Sports

Ranking The Top Professional Fighters In Combat Sports History

Darren - July 26, 2019
Sports

Ranking The Top Professional Fighters In Combat Sports History

Darren - July 26, 2019
Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

29. Bernard Hopkins

Hopkins began his career as ‘The Executioner’ but evolved into ‘The Alien.’ He was one of the greatest defensive fighters of all-time as he changed his game to focus on longevity. One of the greatest middleweights ever, Hopkins also achieved great success as a light-heavyweight and fought in some epic matches. Truly a magnificent talent, he was one of the best of his generation.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

Furthermore, Hopkins was a master of avoiding damage. He fought late into his forties and also broke George Foreman’s record as the oldest boxing champion in history. Furthermore, he broke his own record multiple times. At one point he was a 49-year-old WBA light heavyweight champion. The Philadelphia native had a unique approach to boxing but was one of the best boxers in history.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

28. Bas Rutten

UFC Hall of Famer Bas Rutten is a combat sports legend. He’s a former kickboxer, MMA fighter and professional wrestler and was a heavyweight champion with the UFC. Rutten popularised liver shots in mixed martial arts and went on an astonishing 22-fight tear, ending his career on a winning note.

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Mandatory Credit: Catholic Speakers

 

In four-and-a-half hours of professional competition, Rutten had a significant strike accuracy record of 70.6%.  He also attempted 53 submissions, the highest ever recorded by FightMetric at that point. He scored 13 knockdowns without ever getting knocked down himself. Meanwhile, Rutten is a very popular personality and works at a ridiculous number of MMA events.

Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie, USA TODAY Sports

27. Cris Cyborg

Until she ran into Amanda Nunes’s right hand, Cris Cyborg was the greatest female fighter on the planet. The Brazilian possesses a remarkable physique that few women can cope with. She demolished her opponents with ease. Combining BJJ skills with brutal power, Cyborg is a special athlete.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Cyborg went unbeaten for a remarkable 19 fights, spanning 13 years. As well as being the UFC featherweight champion, she also held the Strikeforce and Invicta straps. Cristiane Justino Venâncio might be her real name, but Cris Cyborg is the one that has struck fear into the hearts of opponents for over a decade.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports.

26. Peter Aerts

Don’t call yourself a true combat sports fan if you don’t haven’t seen Peter Aerts fight. One of the pioneers of Dutch kickboxing, his ludicrous kicks gave him the nickname ‘The Dutch Lumberjack.’ He’s a three-time K-1 World Champion and is regarded as one of the best heavyweight kickboxers of all-time.

Mandatory Credit: SBNation

Aerts was also a two-time IKBF World Champion. He ended nearly 80 fights inside the distance and had a finishing rate of 75%. His head kicks made Mirko Cro-Cop look like a ballet dancer. With a career spanning two decades, Aerts is definitely worthy of being called a legend.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

25. BJ Penn

Penn’s case is a curious one. He shows what happens if fighters stick around for too long. His recent decline was sad to watch because it didn’t reflect his brilliance. But he is one of the sport’s greatest ever fighters and has achievements that stand up with the very best. The Prodigy was one of the stars of his day and a truly elite talent.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Remarkably, he has competed in four weight classes. He became the UFC’s second two-weight champion with the capture of the lightweight and welterweight titles. He’s also a K-1 champion, spending a significant amount of his career focusing on kickboxing. Quite rightly, he’s in the UFC Hall-of-Fame.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

24. Conor McGregor

Few people have had the same impact on combat sports like McGregor. ‘The Notorious’ is a divisive personality but he is a superb fighter and his rise to greatness was one of the most dramatic in history. First of all, he won the UFC featherweight championship, before he later claimed the lightweight title. This also made him the first simultaneous two-weight champion in UFC history.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Furthermore, he fought Floyd Mayweather in one of the biggest boxing events ever. He lost that match but earned respect for taking the fight to one of the greatest of all-time. McGregor is very controversial outside of the cage and loses points for his failure to defend any of his titles. However, he remains one of the most impactful fighters in combat sports and very entertaining.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

23. Katie Taylor

Sorry Conor McGregor, but you’re not Ireland’s greatest combat sports star. No, that honor goes to the legendary Katie Taylor. She had a long and glittering amateur career for the Emerald Isle, bringing home Olympic gold in London. But now she is a superstar. That is because she is such an entertaining boxer. Female fighters should thank her because she paved the way.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

She’s the first undisputed women’s lightweight champion of the world. The thing about Taylor is that she’s just such a good boxer. The majority of her sparring partners through her career have been men and it shows. She’s also changed how women’s boxing is received by TV networks. The Irishwoman has drawing power.

