By Hal Estep
The Featherweight GOAT: It’s not Conor McGregor
The featherweight division’s stock rose with the ascension of Conor McGregor. He predicted his wins, how they would occur and which round they would come in. He became the biggest and most influential name in mixed martial arts after winning the UFC Featherweight championship.
Conor McGregor is not the greatest featherweight of all time. I consider two other men to have a better case to be the greatest featherweight, but McGregor is the man that makes this choice harder. Because Conor McGregor has defeated both of the other candidates. The biggest factor keeping Conor McGregor from being the featherweight GOAT is that he never defended the featherweight champion. How can a fighter be the greatest in their division without defending the championship?
The two men with the best cases for being the greatest featherweight are the current UFC Featherweight champion Max Holloway and the longtime king of the featherweight division, Jose Aldo.
Max Holloway lost to Conor McGregor back in 2013 and proceeded to tear through the featherweight division. As of December 6, 2019, Holloway is on 14 fight win streak in the featherweight division. His only loss in the last six years was against Dustin Poirier in Holloway’s first lightweight fight in the UFC.
Holloway has held the featherweight championship for the last two years and has defended it three times. Holloway defeated Jose Aldo to capture the title and proceeded to beat the legend in the subsequent rematch. In his three defenses, Holloway has defeated Aldo, demolished Brian Ortega and defeated former lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar. Holloway has an impressive resume and he’s only 28 years old, so he can continue building on this for the foreseeable future.
However, Max Holloway is not the greatest of all time either. At least not yet. That title still belongs to the man who ran the featherweight division for five years: Jose Aldo.
Jose Aldo may have lost to the other two men listed before him, but that shouldn’t discredit his prior dominance. Jose Aldo gained the WEC featherweight title in June of 2009, held onto it until WEC’s merger with the UFC and proceeded to hold the UFC featherweight championship until December 12, 2015, when Conor McGregor knocked him out in 13 seconds.
Along the way in that six and a half year reign of dominance, Aldo defeated the likes of Urijah Faber, “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, Chad Mendes twice and Frankie Edgar twice. Aldo was on an 18 fight win streak when he finally lost to McGregor. There are few men in MMA as a whole who have a resume as impressive as Aldo’s.
The two blights on Aldo’s record are losing to McGregor and Holloway. Aldo is no longer in his prime, as shown by his most recent loss to Alexander Volkanovski, but he had shown his prior brilliance against Jeremy Stephens and Renato Moicano. He hasn’t suffered a Renan Barao like downfall, which helps his case significantly. Despite his losses, Aldo still defended his title seven times, which is a UFC featherweight title record.
While Aldo is currently the featherweight GOAT, Max Holloway is not far behind. Holloway’s two wins over Aldo help his case significantly, as well as tearing through the featherweight division since 2013. Holloway can improve his resume on December 14th with a successful fourth title defense against Alexander Volkanovski, but I believe he’d need either a completely dominant win or just one more successful title defense after that to take the throne from Jose Aldo. In time, we’ll see if the best is truly blessed enough to become the greatest of all time.
The Lightweight Division: MMA’s Thunderdome
The lightweight division can best be described as a powder keg filled with explosive talent as far as the eye can see. The amount of talent in that division is astonishing, which is why the greatest lightweight of all time has to be from the current roster.
Before determining the lightweight GOAT, I would be insulting MMA history if I didn’t mention BJ Penn. It’s nearly impossible to say which division BJ Penn even belongs to because he would literally fight anyone. He’s fought from featherweight (145 lbs) to weighing 191 lbs in an openweight fight against Lyoto Machida, who weighed 225 lbs. Newer MMA fans probably only know BJ Penn as the old guy who repeatedly lost over the past decade, but BJ Penn was a force to be reckoned with in his prime. He was the first fighter to win a championship in two separate weight divisions and that deserves an honorable mention for the GOAT discussion.
There are two men who have a large claim to being the greatest lightweight of all time. These two fighters have been so impressive that it’s been said that the lightweight division as a whole cannot move on until they fight each other. And they’re scheduled to fight each other once again. I’m talking about Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson.
These two have been on a collision course for years now. Khabib and Ferguson have now been scheduled to fight five times. The previous four have been canceled, either due to injury or due to weight cutting issues. Their last scheduled bout was supposed to be in New York at UFC 223, but it was canceled after Tony Ferguson tore a knee ligament. UFC 223 is better known for being the event that Conor McGregor almost destroyed when he threw a dolly at a bus that held Khabib and numerous other fighters inside.
