The best in the world… this phrase carries significant weight in professional sports. After all, it is the goal of any professional athlete to win it all, to reach the peak - to become a champion. Being an American who loves mixed martial arts, I made an attempt to rank the top 15 active American UFC fighters. These athletes, in my opinion, harbor world class skill sets, resumes, and most importantly kick ass! They represent our country as they chase their dreams of becoming champions, or in some cases, remaining champions. One must define a quantitative measure to even attempt to rank such high profile fighters. Hence, they must be active, in the UFC, and have received some national recognition for their victories in combat. I took into consideration the totality of their accomplishments, the credibility of the organizations in which they won championships, and most importantly, have they ever won the UFC title? I even threw in high school accomplishments since I appreciate their early displays of wrestling dominance en route to their UFC careers. To win UFC gold is the crowning achievement that all these guys seek, so it is the basis for some of these fighters making it higher on the list than others. I know such rankings are quite subjective and can be debated ad nauseam, but I feel like if I had to take 15 guys to represent the U.S. in a world tournament, we would need another plane to bring back the trophies that these fighters would accumulate. So without further ado, here are the 15 best active UFC fighters according to yours truly:
15. Johny Hendricks 13-1
2x NCAA Div1 Champion 2005&2006, 4x All American, 3x Big12 Champion, 2005, 2006, 2007, 3x High School State Champion
Johnny made the list due to his wrestling pedigree and the tear he is currently on in the UFC’s welterweight division. As a title contender with lead hands, this guy has what it takes to make it to UFC gold provided he can get past Martin Kampmann later this year.
14. Nate Diaz 17-6
TUF Season 5 Winner
Nate Diaz made the list at no. 14 because of his fearlessness and ability to fight in two weight classes. He consistently has fight of the night performances, and his BJJ and boxing pedigree are second to none. He has what it takes to make it to the top and regardless if he fights Benson Henderson or Frankie Edgar next, it should be an extremely entertaining bout.
13. Chael Sonnen 27-11
NCAA Div1 All American, Silver Medalist Greco Roman World University Championships, 2x Dave Schultz Memorial International Greco Roman Winner, Gladiator Challenge LHW Champion, Hitman LHW Championship, Danger Zone LHW Campion and Tourney Winner, Rumble at the River Tourney Winner.
Ok, so I have never heard of some of these second tier organizations, but the fact remains that Chael has the wrestling pedigree and the toughness to bring the UFC gold back to the U.S. if he can repeat and complete his impressive performance against Anderson Silva next month.
12. Urijah Faber 26-5
Former WEC Featherweight Champion, 2004 Gladiator Challenge Champion, 2004 King of the Cage Champion
Urijah Faber comes in at No. 12 due to his consistent championship caliber opponents and his ability to push the pace in his fights. A proven champion he is still a fierce competitor who could achieve UFC gold if he can get past Renan Barao in his next fight.
11. Nick Diaz 26-8
Nick Diaz comes in at No. 11 due to his repeated dominance in every organization he has fought in outside of the UFC. He consistently has exciting fights against top tier competition and if he can get his head on straight is capable of reaching the top next year when he comes off suspension for marijuana metabolites.
10. Forrest Griffin 18-7
TUF Season 1 Winner, Former UFC LHW Champion
Forrest Griffin comes in at No.10 as a strong gatekeeper in the Light Heavyweight Division. Although he is out of title contention, he still can hang with the best on a good night. As the lowest ranked former UFC champ on my list, I need to see more from him soon or he will fall further down – and fighting Tito Ortiz is not quite what I mean.
9. Frankie Edgar 14-2
Former UFC Lightweight Champion
The Answer comes in at no. 9 because he possesses the heart and sheer will of a champion as well as quickness and agility that are second to none. His young career has resulted in some fantastic fights and although he absorbs substantial punishment, he never backs down. His upcoming rematch with Benson Henderson should be a fun fight to watch.
8. Frank Mir 16-6
Former 2x UFC Heavyweight Champion, 1998 High School State Champion
Frank Mir makes the list for a variety of reasons: His comeback from a devastating motorcycle accident to reclaim the title, the longevity of his UFC career, and his world class BJJ. Although he probably saw his last title fight at UFC 146, he still is relevant in the division and makes for an interesting matchup for numerous fighters.
7. Rashad Evans 17-2
TUF Season 5 Winner, Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, 2000 High School State Champion
Rashad Evans comes in at no. 7 on his overall well roundedness and quality of competition. He is still close to the top of the division and has plenty of fights at 205 or 185 should he choose to drop.
6. Cain Valasquez 10-1
2x All American Arizona State, Former UFC heavyweight Champion
Cain resides at no. 6 on the technicality of his striking and wrestling pedigree. His cardio is impeccable and his fights are violently beautiful. A rematch looms with current champion Junior Dos Santos and should prove to be much different than their last encounter.
5. Dominick Cruz 19-1
Current UFC Bantamweight Champion, Final WEC Bantamweight Champion
The Dominator comes in at no. 5 as the result of his limitless gas tank and superb movement. It is a shame that his trilogy with The California Kid is postponed due to his knee injury, but hopefully he can come back and compete at 100% next year.
4. Benson Henderson 16-2
Current UFC Lightweight Champion, Former WEC Champion
Benson comes in at no. 4 on my list on the heels of an impressive rise in the lightweight division. His tear into title contention and subsequent victory over Frankie Edgar to take the belt is among the best beginnings to an Octagon career ever for a fighter and I look forward to the rematch later this year.
3. Carlos Condit 28-5
Current Interim UFC Welterweight Champion, Final WEC Welterweight Champion
The Natural Born Killer is on the list because he finishes fights - either by knockout or submission. Fighters with this kind of finishing ability, cardio, and toughness are rare and if he can stuff St Pierre’s takedowns, their upcoming bout later this year has all the makings of a classic.
2. Jon Jones 17-1
Current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion 4X, JUCO National Champion, High School State Champion
Jon Jones comes in at no. 2 based on sheer athleticism, youth, and his unorthodox puzzle that none of the other fighters in his division have been able to solve. It has been awhile since there has been a reigning, defending champion in the light heavyweight division and Jon Jones is the real deal. Hopefully the world and all it has to offer does not wind up being his toughest opponent. His next test against Hendo will be a tough one, but should he prevail he will be mentioned in the greatest of all time discussions going forward.
1. Dan Henderson 29-8
Final Pride Welterweight and Middleweight Champion, Former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion, UFC 17 Champion, 2005 Grand Prix Champion, Rings King of Kings Champion, 1997 Brazil Open Tournament Champion, State Wrestling Champion, 2x Olympian
Ok. I know I’ll get some flack on this one but Dan Henderson makes the list at no. 1 because….well, it’s my list! Based on wrestling pedigree, caliber of opposition, longevity of career, championships won, and the era in which he fights – he is my highest ranked active American UFC fighter. If he can get past Jon Jones in September, he will go down as possibly the greatest American fighter ever. If not, he will not drop down too far on the list based on what he has accomplished already.
What say you mmaniacs?