A History of MMA's Pound-for-Pound Best

Mitch WilesContributor IJanuary 29, 2009

The Pound-for-Pound Best Fighter in MMA is always in question, and is always a wild debate. The following list shows the Pound-for-Pound Best Fighter on an annual basis from 1993-2009. Below is a more thorough descriptive timeline of the history of the Pound-for-Pound Best MMA fighter.

MMA: History of the Pound-for-Pound Best

1993 - Royce Gracie - UFC 1 Open-Weight Tournament Champion
1994 - Royce Gracie - UFC 2 and UFC 4 Open-Weight Tournament Champion
1995 - Rickson Gracie - Vale Tudo '95 Open-Weight Tournament Champion
1996 - Mark Coleman - UFC 10 and UFC 11 Heavyweight Tournament Champion
1997 - Mark Kerr - UFC 14 and UFC 15 Heavyweight Tournament Champion,
            World Vale Tudo 3 Champion
1998 - Mark Kerr - Undefeated 10-0
1999 - Bas Rutten - UFC Heavyweight Champion
2000 - Randy Couture - UFC Heavyweight Champion
2001 - Matt Hughes - UFC Welterweight Champion
2002 - Matt Hughes - UFC Welterweight Champion
2003 - Matt Hughes - UFC Welterweight Champion
2004 - Fedor Emelianenko - Pride Heavyweight Champion,
            Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion
2005 - Mauricio Rua - Pride Middleweight Grand Prix Champion
2006 - Chuck Liddell - UFC Light Heavyweight Champion
2007 - Anderson Silva - UFC Welterweight Champion
2008 - Anderson Silva - UFC Middleweight Champion
2009 - Fedor Emelianenko - WAMMA Heavyweight Champion

Starting in 1993, Royce Gracie wins the Ultimate Fighting Championship's inaugural 8-Man Open-Weight Tournament. UFC 1 took place on Nov. 12, 1993 in Denver, Colorado. This event marked the birth of the modern era of Mixed Martial Arts.

Royce Gracie continues to dominate the MMA world throughout 1994, winning both UFC 2 and UFC 4. Gracie's record stood at 11-1, with the only blemish coming from pulling out of a tournament due to injury. Royce breaks ties from the UFC in 1995; he does not fight again for five years.

In 1994 and 1995, Royce Gracie's half brother Rickson Gracie wins the Vale Tudo Open-Weight Tournament in Japan. Rickson dominates all challengers. He leaves Vale Tudo with a record of 8-0. Rickson does not fight again until 1997.

The UFC returns to a Tournament structure in 1996. Mark Coleman wins both UFC 10 and UFC 11 Heavyweight Tournaments. Mark Coleman's record peaked at 6-0 defeating Dan Severn in February of 1997. He then went on to lose four straight.

Undefeated Mark Kerr makes waves in 1997. He wins the World Vale Tudo 3 Tournament, and both UFC 14 and UFC 15 Heavyweight Tournaments. In 1998, Kerr has continued success in the Pride Fighting Championship. His 1998 record stood at 10-0. Kerr would not loose a contest until May of 2000.

In 1999, Bas Rutten stole the spotlight by winning the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Bas's 1999 record stood at 27-4-1. He was undefeated in his last 22 fights. Bas would retire from MMA in 1999 due to an injured knee and biceps.

In the year 2000, Randy Couture goes 3-0, capping off the year with a victory over Kevin Randleman for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. This is Couture's second reign as UFC Heavyweight Champion. He would make two successful title defences in 2001, but first lose to Valentijn Overeem at Rings: King of Kings, in February 2001.

Matt Hughes fights nine times in 2001. He loses his first fight before going on a 9-fight win streak. Hughes becomes the UFC Welterweight Championship at UFC 34. He successfully defends his title five times. He would not lose a match until 2004; against B.J. Penn. Penn would leave the UFC in 2005, and suffer a defeat to Lyoto Machida in the same year.

With Matt Hughes suffering defeat, the title of Pound-for-Pound Best in 2004 would shift to Pride Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko. Emelianenko's record in 2004 stood at 20-1-1. He successfully defends his title against Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira at Pride Shockwave 2004.

In 2005, attention shifts to a rising star of Pride; Mauricio Rua. With a record of 12-1, Rua would win the Pride Middleweight Grad Prix. He was at the top of his game and only 24 years old. Unfortunately, he would dislocate his elbow in a fight against Mark Coleman in 2006. Rua would come back from his injury and win four straight fights, but additional injuries and conditioning concerns push Rua out of the Pound-for-Pound spotlight. Rua would face defeat in 2007.

Similar in style and stature, Chuck Liddell would take the Pound-For-Pound title away from Mauricio Rua in 2006. With Rua mending his dislocated elbow, Liddell would defend his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship successfully three times. First at UFC 57 against Randy Couture, then at UFC 62 against Renato Sobral, and finally at UFC 66 against Tito Ortiz. At the end of 2006, Chuck Liddell held a record of 20-3. He would loose his first fight of 2007 against Quintin Jackson at UFC 71.

In 2007, Quintin Jackson successfully defends his title at UFC 75 against Dan Henderson, but most analysis see Jackson as a one-dimensional fighter and not the Pound-for-Pound best in MMA. They instead look to UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. With a record of 23-4, Silva would defend his title twice in 2007, and twice in 2008. His utter destruction of his opponents propels him into iconic stature. He even finds success at Light Heavyweight against UFC veteran James Irvin.

As of January 2009, Anderson Silva has been dethroned by Fedor Emelianenko. Fedor has defeated higher quality opponents. In his last two fights, Emelianenko has defeated Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia, and Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski.

The Heavyweight division is filled with former champions and rising stars while the Middleweight division is weak in comparison. Anderson Silva is a big fish in a small pond. Until Silva moves permanently to Light Heavyweight, the MMA world will not know the extent of his talent. Fedor Emelianenko is the Pound-For-Pound Best Fighter in MMA today.


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