It’s no secret why this fight is so highly anticipated. Khabib has never lost in his entire MMA career. He is 28-0 and has dominated almost every bout he has fought in. In fact, in his 28 fights, Khabib has only lost one round. That would be the third round against Conor McGregor where Khabib kept the fight standing after holding McGregor down for the first two rounds. Khabib isn’t known for his striking, he’s known for his relentless wrestling, so that’s a round where he played McGregor’s game. And after that round, Khabib put an end to the fight with a neck crank to win the lightweight championship.
But Tony Ferguson may be the perfect test for Khabib. Ferguson is on a 12 fight winning streak and has only lost one fight in his UFC career. At one point, Ferguson was the interim lightweight champion. He only lost that title due to his aforementioned knee injury before UFC 223. Many would say that Ferguson has deserved a title shot for at least two years.
The stylistic matchup between these two is almost perfect. Khabib Nurmagomedov is a wrestler who likes to bury and wear out his opponents. Tony Ferguson is a black belt in 10th Planet Jui-Jitsu, which prioritizes working submissions off of your back. Ferguson has also shown that he does not tire out. His pressure and cardio is ridiculous and he seems fearless in the octagon. Many say that he seems to improve when he gets hurt in a fight.
An interesting part of this fight is that Khabib has never been cut in a fight. Meanwhile, Tony Ferguson has made the majority of his most recent opponents bleed and is known for his lethal elbows. He won’t be afraid to throw them from the bottom either. While Ferguson has tons of heart and many potential counters to Khabib’s game, keep in mind that Khabib has not shown much vulnerability in his career. He hasn’t lost a fight for a reason.
This fight is going to determine the greatest lightweight of all time. Whoever wins will take the throne as the lightweight GOAT, but that doesn’t answer who it is right now. Comparing their resumes, Tony Ferguson has defeated great fighters like Edson Barbosa, Rafael dos Anjos, Kevin Lee, Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone. That’s a murderer’s row for most fighters, but Tony Ferguson has defeated each of them during his 12 fight win streak.
In his undefeated run, Khabib has defeated Rafael dos Anjos, Edson Barbosa, Al Iaquinta, Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier and Michael Johnson. I include Michael Johnson because he’s the only man to defeat Tony Ferguson in the UFC. Khabib’s strength of opponents is slightly better than Ferguson’s. Khabib also has something which Tony does not: the UFC Lightweight championship. While that isn’t due to a lack of deserving it, it’s really the biggest element separating their resumes.
Due to a slightly better case, Khabib Nurmagomedov is the current lightweight GOAT. If he defeats Tony Ferguson, he will unquestionably be the greatest of all time. This fight has broken down so many times in the past that I won’t believe it’s happening until the door locks behind Khabib after his walkout. This fight needs to happen or else this debate will rage on forever.
The Welterweight GOAT
If you have followed MMA at any length, you already know the answer to this. Georges St. Pierre is the greatest welterweight on the planet and it’s not even close. I’ve written at length about GSP’s greatness before, and with the topic at hand, it bears repeating.
Georges St. Pierre held the welterweight title twice and defended it nine times. He has only lost to two men: Matt Hughes and Matt Serra. However, he’s avenged both of those losses. He’s a rare example of an MMA fighter who has legitimately beaten everyone he’s faced.
Everyone knows that Georges St. Pierre is the greatest welterweight of all time. Other than some premature hype trains, no one would claim otherwise. So who’s the guy behind Georges St. Pierre in the ranking of greatest welterweights?
There are numerous great welterweights who have a claim to number two. Robbie Lawler was a great champion who may have had the most entertaining title reign. His bouts with Johny Hendricks and Carlos Condit were great fights. But the greatest fight of Lawler’s career was his second fight with Rory MacDonald, which may be the greatest welterweight fight of all time.
But I can’t say Robbie Lawler is number two. If this was ranking the most entertaining title reign, Robbie Lawler would run away with it since GSP was putting on technical masterclasses instead of five round wars.
