The 411 MMA Top 10 03.25.13: The Top 10 Tournament Fighters
Posted by Alex Rella on 03.25.2013
From Shogun Rua, Royce Gracie and Mark Coleman to Wanderlei Silva, Fedor Emelanenko and more, 411's Alex Rella counts down the top ten fighters to compete in MMA tournaments!
Top Ten Tournament Fighters
Hey there gentle readers, I am Alex Rella and this is the MMA Top Ten. This week we will be looking at the top ten fighters to fight in MMA tournaments. Tournaments in MMA have given us some of the most exciting moments in the history of the sport. The UFC was based round the tournament style format in their early days. They abandoned tournaments by the late 90's, but Pride made the Grand Prix a huge part of their history. Multiple fights in one day are pretty much gone today, but Bellator is structured around earning title shots through tournaments. So the fighters in this week's column are based on tournament wins, performances in other tournaments, quality of competition, and some of my opinion. Keep in mind this is not who had the best overall career, but only who was best in tournament style fighting. Tournaments in UFC, Pride, Bellator, and Strikeforce had the most value in the rankings, but tournaments in smaller promotions also had some influence.
• Josh Barnett- Barnett never won one, but he was a runner up in Pride's 2006 Openweight Grand Prix and Strikeforce's 2011 Heavyweight Grand Prix.
• Mirko Cro Cop- Cro Cop won the Pride 2006 Openweight Grand Prix in his final appearance in Pride beforce coming over to the UFC
• Oleg Taktarov- The Russian Bear won UFC 6, was a runner up at Ultimate Ultimate 95, and was a semifinalist at UFC 5.
10: Mark Kerr
Up first is the Smashing Machine Mark Kerr. Kerr is one of many former NCAA Division-I wrestlers that competed in the early days of the UFC and later Pride. Kerr even defeated Randy Couture to become the Division-I champion in 1992. Kerr's career got off to a great start as he went undefeated in the first thirteen fights of his career. This included winning three tournaments. The first of his career was in the World Vale Tudo Championship. This was an impressive three fight performance as Kerr broke his hand in the first fight, still wrecked his opponent in the second fight so bad that Mestre Hulk crawled out of the ring to get away from him, and he defeated Fabio Gurgel in a brutal thirty minute long battle. That's pretty badass. Kerr's friend and training partner, Mark Coleman then suggested to him that he come over and compete in the UFC. Kerr would win the UFC's 14 and 15 heavyweight tournaments. Kerr would then move on to compete in Pride for the bigger pay checks and he would reach the quarterfinals of the Pride Grand Prix 2000, but his career would go downhill fast shortly afterwards.
9: Pat Curran
This may surprise some people, but when you think about it Pat Curran is the best tournament fighter in today's style of MMA. Curran is the current Bellator featherweight champion and the number two featherweight in the world right now. Curran has been competing in Bellator since 2010 when he won their season two lightweight tournament earning him a title shot against Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 39. Alvarez would retain his title by unanimous decision and Curran would drop down to featherweight. Curran would win that tournament too and the title when he defeated Joe Warren in a great fight at Bellator 60. Two tournament wins at two different weight classes definitely earns him a spot on this week's list.
Shogun only competed in one tournament in his career, but it was so awesome that he earned himself among on the top fighters on this list. Rua had been competing in Pride since 2003, but the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix was when he became an elite fighter at 205 lbs. This was one of the most stacked tournaments with Kazushi Sakuraba, Ricardo Arona, Kevin Randleman, Wanderlei Silva, Alistair Overeem, Vitor Belfort, Igor Vovchanchyn, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Dan Henderson, Quinton Jackson, and his brother Mauricio Rua. If you look at this list, you'll see that Shogun was actually one of the underdogs of the tournament at the time. Rua wrecked Rampage in the first round breaking his ribs and finishing him off with soccer kicks to the face. Rua took on Little Nog in the quarterfinals, winning one of the best light heavyweight fights ever. Shogun then won the tournament by finishing Overeem in the semis and Arona in the finals by first round strikes. Rua actually has a rematch with Little Nog coming up at UFC 161. It won't be as good as their first fight, but it's still in an intriguing matchup for both guys as they are different points in their careers.
