quinton Jackson
Career Defining Moment: Beating Chuck Liddell for the second time
Quinton Jackson was already an extremely accomplished fighter when he came the UFC from Pride, but a lot of fans doubted his abilities.
After one victory in the UFC, Quinton was granted a title shot against the seemingly untouchable Chuck Liddell, a man that Jackson had already beaten.
Liddell was so dominant at the time that many fans believed he had little to no chance against Chuck.
Quinton proved all of his doubters wrong when he knocked Liddell out in the first round, effectively securing his place as one the best lightweights in the world, and also earning himself the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
No. 21: Frank Shamrock
Career Defining Moment: Retires as UFC light heavyweight champion, citing a lack of competition as the reason
Frank Shamrock was the UFC's first light heavyweight champion and one of the most dominant, but he'll always be remembered most by how his reign ended.
After defending his belt for the fourth straight time, defeating Tito Ortiz by fourth round submission, Shamrock decided to retire, stating that there was basically no one for him to fight.
I think this marks the only time in MMA history when a fighter vacated their championship because they thought everyone else sucked.
No. 20: Kazushi Sakuraba
Career Defining Moment: Submitting Renzo Gracie
The Gracie family's fascination with beating Kazushi Sakuraba is hilarious.
First, Kazushi beat Royler Gracie.
So, the Gracie sent in their all-star, Royce Gracie, to get the job done.
Sakuraba beat him by corner stoppage.
Then, the Gracie's sent in Renzo Gracie and he caught with a kimura in round 2.
The third victory over a Gracie is what earned Kazushi his reputation as "the Gracie Killer", which is the monicker that most fans know him by.
No. 19: Mark Coleman
Career Defining Moment: Winning Pride FC 2000 Open-weight Grand Prix
Mark Coleman is the godfather of ground and pound and a legend of the sport.
It's debatable whether his greatest accomplishment is winning the Pride Open-weight Grand Prix, or winning the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
I'm going with the tournament because Mark beat the legendary Igor Vovchanchyn in the finals and I believe Igor is the toughest opponent that Coleman ever defeated —with the exception of Mauricio Rua, but that pretty much a fluke.
No. 18: Dan Severn
Career Defining Moment: Winning Ultimate Ultimate 95 Tournament
Dan Severn is one of very few people in MMA history to win more than one UFC Tournament. The first tournament was UFC 5 and the second was the Ultimate Ultimate 95 Tournament.
The Ultimate 95 Tourny was the more significant victory. To win the whole shebang, he had to get by Tank Abbott and Oleg Taktarov, both of whom were very highly regarded fighters at the time.
No. 17: Royce Gracie
Career Defining Moment: Winning the first ever UFC tournament
A lot of you are probably surprised to see Royce this far back, but I think it's fair. The only reason he did so well at the beginning of his career is he was fighting guys who had essentially no idea what Brazilian jiu-jitsu was.
His submission win over Ken Shamrock was pretty legit, but other than that his opponents didn't even know what he was trying to do half the time.
Winning the UFC 1 Tournament is unquestionably Royce's defining moment. It's a huge marker in UFC history, it was huge deal at the time, and it was what Brazilian jiu-jitsu on the map.
No. 16: Ken Shamrock
Career Defining Moment: Won first ever Pancrase tournament
Ken would be further up this list, but his slew of lackluster performances post-millennium bring down his value a bit.
As well known as Ken Shamrock is for fighting in the UFC, most of his professional fights have actually been in Pancrase.
In 1994, Ken fought four times in two days in order to win the first ever Pancrase tournaments. The opponents he defeated included former UFC heavyweight champion Maurice Smith and Masakatsu Funaki.
No. 15: Igor Vovchanchyn
Career Defining Moment: Defeating Kazushi Sakuraba
Igor Vovchanchyn has beat a lot of fighter, but not a lot of really good fighters. That's what's keeping him out of the top ten.
Honestly, saying that beating Kazushi Sakuraba is Igor's career defining moment is just me taking a stab at it. Vovchanchyn never really won any major titles, or significant tournaments, so there's not a lot to go off of.
I believe that Igor will always be remembered as one the greatest strikers in MMA history, but he doesn't seem to have one fight that clearly defines him more than the rest.