There was noise during Tyron Woodley’s title reign that he could become the greatest if he continued plowing through the welterweight ranks. However, being absolutely dominated by Kamaru Usman put an end to those talks. Woodley’s title reign was impressive, but he suffered from the stigma of being a “boring” champion. It’s a little unfair, as he’s a counter puncher and in most cases, his opponent was either not a striker or they didn’t let their hands go (see Woodley-Thompson 2). He defended the title four times, so he has a good case to be number 2.
The second greatest welterweight of all time has to be UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes. Hughes is a pioneer in MMA and dominated the welterweight division for the first half of the 2000s. He held the UFC Welterweight Championship on two separate occasions and defended it a total of seven times. Hughes has defeated some of the greatest fighters in MMA history, such as Georges St. Pierre, BJ Penn and even the winner of UFC 1, Royce Gracie.
With a record of 45-9, Hughes is secure in second place behind Georges St. Pierre. There are up-and-coming welterweights who are incredibly talented that could rise up to second, but that’s the best they can hope for. Georges St. Pierre set the bar so high, it’s next to impossible that someone will reach it from the current crop of welterweights.
Two of those up-and-comers are fighting on December 14th. Kamaru Usman will fight Colby Covington in battle between two elite wrestlers. Whoever wins only has to defend the title nine times, avenge any previous losses on their record and carry themselves as graciously as Georges St. Pierre if they want to be considered the greatest welterweight. Colby Covington has already failed one of the given criteria. We may never see another Georges St. Pierre, so appreciate him when he inevitably comes out of retirement to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov if Khabib defeats Tony Ferguson.
The Undisputed GOAT of the Middleweight Division
If you ask any MMA fan who the greatest middleweight of all time is, you will get two consensus answers.
One of them will be the man that ran the division for nearly seven years, Anderson Silva. “The Spider” wouldn’t just defeat fighters, he would school them. Silva won 16 fights in a row after joining the UFC. That is a UFC record, which is only in danger of being broken by Tony Ferguson. And a lot would need to go Ferguson’s way for that to happen.
The other answer is the correct one. From the mean streets of West Linn, Oregon is the undefeated, undisputed champion of the world, Chael P. Sonnen. It’s been said that Sonnen has never even lost a round in his MMA career. Sonnen ruled the UFC with an iron fist for years before deciding to mercifully leaving to go rule Bellator.
Now in all reality, Chael Sonnen was the biggest threat to Anderson Silva during his winning streak. At UFC 117, Chael Sonnen dominated Anderson Silva for four and a half rounds. No one had ever made Anderson Silva look as vulnerable as Chael Sonnen did that night. And even with such an impressive display, Silva managed to pull out the victory after making Sonnen submit to a triangle choke. While it would later be revealed that Sonnen fought with elevated testosterone levels, it was still an impressive fight.
The rematch was not as impressive. Silva was determined to prove he was the better fighter, and lit Sonnen up for a 2nd round TKO at UFC 148. Sonnen inexplicably went for a spinning attack, which he is not known for. It goes without saying that the attack did not succeed. With those two fights between two all time greats over, it was official. Anderson Silva is the greatest middleweight of all time.
Let’s be clear, this isn’t actually a debate. Like the welterweight division, the middleweight debate doesn’t exist for the top spot. People will joke about Chael Sonnen being the greatest fighter to ever live, but that’s the only time you’ll see someone claim anyone else is the greatest middleweight. To be fair, Chael Sonnen is a pioneer in the UFC when it comes to talking trash and selling fights. He sold himself better than any MMA fighter not named Conor McGregor.
But when it comes to fighting, which is what MMA is really about, Anderson Silva runs away as the GOAT. He was flashy, he was cocky and he could do it all. His cockiness ultimately led to his downfall and decline, but that will never take away almost seven years as a champion. That won’t take away ten title defenses.
The real shame about Anderson Silva’s title reign is that we never got the superfight of all superfights. Prime Anderson Silva vs prime Georges St. Pierre. These are two of the unquestionably greatest fighters to ever live and they were only 15 pounds apart. For many fans, if you asked who the two greatest MMA fighters ever were, Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre would be the most frequently given names.
