The 411 MMA Top 10 09.23.13 Top Ten Light Heavyweights of All Time
Posted by Alex Rella on 09.23.2013
From Chuck Liddell and Jon Jones to Wanderlei Silva, Tito Ortiz and more, 411's Alex Rella counts down the top 10 light heavyweights of all time!
Top Ten Light Heavyweights of All Time
Welcome back to another edition of the MMA Top Ten as this week we look at the best light heavyweights of all time. I've been waiting to write about this list as it is one of the closest ones I've had to do. The light heavyweight division is probably been the most stacked division over the years when it comes to talent as this list is filled with legends. Even the honorable mentions have legends in there. This week's list is based on records, championship reigns, title shots, performance against top competition, influence on MMA, and a little of my personal opinion. Please keep in mind this is an all time list and only based on the time the fighter spent competing at 205 lbs.
Vitor Belfort- Currently competing at middleweight, but a former UFC light heavyweight champion and like many on this list has spent his career competing in multiple weight classes.
Antônio Rogério Nogueira - Little Nog has consistently been a top ten light heavyweight for most of his career and should be until he retires. Unfortunately he has never been able to put together enough wins to challenge for a title, but he still defeated guys like Overeem, Sakuraba, Dan Henderson, Vladimir Matyushenko, Tito Ortiz, and Rashad Evans.
Frank Shamrock- Ranking Frank Shamrock is never easy to do. One of the first truly great MMA fighters and the first UFC champion at 205 lbs. Also a WEC champ at light heavyweight, Shamrock went 6-0 at 205, but only his last UFC title defense against Tito Ortiz was against top competition.
Randy Couture- One of the all time greats and the first fighter to win gold in two weight classes, but he only went 6-4 at light heavyweight.
10: Dan Henderson
What made Dan Henderson so great was his ability to compete in all different weight classes. He has competed at middleweight, light heavyweight, heavyweight, and in open weight tournaments. Because he spread his career over all different weight classes, he isn't ranked as high on the light heavyweight list as he would on an all time list. At 43, Hendo is at the end of his career now on a two fight losing streak, but in his better years he has held gold in Pride and Strikeforce. With victories over Vitor Belfort, Rich Franklin, Rafael Cavalcante, Ronato Sobral, Murilo Bustamante, Shogun Rua, and Wanderlei Silva- Dan Henderson get the slight edge over Couture for the tenth spot.
9: Forrest Griffin
I was disappointed to see Forrest Griffin retire this summer at only 34 years old, but he had a truly awesome career even if it was cut a little short due to injuries. Griffin entered the UFC with 9-2 record with victories over Jeff Monson, Travis Fulton, and Chael Sonnen. Griffin won the first season of TUF after defeating Stephan Bonnar in that historic fight. He would go 4-2 in the UFC before getting a chance against Shogun Rua who was considered to be the best light heavyweight in the world at the time. Griffin pulled off the upset of the year to earn a title where he scored another upset when he defeated Rampage for the light heavyweight title at UFC 86. He lost the title to Rashad Evans and then got murdered by Anderson Silva, but would finish his career going 3-1 in his last four beating Rich Franklin and Tito Ortiz twice. I wouldn't be surprised if he were to return to fighting in a year or so after he's had time to completely heal up.
8: Rashad Evans
Rashad Evans made his UFC debut competing in the second season of TUF as a heavyweight. He defeated the eight inches taller Brad Imes by split decision in the finals and then returned to the light heavyweight division where he has become one of the all time best. Evans became one of the UFC's top draws defeating guys like Stephan Bonnar and Michael Bisping. His huge win over Chuck Liddell at UFC 88 earned him a title shot against TUF season one winner, Forrest Griffin. He defeated Griffin, but would drop the title to Lyoto Machida in his next fight. He has since defeated Thiago Silva, Rampage Jackson, Tito Ortiz, Phil Davis, and most recently Dan Henderson. Evans lost to Jon Jones in his attempt to get his title back at UFC 145 and his since looked rather lackluster. He has a huge fight coming with Chael Sonnen in the co main event of UFC 167. A loss could mean the end of his title hopes for good.
7: Lyoto Machida
"Machida Karate" kept Lyoto undefeated in MMA for over six years and included a UFC light heavyweight title. Machida started his career being managed by the legendary Antonio Inoki and started off about as good as you possibly can. Machida went 16-0 as he won the UFC light heavyweight title defeating top fighters like Rich Franklin, Stephan Bonnar, Tito Ortiz, Thiago Silva, Rashad Evans, and Shogun Rua. He lost the title to Shogun in their rematch, but has since defeated Randy Couture, Ryan Bader, and Dan Henderson. Machida has decided to drop to middleweight after getting robbed by the judges in his fight against Phil Davis.
6: Tito Ortiz
Feel free to judge me, but I'm looking forward to his Bellator debut. His first fight against Rampage is very winnable and he should be able to beat most Bellator light heavyweights if he's healthy. The end of his UFC run wasn't good as he went 1-7-1, but at least most of those fights were pretty good. Years before that disappointing stretch, Ortiz was one of the greatest champions of all time as he defended his title a then record five times. His final title defense against Ken Shamrock helped save the company. He would lose the title to Randy Couture and later another fight against Chuck Liddell, but win would five in a row to get another title shot against Liddell. He would lose the rematch in awesome fight at UFC 66. Throw in other wins against Forrest Griffin, Evan Tanner, Vladimir Matyushenko, Guy Mezger, and Wanderlei Silva and you have one of the best light heavyweight careers of all time.