Mandatory Credit: CBS Sports

22. Henry Cejudo

The youngest Olympic gold medallist in U.S. wrestling history, Cejudo had a majestic martial arts career. His rise to the top was a tough one as he suffered an early UFC loss to Demetrious Johnson, one of the greatest fighters of all-time. However, Cejudo regrouped and came back with a vengeance. Then, he fought D.J. in one of the most important flyweight MMA fights ever.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

He duly won the belt before moving up to bantamweight and claiming that title too. Cejudo is also famous for his brash personality. The self-professed ‘King of Cringe’ generated interest with his ludicrous antics outside the cage. However, make no mistake, he was an elite fighter before he walked away on a hiatus from the sport. ‘Triple C’ is annoying but brilliant.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

21. Buakaw Banchamek

Muay Thai legend Buakaw is one of the most recognizable faces in Thailand’s national sport. That’s all the more remarkable when it is considered that he comes from one of the most deprived and impoverished regions of the country. Like so many others in his country, he turned to the art of eight limbs make a living. But he achieved rare success.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

He is the former two-time Omnoi Stadium champion and the Lumpinee Stadium Toyota Marathon champion. Furthermore, he was the former ranked number one fighter in Lumpinee Stadium, Thailand Featherweight champion and two time K-1 World MAX champion. Still fighting, Buakaw shows no signs of slowing down.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

20. Khabib Nurmagamedov

The Russian MMA fighter is one of the most intimidating champions on the planet. He currently holds the UFC lightweight title and it doesn’t look like he’s going to lose it anytime soon. With a record of 29-0, unbelievable in MMA, ‘The Eagle’ has a brutal and relentless style that simply overwhelms opponents. Everybody knows what he will do but nobody can stop him.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

He takes fighters to the ground and then rains down on them with strikes until they give in or he can submit them. Famous for his rivalry with Conor McGregor, he’d crush the famous Irishman when they finally fought. Khabib deserves to be on this list for head-kicking Dillon Danis alone. In sum, his dominant style made him one of the best fighters in the history of MMA.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

19. Anderson Silva

Brazilian legend Anderson Silva is one of the slickest strikers ever to step into a cage. The most successful middleweight champion ever, he’s also considered by many to be the GOAT of MMA. He had the longest title reign in the history of the UFC at 2437 days, spanning seven years. ‘The Spider’ changed the game because his striking was on another level.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Silva’s movement is iconic. He is famed for his head movement, often taunting his opponents with his hands down. He’d roll with the strikes and move out of the way rather than blocking them with his arms. With precise striking and superb timing, he’s a danger for everyone who stands in front of him. The BJJ blackbelt was also effective on the ground. Nobody could stop him before he broke his leg.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports.

18. Jose Aldo

Sorry, Max Holloway, Jose Aldo is still the best featherweight fighter of all-time. ‘Junior’ is the former WEC and UFC 145lb champion and went undefeated for ten years. To sum up, that’s 18 fights. 17 of his 28 wins have come by knockout. He’s beaten the best of the best including Frankie Edgar, Chad Mendes, Kenny Florian, and Urijah Faber.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Renowned for his vicious leg kicks, Aldo is predominantly a striker. Very difficult to take down, his Muay Thai style was just too much for most of the opponents he faced in his career. He’s successfully defended 91% of takedown attempts throughout his career. And if anyone does get him down… well, he’s a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports.

17. Roy Jones Jr.

One of the best pound-for-pound boxers of all time, Jones competed from 1989 to 2018. He won titles in four weight classes. He’s the only fighter ever to start their career at junior middleweight and become a heavyweight title. He was also an undisputed light-heavyweight champion, unifying the WBC, WBA, and IBF titles. In short, his CV speaks for itself.

Mandatory Credit: AllSport

His masterpiece was the destruction of James Toney in 1994. However, he also beat a whole host of big names like Montell Griffin, Bernard Hopkins and Virgil Hill. ‘Junior’ possessed scintillating hand speed, sharp reflexes and superb athleticism and movement. Jones fought Mike Tyson in 2020 exhibition and reminded fans of his quality.

Mandatory Credit: Youtube.

16. Willie Pep

Voted the #1 featherweight of the 21st century by the Associated Press, Guglielmo Papeleo is a boxing icon. Better known as Willie Pep, the Italian-American held the featherweight title from 1942-1950. He fought professionally 241 times, winning 229 of those contests with 65 KOs. This truly was a different era.