An honorable mention to Chris Weidman, Robert Whitaker and Rich Franklin. Weidman was the man to end Silva’s reign of dominance and held onto the title until Luke Rockhold took it from him. Robert Whitaker held the title for almost two years and had two incredible wars against Yoel Romero. Before Whitaker, there wasn’t a man alive that anyone thought could fight Yoel Romero for fifty minutes, but Whitaker did that and won both fights. And Rich Franklin ran the middleweight division before Anderson Silva showed up in the UFC. The Hall of Famer was 20-1 after defeating Evan Tanner to win the Middleweight Championship and looked unstoppable. Then he had the misfortune of running into Anderson Silva. And the rest is history.
The Light Heavyweight GOAT
The light heavyweight GOAT debate comes down to one question: Do you like Jon Jones?
If the answer is yes, then this isn’t a debate. Jon Jones is not only the greatest light heavyweight, but also the greatest fighter of all time. Anyone who says otherwise is just a biased Daniel Cormier fanboy.
If the answer is no, it’s because Jon Jones has failed multiple drug tests, has been stripped of the Light Heavyweight Championship and an interim title on separate occasions and has had numerous incidents outside of the octagon. This doesn’t include the time he wouldn’t fight Chael Sonnen on short notice, which led to UFC 151 being canceled. Or when he tested positive for turinabol and the UFC had to move UFC 232 to California out of fear that the Nevada State Athletic Commission wouldn’t clear him to fight Alexander Gustaffson.
Despite the lengthy list of valid criticism for Jon Jones, it’s hard to argue that his resume doesn’t hold up as one of the greatest of all time. If PED use disqualified fighters from being the greatest in their weight division, then Anderson Silva can’t be the middleweight GOAT. And you would be hard-pressed to find any MMA fan or expert who doesn’t consider Anderson Silva to be the greatest middleweight to ever live.
Jon Jones only has one loss on his record. That loss was against Matt Hamill in 2009, due to Jones using illegal 12-6 elbows and being disqualified. That’s the only blemish on Jon Jones’ record inside of the octagon. He has defeated the best light heavyweights that could be thrown at him, and it’s officially to the point where it looks like Jones’ best hope for more competition is a move up to heavyweight.
Jones defeated Mauricio “Shogun” Rua for the Light Heavyweight Championship back in early 2011 and held onto it with an unbreakable grip. He successfully defended the title against some of the most iconic names in MMA. Jones has defeated Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen, Alexander Gustafsson twice, Glover Teixeira, and Daniel Cormier twice. Officially, Jones has only defeated Cormier once due to Jones’ struggle to stay out of his own way and popped for PEDs, leading to the second fight being ruled a no contest.
Jon Jones has had three incredibly tough opponents in his career. Alexander Gustafsson in their first meeting, Thiago Santos in his most recent defense, and himself. For some reason, Jon Jones is incapable of going a full year without a massive controversy. He has a laundry list of legal or USADA-based troubles, which he has only gotten away with because the UFC is now coddling his mistakes. Who else would the UFC move an entire PPV to a different state on a week’s notice for? I can only think of one answer, and it’s Conor McGregor.
There are numerous fighters who could be mentioned as fighters up near Jones, but his lone loss being a DQ makes it difficult to say those fighters have legitimate claims. But it can’t be a discussion about the light heavyweight GOAT without bringing up Frank Shamrock, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell and Daniel Cormier. Frank Shamrock was the first light heavyweight champion, and he defended the title four times before leaving due to the lack of competition. That’s code for beating the division so badly that you got tired of it.
Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell literally helped the UFC survive with their feud and subsequent fights. Liddell defeated Ortiz both times, which obviously puts him well above Ortiz. We’re going to pretend that the third fight never happened because that was a disgrace. And Daniel Cormier held the light heavyweight title twice and dominated every light heavyweight not named Jon Jones. Cormier, while not in contention for light heavyweight or heavyweight GOAT, has every right to be considered one of the greatest of all time.
Jon Jones will go down as both the greatest light heavyweight of all time and as one of the biggest what if’s in MMA history. From 2015 to 2018, Jon Jones only fought four times. That’s a rate of once a year and it was always due to a self-inflicted mistake causing him to spend more time in a courtroom than in the octagon. Jones has all of the talent in the world, hopefully his time wasting it is over.
The Heavyweight GOAT
Heavyweight is the most volatile division in MMA purely due to the possibility of a knockout coming at any moment. The ability to stay on top of this division for an extended period of time is rare and impressive.
For every single of these columns, the GOAT has come from the UFC. That makes sense, the best fighters would come from the biggest, best MMA organization in the world. But that changes with the heavyweight division.
