This is part one of a two part series where I will be diving a little deeper into the UFC GOAT discussion, and deciding who I think is the GOAT of each weight class.
There has been a lot of talk lately about who is the UFC GOAT. For anyone unaware, although I don’t understand how anyone could be, that means, who is the greatest of all time in the UFC.
But, with so many great fighters over the years, it would be far too hard to pick just one. There is added difficulty to the discussion due to trying to compare heavyweights to flyweights and any weight class in between. A better way to have the discussion is to consider the UFC GOAT of each weight division, and that is what we will do here.
The UFC GOAT of Each Division (Part One)
First, there will be no women’s flyweight or featherweight in this discussion. The flyweight division is way too new to be able to discuss all-time greats. And, despite there being a women’s featherweight belt, there really isn’t a division. For those reasons, they will be the only two divisions left out. In this part of the series, we will look at women’s strawweight through men’s featherweight.
The title says “UFC GOAT,” which is true. All fighters mentioned here will have fought in the UFC, and have been very successful at some point in their career. Now more than ever, great fighters are fighting for all kinds of promotions. So, if someone was great in the UFC, it is only right to consider the things they did outside of the company, too.
The discussion of UFC GOAT can go in a million different directions. The main reason for that is because different variables are more valuable than others to different people. For this list, the criteria are simple. We will look at the fighter’s overall skill, the level of competition the fighter faced, and the duration of time that the fighter spent on top of his or her division. Most importantly, think of quality wins and skill, not just whether or not someone held a title. With that said, let’s get into it.
UFC GOAT: Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Despite her recent performances, Joanna Jedrzejczyk is still the greatest of all time in the strawweight division, for now. She burst onto the scene using her top level striking skills to defeat anyone she crossed paths with. When Jedrzejczyk knocked out then-champ Carla Esparza in the second round, the world knew she was the real deal. She would then go on to successfully defend her title five more times, including a five-round beatdown of Jessica Andrade, who is now the top strawweight contender. Joanna’s record in UFC strawweight fights is currently 9-2.
“Joanna Champion” set multiple UFC records during her time on top. She holds the record for most and second-most leg kicks in a fight in UFC history. Along with that, she is in possession of the four highest significant strike differentials in UFC title fight history. Her kickboxing and muay thai skills were just so far ahead of her competition at the time. The accomplishments and title reign of Jedrzejczyk speak for themselves.
Runner-up: Rose Namajunas
Rose Namajunas is the woman who gave Joanna both of her losses, but that still doesn’t quite put her above Joanna. “Thug Rose” is currently 6-2 in UFC strawweight action, with three post-fight bonuses and one successful title defense. If she can hold onto her belt for a few more defenses, it will be hard to keep her behind the woman she has defeated twice.
UFC GOAT: Amanda Nunes
Who else could you expect to see here? Amanda Nunes is arguably the greatest women’s fighter of all time, so surely she’s the greatest at 135. Nunes’s boxing skills some of the best we have ever seen from a woman in the octagon. She is great at keeping the fight on the feet and just picking her opponents apart with strikes. “The Lioness” has displayed well-rounded dominance as we have never seen before in this weight class.
Nunes’s achievements inside the octagon go on and on. She is the current bantamweight and featherweight champion. She has TKO’d former UFC champions Germaine de Randamie and Ronda Rousey. Her performance against a returning Rousey at UFC 207 is one that fans will never forget. Nunes won the belt by submitting Miesha Tate at UFC 200. Since then, she has defended the belt three times. The first against Rousey, the second coming as a split decision victory over flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko. Her most recent title defense was a four round beatdown of Raquel Pennington at UFC 224. And, though it didn’t happen at bantamweight, her recent first-round knockout of Cris Cyborg showed the world just how dominant of a fighter Amanda Nunes is.
Runner-up: Ronda Rousey
When talking about an extended period of dominance in women’s MMA, Ronda Rousey is one of the first names to come to mind. She won the Strikeforce bantamweight championship against Miesha Tate. After defending it once, the belt became the UFC bantamweight championship, and the rest is history. Rousey became a megastar like we have never seen from a woman in the sport before. Her judo credentials are unmatched, and her records go on for days. Six title defenses, second and third fastest finishes in UFC title fights, six post-fight bonuses. All of those accolades were good enough to make Rousey the first female inductee in the UFC Hall of Fame. She was a trailblazer for women’s MMA, and she was a real killer during her time on top.
Honorable mentions: Miesha Tate and Holly Holm
UFC GOAT: Demetrious Johnson
When you think of the flyweight division, you think of Demetrious Johnson. “Mighty Mouse” is as well-rounded as fighters come. His striking, wrestling, jiu-jitsu, scrambles, footwork, clinch, and whatever other aspects of fighting you can name are as good as they come. He has knocked out the likes of Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo in the octagon. He holds a submission victory over Kyoji Horiguchi. And who could forget Johnson’s suplex-to-armbar submission of Ray Borg at UFC 216? His only ever loss in the division was a very close, controversial split decision to Cejudo.
