by Matt Rogers - 06/15/2005
With a constant flow of highly successful pay per view events, a new cable television deal and coverage on a wide variety of online sportsbooks, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has arrived as a major player in the sports industry.
Fans of the UFC, and mixed martial arts in general, demonstrate a loyalty unseen in any other sport, and widespread media coverage is bringing in new fans every day.
I have personally been a fan of the UFC since its beginnings over ten years ago, and have been a professional mixed martial arts competitor for the last five years.
My insight as both fighter and fan will help you understand who's who in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and help you pick the winners in future blockbuster bouts.
To start things off, I've compiled a list of the top ten pound-for-pound UFC fighters currently competing - no easy feat, considering the talent-rich pool of UFC fighters to choose from.
Best pound-for-pound UFC fighters:1. Matt Hughes
Farm boy Matt Hughes is the most dominant champion in UFC history, having ruled the welterweight division over the last three years. He is a genetically gifted, powerful athlete - possibly the strongest pound-for-pound UFC fighter. An extremely talented wrestler, Hughes drives his opponents through the mat with high-altitude body slams and punishes them with a grinding ground n' pound attack. As if Hughes' wrestling prowess weren't scary enough, he has shown continuous improvement in both his kickboxing and submission skills, having submitted his last two opponents in the first round. Hughes' dominance over the welterweight division is so complete that UFC matchmakers find it difficult to find viable opponents, and there has been talk of him moving up a weight class.
2. Randy Couture
Former heavyweight champion. Former light-heavyweight champion. The only man to win championships in two different weight classes. Randy Couture is the most decorated fighter in UFC history. After dropping to light-heavyweight, Couture single-handedly realigned the division with dominant victories over Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz and Vitor Belfort. A world-class wrestler who has proven to have competent striking skills, Couture's greatest asset may be the ability to develop a solid fight plan and impose his will on his opponents. With each fight Couture continues to defy Father Time, having enjoyed the majority of his success at light-heavyweight after the age of 40. Couture lost the light-heavyweight title in a rematch with Chuck Liddell, but he remains the top contender for the championship, even at the age of 42.
3. Chuck Liddell
Chuck Liddell is the current UFC light-heavyweight champion, having knocked out the seemingly unstoppable Randy Couture for the title in April. No one is more deserving of the title than Chuck Liddell. He lingered in the No. 1 contender spot for years, defeating whoever the UFC put in front of him, but for various reasons did not receive a title shot. He faltered in his first shot at the title, losing to Randy Couture, but fought his way back up to the top and defeated Couture in a rematch. Liddell is a powerful striker with great takedown defense and has displayed an uncanny ability to return to his feet if he is taken down. A fight involving Chuck Liddell can end at any moment in brutal fashion.
4. Rich Franklin
A serious contender in the light-heavyweight division, Rich Franklin chose to drop down a weight class for a shot at the middleweight title. It proved to be a wise move, as Franklin punished middleweight champ Evan Tanner for four long rounds before the referee put a stop to the bout. Franklin's skills were highly evident that night, just as they have been in all of his UFC fights. Franklin is a great striker with fantastic boxing ability, but he is truly a well-rounded fighter, with great knees and elbows in the clinch, excellent wrestling, and smooth ground skills.
5. Andrei Arlovski
Belarusian-born Andrei Arlovski is the current UFC interim heavyweight champion and is regarded as the most dangerous striker in the heavyweight division. Arlovski holds the interim heavyweight title until a match-up with injured heavyweight champ Frank Mir can put together. Arlovski won the interim heavyweight title by dispatching former heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia just 47 seconds into the first round, dropping the 6'8" Sylvia with a powerful right hand and submitting him moments later with a vicious ankle lock. This fight tells the story of Arlovski's abilities - dynamite kickboxing skills combined with submissions on the ground. At 6'3" and 240 pounds, Arlovski moves with speed and agility rarely seen in a man of his size.
6. Frank Mir
Frank Mir is the current UFC heavyweight champion. Mir won the championship after submitting 6'8" Tim Sylvia with an armbar, but a motorcycle accident left him with a broken femur and an uncertain future in the fight game. Once the leg is fully healed, Mir will face interim heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski to determine the undisputed heavyweight championship. When Mir is healthy, he has the best submissions in the heavyweight division. At 6'1" and 250 pounds, he moves on the ground like someone a hundred pounds lighter. While Mir's striking has shown improvement, it is still his lightning-quick submissions that make him such a threat.
7. Georges St. Pierre
Canadian Georges St. Pierre is seen by many as the future of the welterweight division. Despite the fact that most experts believed he wasn't ready for a title shot, St. Pierre took the opportunity to challenge UFC powerhouse Matt Hughes for the welterweight championship in late 2004. St. Pierre gave Hughes all he could handle, and most observers had St. Pierre winning the fight until Hughes pulled off a surprising armbar submission at the final second of the first round. An incredibly gifted athlete, St. Pierre has demonstrated a higher level of skill with each new UFC appearance, and has the tendency to make some of the world's best fighters look average. At just 24 years old, only time will tell just how good St. Pierre gets.
8. Jeremy Horn
After a long absence from UFC competition, Jeremy Horn has been called back to the octagon to take on light-heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell. The fight is a rematch, as Horn provided Liddell with his first UFC loss, choking him unconscious way back in 1999. Horn is the most experienced competitor to ever fight in the UFC, with over 100 documented mixed martial arts fights under his belt, and he may be the most well-rounded fighter as well. Horn is not an elite athlete, but he is an extremely intelligent fighter, considered by many to be the world's most knowledgeable person on the subject of mixed martial arts. There are absolutely no weaknesses in Horn's game, but he is best known for his super-slick submissions on the ground.
9. Tito Ortiz
Tito Ortiz was once the UFC poster boy - the company's most successful and popular fighter, in and out of the octagon. But now times have changed. Ortiz's contract with the UFC has expired and his future with the company is uncertain, with contract negotiations completely stalled. Many have written off Ortiz after two big losses to Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, a boring decision victory against a clearly overmatched Patrick Cote, and a controversial split-decision victory over Vitor Belfort. However, Ortiz still has the skills to be one of the UFC's top competitors. What is missing is the burning desire to be the best that characterized Tito Ortiz's early career. If Ortiz decides he wants to fight, and the UFC has him back, he can still be very competitive in the light-heavyweight division.
10. Yves Edwards
Yves Edwards is the uncrowned UFC lightweight champion. As of now, the UFC lightweight division is in limbo, with no official champion and rumblings from UFC management of eliminating the division entirely. While the lightweight division was running strong, Yves Edwards proved to be the most dangerous fighter at 155 pounds. Tall and long for his weight class, Edwards has sharp, crisp striking skills combined with an excellent defense against the takedown. As if this weren't enough, Edwards has also demonstrated an advanced knowledge of submissions, making him a grappler's worst nightmare.
In addition to his careers as a freelance writer and personal fitness trainer, Matt Rogers has been a professional mixed martial arts competitor since 1999. He won the Florida State Mixed Martial Arts Championship in 2001, defending it three times before moving on to fight in other organizations, and was ranked no. 1 in the 190 lb. division by the World Vale Tudo Federation (WVF).