The MMA Top Ten 3.10.14: Top 10 MMA Pioneers We Wish Could Compete Today
Posted by Alex Rella on 03.10.2014
From Royce Gracie and Frank Shamrock to Don Frye, Mark Coleman and more, 411's Alex Rella counts down the top 10 MMA pioneers that he wishes he could see compete today!
Ten Pioneers You Wish Could Compete Today
What's up everybody, I am Alex Rella and this is the MMA Top Ten. This week is ten MMA pioneers you wish you could see compete today. There's always talk in every sport in how we wish we could see one generation compete against another. While impossible to see one guy from another era in his prime compete against today's athletes, it's still always fun to speculate. So the list is comprised of guys that competed in the early days of MMA, think like Pancrase or the UFC tournaments. Fighters like Liddell and Couture are still a little too current for this list. Many have retired within the past couple years, but their primes ended way before that. The rankings were based on past success and skill sets mainly in their primes and how I think they would fair against today's fighters. I also considered stuff like weight classes. I usually don't do list that are mainly based on my personal opinion and taste, but this is meant to be a fun one so feel free to tell me your opinions.
· Pat Miletich
· Mark Kerr
10: Rickson Gracie
The first Gracie on this week's list starts it off in the tenth spot. One of the older Gracie's and one of the highest level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in the world, Rickson Gracie competed in MMA before it really picked up. Now fifty five, Rickson retired back in 2000 with a perfect 11-0 record and all of those were won by submission. After his retirement, many fans and family members called for him to come back and fight the Gracie Hunter Sakuraba, but Rickson declined the fight and what he claims was a five million dollar offer. I'm really curious to see how he would fair against the better competition today. He was dominant back then, but the sport has evolved so much since then. He would most likely be a middleweight today.
9: Royce Gracie
Royce follows up his older half brother coming in at number nine. We all know about his still record eleven submission victories and how he won the UFC tournaments 1,2, and 4, but he was really unable to keep it going once the sport and the rules evolved. I'm not a fan of Royce Gracie and I still enjoy watching him getting beat by Matt Hughes at UFC 60. There are some fans that think Royce would be able to win today. I think he was incredibly influential back then, but would probably just be as good as Gregor Gracie today. Especially since he thinks his nephews that are still fighting today should only focus on BJJ. This is an odd pick as some of his diehard fans think he would win in any era and I would just enjoy watching him get beat all the time. One of us would end up happy if Royce still fought today.
8: Oleg Taktarov
The Russian Bear was one of the top heavyweights in the early UFC tournament days. His then unique background style in judo and sambo made him a top fighter in the mid 1990's. Taktarov won the UFC 6 tournament, was a runner up at Ultimate Ultimate 95, and was a semifinalist at UFC 5. He also had a 33 minute draw against Ken Shamrock at UFC 7 for the Superfight title. Oleg would have had a much larger resume (17-5-2), but he stopped fighting to pursue his acting career. Can't blame a guy for switching to a career where you don't have to get hit in the face constantly. He did return to fighting from 2007-08 and finished his career on a five fight win streak when he submitted Mark Kerr with a kneebar. I don't know if Taktarov would be a heavyweight champion today, but I do think he had the skill set to make the top ten.
7: Renzo Gracie
Oh yea three Gracie's in one week. Renzo Gracie may not be as highly decorated or have a record as nice as some of his relatives, but I've always thought Renzo Gracie was the most well rounded fighter from his family. I even think Renzo would have done just as good as Royce if he competed in the early UFC tournaments. Renzo competed at openweight through welterweight during his career picking up victories over Oleg Taktarov, Maurice Smith, Carlos Newton, Pat Miletich, and Frank Shamrock. He's talked about wanting to come back and compete at lightweight today, but it's very unlikely at this point considering how he's forty six and didn't look very good in his last fight four years ago. Renzo competing at lightweight in his prime would be a different story though. I think he would be able to hang with the best lightweights or even welterweights in the world today.
6: Kazushi Sakuraba
I wasn't much of a Pride fan growing up (yea I was a dumb teenager), but it's hard not to respect what Kazushi Sakuraba did during his MMA career. I'll always like him for owning the Gracie's, but he has a huge list of accomplishments from winning a UFC tournament, his epic performance in the Pride 2000 Openweight Grand Prix, his list of victories over top guys, and the fact that he was almost always undersized in his fights. He spent most of his career at heavyweight and light heavyweight and it wasn't until his later years when he dropped down to middleweight and eventually welterweight. Remember how good he was from 1997 through 2001, now imagine the success he would have had then or now if he competed full time against guys his size. His career ended on a disappointing four fight losing streak back in 2000, but things would be much different if Sakuraba was in his twenties today.