7: Ô¸äîð Åìåëüÿ́íåíêî
The Last Emperor recently came out and said only God can call him out of retirement. I guess He didn't want to see Fedor fight Brock Lesnar. Anyway, the greatest heavyweight of all time makes an appearance because of one big tournament win and two lesser known smaller ones. Fedor started his career out fighting for RINGS. There he won the RINGS 2001 Absolute Class and Openweight Tournaments. He didn't have the biggest competition there, but he did beat some tough fighters like Renato Sobral, Ricardo Arona, and Bobby Hoffman while he was with RINGS. Then as we all know he went to Pride and became unstoppable. Fedor would win the Pride 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix. This tournament had some of the best heavyweights to ever compete in Pride. Fedor submitted Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, and judo champion Naoya Ogawa. The finals against Big Nog would be ruled a no contest and later delayed after an accidental head butt. On New Year's Eve, he would defeat Nogueira by unanimous decision to win the Grand Prix and unify the Pride heavyweight titles. Fedor would compete in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix seven years later, but that tournament wouldn't go as well for him.
The man with the most wins, knockouts, title defenses, and a bunch of other Pride records competed in three of Pride's Grand Prix events. Silva's brutal style was perfect for Pride rules and the physically demanding tournaments they held over the years. The first was the Pride 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix which was the peak of his awesome winning streak in the company. The Axe Murderer won the tournament when he defeated Kazushi Sakuraba for the final time in the opening round and Rampage for the first time in the finals. Silva wouldn't win another tournament, but he would reach the semifinals in the 2005 Middleweight and 2006 Openweight Grand Prix.
5: Dan Severn
The Beast recently retired with an amazing record of 101-19-7. Severn was holding out for one last fight against a big name like Royce Gracie or Tim Sylvia, but in the end his final fight was against Alex Rozma. Severn started his career off at UFC 4 when he reached the finals against Royce Gracie. He lost by triangle choke, but Severn used his high level of wrestling to become the first person to really push Gracie at the time. Severn followed up these strong performances by winning the tournament at UFC 5 and the Ultimate Ultimate 95 tournament. The latter was probably the most impressive performance of his career as he defeated Tank Abbott and Oleg Taktarov in the same night. Who honestly thought Ultimate Ultimate was a good name? Stupid name aside, that would be the last tournament of his career as Severn would transition to fighting for the UFC's Superfight and Heavyweight titles.
4: Don Frye
MMA legend, professional wrestler, and occasional boxer and kickboxer, The Predator was the man back in the day. Don Frye recently attacked Brock Lesnar's credibility, but I still have to include him in this week's list. Frye was one of the first true mixed martial artists at the time with backgrounds in wrestling, judo, and boxing. Frye won UFC 8, his first MMA appearance, by defeating three men at a combined time of a little over three minutes. He knocked out his first opponent in eight seconds. Frye reached the finals at UFC 10, but would lose to Mark Coleman. Frye finished out his UFC run in impressive fashion by winning Ultimate Ultimate 96 with wins over Tank Abbott and Gary Goodridge. Frye would then take a few years off before coming back to compete in Pride.
3: Dan Henderson
Dan Henderson is one of the few fighters to win a UFC tournament and still be competing today. The Olympic Greco-roman wrestler started his MMA career back in 1997 and would win the first three tournaments he participated in. First up was the Brazil Open 1997 Lightweight Tournament, not the highest level of competition but not bad for the first night of his career. Then came the UFC 17 middleweight tournament, Henderson would defeat future UFC welterweight champion Carlos Newton in the finals. The third tournament was the most impressive of his career. The King of Kings Tournament 1999 was one of the most stacked tournaments ever. This thirty two man openweight tournament had top fighters like Jeremy Horn, Big Nog, Overeem brothers, Renato Sobral, Dave Menne, Renzo Gracie, and Maurice Smith. Henderson defeated Nogueira in the semis and Sobral in the finals. Hendo wouldn't find success in another tournament until the Pride 2005 welterweight Grand Prix. He defeated Murilo Bustamante in the finals to win the tournament and the welterweight title. If only he didn't hurt his knee before UFC 151.
