Over the course of the mixed martial arts history, particularly in the UFC, there have been numerous fighters that demonstrated exemplary skill and technique. The range of power, stamina, and brute strength executed by the fighters that walk in and out of the ring have illustrated just how diverse the sport can be. Yet, among the groups of skilled fighters, only several names have been mentioned in the discussion of greatest of all time (GOAT).

Below is a list of names that have continuously, across the years, been brought up as one of the greatest in MMA. With no particular ranking order, these fighters have demonstrated techniques, skill, and stats that have cemented them into being one of the greats, but consideration into their overall impact to the sport has also been made.

Top 5 GOAT of MMA

GOAT #1 Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko

Fedor Emelianenko is one fighter amongst all that has – no matter who and when – been brought up as being a legend in the MMA world. Great fighters respect him, and fans never stop praising him.

Technique: Unlike most fighters that would attempt various styled kicks or punches, Emelianenko kept things simple by focusing a lot of his attention on his heavy hands. However, what made him a genius fighter was his ability to adapt to the situation accordingly and strategically. Experienced in sambo and judo, he would execute the necessary throws and takedowns at the most opportune moments. He was one fighter that approached his opponents with everything he had, demonstrating ‘mixed martial arts’ to the fullest form.

Overall Career: Standing at 6 feet, the Russian legend holds 36 wins, 5 losses, and is someone that has held a 10-year long winning streak – a feat not many can claim they have done. Furthermore, in 2010, he was named the fighter of the decade and has defeated the best fighters of his era. Not only has he achieved incredible accolades in a myriad of sports, from MMA (he held the MMA Pride Heavyweight Fighting Championship from 2003-2007), Sambo (he held the FIAS World Combat Sambo Heavyweight Championship in 2002, 2005, and 2007) and Judo (he held the Russian Judo Federation National Championship Bronze medal in 1998 and 1999), but he is widely acknowledged by fighters and fans alike as being one of the GOAT – a consensus that does not change regardless of how much time passes.

GOAT #2 Anderson “The Spider” Silva

Anderson Silva has been adulated by fans and fighters alike, with his diverse fighting style and ability to parry punches much like what was once seen by the great boxer, Muhammed Ali. Born and fighting out of Brazil, Silva has an incredible reach of 197 cm, standing at 188 cm tall.

Technique: Known primarily for his stand-up style, Silva blended various elements of TaeKwonDo, Brazilian Muay Thai, western boxing to parry like no other fighter had, and strike with a force so heavy many would be left dazed after the fight. One of the reasons Silva was so talented in his stand-up fighting was that most opponents were unable to decipher what exactly his style was. This made him unpredictable.

Overall Career: With a record of 34 wins, 8 losses, and 0 draws, Silva brought flare and personality to the ring, showing the fighters of today what it meant to win with spectacle. Out of the 34 victories, more than half of them were made by knockout, demonstrating he knows how to pack a punch. Furthermore, Silva is one fighter that had maintained (until 2013) the longest title streak in UFC history, lasting for 2,457 days and 10 title defenses. He is one of the few names that UFC President, Dana White, has stated deserves the title for being one of the ‘greatest mixed martial artists of all time.’

GOAT #3 George “Rush” St. Pierre

Hailing from Quebec, Canada, George St. Pierre has been regarded by many as being one of the most tactical fighters of all time. Nicknamed “Rush” due to his ability to enter a fight with full force and maintain an almost endless tank of energy, St. Pierre may not be known for putting on a show, but is undoubtedly revered for his strategic, tactical approach to a fight.

Technique: What made George St. Pierre so great was the fact that he was so well-rounded. His ability to switch up his game depending on the opponent so effortlessly made him a dangerous opponent to any skillful fighter. Whether it was striking, grappling, or wrestling, he could do it all. His ability to understand his opponent and use the necessary techniques that would reveal their weak points was what made the Canadian fighter so deadly.