The greatest heavyweight of all time is Fedor Emelianenko. “The Last Emperor” was a physical anomaly. He didn’t look like what you imagine a heavyweight champion would look like. He was shorter than most heavyweights and he had what could only be described as a “dad bod”. If there was a walking definition of “don’t judge a book by its cover” it would be Fedor Emelianenko.
In the ring, Fedor was the most terrifying human being on the planet. He moved like a middleweight and hit like a heavyweight. The speed and ferocity Fedor attacked with were almost superhuman. From 2002-2009, there was not a better heavyweight in the world. That includes every heavyweight champion in the UFC at the time.
Fedor went 31-1 in the first decade of his career. The lone loss coming from a doctor stoppage due to a cut. Fedor fought in Pride FC, which challenged the UFC as the premier MMA promotion in the first half of the 2000s. In Pride FC, there were three heavyweights vying to be the best heavyweight in the world. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko Cro Cop and Fedor Emelianenko. Fedor fought and defeated both of them.
Fedor defeated two former UFC Heavyweight Champions in PRIDE and added three more in his post-PRIDE career. Fedor beat Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman twice, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski and Frank Mir. The Randleman fight showcased Fedor’s resolve, as Randleman suplexed Fedor onto his head. Despite being slammed directly on his head/neck, Fedor managed to turn the situation in his favor by locking in a kimura and forcing Randleman to submit. All within 30 seconds of being slammed onto his head.
There is never going to be another stretch of dominance like Fedor’s in the heavyweight division. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t fighters close to Fedor in the GOAT discussion.
Stipe Miocic has the greatest chance of catching the Russian legend. Miocic has already tied the record for most title defenses in the UFC heavyweight division. He has also avenged his defeat to Daniel Cormier and may add to his record when the two meet again next year. He also may be the only heavyweight to have the terrifying Francis Ngannou figured out.
Historically, Cain Velasquez and Randy Couture deserve an honorable mention. Velasquez was the total package when it came to heavyweights. He could wrestle, he could strike and he had limitless stamina as long as the fight took place near sea level. Velasquez dismantled Brock Lesnar to take the UFC Heavyweight Championship at UFC 121. Unfortunately, Velasquez struggled with injuries throughout his career, which robbed fans and Velasquez himself of many potentially classic fights.
Randy Couture proved that old guys could still beat the younger fighters. Couture was a three-time heavyweight champion, but his most impressive fight was against Tim Sylvia. Couture came out of retirement at the age of 43 to move up to heavyweight and fight the younger, much bigger Sylvia. Couture defeated Sylvia via unanimous decision, becoming the oldest champion in UFC history. Not bad for an old man, eh?
Fedor’s career will always have the questions surrounding what would have happened if he came to the UFC. Would he have beaten Brock Lesnar in a superfight? Could he have maintained his dominance against guys like Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem? Those questions can never be answered, but what we do know is how dominant he was in his prime. Fedor Emelianenko is the greatest heavyweight of all time, and will be until someone steps up and can hold the heavyweight title as firmly as Fedor held the PRIDE Heavyweight Championship.
The Pound-For-Pound Greatest Male MMA Fighter of All Time
The grand conclusion is here. After analyzing all of the men’s weight divisions, it’s time to determine one greatest fighter of all time.
I’ve analyzed the weight division GOATs that I’ve picked out, and I’ve determined that some of them do not have a case to be the best fighter of all time. Dominick Cruz from the bantamweight division suffered too many injuries and couldn’t get in the cage enough to be considered. His talent is unquestionable, but his body let him down many times. Fedor Emelianenko, despite his dominance over a division that is known for the “puncher’s chance”, can’t be considered for the pound-for-pound GOAT. He’s one of the greatest, but his late-career drop-off hurts his case.
That leaves us with six worthy contenders from the remaining weight divisions. Plus one more, who doesn’t qualify as the greatest in a particular weight division, but is easily one of the best fighters on the planet.
Demetrious Johnson’s dominance over the flyweight division cannot be understated. The only issues many had with Johnson were that his fights were boring and his competition was lacking. To counter that, Johnson’s fights were only boring because Johnson is incredibly technically sound and he knew how to win without accumulating damage. It’s easy to make your competition look unworthy when you’re that good.