2: Royce Gracie
Placing Royce Gracie on any MMA related list always causes discussion. There are some that claim he was the all time best fighter and others argue that he is highly overrated. I'm in the middle and I hope most are too. Gracie dominated sport early on, but was unable to stay at the top once the sport evolved and fighters became much better rounded after catching onto jiu-jitsu. That being said, Gracie was close to untouchable during the UFC's early tournament days and that's what gets him the second spot this week. Gracie won UFC 1,2, and 4. These three are a UFC record as are his eleven submissions and four wins in one night at UFC 2. These wins were over some of the top fighters at the time including Ken Shamrock, Kimo Leopoldo, and Dan Severn. Gracie's last tournament was the Pride Grand Prix 2000, this time he would get eliminated by Kazushi Sakuraba in the quarterfinals after ninety minutes of fighting.
1: Mark Coleman
I'm sure the hardcore Gracie fans will be annoyed, but The Godfather of Ground and Pound is number one this week. The Division-I and Olympic wrestler started out his career as strong as one can by winning UFC 10. Coleman won three fights on the first night of his career, which included victories over Gary Goodridge and Don Frye. The Hammer followed this up by winning UFC 11 and then took a break from tournaments going for the UFC's heavyweight title instead. Coleman went through a rough patch of his career from 1997-99 when he lost the UFC title and four straight fights. Then came the Pride Grand Prix 2000. This tournament had some of the best fighters of this era with Royce Gracie, Sakuraba, Guy Mezger, Igor Vovchanchyn, Mark Kerr, and others. Coleman grinded his way to the finals where he took on Vovchanhyn, who was considered by many to be the best heavyweight in the world at the time. The two battled for eighteen minutes until Coleman put him away with knees to the head for the biggest win of his career. Coleman and Gracie are tied with three tournament wins, but I gave Coleman the top spot because he won when the sport was starting to evolve and had tougher competition. Also the Pride Grand Prix 2000 was a bigger win than any of Gracie's. It's too bad the two of them never got a chance to fight.
• So let me know how you guys would rank them or maybe I left a fighter out that you thought should be in the top 10.
• As always, let me know if there are any topics or fighters you would like to see ranked in the future.
• Save the dates: Pro Wrestling Syndicate is having some stacked shows the week of Wrestlemania at the Metuchen Sports Plex at 215 Durham Avenue, NJ.
Thursday April 4th-the card includes Vader, Billy Graham, Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, Colt Cabana, Kevin Matthews, Starman, John Morrison, Elijah Burke, Rock N Roll Express, Briscoe Brothers, Trent Barretta, Sonjay Dutt, Kevin Steen, Anthony Nese, Davey Richards, Necro Butcher, The Sheik, New Jack, Simon Dean, and Tommy Dreamer.
Friday April 5th is just as stacked with Bret Hart, Tom Prichard, Billy Graham, John Morrison, Jushin Liger, Tony Nese, Kevin Matthews, New Jack, Necro Butcher, Trent Barretta, Hurricane Helms, Starman, Chris Chetti, Nova, Pat Buck, Tommy Dreamer, Sonjay Dutt, Bonesaw, Rock N Roll Express, Big O, Paul Orndorff, Kevin Sullivan, Eugene, and Doink the Clown.
• For next week I kinda want to do a best of Mark Coleman list, but I'm still undecided if he really has ten fights worth talking about. If not, Mirko Cro Cop will get the nod instead.