North America has played a significant role in getting mixed martial arts to the mainstream status it currently enjoys. While Japanese promotions like Pride FC were the first to organize MMA events, it was a small niche sport back in those days.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship played the most significant role in getting mixed martial arts into the mainstream and getting fans from all over the world into the sport.
While Brazilians dominated the early days of mixed martial arts, North American fighters eventually evened things out.
The Top 10 Mixed Martial Artists From North America
Let’s take a look at some of the top ten North American fighters who have helped to turn MMA into the fastest growing sport:
1) Miesha Tate
Miesha ‘Cupcake’ Tate’s fight against Ronda Rousey made MMA history. The fight was Tate’s first defense of the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight title, and there was a lot of hype surrounding Rousey at that point.
The two women put on a show, keeping the crowd on their feet the entire time. That fight changed the way people viewed women’s MMA. At that point, it was clear female fighters could be just as entertaining and sell tickets like their male counterparts.
Tate ended up losing the fight by armbar, Rousey’s signature submission, but she gained a legion of fans when she refused to tap, forcing the referee to stop the fight after her arm was broken.
2) Daniel Cormier
Daniel Cormier is one of the most decorated wrestlers to enter a cage. An Olympic-level wrestler, DC won over six national titles before crossing over into MMA. By his tenth fight, he’d won the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.
DC sported a 15-0 professional record before losing to Jon Jones when the two collided for the title at UFC 182. Fortunately for DC, Jones’ personal problems forced the UFC to strip the title from him. DC won the vacant light-heavyweight title at UFC 187 and successfully defended it twice.
Jones beat Cormier a second time when the two faced off for a rematch, but a failed drug test afterward kept the belt around DC’s waist. DC later moved up to the heavyweight division and defeated Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight title, becoming a two-division champion.
3) Ronda Rousey
UFC president Dana White once said “No” to women ever fighting inside the cage, but watching Rousey fight convinced him otherwise. Rousey was the first woman signed to the UFC’s roster and their first women’s champion.
Rousey dominated in a way no one else has. Rousey defeated everyone she faced on her way to compiling a 12-0 record via first-round finish, mostly armbars. The only person who managed to last more than a round was Miesha Tate. Tate lost by first-round armbar the first time these two met, but she made it to the third round before getting tapped out during their rematch.
4) Stipe Miocic
Miocic was one of those guys no one expected much from until he shocked the world and brought an end to Fabricio Werdum’s reign. He successfully defended the belt three times, most notably against Francis Ngannou.
He lost the belt to Daniel Cormier but avenged the loss during the rematch, reclaiming the heavyweight title. He successfully defended the belt during a rubber match before losing his rematch with Ngannou.
5) Dominic Cruz
Cruz is one of the most inspiring fighters in the UFC. He won the WEC belt in 2010 and was upgraded to UFC bantamweight when the WEC was sold. He successfully defended the belt against Demetrious Johnson and Urijah Faber before being forced to give it up due to injuries.
Cruz was sidelined for six years, but he didn’t skip a beat when he came back in 2016. He took the UFC’s bantamweight title from T.J Dillashaw and successfully defended it once before losing it to Cody Gambrant.
6) Matt Hughes
Matt Hughes was the most dominant welterweight in the UFC’s history until Georges St. Pierre dethroned him. The two-time All-American wrestler used his wrestling to dominate opponents during his reign. That, coupled with his farm-boy strength, made him quite the challenge for many welterweights.
7) Henry Cejudo
Cejudo won the gold medal for his weight class at the 2008 Summer Olympics, becoming the youngest American to win a gold medal for wrestling. He then immersed himself in boxing, which paid off when he crossed over into MMA.
Cejudo ended Demetrious Johnson’s reign, which earned him the UFC’s flyweight title. He later defeated TJ Dillashaw to win the bantamweight title.
8) Demetrious Johnson
Demetrious Johnson was at the top of most pound-for-pound rankings for almost a decade, and he’s one of the most well-rounded fighters to ever compete in MMA. He can strike, grapple, or wrestle with the best of them. His decision-making inside the cage is as good as it gets.
9) Georges St-Pierre
George St-Pierre represents the modern breed of MMA fighters. We had the BJJ era that was dominated by fighters like Royce Gracie, the wrestling era that brought an end to the Gracie’s reign, and the age of strikers brought on by fighters like Chuck Liddell.
St-Pierre was one of the first fighters who showcased well-rounded fighting skills. The combination of his world-class striking and wrestling skills proved to be too much for most opponents.
10) Jon Jones
Jon Jones has been the most dominant force MMA has ever seen since he started his professional career in 2008. He’s never really been defeated since then. The one loss on his record comes via disqualification during a fight he was clearly dominating.
He became the youngest champion in UFC history by defeating Maurício Rua, and he successfully defended the belt 11 times, despite all the personal issues he had over the years.
Jones now sports a 26-1 pro MMA record, and he’s currently working on his heavyweight debut. He’ll most likely face Stipe Miocic or Francis Ngannou.
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