There’s no shortage of accolades on Johnson’s resume, either. He defended his flyweight championship 11 consecutive times, the longest streak in the history of the division and the entire company. In 18 UFC fights, Johnson was 15-2-1 with nine post-fight bonuses. You can say he didn’t face the greatest competition, which is true. But Mighty Mouse holds victories over every big name the division has ever seen. He is the clear cut, undeniable greatest 125-pound fighter ever. Now, with ONE Championship, he will be looking to add new names to his resume.
Runner-up: Joseph Benavidez
Two men have held the UFC flyweight title, and Joseph Benavidez is not one of them. However, he does have a victory over Cejudo, the man other than Johnson to hold the strap. Benavidez has been a flyweight since the division’s beginning. He has fought 15 times in the division and has a 12-3 record to show for it. He has two losses to Johnson and a very close split decision loss to Sergio Pettis. Benavidez is a very good overall fighter with no real weaknesses in his game. He has finished five of his wins in the division and has three post-fight bonuses to his name. Though he never captured the belt, Benavidez is undoubtedly one of the best to ever do it at 125 pounds.
Honorable mentions: Kyoji Horiguchi and Henry Cejudo
UFC GOAT: TJ Dillashaw
This is one of those divisions that could go either way. TJ Dillashaw gets the slight edge over one of the three men to defeat him, Dominick Cruz. It’s hard to find a fighter as well-rounded as Dillashaw. He is probably the most well-rounded fighter in the entire company. His muay thai skills are as good as they come. He can punch you in the face or chop your legs down. Dillashaw’s wrestling, in terms of MMA wrestling, is right up there with some of the best in the sport. His footwork is absolutely incredible. Pretty much anything you can think of, Dillashaw can do it and at a very high level.
Dillashaw has the resume to go with his elite skills, too. He is a two-time UFC bantamweight champion with three title defenses, and more likely to come. He has finished Renan Barao twice, dominated Raphael Assuncao, completely shut down John Lineker, and finished Cody Garbrandt twice. Though the judges say he lost to Cruz, the eyes of many fans say the opposite. It’s not a win for Dillashaw, but the fight was too close for the loss to really be held against him. His record at bantamweight in the UFC is 12-3. In those 15 fights, he was awarded post-fight bonuses eight times. The best part about Dillashaw is that he’s still in his prime. So, we get to keep watching his career develop, as he tries to leave no doubt as to who the UFC GOAT of bantamweight is.
Runner-up: Dominick Cruz
The thing about Dominick Cruz and TJ Dillashaw is that they are similar fighters. Cruz and Dillashaw are both very good wrestlers, who are great strikers and have spectacular footwork. The thing is, Dillashaw is probably the better fighter when it comes to all three things. Cruz’s does have a very respectable resume, though. Between UFC and WEC he is a two-time bantamweight champion with five total title defenses. His record in the division is 12-1 between the two promotions. The issue with Cruz is that numerous of his wins at bantamweight came against flyweights before the division existed. Cruz does, though, hold two victories over Urijah Faber and obviously the win against Dillashaw. It’s a shame what injuries have done to Cruz’s career, as he would have been able to build quite the resume if healthy.
Honorable mention: Renan Barao
UFC GOAT: Jose Aldo
A year from now, this will likely be a different answer. But as of right now, Jose Aldo is the greatest featherweight fighter in history. The argument can definitely be made that he is the greatest fighter ever, regardless of weight class, too. Don’t bother trying to find an area where Aldo isn’t as good as it gets, because you can’t. He is probably the best kicker that the sport has ever seen. Aldo will chop an opponents legs like trees or kick them in the liver until they don’t want to move. As his career progressed, he developed into one of the best boxers in the sport. He uses his hips so well to the point that he is one of the hardest fighters to take down in history. And on top of all of that, he has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu to fall back on, not that he ever really had to use it.
Jose Aldo has added quite the list of names to his resume over the years. Cub Swanson was finished. Faber, Chad Mendes, Kenny Florian, and Frankie Edgar (twice) were all defeated via convincing decisions. Mendes was defeated via a first-round knockout, too. Aldo became the WEC featherweight champion at the age of 23. He defended the belt twice until he was promoted to UFC featherweight champion. In the new promotion, he defended the belt seven more times. A nine-year undefeated streak, two championships, and nine title defenses make Aldo one of the greatest fighters the world has ever seen.
Runner-up: Max Holloway
Max Holloway is the best fighter in all of MMA today. He is also the best striker in the game today. His most recent title defense against Brian Ortega was one of the best performances we have seen in the octagon in recent memory. Holloway’s striking output and ability to strike at a high volume without getting tired is the stuff of legends. He has notable wins against Swanson, Anthony Pettis, Aldo (twice), and Ortega, all of which were finishes. Holloway’s record in the UFC is 16-3, and he is currently on a six-fight win streak. The only thing holding “Blessed” back is his lack of title defenses, only currently with two. But, at age 27, Holloway is well on his way to being the greatest featherweight, and potentially greatest fighter, in the sport’s history.
Honorable mention: Conor McGregor
That wraps things up for part one, but be sure to stay tuned for part two where we will look at the UFC GOAT for each division from lightweight to heavyweight.