5: Igor Vovchanchyn
Igor Vovchanchyn is only 5'8 and was the best heavyweight in the world for a couple years. He would finish up his career competing at light heavyweight, but unfortunately he fought so much at a young age that it wore down his body and he ended up retiring at only 32. Even though his career was cut short, he still fought 66 times (55-10(1)) and had 63 kickboxing fights (61-2). He reached the finals of the Pride 2000 Openweight Grand Prix which really was one of the most stacked tournaments ever. Igor won a bunch of tournaments in smaller promotions and dominated the early Pride days by defeating guys like Enson Inoue, Mark Kerr, and Gilbert Yvel. He's too small to compete at heavyweight today, but he was way too good of a striker to not be successful at light heavyweight. Yes he'll still be outsized, but that didn't stop him from winning in the past either.
4: Mark Coleman
The Hammer ended his career in 2010 as a light heavyweight in the UFC, but it was during the earlier part of his career when he established himself as one of the best heavyweights of all time. One of the most accomplished wrestlers of all time, Coleman used his dominant ground and pound to beat Don Frye, Dan Severn, Gary Goodridge, Shogun Rua, Stephan Bonnar, and Igor Vovchanchyn. Coleman won the UFC 10 & 11 tournaments, the Pride 2000 Openweight Grand Prix, and the UFC heavyweight title. Coleman's level of wrestling was so good that he would be successful no matter what era he would fight in. It would be awesome to see The Godfather of Ground & Pound against Cain Velasquez or Jon Jones.
3: Don Frye
The Predator Don Frye was one of the top fighters in the early days of the UFC. Frye was one the first fighters to be disciplined in multiple styles of fighting with his background in wrestling, boxing, and judo. Frye would win the UFC 8 and UFC Ultimate Ultimate 1996 tournaments. Frye was also the runner up at UFC 10 losing to Mark Coleman. Frye retired from MMA in 1997, but would return in 2001 to compete in Pride where he had legendarily brutal fights with Ken Shamrock and Yoshihiro Takayama. His last fight was in 2011, but his prime ended in the early 2000's. Whether it be at heavyweight or light heavyweight, I believe Frye would find success in any era.
2: Bas Rutten
Rutten had a respectable 7-4 career in March 1995 when he lost to Ken Shamrock for the Pancrase title. Rutten would then win the next 21 fights of his career (there was one draw in the middle with Osami Shibuya). This run included wins over Frank Shamrock (2x), Masakatsu Funaki, Guy Mezger, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, and Kevin Randleman. Trained in Dutch kickboxing, Taekwondo, and Kyokushin Kaikan Karate, Rutten would use the liver shot to win the Pancrase title and the UFC heavyweight title in his second fight with the company. Rutten vacated the title with hopes of fighting for the 205 lb title which was a more natural weight for him. While training for his next fight, Rutten suffered multiple serious injuries, including blowing out his knee, tearing his biceps, and suffering a neck injury. Rutten was forced to retire from fighting. Rutten was able to end his career on a high note as he came out of retirement in 2006 for one last fight against Ruben Villareal. Rutten looked great in this fight as he cut him down with crippling leg kicks. As with many fighters that have their careers cut short, we can only imagine what could have been if his career went a little longer. Now imagine what if Rutten was in his prime today. I have no doubt that Rutten would still be owning people.
1: Frank Shamrock
This was the first fighter that came to mind when I thought of this column and Frank Shamrock is a clear number one for me this week. Possibly the first true mixed martial artist, Shamrock held gold in the WEC, Strikeforce, and the UFC. Wrestling Observer would even name the best fighter of the 1990's. One thing I always find impressive about his career is that Shamrock spent most of it competing against much larger opponents. He competed against heavyweights in Pancrase and light heavyweights in the UFC. Tito Ortiz walked into the cage about twenty five pounds more than Shamrock during their fight at UFC 22. He finished the last couple years of his career competing at middleweight and even cut down to 179 lbs for his last fight. Competing at welterweight would probably be a stretch for him, but imagine how awesome it would be to see Shamrock competing against today's middleweights. Shamrock in his prime versus Anderson Silva would be amazing. Yea, I wish Frank Shamrock was about ten years younger.
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 be Don Frye's top ten fights.