Join Date: Apr 2007
Some interesting stuff!
I found this on the UFC website....I'm sure some have read it but, for those who didn't.....what's your opinion on it?
Who’s The Greatest?By Thomas Gerbasi
If 2007 has taught us anything,it’s that parity has hit the world of mixed martial arts. And it’s hit hard in a year rife with upsets, from Matt Serra’s stoppage of the seemingly unstoppable Georges St-Pierre to last weekend’s KO win by Gabriel Gonzaga over heavyweight heir apparent Mirko Cro Cop.
So in a sport where, to coin the NFL term, “on any given Sunday” any fighter has the chance to beat another one in the Octagon if everything goes right for him on that night, it makes you appreciate the fighters who are a step above that parity, who have proven that on any given night, you’re going to need your ‘A’ game and nothing less to even have a shot at getting the victory.
Throughout the UFC’s almost 14 year history, there have been a handful of fighters who fit that bill, who have made it to the top of the ladder and have dominated their particular segment of time in the organization. Who was – or is - the greatest, or most dominating, champion in UFC history though?
Let’s find out, breaking it down division by division. And for our discussion here, we will stick to fighters who competed from the time the first UFC Heavyweight Champion - Mark Coleman - was crowned at UFC 12 in 1997.
There have been ten Heavyweight Champions crowned in the UFC. One, Randy Couture, won the title three times; Tim Sylvia has won the belt twice. Among the other title holders, five champions (Coleman, Bas Rutten, Josh Barnett, Ricco Rodriguez, Frank Mir) never successfully defended the belt, with Mo Smith (1), Kevin Randleman (1), and Andrei Arlovski (2) defending their titles, but not for an extended period of time.
That leaves us with Couture and Sylvia. Sylvia holds the UFC record for most heavyweight title defenses with three combined over his two reigns. He is also 3-3 in fights against fellow champions, beating Arlovski (twice) and Rodriguez, while losing to Arlovski, Mir and Couture. And therein lies the edge for ‘The Natural’. While his only two title defenses were against dangerous but underachieving Pedro Rizzo, and has lost his belt to Barnett and Rodriguez, he holds wins over fellow champions Smith, Randleman, and Sylvia, and when the comparisons are thisclose, you’ve got to go with the guy with the 5-2 championship fight record (compared to Sylvia’s 5-3) and the head to head victory. Greatest UFC Heavyweight ever? Randy Couture.
Five UFC Light Heavyweight Champions have ruled over the years, with Tito Ortiz leading the way in defenses with five, while Chuck Liddell and Frank Shamrock are close behind with four each. Randy Couture, a two-time champion, defended his title once technically (he won the interim title by beating Liddell and then beat Ortiz for the full title), with Vitor Belfort never having successfully defended the belt.
Though he’s fallen on hard times recently due to his inability to take out the man currently at the top (Liddell), Ortiz did dominate the 205-pound weight class in the early years after Zuffa took control of the company, making the second highest total of title defenses in UFC history. And there were good fighters in there for ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’, including the man he beat for the title, Wanderlei Silva, and Yuki Kondo, Evan Tanner, and Vladimir Matyushenko. Some would dismiss the easy wins over Elvis Sinosic and Ken Shamrock, but the fact remains that Ortiz has amassed an impressive body of work en route to a 6-3 title fight record.
A closer look though, shows that against his fellow champions at the weight (and he has fought all of them), Ortiz’ record drops to a paltry 1-4, with his only win coming against Belfort via a close decision. This hurts his all-time standing and leaves us with Liddell and Shamrock. Shamrock, who was champion when the division was called ‘middleweight’, defeated Ortiz, Jeremy Horn, and Igor Zinoviev, but despite his talent, he has to be penalized for dominating what was a weak division compared to the 205-pound weight class of the last few years.
