MMA is the fastest growing combat sport in the world and for many good reasons. It provides a platform for martial artists around the world to compete on a professional level in what started out as a quest to figure out which martial art was the most effective.
Royce Gracie used Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to dominate the early days of MMA, Chuck Liddell proved that a striker who had enough wrestling to keep fights standing could be just as dominant, while modern fighters like Demetrious Johnson have shown us all that being proficient in many different styles will put you ahead of the competition.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the five most complete fighters in the history of MMA:
1) Demetrious Johnson
You’ll have a hard time finding anyone who is better-rounded than “Mighty Mouse.” His striking is a step better than everyone else in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s flyweight division, and the same can be said about his wrestling and BJJ.
It doesn’t stop there though, Johnson also embraces the philosophies behind these martial arts. He’s hardworking, disciplined, and in shape every time he steps inside the cage. Johnson is now one of the most dominant champions in the UFC’s history, with 11 consecutive successful title defenses. Johnson remains the UFC’s flyweight champion, and he likely won’t be giving up the belt anytime soon.
2) Fedor Emelianenko
Fedor had a legendary run during his prime. He had a wealth of grappling knowledge, and his striking was a thing of beauty. When he landed flush on his opponents, the referee typically jumped in to stop the fight shortly after.
One of the things that made Fedor exceptional was the fact there was nothing his opponents could do to ruffle his feathers. He wasn’t just comfortable striking and grappling; he was comfortable in any position regardless of if it was advantageous or not.
A perfect example of Fedor’s ability to excel even when he found himself in disadvantageous positions was during the final minutes of his fight against the late Kevin Randleman. Randleman executed one of the most vicious suplexes ever seen in MMA history, planting Fedor right on his head. Amazingly, Fedor used that opportunity to isolate one of Randleman’s arms and forced him to tap moments later.
3) Jon Jones
If not for issues outside the cage, Jon Jones would probably be at the top of this list. There’s never really been anyone like him before. He has a lean, rangy physique, and he has mastered how to use it efficiently. Jones is comfortable anywhere a fight takes place, and he’s the youngest champion in UFC history. He’s outwrestled great wrestlers like Daniel Cormier and outboxed world-class strikers like Alexander Gustafsson.
Jones has barely ever faced adversity inside the cage, and he’s never really lost a fight as a professional. His only loss came via disqualification due to a controversial rule on 12-6 elbows when he fought Matt Hamill. A fight he was clearly on the verge of finishing.
4) Georges St. Pierre
Better known as GSP, St. Pierre brought the Matt Hughes era to an end, and he turned out to be the most dominant champion the UFC’s welterweight division has ever seen. GSP started out training Shotokan Karate, but he quickly added wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to his arsenal once he realized how important those two things are in modern mixed martial arts.
What separated GSP from the rest of the pack was the way he seamlessly mixed everything together. That was evident during his triumphant return to the UFC after a long layoff as he softened Michael Bisping up with his striking before sneaking in a choke to finish the fight.
GSP’s well-rounded skill set has allowed him to successfully compete in two different eras.
5) Frankie Edgar
Edgar’s title reign might not be as long as that of others on this list, but that doesn’t make him any less complete as a fighter. Frankie’s boxing is a good as it gets, and he rarely ever gets into any trouble while striking. His wrestling is just as good. The New Jersey native is virtually impossible to take down, while he is able to take others down at will. Frankie is also a black belt under the tutelage of Matt Serra.
Edgar’s well-rounded skills are what allowed him to enjoy lots of success as an undersized lightweight in the UFC.
6) Anderson Silva
Silva reign as the UFC’s middleweight champion was almost magical. The Brazilian wowed Pride and UFC fans with his unorthodox striking and deadly finishing abilities. Silva was more than just a striker though, he’s also a world-class BJJ black belt. Silva’s guard was the spider’s web you didn’t want to get trapped in. It’s what allowed him to throw flashy techniques with reckless abandon as he was never worried about being put on his back.
Getting “The Spider” on his back wasn’t as easy as it looked in the first place. He outwrestled many great wrestlers like Dan Henderson and Nate Marquardt.
One moment that really stood out during Silva’s prime was his feud with Chael Sonnen. Sonnen was one of the most dominant wrestlers in the UFC at the time, and he looked like he was on his way to becoming the first man to defeat Silva during their UFC 117 showdown. However, Silva pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in UFC history during the fifth round, forcing a tap with a triangle/armbar combination.
Silva proved his wrestling was underrated during his rematch against Sonnen, stuffing most of the latter’s takedown attempts, tripping him with his feet, then finishing the fight with a vicious knee.
Mixed martial arts is all about mixing different martial arts styles together, so it isn’t surprising many past champions are well-rounded in various combat styles. Being well-rounded as a martial artist is also beneficial for self-defense purposes since you’re able to successfully defend yourself in a wider range of scenarios.
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