Sakuraba is probably the most dangerous opponent Vovchanchyn ever faced and defeated, though, except maybe Mark Kerr.
No. 14: Bas Rutten
Career Defining Moment: Winning the UFC Heavyweight Championship
Bas Rutten, like Igor Vovchanchyn, has a really good looking record at first glance, but upon inspection is lacking in really good fighters.
Rutten will likely always be remembered best for his UFC title fight against Kevin Randleman, due to the controversy surrounding it.
Kevin was able to use his wrestling to hold Bas down for most of the fight, but Rutten was much more active from his guard than Randleman was from top position.
Ultimately, Bas was awarded a split-decision victory and won the UFC Heavyweight Championship. He would then vacate the belt, retiring due to injury.
No. 13: Mauricio Rua
Career Defining Moment: Winning Pride 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix
The Pride 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix was one of the most stacked Pride events of all-time and it took place while Mauricio Rua was in the dead of his prime.
The four opponents Rua had to face to win the GP were Quinton Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem and Ricardo Arona —all fighters who appear on this list.
Apart from the stacked set of opponents and the unbelievable performances he put on, winning the GP was also the second biggest accomplishment of his career (winning a UFC title being the first).
No. 12: Tito Ortiz
Career Defining Moment: Winning the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship
Tito Ortiz has had a long and storied career, but his defining moment came just seven fights into it, when Tito won the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship.
Ortiz had already fought for the belt once before, but lost a disappointing fight to Frank Shamrock.
The second time around, Tito made sure not to let the opportunity get away from him, using his superior grappling to defeat Wanderlei Silva by decision.
Ortiz defended the belt five times after winning it, but didn't at any point face an opponent as dangerous as Wanderlei.
No. 11: Mirko Cro Cop
Career Defining Moment: Knocking out Wanderlei Silva
Anyone who knows the tiniest bit about Mirko Cro Cop, knows that he had arguably the best kicks in MMA history.
Over the course of his career, Mirko finished eleven different fights using kicks, the most famous of which was his head kick knockout of Wanderlei Silva at Pride Final Conflict Absolute.
The kick absolutely floored Silva and some suspect that it, and the resulting concussion, might be part of the reason for Wanderlei's decline in the following years.
No. 10: BJ Penn
Career Defining Moment: Winning the UFC Lightweight Championship
BJ Penn's fight with Joe Stevenson for the UFC Lightweight Championship is his most notable fight for a few reasons.
-It was one of the first times we saw the new-and-improved, dedicated BJ Penn.
-It was a really one-sided bloody fight that the fans will always remember, Sherdog voted it Beatdown of the Year 2008.
-Penn became just the second man to win UFC titles in two different weigh classes.
No. 9: Chuck Liddell
Career Defining Moment: Winning rubber match with Randy Couture
Chuck Liddell vs Randy Couture is one of the greatest rivalries in MMA history; the hype surrounding their second and third fights was nothing short of monumental.
Both guys were fan favorites and both were acknowledged as two of the best ever, so fans couldn't wait to see them go at it.
Heading into the third fight, the score was tied at one fight a piece.
The bout ended up looking a lot like the second fight, with Liddell knocking Couture out in the first round.
The win solidified Chuck's place as the best light heavyweight in the UFC and arguably in the world and the loss sent Randy Couture into —temporary— retirement.
No. 8: Wanderlei Silva
Career Defining Moment: Beating Quinton Jackson for the second time
Few mixed martial artists have ever disliked each other as much as Wanderlei Silva and Quinton Jackson; they both really despise each other.
They've fought three times now, with Wanderlei winning two of those bouts.
The second time they fought was at Pride 28 and Silva scored one of the most vicious knockouts ever in MMA.
Wanderlei is known for his brutality and his killer instinct and he put both of those on display, knocking Quinton out with vicious knees from the clinch.
The end results was Quinton left unconscious in between the ropes, with blood pouring from his head.
No. 7: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
photo courtesy of mma weekly
Career Defining Moment: Surviving "the Cemetery Kick" and coming back to win the fight
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is most recognized for his ability to absorb ungodly amounts of punishment and still comeback to win a fight.
This general concept can be embodied no more perfectly than when Mirko Cro Cop nailed Nogueira with his patented "Cemetery Kick" and Antonio somehow managed to survive and win the fight by armbar.