Jose Aldo represents the featherweight division, and his reign as featherweight champion deserves acknowledgment. It’s incredibly difficult to remain champion for five years, yet Aldo managed to do that. However, he’s in danger of losing his status as featherweight GOAT to Max Holloway in the near future. Due to that and Aldo’s recent struggles, he won’t be in the mix for the pound-for-pound GOAT.
Khabib Nurmagomedov has one thing that no one else on this list (except maybe Jon Jones depending on how you feel about 12-6 elbows) can say. Khabib is undefeated. He’s 28-0, and he’s defeated some of the best lightweights in the world. In fact, he’s only lost one round in his career. Khabib is only 31, but he doesn’t want to fight forever. I’m going to say it’s too early to call Khabib the GOAT, but if he beats Tony Ferguson and wins another to make it to a clean 30-0, I’m prepared to say he’s the greatest of all time.
Georges St. Pierre is the welterweight GOAT and his case is clean cut. He’s 26-2, held the welterweight championship with an iron fist and carried himself very well for his entire career. GSP avenged both of his losses and even went up to middleweight and defeated Michael Bisping to become the middleweight champion. Being a two-division champion definitely helps GSP’s case as the GOAT.
Anderson Silva is the unquestioned middleweight GOAT unless you’ve accepted Chael Sonnen’s promos as the truth. Silva held the middleweight title for almost seven years. The scariest thing is that Silva made it look so easy. When Silva defended his title, he defended it with style and he gained legions of fans doing so. While he has dropped off like Jose Aldo, Silva’s dominance was unmatched.
Jon Jones is the light heavyweight GOAT. He has lost only one fight and it was due to illegal elbows. The only issue is his troubles out of the cage. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disqualifying him from the GOAT discussion due to PED use or moral issues with his behavior. I’m disqualifying him because he wasted four years of his prime. He only fought four times from 2015 to 2018. That means when he was 27 to 31 years old, Jon Jones fought once a year. For that reason, Jones is going to have to retire with that one loss in a few years for me to consider him with Silva, Johnson and GSP.
The wild card in this conversation is another two-division champion. Unlike Georges St. Pierre, this man held both titles at the same time. That man is Daniel Cormier. Daniel Cormier was simultaneously the light heavyweight and heavyweight champion. I couldn’t fit him into either division’s GOAT discussions because there are better cases for the divisions. But overall, Cormier deserves his name to be amongst these greats because he has only lost to champions. He’s only been defeated by Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic in championship fights. He’s an undersized heavyweight who managed to reach the pinnacle of success, but losing to Jones will be what keeps him from being the GOAT. It’s the biggest blemish on his record due to the amount of hate in their rivalry, but DC deserved his case to be heard.
From the men I’ve listed above, three currently have their case as the GOAT. Those men are Demetrious Johnson, Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva. When you compare the fighters they’ve faced, it’s obvious that Johnson has the weakest opponents. That’s no fault of his, he can only fight who is put in front of him. He did so very well for his entire career. But nobody at flyweight is at the same caliber as Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin, Demien Maia, prime BJ Penn or Matt Hughes. For that reason, Johnson slots in at number 3 on my GOAT ranking.
It’s now between Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre. If only these two could have agreed to a superfight during their peaks. Their title reigns and dominance coincided with each other and it’s almost criminal that they never fought. So all we have to go off of is their resumes.
Anderson Silva reigned as middleweight champion for almost seven years, and defended the title ten times. He also would move up to light heavyweight for non-title bouts, which he also consistently won in his prime. Outside of some scares from Chael Sonnen, Silva dominated with ease. However, late in his career, Silva fell off mightily. It started with Chris Weidman knocking him out after some untimely taunting, then continued with Silva’s leg break in their rematch. These factors along with a stretch of losses and a PED suspension hurt Silva’s case. Again, I’m not factoring the PED suspension in these GOAT discussions, it only hurts his perception compared to his resume. But the losses at the end are what really hurts Silva’s chances.
Due to that, Georges St. Pierre is the greatest male MMA fighter of all time. He held the welterweight championship for five years, defended it nine times and carried himself better than almost any fighter. GSP may be the most technically sound fighter of all time as well, and he’s become a Canadian icon just through fighting. There are no controversies surrounding him and he also holds an important accomplishment over Silva. GSP went up and won the middleweight championship after four years of retirement. There is no one else like Georges St. Pierre, and he is the greatest fighter of all time.
