Reaching the UFC is the dream for every MMA fighter on the planet. However, getting there doesn’t mean you are the best fighter in the world. With almost 800 fighters on the roster, some are clearly more dominant than others. Typically, these are the ones who emerge as champions, go on winning streaks, and amass defenses.
This results in an exclusive club of fighters. There’s no room for former two-weight champion and global superstar Conor McGregor because he never defended his titles and lost big fights in his prime. Furthermore, Royce Gracie is another high-level absentee because the UFC has changed so much since the days he fought. It’s practically a different sport now, so consider him an honorable mention. With all that in mind, let’s take a look at 25 of the most dominant fighters in UFC history. Check out the list below via The Sportster.
25. Alexander Volkanovski
‘The Great’ is by no means the most famous fighter on this list, but he has quietly become one of the most dominant. Hailing from Wollongong, Australia, he won the UFC featherweight belt after shutting down Max Holloway in style. Volkanovski has accumulated a 17-fight winning streak, his one and only defeat coming back in 2013 when he fought at welterweight.
A former rugby player, the Aussie used to weigh over 200 lbs. But he soon realized that he had the ability to make it as a prizefighter. Overall, Volanovski has a very well-rounded style. He has a powerful overhand right and is strong in his takedowns. Furthermore, he is excellent at following a gameplan. This helped him to beat Holloway twice and defeat Jose Aldo on his title run.
A quick glance at Penn’s recent record would cause people to question ‘The Prodigy’s’ place on this list. However, that totally disregards his outstanding achievements earlier in his career. First, the Hawaiian was the first lightweight champion to amass three successful title defenses. For quite some time, he was one of the most dominant fighters in his division.
During his prime, Penn was a powerhouse. He was also the second two-weight champion in UFC history. First, he claimed the welterweight champion before later winning the 155-pound crown. He never stopped trying to win back the 170-pound belt but was more of a force at lightweight. To sum up, he was one of the most entertaining and compelling fighters of his day.
Former UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Couture belongs on the Mount Rushmore of MMA. First, he competed in a record 16 title fights. He was also the oldest UFC champion in the history of the promotion and the first to win in two different weight classes. These are all incredible achievements and prove what a force he was during his heyday.
Couture is the oldest fighter to win a UFC fight when he earned a victory at the age of 46. His relentless, wrestle-heavy style was too much for many of his opponents. He used the clinch to superb effect and smashed his opponents on the ground. It wasn’t always pretty to watch, but it was clearly effective. Couture earns a place on this list because of his title wins but is lower because he never had incredible winning streaks.
A deadly force in the octagon, Yan is one of the multiple lethal Russian fighters who have taken MMA by storm. After beating the likes of Urijah Faber and Jose Aldo, Yan claimed the UFC bantamweight crown. With a record of 15-1, Yan is also currently riding a 10-fight win streak. Seven of those fights have come in the UFC. He also avenged his only loss by beating Magomed Magomedov in a rematch.
Yan trains out of Tiger Muay Thai in Thailand, where he has developed some of the best hands in the sport under John Hutchinson’s guidance. Indeed, the former Irish professional says that Yan would have been a successful boxer if he went down that route instead of MMA. Finally, Yan has a ridiculous work rate. His mindset helps him to dominate his opponents because he’s unflappable.
Fans forget just how good Machida was in his prime. ‘The Dragon’ has one of the most distinctive styles in MMA due to the way he moves and counters. He draws from his karate background to great effect and went on a fantastic run to win the UFC light heavyweight championship. Furthermore, during this time, everybody thought that he had reinvented MMA.
Since he lost the belt to Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, Machida has had mixed results in MMA. But during his rise to the top, he was a marvel to watch. He also has some of the best kicks in the sport as he proved in exceptional wins over Vitor Belfort and Mark Munoz. Now in Bellator, Machida was definitely one of the most fun fighters of his generation and a dominant force.
If you don’t like wrestling, then you won’t like Usman. ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ is indeed a horror story for striking fans because he tirelessly clinches and grapples with his opponents. However, he is also brilliant at what he does and could be the UFC welterweight champion for a long time to come. Once he gets his hands on his opponent, he isn’t letting go.
Usman is riding a 15-fight win streak with 11 of those coming in the UFC. Furthermore, the manner in which he beats opponents is ridiculous. He shut down Tyron Woodley at UFC 235 in one of the most dominant championship victories of all-time. He also knocked out Colby Covington and overwhelmed Jorge Masvidal in some of his other excellent wins.
