With UFC 100 upon us it’s only natural to contemplate the best of the best to emerge from the first ninety nine fight cards. UFC 1 took place back on November 12, 1993 with Royce Gracie winning an eight-man single elimination tournament format. The matches then ended only by submission, knockout, or throwing in the towel, therefore no judges were necessary.
In the last 16 years a lot has changed.
The rules of years gone by hardly resemble today’s extended list. That original tournament had no weight classes or weight limits. Today there are five weight classes with the heavyweight division capping out at 265 pounds.
Comparing fighters from one generation to the next can be a dubious task. Can you honestly compare the impact Royce Gracie had to that of Anderosn Silva? It’s a pitfall any sport has to sidestep when ranking the best and we journey onward.
For this list only fights that took place within the octagon will be considered. A fighters impact on the sport beyond overall fight record will be heavily considered. Title fights, title defenses, win streaks and things of that nature are all factors that are considred when ranking the list.
With all that said we give you our list of the Top Ten greatest fighters to emerge from the first ninety nine UFC fight cards.
10. Mark Coleman: We’ll start by giving credit to one of the pioneers MMA. Mark Coleman single- handedly invented ground and pound, a technique which forever changed the landscape of MMA. Because of that, Mark Coleman will always have a place in UFC lore.
Beyond that Coleman beat two legends of the sport when won the first UFC heavyweight tile over Dan Severn at UFC 12 and beat Don Frye by TKO to win the UFC 10 Tournament.
9. Pat Miletich: Miletich made his debut at UFC 16 and won the first UFC Lightweight Tournament. When the UFC created a welterweight division, Miletich defeated Mikey Burnett to become the first UFC Welterweight champion.
Miletich went on to defend his belt four times before losing to Carlos Newton at UFC 31. While Miletich often gets overlooked, being a multiple division champion, along with multiple tile defenses, and his overall contribution to the sport, earn him a spot on our list.
8. George St. Pierre: It can be difficult ranking fighters in their prime alongside the greatest but if the right criteria are met it becomes uncomplicated. Such is the case with George St. Pierre. St. Pierre has beat future UFC hall of famer Matt Hughes not once but twice and his thirteen octagon wins puts him in a tie with Randy Couture for fourth on the all-time wins list.
He is also a two time welterweight champion and has defended his belt twice against Jon Fitch and B.J. Penn. St. Pierre will face his biggest test to date against Thiago Alves at UFC 100. If he wins, he will not only have cleaned out the welterweight division but he could be on a collision course with Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva.
7. Frank Shamrock: “The Legend” reigned as Light Heavyweight champ from 1997 to 1999, until he vacated his title to retire. During that time he defended his title four times. While Shamrock’s competition was mostly mediocre, his wins all came by way of submission or T(KO) in the first round with one notable exception
That exception was the beating he put on Tito Ortiz at UFC 22, which ended by T(KO) in the fourth round. Beyond the cage Shamrock helped redefine what an MMA fighter was and in the process was named “Fighter of the Decade” for 1990’s by the Wrestling Observer. While his older brother Ken is the one in the UFC Hall of Hame, Frank takes his spot on our list.
6. Tito Ortiz: It may seem odd to rank the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” above Shamrock but numbers do not lie. Tito defended his Light Heavyweight title five times from 2000 to 2002, until Randy Couture took it away from him. Tito has a 6-2- record in UFC title bouts and is third on the all time list with 14 wins.
While Tito Ortiz is most remembered for his two losses to Chuck Liddell, Ortiz will always be remembered for having one of the biggest personalities in UFC history and before Brock Lesnar, Ortiz held the record as the biggest pay-per-view draw in UFC history.
5. Anderson Silva: Again its hard to place a fighter in his prime. And again the numbers don’t lie. Silva holds a perfect 9-0 UFC record. He has defended his belt six times which puts him one behind Matt Hughes who has defended seven times. After Silva’s last defense he is now the sole record holder for consecutive title defenses in the UFC.
His last defense also gave him the record for longest octagon win streak. He passed by both Royce Gracie and Jon Fitch whose win streaks sit at eight. Silva has also knocked off great competition in the process beating Rich Franklin twice, Dan Henderson, and Nate Marquardt. The only thing left for Silva to do is finish off his career in style. When it’s all said and done Anderson Silva could easily go down as the greatest UFC fighter ever.
4. Royce Gracie: Gracie is part of the family that invented the UFC. He won the first four UFC open weight tournaments beating guys 50-100 pounds heavier then in in the process. He has an 11-2-1 record with his one loss coming because he had to throw in the towel before the start of a match and the other two Matt Hughes.
His draw came agaisnt Ken Shamrock when the two fought for 36 mintues straight before the match was finally declared a draw since the UFC did not use judges back then. More could be said about Gracie but it is really not neccesary. He is a pioner in the sport and will be mentioned on these lists until the people that watched him fight pass on.
3. Matt Hughes: Despite his recent stuggles agaisnt George St. Pierre and Thiag Alves, Matt Hughes is still a future UFC hall of famer and the best, or second best, welterweight in the history of the organization. In the 16-year, 99 event history of the UFC only 11 fighters have defended their title more than once.
Hughes defended his seven times – holding the UFC record for doing so. He accomplished this during two separate stints as the UFC Welterweight champion.. Say what you will his level of competition – it doesn’t matter when you reach that height. Just for fun, Hughes also has two separate six fight win steaks, in second on the all time wins list (15) putting him one win behind Chuck Liddell and is second all time for most UFC title bouts behind Randy Couture.
2. Chuck Liddell: Like Matt Hughes, Liddell has struggled of late and stuggled much worse. And like Hughes, Liddell is a lock for the UFC hall of hame. His defining legacy remains on shaky ground though if he continues to fight and lose badly. Dana White has more then one reason to protect Liddell.
Despite the dubious, Liddell will forever be one of the most iconic figures in UFC histroy. What he did for the sports transcends whatever his win loss record ends at. His fights with Tito Ortiz, with Randy Coture, his devestating knockout power all add up to the second most important fighter in UFC history – at least for now.
1. Randy Couture: And then there was one. Couture has won the Heavyweight title on four separate occasions and has successfully defended it a total of three times. He also won the Light Heavyweight belt twice. He is tied with Matt Hughes for the most UFC title wins (9) and fourth on the all time wins list (13).
While his win-loss record is not as imposing as other UFC champions, it is the intangibles that define Couture. Couture had a mystique about him that fascinated fans from the start. Couture started his UFC career at the age of 33 grounding and pounding out the young phenom at the time in Vitor Belfort.
After losing a fight with Ricco Rodriguez for the vacant heavyweight title he moves down to light heavyweight and shocks Chuck Liddell by TKO to win the interim title. Couture then beat Tito Ortiz to win the unified title. At the age of 43, Couture, coming out of retirement, defeated then-champion Tim Sylvia at UFC 68 to claim his third UFC heavyweight title.
Along with Chuck Liddell, Couture is widely credited for bringing mixed martial arts into the mainstream of American pop culture and sports. He is the Natural, Captain America, and the most important fighter in UFC history.