Overall Career: St. Pierre holds 25 wins and 2 losses in his record. At a fairly young age, he has held the Welterweight Champion title in the UFC a total of three times, and is the number one welterweight fighter amongst many well-known MMA publications. Moreover, upon retiring in 2013, he walked away with an incomparable record of maintaining the second longest combined title streak in UFC history. Called Canadian Athlete of the Year (2008, 2009, 2010), George St. Pierre was a man that once held the record for most victories within the UFC. He managed to walk away from his career while remaining on top, and due to his highly renown skill and fighting prowess, GSP is believed to have ignited an entire generation of Canadian MMA fighters to step into the spotlight and ring.

GOAT #4 Jon “Bones” Jones

Standing at a tall 6’4”, Jon Jones is an American MMA fighter that of the modern era that has demonstrated one explosive win after another.

Technique: Jones has demonstrated incredible athletic fortitude, knocking his opponents off guard through his unconventional, unpredictable strikes. His well-rounded ability on and off ground have been compared to other greats such as Anderson Silva and George St. Pierre. From flying knees to spinning back fists, Jones has, match-after-match, shown the world the ever-evolving excellence of his striking. It is due to his creative and adaptive ability to maneuver around his opponents and execute explosive kicks or punches from even the furthest range, Jones has entered the discussion of being one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time.

Overall Career: Holding a record of 22 wins and 1 losses, Jones has defeated countless UFC legends and champions, beating out fighters such as Rashad Evans, Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, etc. On top of being ranked number one pound-for-pound fighter during his reign, Jones is a three-time Light Heavyweight champion and at the early age of 23, became the youngest champion in UFC history, a feat not many others have managed to claim. Furthermore, he holds several accolades such as having the most successful and consecutive title defenses of his era. Many well-known publications have also gone on record to naming him the number one light heavyweight fighter in the world.

GOAT #5 Royce Gracie

Considered to be the founding father of MMA, the legendary Brazilian fighter hails from the family that essentially introduced jiu-jitsu to the world of MMA. More than anyone else, Gracie remains one of the greatest of all time due to the mark he made in mixed martial arts history. Royce Gracie did more than introduce a simple technique to a style of fighting, he transformed an entire sport to what it is today. Not only did he popularize Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he opened the eyes of fighters worldwide to the reality that a bout could be won with more than just fists – grappling and ground fighting were just as important. Many fans consider him to be the most influential figure in MMA history

Technique: Coming from the family made MMA what it is today, Gracie was a fighter that could not be countered once he set his hands on you. While most fighters at that time were used to winning by strikes, Gracie grappling abilities were unmatched, leaving even the strongest and skilled striker tapping out in an instant. No matter who he was pitted against, whether they were specialists in karate, taekwondo, or boxing, Gracie stood victorious the moment he managed to get that fighter to the ground. It wasn’t just the fact that many fighters at that time were unfamiliar with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, one of the primary reasons why Gracie could continue to stack his wins was his ability to skillfully maneuver against his opponent, regardless of what position he was placed in. Patience was his strength, and whether it was making someone submit through side control or pull a guard from a clinch, Gracie knew just exactly what to do.

Overall Career: Standing at 6 feet, Gracie has a total of 15 wins, 2 losses and 3 draws. However, what is even more impressive is that, when entering the UFC, he won three of the first four tournaments from 1993 to 1995, holding the stats of 11-0-1. Placed in the UFC Hall of Famer, Gracie has several accomplishments under his belt: from being the first ever tournament champion in UFC history to holding the most wins by submission. Furthermore, both in the UFC and Pride Fighting Championship, Gracie is one fighter that has held the longest fights, a testament to his irreplaceable stamina.

While there are plenty of fighters that deserve to be on this list, such as Royce Gracie or Chuck Liddell, the aforementioned five fighters are names that were most commonly mentioned by fans and fighters across all boards. Considering each fighter stood in different weight classes and fought at different periods of time in the history of MMA, it is impossible to ever state who could hold the all-time greatest title as many have tried to do.

In the end, it is their demonstration of excellence in the MMA world that has helped inspire and drive others after them to strive for greatness, and it is this cycle of motivation that will continue to nurture more and more interest for the combat culture, and in turn, martial arts.

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