The only fighter on this list who was never an official UFC champion, Ferguson did capture the interim lightweight title after an astonishing win streak. Overall, ‘El Cucuy’ went undefeated for seven years, establishing a 12-fight win streak that was worthy of a champion. On the way to the interim belt, he defeated the likes of Rafael Dos Anjos and Edson Barboza.
Ferguson’s fights were always exciting because he produced glorious exhibitions of violence. He was notorious for the vicious use of elbows and unconventional techniques. It’s just a shame that we may never see him fight Khabib Nurmagamedov in one of the great lost fights in combat sports. Justin Gaethje did eventually stop his glorious run, but that doesn’t mean Ferguson wasn’t dominant.
Only two men have defeated Cormier: Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic. That says a lot about ‘DC’ and his legacy. The second UFC fighter to hold two titles at the same time, Cormier is a former champion at light heavyweight and heavyweight. He was excellent in both divisions with one of the most respected wrestling bases in all of MMA.
Now retired, Cormier defeated the likes of Anthony Gustafsson, Miocic, Anthony Johnson (twice), and Dan Henderson during a stellar career. Also, one of the greatest successes of his later career was shaking off the shadow of Jon Jones. In the end, the former Olympian walked away with one of the most glittering records in the history of mixed martial arts.
You may or may not believe that Holloway is the greatest featherweight champion of all-time, but there’s no doubt whatsoever that he’s one of the division’s most dominant fighters. After losing to Conor McGregor in 2013, Holloway went on an astonishing 13-fight tear through the division. He also successfully defended the featherweight title three times and became the only man to defeat Jose Aldo twice.
Holloway is one of the roster’s best strikers. His output is just too much for most opponents because overwhelms them with an astonishing volume of strikes. While he did lose his crown to Alexander Volkanovski, few people doubt that he has the ability to make a run for the belt again one day in the future. His run to the top was the most dominant featherweight has ever seen.
A former Strikeforce, Invicta, and UFC champion, Cyborg now reigns supreme as queen of Bellator’s featherweight division. The Brazilian fighter is a force of nature. One of the few mixed martial artists who can claim that the UFC literally created a new division because of them, she was dominant for 13 years across all promotions and nobody looked like they would beat her.
Cyborg has a relatively small sample size compared to other fighters on this list because she only appeared five times in the UFC. But the promotion struggled to find willing opponents for her. The ones she did fight like Tonya Evinger and Yana Kunitskaya, she brutalized. That alone makes her worthy of a place on this list. It’s a shame we’ll probably never see her rematch against Amanda Nunes.
UFC Hall of Famer Liddell is one of the most important athletes in the history of the sport. The former light heavyweight champion was distinctive for his mohawk and aggressive style. This led him to the title and also four successful defenses before he dropped the belt to Quinton Jackson. Not only was he a star, but he was a dominant champion.
With victories over the likes of Couture, Tito Ortiz, and Wanderlei Silva, Liddell can claim to be one of the best light heavyweights ever. His run of defenses, combined with two lengthy win streaks and a KO-heavy style makes him a worthy candidate for this list. In sum, it would be a travesty if he wasn’t on it because ‘The Iceman’ was a force of nature.
Her five successful title defenses alone would earn Jedrzejczyk a place on this list. But it’s more than that because she was terrifying on the road to victory. She butchered her opponents. Her striking is unbelievable and she shredded the other women’s, leaving them bloody and bludgeoned. Depending on your perspective, her title win over Carla Esparza was either a masterclass or a horror show.
In recent years, ‘Joanna Champion’ has declined but that is not a knock on her incredible rise. She was also great on the mic and a must-watch whenever she appeared on a UFC card. With one of the best jabs in the game and exceptional Muay Thai skills, the Polish queen is one of the most dominant female champions of all-time. It also says a lot about how good Rose Namajunas was to beat her twice.
‘The Last Stylebender’ is one of the most dominant fighters on the planet right now. After 80 kickboxing matches, Adesanya made the move into MMA, where he evolved into the most exciting striker in the sport. It took him just under two years to win the UFC middleweight title and it looks like nobody will be able to beat him. The New Zealander’s sublime movement, sniper-like accuracy, and superb kicks make him a lethal force.
