This is part two 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. Part one can be found here.
The UFC GOAT of Each Division (Part Two)
This piece will only consider fighters who have spent a significant portion of their career in the UFC and have been quite successful in the company. For anyone wondering about Fedor Emelianenko would have been the heavyweight runner up. Even though these fighters had to have fought in the UFC, their careers outside of the UFC were still considered. It would be unfair to not give a fighter credit for something just because it didn’t happen in the octagon. In this part of the series, we will be looking at the GOAT from lightweight to heavyweight.
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: Eddie Alvarez
This is without a doubt the toughest division to pick one guy for. There isn’t anyone with a long title run or an extended period of being on top. However, Eddie Alvarez‘s career resume makes him the greatest lightweight ever, for now. Alvarez is an overall great fighter, never afraid of a war. Despite recent struggles, Alvarez is still one of the top strikers in the sport. He is very good at dealing with pressure and countering aggressive opponents (ask Rafael dos Anjos or Justin Gaethje). He has a strong wrestling game to go with his top-notch striking, too.
The “Underground King” was a two time Bellator lightweight champion along with being a UFC lightweight champion. Between the promotions, he has one successful title defense. Alvarez will be remembered more for his wars than the accomplishments on his resume. His 2018 fight of the year with Gaethje was one of the best fights ever in the UFC. His recent loss to Dustin Poirier was a war, as were his fights with Michael Chandler. He came out on top of wars with Tatsuya Kawajiri and Joachim Hansen. Alvarez also holds wins over the likes of Anthony Pettis and Patricky Pitbull along with his wins over Gaethje and dos Anjos. He won’t be remembered for a long title reign, but Eddie Alvarez will definitely be remembered for the wars he has had over the years.
Runner-up: Khabib Nurmagomedov
When talking about extended periods of dominance, Khabib Nurmagomedov comes to mind. His whole career has been an extended period of dominance. He has a 27-0 professional record to show for it. ‘The Eagle’ is one of the best grapplers in the sport and has the best ground and pound in the sport. His clinch is as good as it gets, too. If his striking continues to improve as it has, Nurmagomedov will be an unstoppable force. He has wins over dos Anjos, McGregor, Edson Barboza, and his dominating win over Al Iaquinta continues to look better. As of now, he only has one successful title defense, but he will definitely be looking to increase that number in 2019.
Honorable mentions: Tony Ferguson, Rafael dos Anjos, Benson Henderson, Frankie Edgar, BJ Penn
UFC GOAT: Georges St-Pierre
When anyone thinks of the UFC welterweight division, the first name that comes to mind is Georges St-Pierre. He’s one of the first names that come to mind regarding the all-time UFC GOAT, too. St-Pierre is as well-versed as a fighter can be. His wrestling is some of the best the sport has seen, and he has the record for most career takedowns (90) to show for it. St-Pierre’s jiu-jitsu is top notch, thanks in large part to being able to work with Bruno Fernandes and John Danaher. To go with his well-rounded grappling game, GSP is a phenomenal striker, too. He’ll consistently attack the head, body, and legs with solid jabs, clean left hooks, chopping low kicks, and a spectacular Superman punch. Simply put, GSP can do it all in the octagon, and then some.
“Rush” has an impressive resume to go with his all-around dominant fighting skills. He has compiled a career record of 26-2 to this point in time. His record in the UFC welterweight division currently sits at 19-2. His only two losses, which came to Matt Hughes and Matt Serra, he avenged in devastating fashion. GSP successfully defended his belt nine times, the most in divisional history. He defeated five men who were either former, current, or future welterweight champions during his time on top. Those men include Hughes, Serra, Penn, Carlos Condit (who went on to become interim champion) and Johny Hendricks. St-Pierre defeated the best of the best in his career, and he could do it with wrestling, jiu-jitsu, or superb striking.
Runner-up: Tyron Woodley
This one is tough because there is definitely a case to be made for Matt Hughes and Robbie Lawler. Lawler deserves a mention for the absolute wars that he has been in over the years, while Hughes has the most finishes and second most title defenses in the division’s history. However, Woodley is a more successful champion than Lawler was, and a better overall fighter than Hughes was. “The Chosen One” is as explosive and powerful as they come (when he wants to be). Just ask Lawler, Darren Till, or Josh Koscheck. Despite a few boring performances, Woodley is still a very successful champion, with four title defenses (including Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia) and is looking to add more. He also sports a 97.6% takedown defense rate, good for the best in the history of the company. Despite what you might think of him, Tyron Woodley is the second greatest welterweight in the history of the UFC.
Honorable mentions: Robbie Lawler, Matt Hughes
UFC GOAT: Anderson Silva
Like with welterweight, this one is a no-brainer. Anderson Silva is the greatest middleweight of all time. And, if you ignore the asterisk beside his name, he is definitely in the running for the greatest fighter of all time. “The Spider” is one of the best strikers in the history of all of MMA, if not the best. His muay thai skills are unmatched throughout the sport’s history. Just as good as Silva’s offensive striking was his striking defense. With some of the best footwork and head movement we’ve ever seen, Silva would dodge the strikes of his opponents like none other. Simply put, for a long time, if a fight with Anderson Silva stayed on the feet, he was going to win that fight. But, just in case things did make it to the ground, Silva does have a third-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu to fall back on. Silva’s 34-8-1 career record features 20 wins by knockout and six via decision.