Which brings us to ‘The Iceman’. Liddell, at 37, is as dangerous as he’s ever been, and he shows no signs of slowing down. His title fight record stands at a stellar 5-1 and he holds non-title wins over Ortiz and Belfort, bringing his record against fellow champions to 7-1 if you count his stoppage of former heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman and former middleweight boss Murilo Bustamante. Simply put, at 205, Liddell has proven himself to be the most dominant light heavyweight, not only of this era, but of all-time.
The Jan Brady division of MMA has risen from virtual obscurity to its rightful place among the most competitive weight classes in the game. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a Liddell, Hughes, or Couture to truly give the 185-pounders that one dominating champion yet. Dave Menne and Evan Tanner didn’t fit the bill, both losing the title in their first defenses. Rich Franklin, with two title defenses before losing his belt to Anderson Silva, came close. Brazilian ground ace Murilo Bustamante had potential to be ‘that guy’ until he left the organization after his lone defense over Matt Lindland. But its the current man on top of the heap, Silva, who may be the one to have a long and dominating reign, especially if he gets through highly regarded Nate Marquardt, a rematch with Franklin, and whoever else the UFC throws at him in the coming months. If he loses his crown before 2007 ends, then it’s back to the drawing board.
After some close races, this is the one no-brainer of the group. In a division filled with quality fighters and quality champions, Matt Hughes stands high above the pack. And it’s a tough pack to get through. Hughes, with seven defenses and two non-title wins over two reigns is the leader, followed by his mentor, Pat Miletich, with three defenses, and the foursome of Carlos Newton, BJ Penn, Georges St-Pierre, and Matt Serra, none of whom have heard Bruce Buffer say “and still UFC Welterweight Champion.”
But when it comes down to it, even with his losses to Penn and GSP (whom he also holds wins over), there is no champion at 170 pounds who has a prayer of competing with Hughes’ resume. Look at the numbers. 9-2 in title fights, with wins over Penn, St-Pierre, Frank Trigg (twice), Sean Sherk, Newton, and Mach Sakurai. He has non-title wins over Royce Gracie, Joe Riggs, and Chris Lytle, and in fights against his fellow champions (including lightweight boss Sherk and former middleweight champ Dave Menne), he is 6-2. St-Pierre’s recent loss to Serra only magnified Hughes accomplishments and how hard it is to stay on top once you get there.
A tough division to break down, especially given the fact that the lightweight class was dormant in the UFC for close to two years. Call it the curse of Jens Pulver, who left the organization over a contract dispute without ever having lost the belt in the ring, but a post-Pulver tournament to crown a new champion fizzled with a draw in the final between BJ Penn and Caol Uno, and then came the division hiatus from 2004 to 2006. So basically we’re looking at two eras and two champions in Pulver, who reigned in the early part of the Millennium when Zuffa took control of the UFC, and Sherk, the current champion, who has yet to defend his crown. Based on resume at 155 pounds alone, Pulver is the easy winner, just because of his title winning effort over Uno, and his defenses over quality opposition like Penn and Dennis Hallman. Plus, he never lost his title in the ring. Sherk a career-long welterweight, is just getting his feet wet at 155, and if his win over Kenny Florian to take the lightweight belt is any indication, we may have to revisit this discussion in a year’s time. But until Sherk proves himself against the contenders in a stacked division, the most dominating UFC lightweight champion of all-time is ‘Lil Evil’.
There you have it – Couture, Liddell, Hughes, Pulver, and a vacancy at middleweight. Who’s the best though? I think it comes down to Liddell and Hughes.
Overall Record 20-3
Record in Title Fights 5-1
Title Defenses 4 (current)
Record against fellow champions 7-1
Current winning streak – 7 (all by KO or TKO)
Overall Record 42-5
Record in Title Fights 9-2
Title Defenses 7 (over two reigns)
Record against fellow champions 6-2
Current winning streak – 1
Too close to call? Most definitely. But in the ‘what have you done for me lately’ world of mixed martial arts, you go with the fighter currently on top, and that man is Chuck Liddell.
Of course, having said that...let the debates begin!
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