He has also beaten a whole host of brilliant opponents. First of all, his win over Kelvin Gastelum was one of the greatest fights in promotion history. Then he dissected Robert Whittaker to win the belt via second-round stoppage due to strikes. Next, he shut down the terrifying Yoel Romero in a boring but efficient fight. Recently, he humiliated Paulo Costa in another knockout win at UFC 253. To sum up, the Nigerian-born New Zealander is as dominant as they come.
The most successful UFC heavyweight champion in history, Miocic deserves a heap of respect. The Cleveland native has amassed more title defenses than any other heavyweight, with three in his first reign. Then after losing the belt to Daniel Cormier, he reclaimed the title and successfully defended it to seal his status as an all-time great. This is one of the greatest trilogies in MMA history.
One of Miocic’s greatest gifts is his ability to adapt and follow a gameplan. This underrated quality has helped him to execute brilliant gameplans to shut down fierce power punchers like Francis Ngannou and brilliant wrestlers like Cormier. Along the way, he defeated former champions like Fabricio Werdum, Andrei Arlovski, and Junior Dos Santos. Furthermore, Miocic, a former Gloves Winner, has excellent boxing.
Nobody looks like they will be beating ‘Bullet’ since she moved up to women’s flyweight. In short, the Kyrgyzstani fighter is arguably the most complete fighter on the roster today – male or female. She comes magnificent kickboxing with a superb ground game that overwhelms almost all of her opponents. Only Amanda Nunes has managed to beat in her in the UFC. But that comes with the caveat that it was at bantamweight and both fights could have gone either way.
At a more natural weight, Shevchenko looks unstoppable. She has the potential to become the most dominant female champion ever. So far she has successfully defended her crown three times, including a ferocious head kick KO win over Jessica Eye. She also defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk in 2018. But if she wants to rise up further on this list, she’ll need another marquee victory.
If it wasn’t for a certain Canadian legend, Hughes would be the greatest welterweight ever. The two-time UFC champion made the Hall of Fame in 2010 after a glorious career. He produced a couple of superb slams, including a KO win over Carlos Newton. He also did the same move in his first match against Georges St-Pierre in 2004. Hughes was gritty and tenacious with a brilliant wrestling base.
He once broke the record for most welterweight defenses with five. Of course, GSP later broke this, but take nothing away from Hughes as one of the most dominant fighters of his day. His list of scalps is seriously impressive as he beat the likes of Matt Serra, Royce Gracie, and Sean Sherk amongst many others. He’s also one of just a few fighters to be in the Hall of Fame both as an individual and for his classic fight against Trigg.
The most dominant fighter in bantamweight history, Cruz split his success between the WEC and the UFC. When the latter absorbed the former, Cruz became the promotion’s inaugural 135-pound champion. Unfortunately, injuries have decimated his career in recent years, but that doesn’t diminish the quality of his achievements. A two-time UFC champion, his comeback victory over T.J. Dillashaw was one of the greatest ever.
Cruz has traditionally had a massive rivalry with Urijah Faber’s Team Alpha Male gym. He has fought Faber twice, avenging his loss. Then he took the belt from Dillashaw after his return from injury. Between 2008 and 2016, he established an eight-fight unbeaten streak. Furthermore, Cruz had unbelievable footwork, making it very difficult for his opponents to get a read on him.
Some people will scorn Rousey’s place on this list, but that’s foolish. UFC President Dana White literally introduced women’s MMA to the promotion because of the former Olympic judoka. His decision paid off because she rampaged through the women’s bantamweight division. Almost nobody could take her past 30 seconds as she took her opponents down and armbarred them with ease.
Of course, we all know what happened when she started doing movies and ran into Holly Holm. She defended her UFC title six times as well as one more under the Strikeforce label. This was unprecedented at the time because she ran through women. Meanwhile, ‘Rowdy’ had one of the sport’s great rivalries with Miesha Tate. Finally, she emerged as one of sport’s only two mainstream stars alongside Conor McGregor.
Former UFC featherweight champion Aldo is, for our money, the greatest featherweight champion in history. It’s a shame that most recent MMA fans will only think of his post-Conor McGregor days. But before then, he was the most dominant champion in the lighter divisions of the UFC. He went undefeated for 17 fights from 2006 through to 2014 because he was so good.