No. 6: Matt Hughes
photo courtesy of mma weekly
Career Defining Moment: Surviving groin shot, choking out Frank Trigg... again
Matt Hughes has been in a ton of awesome fights in the UFC, but none is more famous than his second fight with Frank Trigg.
Early in the first round, Trigg hits Hughes with a knee to the groin, but the referee doesn't see it happen.
Matt looks to the ref for help and Frank takes that opportunity to land some heavy shots, leaving Hughes badly rocked.
From there, Trigg takes Hughes back and almost sinks in a rear-naked choke when, out of nowhere, Matt reverses position, picks Frank up, and runs across the Octagon with him.
Hughes slams Trigg to the ground and eventually takes his back, sinking in the rear-naked choke and earning the submission victory.
No. 5: Fedor Emelianenko
Career Defining Moment: Slapping an armbar on Hong-Man Choi
Fedor Emelianenko is one of the most dominant figures the history of the sport and is known as a small heavyweight who will pretty much fight anyone, of any weight, at any time.
In 2007, Fedor agreed to fight Hong-Man Choi, a fighter who outweighed him by more than 100lbs and was also about a foot taller than him.
Many thought that the size disadvantage would be too much to overcome, but Emelianenko persevered, showing that technique can trump size, easily.
Less than two minutes into the fight, Fedor slapped an armbar on Choi and Hong-man was forced to tap.
No. 4: Dan Henderson
Career Defining Moment: Holding championships in two separate weight classes in a major MMA promotion
Dan Henderson is an MMA legend and will be remembered for a lot of things, but the first thing that will come to most people's heads is that he was the first person to ever hold two championship belts, at the same time, within a major MMA promotion.
In 2005, Dan defeated Murilo Bustamante to win Pride's Welterweight Championship. Henderson held on to that belt until 2007, when he knocked out Wanderlei Silva to win himself the Pride Middleweight Championship as well.
No. 3: Randy Couture
Career Defining Moment: Coming out of retirement to defeat Tim Sylvia
Randy Couture will always be remembered most as a man who defied the odds. Almost every time fans thought he was done in this sport, he came back and surprised them with a shocking performance.
The most notable instance in which this occurred was Couture coming out of retirement to fight the then-heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia.
Sylvia was much taller than Randy and had a foot reach advantage, as well as being significantly heavier too.
The general consensus was that Tim was going to walk right through Couture, but the fighter in his forties would not be denied his comeback.
Seconds into the first round, Randy floored Sylvia with a big right hand and it was all Captain America from there.
Throughout the fight he dominated Tim Standing and took him down at will, en route to winning a unanimous decision and capturing the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
No. 2: Georges St-Pierre
Career Defining Point: Winning rematch with Matt Hughes
At UFC 50, Georges St-Pierre got his first crack at the UFC welterweight championship. His opponent was his long-time idol, Matt Hughes.
St-Pierre was noticeably nervous at the beginning of the fight and didn't perform to his usual standard as a result. Georges got caught in an armbar at the end of the first round and was forced to submit.
At UFC 65, GSP got a second chance and came in more confident, determined to defeat his idol.
St-Pierre did just that, winning the fight by TKO in the second round. Many were shocked to see the long-time champion Hughes lose in a such devastating fashion.
The fight was huge for GSP, given that he won his first UFC championship, and the fight also represented a huge passing of the guard in the welterweight division.
No. 1: Anderson Silva
Career Defining Moment: Knocking out Forrest Griffin with "pawing jab"
When Anderson Silva came into the Octagon, he very quickly made it apparent that he was in another league than everyone else in his division.
So, for a while fans were left to wonder: Just how good is Anderson Silva?
And then he fought Forrest Griffin and showed us.
Griffin is one of the better fighters in the light heavyweight division and has stood toe-to-toe with elite strikers like Quinton Jackson, Rashad Evand and Mauricio Rua and he's done well.
Anderson came out and made Forrest look bad.
Silva was able to easily move his head out of the way pretty much every time Griffin through a punch, while landing his own shots at will.
Credit to Forrest, he hung in there and tried to fight back, but it didn't go well for him.
Griffin kept moving forward while being badly hurt and ended up being knocked out by what Joe Rogan referred to as "a pawing jab".
This fight put Anderson's superman status up to a-whole-nother level.