Mandatory Credit: YouTube

Pep is the epitome of a different time. Known for his speed, elusiveness, and ring control, it was said that trying to hit him was like trying to punch a blade of grass. He even once fought Sugar Ray Robinson in the attic of a feed store. Men were made from something different back then. Truly a special talent.

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports.

15. Amanda Nunes

The greatest female fighter in the history of MMA, Brazil’s Amanda Nunes is incredible. She has beaten almost every bantamweight and featherweight champion in UFC records. That’s Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Valentina Shevchenko, Holly Holm, Germain De Randamie, and Cris Cyborg. That is an insane record.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

It was her win over the latter that proved just how phenomenal an athlete she is. Packing devastating power and precision, few women are able to handle her devastating strength and speed. She’s also a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Nunes is the real deal and it’s going to take someone special to beat her.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

14. Manny Pacquaio

The first boxer to win championships in 8 different weight divisions, Manny Pacquaio is a different class of boxer. His fans idolize him in the Phillipine where he also serves as a senator. Even up to the age of 40, he still held a belt: the WBA super welterweight title.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Pacquaio is renowned for his ferocious power and speed. He’s beaten the likes of Miguel Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya, and Ricky Hatton. He’s probably most famous though for his intense rivalry with Juan Manuel Marquez. The Pacman is the greatest boxer ever to come out of Asia. The man is an inspiration to millions across the continent and one of the most iconic faces in the sport.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

13. Israel Adesanya

Some will scoff at Adesanya’s place on this list, but his record deserves it. A former kickboxer, his striking is sublime. Fighters dream about moving like he does. He established himself as one of the biggest stars in his sport before moving to the UFC. Then, he went on an unreal run to the UFC middleweight title. The Last Stylebender is the next generation of strking.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

His MMA record is resplendant. Firstly, his title eliminator with Kelvin Gastelum was magnificent. Then, he effectively dissected the champion Robert Whittaker. His title defense against Paulo Costa was sublime too. Furthermore, Adesanya has a massive social media presence. He knows how to market himself and is one of the top fighters in the world right now.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports.

12. Demetrious Johnson

Some regard Johnson as the most skilled MMA fighter in the short history of the sport. His ability to combine wrestling with striking was something to behold. A phenomenally talented flyweight, his reign at the top of the UFC’s 125lb division went on with an incredible 11 successful defenses. Few fighters possess his range of skills.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Now on the books of ONE Championship, Johnson looks set to continue adding ridiculous statistics to his name. He’s the only flyweight to record 10 takedowns in three fights. He’s got the most finishes in flyweight history (7). Johnson is an incredibly talented and dynamic fighter. His flying armbar win over Ray Borg is one of his best moments.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

11. Rocky Marciano

No list of greatest fighters could be complete without Rocky Marciano. ‘The Brockton Blockbuster’ remains the only heavyweight champion to have retired undefeated as a champion. He had a record of 49-0 and his knockout-to-win percentage of 87.76% remains one of the best in the history of the division.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

He held the title for four years from 1952-1956 defending it six times with success. Marciano’s punching power, chin, speed, and ferocity all marked him out as a special force of nature during his remarkable era. His legacy was a major influence behind the Rocky Balboa film series.

Mandatory Credit: ESPN

10. Semmy Schilt

Schilt is just ahead of Ernesto Hoost on this list because he’s beaten his fellow Dutchman. Alongside his rival, he’s one of only two fighters to win the K-1 Heavyweight Grand Prix four times. However he stands alone as the only fighter to win it three times in a row. He’s also a Glory heavyweight champion too. That is a phenomenal CV.

Mandatory Credit: ESPN

Schilt has fought in both MMA and kickboxing, although it’s in the latter that he’s found the most success. With 50 wins on his record, the man was a force of nature. However, his career that ended when a heart condition was discovered in 2013. The man is a living legend and one of the most unique fighters on this list. A massive figure but an elite athlete.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports.

9. Floyd Mayweather

Mayweather is a force of nature.  There is a strong case that he’s the best defensive boxer ever. With an unbeaten 50-0 professional record, ‘Money’ is also one of the most successful inside and outside the cage. He fought intelligently and took very little damage throughout his career.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

He beat the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Canelo Alvarez in a storied career where he held titles across five weight classes. He’s also one of the biggest pay-per-view draws of all time. Mayweather’s bouts against Manny Pacquaio and Conor McGregor broke records. People don’t like him because of his controversies. But inside the ring, he stands apart.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

8. Joe Frazier

The great, late Joe Frazier was one of the world’s top heavyweights throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He was known for his strength, durability, formidable punching power, and relentless pressure fighting style. An Olympic gold medallist, his professional career was also very successfu. In 1970, he became the undisputed champion. This was his crowning achievement.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

Frazier’s rivalry with Muhammad Ali is one of the most famous of all time. He beat Ali in their first match-up in the ‘Fight of the Century.’ But he lost his rematches to his fellow legend. George Foreman was the only other man to beat ‘Smokin’ Joe,’ whose left hook was one of the best in the game. In sum, he was one of the most fierce fighters ever.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports.

