There are fighters who are good, fighters who are great and fighters who you’d bet on no matter who their opponents are. Who are the absolute best fighters in the UFC? The fighters who define their weight classes and perhaps could compete at a weight class higher.
The UFC has five weight classes. Each weight class, with the exception of heavyweights spans 15 lbs and each class has their own sets of tried and true stars and outstanding performers.
The lightweight class goes from 155lbs to 170 lbs and features such great fighters as Sean Sherk, Spencer Fisher, Frank Edgar, BJ Penn, Joe Stevenson, Hermes Franca and Kenny Florian.
Welterweights go from 170lbs to 185 lbs and has such notables as Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, Diego Sanchez, Jon Fitch, Karo Parisyan, Josh Koscheck and Georges St Pierre.
Middleweights are between 170lbs and 185lbs. Top level UFC middleweight fighters include Anderson Silva, Rich Franklin, Evan Tanner, Dan Henderson (sometimes), Yushin Okami and Jason MacDonald.
The UFC light heavyweight division is perhaps the most talent deep of all the divisions in the UFC and covers 185lbs to 205lbs. The light heavyweight division has fighters such as Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Keith Jardine, Shogun Rua, Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, Wanderlei Silva and Houston Alexander.
Heavyweight is the heaviest of all divisions in the UFC (there is no super heavyweight division). The UFC heavyweight division with it’s recent resignation of Randy Couture has a bit of an identity crisis, but features fighters like Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Mirko Cro Cop, Tim Sylvia, Brandon Vera and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Out of these five divisions, I could only find four fighters that I would bet on no matter who they were fighting (within their own divisions), but even having said that there is always one guy who you think might, just might take them down.
As far as I’m concerned, the king of all lightweights in the UFC isn’t even the current title holder, in fact he’s never held the UFC lightweight title. BJ Penn is best known to new UFC fans as a former coach on the Ultimate Fighter TV series and for holding a win over Jens Pulver. Long time fans will remember the younger BJ Penn who completely dominated competition in the UFC lightweight division before being defeated by Pulver and then leaving the UFC. Penn returned to the UFC as a welterweight and defeated then welterweight champion Matt Hughes by submission. In a re-match event, Penn dominated Hughes early on, but was eventually defeated by ref stoppage. It was later determined that BJ Penn had suffered a broken rib in that match up. BJ also had a very good showing against another top UFC welterweight, Georges St Pierre. In that fight BJ hurt St Pierre early on, but eventually lost a very close split decision. If there was one lightweight in the UFC who I would bet on every time, it would be BJ Penn. Honorable mention in this category goes to Sean Sherk, who I would bet on every time, except when he fights BJ Penn.
The UFC welterweight division is full of talent and full of matches which could go either way. For instance Matt Serra poses a problem for many UFC welterweights, but for others I think he is outmatched in size and strength. There is one guy in the UFC welterweight division who I believe stands head and shoulders above the rest, Georges St Pierre can match any of the other welterweights in size, strength, speed, stand up abilities and wrestling. He is likely the most well rounded fighter in all of mixed martial arts. Even with Georges physical advantages you need to look at Matt Hughes as well. Hughes has a victory over St Pierre, but St Pierre avenged that loss with a dominant TKO stoppage of Hughes. If there was one welterweight in the UFC that I would put money on every time, it is Georges St Pierre.
Of all the divisions in the UFC, the middleweight division is the easiest to pick out a dominant fighter. Anderson Silva has dominated just about every match up he’s been in since joining the UFC middleweight division mid way through 2006. Silva has taken out 5 top UFC middleweight fighters and could be king of that division for a long time. In fact, the only guy who I see giving Anderson Silva trouble is his next opponent. Silva will take on Pride 185lb champion Dan Henderson in what should be an outstanding match up at 185lbs, still you’ve got to make Silva the odds on favorite given his performances over the last year and a half.
I do not have a pick in the UFC light heavyweight division. Sure, Quinton Jackson has looked great in his matches against Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson, but still I wouldn’t pick Quinton against say Wanderlei Silva. I believe Wanderlei Silva would have trouble with his former Chute Box team-mate, Shogun Rua, or maybe even against Chuck Liddell, a fight which takes place on December 29th. I cannot find a single light heavyweight fighter in the UFC who I believe can defeat all top contenders, that’s the true mark of a talent laden division.
Since Randy Couture has left the UFC heavyweight division I do see a top dog emerging. That top dog is Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Big Nog has defeated Cro Cop, Barnett and just about every fighter (except Fedor) that Pride has put in front of him. I expect Nogueira to do the same against all of the existing UFC heavyweights. Fighters like Lesnar aren’t ready for him, fighters like Sylvia and Cro Cop aren’t well rounded enough to compete with Nogueira on the ground. I could see Gabriel Gonzaga giving Big Nog a good match after about another year of experience.
Five divisions, four sure picks to win any match up within their divisions. The UFC is stacked with talent and there are some truly outstanding fighters-athletes who make watching mixed martial arts a real joy. Penn, St Pierre, Anderson Silva and Nogueira are all stand out fighters in their respective UFC divisions and I expect each of them to be title holders some time during 2008.
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