Now that Demetrious Johnson has broken Anderson Silva’s record for most title defenses, people are getting ready to crown a new GOAT. But, is “Mighty Mouse” truly the best ever or is the UFC’s greatest of all-time (GOAt) still “The Spider?”
Determining who has had a better run of title defense presents some difficulties. Body of work is a criteria that is incredibly important deciding a winner in this debate. Similar to BCS era college football, just because a team is undefeated doesn’t mean they are the better team. Much like football, we have to dive deeper into each fighter’s reign to see how well they fared.
The Body of Work Says it All
An issue with the body of work argument, which leans in favor of Silva, is how long the division has been a part of the UFC. While Silva took the title from Rich Franklin, The UFC brought in the flyweight division with a tournament to crown the inaugural champion. A tournament that included Johnson, John Dodson, Ian McCall, and Jussier Formiga, it was no walk in the park to make it out alive. An established division has more talent in it.
In addition to a more established division, middleweight also tends to have more talent than flyweight. Take a moment to think about the defenses Silva had versus Johnson’s.
Anderson Silva title matches: Rich Franklin (22–1), Nate Marquardt (25–6–2), Dan Henderson (22–6), Patrick Côté (13–4), Thales Leites (14–1), Demian Maia (12–2), Chael Sonnen 1 (26–10–1), Vitor Belfort (19–9), Yushin Okami (26–5), and Chael Sonnen again (28–11–1)
Demetrious Johnson title matches: Joseph Benavidez (16–3), John Dodson 1 (14–6), John Moraga (13–2), Joseph Benavidez again (19–4), Ali Bagautinov (13–2), Chris Cariaso (17–5), Kyoji Horiguchi (15–1), John Dodson 2 (17–7), Henry Cejudo (10–0), Tim Elliott (13–6–1), Wilson Reis (22–6), and Ray Borg (11–2)
The combined record of Silva’s opponents was 207–55–4, which is a 77.8 win percentage. In contrast, “Mighty Mouse’s” challengers have a combined record of 180–39–1, or an 81.8 win percentage. Johnson has the advantage with the percentage, but Anderson Silva has the advantage with the more experienced fighters.
Branching Out From Your Weight-Class
Another thing that was incredible about Silva’s title run was not only the amount of defenses collected, but also the fights he took outside of middleweight. Weather it be for the fighter missing weight, or Silva fighting at light heavyweight, “The Spider” took the fight and won it. During Silva’s reign, he not only had the most title defenses, but the UFC record for most wins in a row as well.
In the middle of his title run, he also fought Travis Lutter, James Irvin, Forrest Griffin, and Stephan Bonner. Silva had an insane 16-fight win streak while the best fighters were being thrown at him, not to mention hall-of-famers.
Johnson’s career isn’t over yet, and he’s on a 13-fight win streak himself. The thing that works against “Mighty Mouse” is his lack of fights outside of flyweight during his title reign. Before the Ray Borg fight, when Borg pulled out, T.J. Dillashaw offered to step in for the injured Borg. Johnson refused to fight him.
“Mighty Mouse” has cleaned out the flyweight division. Johnson has the option to either continue to pad his record, or pad his legacy by returning to bantamweight, where he suffered his last loss to Dominick Cruz. If he can go and get that marquee win over Dillashaw, or avenge the loss to Cruz, he would open the argument as the undisputed GOAT.
Silva, while being on top of the game for so long, did not clean out a division the way Johnson has. There is NOBODY left for Johnson to fight, aside from maybe Sergio Pettis. Johnson has the opportunity to get some “I fought bigger guys and won anyway” wins at bantamweight. The top fighters are Cruz, Dillashaw, and champion Cody Garbrandt. A win or two over these guys would put Johnson over the top in the conversation for the GOAT.
The verdict is in…
As of right now, even with the lesser defense record and the weaker better win percentage, Anderson Silva is still the GOAT. The quality of wins for Anderson Silva put him in a league of his own. But, as Mighty Mouse’s career goes on, he closes the gap with each win. It won’t be long before that “Demetrious Johnson is the undisputed greatest pound for pound fighter of all-time” talk becomes solidified.
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