The Pound-For-Pound Women’s MMA GOAT
Determining the greatest fighter in each women’s division of all time is difficult because only strawweight and bantamweight have a storied history. Flyweight and featherweight are much more recent additions to the UFC.
For the strawweight division, there has only been one dominant champion in its history, and that is Joanna Jedrzejczyk. She held the title for nearly three years and defended it five times. The only competition she has for this division is Rose Namajunas, who took the title from Joanna in a huge upset at UFC 217 and then defeated the Polish star in a rematch at UFC 223. But Namajunas’ overall record is a respectable but not GOAT-worthy 8-4. Jedrzejczyk’s record is 16-3, which gives her the edge despite losing two head-to-head matchups.
The flyweight championship has only existed for two years and has only had two champions. Those champions are Nicco Montano, who had to relinquish the title due to weight cutting issues, and Valentina Shevchenko. Shevchenko has not lost in the flyweight division in the UFC. Shevchenko has an 18-3 record and has looked unstoppable when fighting other flyweights. It may take a while for someone to dethrone the flyweight GOAT, Valentina Shevchenko.
The bantamweight division is probably the most storied of the women’s championships. Of course, Ronda Rousey held the title for nearly three years and defended it six times. Rousey’s defenses were must-watch TV, as she usually finished her opponents within a round. That changed when Holly Holm knocked Rousey out in the second round with a legendary head kick. The title bounced around after that before settling in Amanda Nunes’ grasp. Nunes defeated Miesha Tate for the title and proceeded to successfully defend it against Ronda Rousey, Valentina Shevchenko, Raquel Pennington and Holly Holm. Nunes takes the crown as bantamweight GOAT, but Rousey did pave the way for many women in MMA.
The featherweight GOAT is Cris Cyborg. While Cyborg did lose the featherweight championship to Amanda Nunes, the featherweight division as a whole was basically created so that Cris Cyborg could fight in the UFC. Before coming to the UFC, Cyborg dominated Strikeforce. Then she dominated Invicta FC, and the UFC couldn’t justify keeping the most dominant woman in MMA out of the top organization in the world.
Out of these incredible fighters, there has to be one GOAT. And it’s an easy choice to make. Amanda Nunes is the greatest female MMA fighter of all time. Nunes is the only woman in UFC history to hold titles in two separate weight divisions, and she did so simultaneously.
Not only is Nunes a double champion, but she has also defeated six current or former UFC champions. Those champions being Miesha Tate, Ronda Rousey, Germaine de Randamie, Cris Cyborg, Holly Holm and Valentina Shevchenko twice. There are rarely instances where you could say that someone is the undisputed GOAT of their sport, and Amanda Nunes is one of those instances.
It seems like whenever Amanda Nunes fights someone who could challenge her claim as the greatest of all time, she steps her game up to a different level. When she fought Ronda Rousey, Nunes’ striking was on the money for the entire fight. Rousey’s head stayed on the centerline for the entire fight and Nunes didn’t hesitate to make her pay. The result was a 48-second knockout.
Her fight against Cyborg was similarly dominant. Cris Cyborg was used to going into the cage, overwhelming her opponent with pressure and power, and walking out as champion. When she faced a bantamweight moving up to featherweight, she expected to have the advantage in power. Instead, Nunes showcased her precise striking and hardly missed any of her shots. Nunes rocked Cyborg and didn’t rush to the finish, she waited to pick her shots and made each of them count. It seems ridiculous to say someone didn’t rush for a finish when they knocked their opponent out in 51 seconds, but Nunes’ patience during striking exchanges is world-class.
It’s going to be a long time before someone challenges Nunes as the GOAT. Valentina Shevchenko has the best case, because if you ask many MMA fans, they’ll tell you that Shevchenko should have beat Nunes at UFC 215. In Shevchenko’s own words, “Her (Nunes) nose was rose from my punches”. If Shevchenko maintains her dominance over the flyweight division (which it looks like she will) and Nunes falls off in the near future, Shevchenko may have a great case. And maybe a newcomer, such as Strawweight Champion Weili Zhang, could go on a tear through the women’s ranks at a pace that we’ve never seen before. But as of now, Amanda Nunes is the undisputed GOAT of women’s MMA.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org