7. Georges St. Pierre

Some believe that ‘Rush’ is the greatest UFC fighter of all time. He’s definitely the best welterweight with a phenomenal record in that division. The Canadian is a true martial artist. He combined karate, wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with devastating effect. After reclaiming his title from Matt Hughes, he’d defend it seven times before going on hiatus for four years.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

GSP then came back and took on the middleweight champion Michael Bisping for the title. He choked out the British fighter and won his second time, becoming a two-weight champion. Humble outside the cage and ferocious when the doors are shut, St. Pierre is a legend of the sport. Many consider him the greatest of all-time.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

6. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez

Alvarez is combat sports’ biggest superstar and the most valuable athlete on the planet. His rise and achievements are ridiculous. The unified middleweight champion of the world is enroute to repeat the same feat at light-heavyweight. His power-punching and body work are some of his most effective techniques and have enabled him to defeat bigger and longer opponents.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Canelo lost to Floyd Mayweather but there should be a disclaimer. He was just a young man and has evolved substantially since then. Furthermore, he defeated respected fighters like Sergey Kovalev, Gennady Golovkin, and Miguel Cotto. He is also a four-weight champion. Alvarez is a force of nature and a dangerous threat to every boxer on the planet.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

5. Fedor Emelianenko

Few fighters will ever have the same mystique that Fedor carried throughout his career. ‘The Last Emperor’ is widely regarded as the greatest fighter never to have fought for the UFC. That was his choice because he was arguably too big to be shackled by a single organization. But it created a legend.

Mandatory Credit: Sky Sports

He went unbeaten for a ten year period and was also PRIDE’s most recognizable champion. The Russian fighter is widely believed to have the best ground-and-pound in the history of the sport. Many publications continuously awarded him fighter of the year honors ahead of UFC fighters. The man is a phenomenon.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

4. Joe Louis

The Brown Bomber held the heavyweight title for an incredible eleven years or 140 months, defending his strap a record-breaking 25 times. Throughout the 30s and 40s, he also gained mainstream popularity, becoming the first African-American athlete to break down racial barriers and win the love of a nation.

Mandatory Credit: Bleacher Report

His punching power is regarded as one of the most devastating and powerful in history. There’s a reason that so few people were able to stand in front of him. Louis is known for his rivalry with Max Schmeling, as well as the likes of James J. Braddock, Billy Conn, and Jersey Joe Walcott. These were some of the best fighters of his generation.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports.

3. Jon Jones

Arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all time, we are lucky to have a living legend active right now. Jon Jones has a self-destructive personality and it seems like the only man who can beat him is himself. The UFC light-heavyweight champion has only lost once in his professional career, and that was a disqualification. Otherwise, none of his 26 opponents has properly tested him.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The youngest UFC champion in history, ‘Bones’ possesses a unique, lanky physique that makes it so difficult to get close enough to hit him. A master of distance and the dark arts, he’s won the UFC light-heavyweight championship four times, and surely a move up to heavyweight is on his radar. The man is a phenomenon.

Mandatory Credit: ESPN

2. Sugar Ray Robinson

On another day, we might have put Sugar Ray Robinson on top of this list. He is one of the main reasons why the pound-for-pound rankings exist. Robinson won a remarkable 85 amateur bouts before turning professional. He went 40 pro fights without defeat until he lost to Jake LaMotta.

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Robinson became a welterweight champion after avenging his defeat to LaMotta. Then he won the middleweight title – a belt he would win five times. He fought during a golden era of boxing, beating the likes of Jake LaMotta and Randy Turpin. Raging Bull showed how ferocious he could be.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

1. Muhammad Ali

Without a doubt the most famous boxer in history, there’s a good reason why Muhammad Ali is on top of this list. His sporting achievements and cultural impact make him the greatest combats sports athlete ever. The former heavyweight champion of the world fought with flamboyance and speed. Cassius Clay influenced every boxer that came after him.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

He first won the heavyweight title against Sonny Liston. But it’s his legendary trilogy with Joe Frazier and his fight with George Foreman in the Congo that proved his brilliance. Ali remains the only boxer ever to hold the lineal championship three times. Fighters across all disciplines adore Ali. The man’s influence went beyond boxing. Few fighters had such a strong impact.

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