This isn't a thread about determining which is better, or trying to figure out the order of the top 3 pound for pound fighters in all of MMA. This is about appreciating just what it is we have today. Each of these three men can make their claim at being the top fighter in the UFC. What they have done with their careers is nothing short of incredible. We are at a special time in mixed martial arts, where three guys stand out so much above the others.
The last three PPV"s were built around these three superstars. At UFC 152, Jon Jones defended his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship against former champion Vitor Belfort. At UFC 153, Anderson Silva moved up to 205 and became the first person to knock out Stephan Bonnar. And last night at UFC 154, GSP returned from a 19 month layoff and defended his UFC Welterweight Championship against a very game opponent in Carlos Condit. It was a little risky on the UFC's part. A loss to Belfort would have put quite a dent in Jon's legacy. A loss to Bonnar would have tarnished Silva's perfect UFC record. And a loss to Condit would have been a huge setback for GSP, especially considering everything Jones and Silva were able to do during his long layoff. Yet all three were able to prevail.
Jon Jones easily had the best year of anyone in 2011. He derailed the Ryan Bader hype train to earn a shot at Shogun's 205 Championship, and he won with ease. As Rogan said "It wasn't even a struggle." And since winning that title on March 19th, 2011, he has been on a complete tear. He became the first person to submit Rampage since 2001. He became the first person to submit Lyoto Machida. He beat up his former bestie Rashad Evans for five rounds, and escaped a DEEP armbar to come back and submit Vitor Belfort. He is only 25 years old and has four successful title defenses.
The scary thing about Jon Jones is that he hasn't even come close to reaching his potential. He is winning fights with such ease that fans are wanting him to move up with the Heavyweights. He doesn't really have too many more challenges left for him at 205. He is a heavy favorite over his next challenger, Chael Sonnen. A win over Chael would leave 42 year old Dan Henderson and Alexander Gustafsson, assuming he defeats Shogun at FOX 5. Rematches with Lyoto and Shogun are possible if they each win their next fights, but they wouldn't draw as much interest as neither fight was all that close.
Anderson Silva seems to shatter records left and right. He has won 16 straight UFC fights, has 10 straight UFC Middleweight Championship defenses (should be 11, but Travis Lutter missed weight,) and oh yeah, he's never lost in the UFC. He stole Forrest Griffin's spirit, retired Stephan Bonnar, chased Chael Sonnen out of the division, and has more finishes in the UFC than any other fighter. Not bad for someone who used to grill burgers at McDonalds.
He'll be 38 years old in April, but he doesn't seem to be slowing down, having finished his last five opponents. From his UFC debut in 2006, where he annhilated Chris Leben, to his last fight, he has dominated the sport. He's had his UFC Middleweight Championship for over 6 years. That's unbelievable. Six years. We're not sure what is next for Silva. Possible future opponents include Michael Bisping, Chris Weidman, and Tim Boetsch. Every once in awhile Anderson or Dana like to namedrop GSP or Jon Jones, but I'll believe it when I see it.
GSP returned last night from a 19 month layoff. And like clockwork, his haters were out in full force. His layoff was too long. Ring rust will be a factor. He won't be the same. His knee hasn't fully healed. He lost a fight over five years ago. We heard every excuse in the book. And again, GSP won. He didn't shut up his haters, but he sure did piss them off. So the next time GSP gets his hands wrapped, they'll be back again. It's the Circle of Life.
Last night both fighters put on an incredible display. We had standup action. We had head kicks. We had a chess match on the ground. And we had blood. Lots and lots of blood. It more than earned Fight of the Night honors. It was one of the best fights of the year and no doubt earned its spot on the UFC Best of 2012 DVD. It was GSP's 7th straight UFC Welterweight Championship defense, and his 10th straight win overall. He's defeated the likes of Matt Hughes, BJ Penn, Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields, and Carlos Condit. He has two blips on his radar with a loss to Matt Serra in 2007, and a loss to Matt Hughes in 2004. He avenged both losses with ease. Future possible opponents include Johny Hendricks, Nick Diaz, and the aforementioned Anderson Silva.
Each of these fighters are at completely different stages of their careers. Jon Jones is the young pup with all the potential in the world. Anderson Silva is the old lion that refuses to let age catch up with him. GSP is still very much in his prime. And all three of these amazing fighters have a strong grip on each of their divisions. Who will be able to take out Jon Jones at 205? Who will be the person to end Anderson's Silva mind boggling reign? And who will be the one to take GSP's strap? These are the three greatest fighters to ever right for the UFC. And we get to see them all at the same time.