5: Quinton Jackson
Quinton Jackson is also making his Bellator debut pretty soon. While on a three fight losing streak, Rampage was once one of the most dominant fighters in Pride and the UFC. Former UFC light heavyweight champion, 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix finalist, Pride number one contender, and member of the Main Event Mafia. His blood thirsty feud with Wanderlei Silva and epic slam of Ricardo Arona were some of the finer moments in Pride history. His UFC run was just as good as he ended Chuck Liddell's great title run at UFC 71 and defended his title against Dan Henderson at UFC 75 in one of the best fights ever to unify the UFC and Pride titles. He would lose the title to Forrest Griffin in another great fight, but would finally get a win over Wanderlei Silva with a vicious KO to finish up their trilogy. His last UFC wins were over Keith Jardine, Lyoto Machida, and Matt Hamill, but the last win was back in 2011. Maybe he and Tito can turn things around in Bellator.
4: Mauricio Rua
Mauricio Rua appears to be nearing the end of his career at the moment, but he's still one of the best ever. Shogun first got everyone's attention in a loss to Babalu Sobral which led to him getting signed by Pride where he would become one of the best fighters to ever compete in the organization. His most impressive moment in Pride was when he won the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix. He brutally stopped Rampage in the first round, had one of the best fights ever against Little Nog, and would then beat Overeem and Ricardo Arona to win the tournament. His lone loss in the company was at heavyweight when he awkwardly broke his arm in a freak accident. His debut was sullied by Forrest Griffin pulling off an upset, but he would return to form with back to back victories over Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell. He beat Lyoto Machida for the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 113, but has only gone 2-6 since then. Rua has a fight with James Te-Huna coming up in December, hopefully he can return to form somewhat.
3: Wanderlei Silva
The Axe Murderer is truly one of the all time greats as he was a UFC number one contender, the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix Semi-finalist, the 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix champion, and the first Pride Middleweight Championship. For years Wanderlei Silva embodied everything that was Pride with his dominance and brutality. He had classic battles and victories over Rampage Jackson, Hidehiko Yoshida, and Kazushi Sakuraba. His UFC run at light heavyweight wasn't as good, but he had a great fight with Chuck Liddell and a nice knockout over Keith Jardine. After some time spent at middleweight and catchweight fights, Silva returned to light heavyweight and Japan earlier this year to pick up a win over Brian Stann in a potential fight of the year. He's sidelined with an injury until early 2014, but hopefully he'll finally fight Chael Sonnen when he returns. Silva was a tough one to place as I think the guy in the two spot has the slight edge over him, but I'm always interested in what everyone else thinks.
2: Chuck Liddell
The Iceman was one of the most important fighters in the history of MMA. Not only was he dominant, but his popularity and personality helped take the sport to a new level. Chuck Liddell spent his entire career competing at light heavyweight and made his MMA debut at UFC 17 with a unanimous decision victory over Noel Hernandez. Liddell went on an awesome ten fight winning streak from March 1999 through November 2002 defeating guys like Guy Mezger, Jeff Monson, Kevin Randleman, Murilo Bustamante, Renato Sobral, and Vitor Belfort. Tito Ortiz refused to give him a title shot, so instead he fought Randy Couture for the interim title. He lost in a great fight and went to Pride for six months. He returned to the UFC to go on another seven fight winning streak, won the light heavyweight title, defended it four times, and coached the first season of TUF. During this time he avenged an earlier loss to Jeremy Horn, finally got his hands on Ortiz, and beat Randy Couture twice in one of the most important trilogies ever. The end of his career wasn't very good as he went 1-5 in his last six fights, but at least they were all against top competition and his one win was against Wanderlei Silva in one of the best fights ever. Liddell retired in 2010 after UFC 115, but he recently talked about a George Foreman like comeback. It probably wouldn't be a good idea, but you still wonder what if.
1: Jon Jones
I've been waiting to write this column because the light heavyweight division has been so stacked and filled with legends that I honestly didn't know how to rank the top ten. So I've been waiting for matches and fights to play out. Now I'm confident putting Jon Jones at the top spot. I haven't talked about him in awhile and while I'm no fan of his, I don't see how he isn't the best. He has an awesome 19-1 record with the one loss being a questionable DQ one. On his road to the title, Jones beat Stephan Bonnar, Brandon Vera, Vladimir Matyshenko, and Ryan Bader. Since he defeated Shogun Rua for the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 128, nobody has been more impressive than Jones. He has now defended his title a record six times against Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen, and most recently Alexander Gustafsson. That's an elite resume. As for his last title defense, I thought it was so close that it truly could have gone either way. I guess we'll see soon if we see an immediate rematch or if Glover Teixeira gets the shot he was promised.
I'm sure this one will spark discussion, 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.
Next week will most likely be Sean Sherk's top ten fights.