Some people believe that because Max Holloway defeated him twice, that somehow his record deserves less respect. They also point to the fact that he was just 31 at the time. However, this totally ignores the fact that the Brazilian has put his body and mind through so many wars. One of the greatest strikers the sport has ever seen, Aldo is a clear future Hall of Famer.
Like B.J Penn and Jose Aldo to a lesser extent, Silva’s recent record does not reflect how dominant he was in his prime. ‘The Spider’ changed the UFC with his unbelievable striking. Furthermore, he had ridiculous counter-defense, where he fought with his hands down and slipped his opponents’ strikes. That’s how he became the most successful middleweight champion ever.
Silva achieved an unprecedented 10 successful title defenses at 185 lbs. Along the way, he defeated the likes of Rich Franklin, Vitor Belfort, Dan Henderson, and Chael Sonnen. In sum, his career is basically one long highlight reel because he achieved a ridiculous number of knockouts. He also has the most ‘Knockout of the Night’ bonuses in the history of the UFC.
‘The Lioness’ holds the unique accolade of having defeated every women’s bantamweight, and featherweight champion in UFC history. She defeated Miesha Tate, Holly Holm, Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg, and Germaine De Randamie. Meanwhile, Nunes also holds two wins over women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko. Overall, she is a monster and the most dominant female fighter in the history of MMA by a wide margin.
Nunes has incredible power standing and is also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Furthermore, she is the only fighter to defend titles in two divisions while continuing to hold both. Her win over Cyborg sealed her legacy as the greatest female fighter of all-time. It will take something special to defeat her again. While she did suffer losses early in her career, she has emerged as by far the most dominant in the sport.
When it comes to MMA as an entity, many people believe that St-Pierre is the greatest of all-time. He’s definitely in the conversation because his run at welterweight was outstanding. The Canadian has the most title defenses in the history of the division with an incredible nine. A two-time champion at 170 lbs, he also avenged both of his losses to Matt Serra and Matt Hughes.
What makes St-Pierre special is that he wasn’t just a great fighter, he was a brilliant athlete. He did gymnastics and dance to improve his ability in the cage. Furthermore, he became a two-weight champion after taking a four-year hiatus. GSP moved up a weight class to choke out Michael Bisping and win the middleweight title. St-Pierre was simply a force of nature.
Jones coming in at third will be controversial to some. However, the four-time light-heavyweight champion is definitely one of the most dominant and talented fighters ever. He has victories over all of his fellow contenders at 205 lbs, including Daniel Cormier, Alexander Gustafsson, Rashad Evans, and ‘Rampage’ Jackson. He was also the youngest UFC champion of all-time.
Jones’s only official loss was a disqualification against Matt Hammil. However, there are two reasons why he isn’t on top of this list. First of all, his most recent performances haven’t been as dominant. Secondly, he tested positive for banned substances multiple times so this automatically taints his legacy. However, despite both of these factors, he’s still one of the greatest of all-time.
A couple more title defenses and Khabib will definitely top this list. With an undefeated record of 28-0, the Russian is one of the most relentless and dominant fighters in the world. He is currently riding a 12-fight unbeaten streak in the UFC alone. If he beats Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, he will move to three successful title defenses and one step closer to his goal of retiring with a 30-0 record.
The Russian uses his oppressive wrestling style to suffocate and overwhelm his opponents. ‘The Eagle’ grinds them up against the fence and batters them until he can choke them out or they give up. Everybody knows what he is going to do but nobody can do anything to stop him. Essentially, he is the equivalent of Floyd Mayweather for MMA. His superb record and specialized style make him too good.
Now fighting for ONE Championship, Johnson was the first UFC flyweight champion. Nobody could touch him at 125 lbs as he went on a ridiculous run of defenses, running up a UFC record of 11 title wins. Johnson is a complete fighter with excellent striking, creative grappling and BJJ, as well as ludicrous athleticism. If you’ve seen his flying armbar win over Ray Borg, you’ll know what we’re talking about.
Some will point to his lack of a standout opponent as a reason why he shouldn’t top this list. However, equally, you could say that he was just so good that nobody was able to really test him. Even Henry Cejudo, who eventually defeated him in 2018, lost against Johnson the first time they fought. Furthermore, many people believed that D.J did enough to win in their rematch. Ultimately, “Mighty Mouse’s” record speaks for itself.