The list of Anderson Silva’s accomplishments could go on and on. His 16 fight win streak is the longest in the history of the UFC. His 2457 day title reign is also the longest in the company’s history. Silva holds the records for having the most knockdowns (10), finishes (9) and knockouts (7) in title fights ever. He also holds records for wins (13), finishes (11), and title defenses (10) in middleweight history. Silva has beaten the likes of Rich Franklin (twice), Dan Henderson, Demian Maia, Chael Sonnen (twice), Yushin Okami, and the legendary Vitor Belfort. Just like his striking, Silva’s resume in the UFC is as good as it gets.
Runner-up: Robert Whittaker
Some would say Robert Whittaker is on his way to becoming an all-time middleweight great, others would say he is already there. Whittaker is one of the top few strikers in MMA today. Since moving up to the middleweight division, “The Reaper” (Bobby Knuckles) is 8-0 with four knockouts. Injuries have kept him sidelined, but as long as Whittaker can stay active, he will continue to climb the pound for pound rankings. Technically, Whittaker has zero title defenses, due to Yoel Romero missing weight by .2 pounds. However, two wins over Romero and a knockout of Jacare Souza are a good start to building a very strong resume. Look for Whittaker, only 28, to continue to expand upon an already impressive career in the middleweight division.
Honorable mention: Yoel Romero, Rich Franklin
UFC GOAT: Jon Jones
Here’s another one that doesn’t come as a surprise. Jon Jones is the greatest light heavyweight of all time and is unquestionably one of the top few greatest fighters of all time. He has just been so dominant and continues to evolve every time he steps into the octagon. His striking arsenal is very diverse. Jones’s long limbs help him keep distance very well, where he utilizes kicks to the knees, body, and head. He throws elbows from range like we have never seen before. In the clinch, Jones is perhaps more dangerous than when at distance. “Bones” is incredible at controlling his opponents’ wrists in the clinch while firing off devastating knees and elbows. Jones has some of the best takedown defense in the history of the sport, giving opponents no real obvious path to victory against him.
Despite all of his out of the cage controversy, Jones has built himself quite the resume in the cage. His career record is 23-1-1, with his only loss coming via disqualification due to an illegal elbow while he was beating up Matt Hamill. The list of names that Jones has defeated is full of legends. Mauricio Rua, Ryan Bader, Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Alexander Gustaffson (twice) and Daniel Cormier have all been defeated by Jones. Bones holds divisional records for most wins (16), longest win streak (13), title defenses (eight), and submission victories (five). Any legend of the division that you could think of other than Chuck Liddell, Jones has defeated. Any record you could think of setting, Jones has probably set it. No matter how you feel about him, there is no denying Jon Jones as the greatest light heavyweight fighter in history.
Runner-up: Daniel Cormier
Though he has only fought at light heavyweight nine times, Daniel Cormier has built himself a nice resume in the division. His record is 7-1-1, with the loss coming against Jones, and the no contest being a loss against Jones that was overturned. Jon Jones is the only man at light heavyweight that could stop Daniel Cormier. DC holds quality wins over Dan Henderson, Anthony Johnson (twice), and Gustafsson. He defended his light heavyweight title three times. If it wasn’t for Jon Jones, Daniel Cormier would be the UFC GOAT at 205 pounds.
Honorable mentions: Chuck Liddell, Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio Rua, Quinton Jackson, Rashad Evans
UFC GOAT: Stipe Miocic
The Twitter bio of Stipe Miocic simply says “greatest heavyweight of all time,” and he is correct. Miocic’s fighting style predominantly consists of boxing and wrestling, both of which he does very well. He is the best technical boxer (and overall fighter) in the heavyweight division and has an exceptional jab that he uses very well with his long reach. His collegiate wrestling background provides his offense with a nice variety of wrestling and boxing. Though he is usually doing more boxing than wrestling, the wrestling skills are still there when needed, and the fact that his opponents need to respect his takedowns make it a little easier for him to use his boxing skills. Overall, Miocic is a great fighter in all aspects. With no real obvious weaknesses, he has shown he is comfortable and always prepared no matter where the fight goes.
Stipe Miocic ran through a nice set of names during his run to the top and his time spent on top. At one point, Miocic was on a five-fight knockout streak against the likes of Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum, Alistair Overeem, and Junior dos Santos. That list includes three former champs, and Miocic knocked out every single one of them. Stipe also showed off his cardio and wrestling against Francis Ngannou, when Miocic managed to take no real damage throughout the five-round fight. Miocic’s streak of three consecutive title defenses was good for the longest streak in divisional history. In 15 UFC fights, Miocic was awarded a post-fight bonus eight times. And, with some time left in his career, Stipe Miocic is still on the quest to regain his title and expand on his record number of title defenses.
Runner-up: Cain Velasquez
Cain Velasquez has had a spectacular career if only he could stay healthy. He holds numerous records in the division’s history, which include most knockouts (10), most takedowns, and most strikes landed. Velasquez uses his wrestling and insane cardio to put pressure on opponents until they break. His most notable victories are his beatdowns of Brock Lesnar and Antonio Silva (twice). He also holds two wins over dos Santos, and first-round knockouts of Travis Browne and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. There’s an argument to be made that Velasquez is the best heavyweight of all time, he just doesn’t have the quality wins that Miocic has. But, with Velasquez returning from injury, maybe the two will meet in the near future and be able to settle the debate.
Honorable mentions: Fabricio Werdum, Junior dos Santos