Editorial

TOP 10: GREATEST MMA MIDDLEWEIGHTS OF ALL TIME

The 185-pound division was always a pretty loaded division, although in the past, the talent were scattered across different promotions. UFC, Pride FC, Strikeforce, and Bellator are among the organizations that held the best Middleweights at the time, but now, almost all of the best Middleweights in the world fight for the UFC. Throughout its history,  the division has had all-time greats, oversized welterweights, undersized light heavyweights, and flashes in the pan. The Ranking Criteria will be based on the following in order:

Criteria

  1. Resume – Elite fighters that a fighter has defeated, when the elite fighters beaten were in their prime, or close to their prime
  2. Longevity – Period of time a fighter has managed to be at the very top of the game
  3. (Tie-Breaker) Title Wins – The amount of times a fighter has won and defended a title in a top promotion
  4. (Tie-Breaker) Official MMA Record – The amount of wins & losses a fighter has on their record

Honorable Mentions

Now , before we go on to the top 10. here are some honorable mentions: Evan Tanner, Murilo Bustamante, Jake Shields, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Hactor Lombard, Nate Marquardt, Chael Sonnen, Yushin Okami, Kazushi Sakuraba, Vitor Belfort, Kazuo Misaki, Matt Linland, Paulo Filho, Demian Maia, Robbie Lawler

Top 10

#10 – Rich Franklin

Before the lengthy reign of his successor, Franklin was the flag-bearer at 185-pounds in the UFC. Nicknamed “Ace”, it was thought that he would be on top for a long time when he was the UFC Middleweight champion. Because of the amount of time that has passed since his reign, as well as being overshadowed by the champions that succeeded him, Franklin has become considerably forgotten in the MMA world. With a solid MMA record of 29-7, Ace was 22-1 at his peak when he was champion, with 2 title defenses, and the only loss being at a much higher weight, against another undefeated fighter. Throughout his career, Rich has beaten the likes of Travis Fulton, Marvin Eastman, Evan Tanner twice, Jorge Rivera, David Loiseau, Yushin Okami.

Tanner was another Middleweight champion, and Franklin finished him twice. Franklin’s win over Loiseau was the most dominant 5 round decision win in UFC history, with one judge scoring it 50-42. Additionally, Franklin has wins over Ken Shamrock. Chuck Liddell, and Wanderlei Silva at other weights. Because of all the time that has passed since his reign, and all the other great fighters that emerged at 185-pounds, Franklin cannot go higher than the Number 10 spot. Nevertheless, his legacy has been cemented in UFC Middleweight history.

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#9 – Chris Weidman

A former UFC Middleweight champion, Chris Weidman will go down in history, as being the winner in arguably the biggest upset in UFC history. With a background in NCAA Division 1 Wrestling in college, Weidman got into the sport of mixed martial arts, and went on a good run, being 13-0 at his peak as champion, holding the belt for 2 & a half years, with 3 title defenses. Throughout his career, he has defeated the likes of Uriah Hall, Demian Maia, Mark Munoz, Lyoto Machida, Vitor Belfort, Kelvin Gastelum, and most notably Anderson Silva twice. Weidman is this low on the ranking for a couple reasons. First off, all of his title wins have some sort of asterisk next to them. Anderson Silva was 38 years old and 9 years Weidman’s senior when they fought, and in their first fight, Silva was messing around as usual, which allowed Weidman to capitalize and get the knockout victory. In their second fight, Silva got his leg broken off of Weidman checking it, and thus the fight had to end due to Silva’s injury.

Lyoto Machida was also significantly older than Weidman, and should never have been fighting at Middleweight. Machida was a natural Light Heavyweight. Vitor Belfort was yet another fighter past his prime, and 7 years Weidman’s senior when they fought. He was also no longer allowed to be on TRT, so it’s not like Weidman beat the legendary TRT version of Vitor Belfort, who was on a 3 fight rampage in Brazil. Their fight was in USA, so Vitor wasn’t allowed to be on anything, and Vitor looked like a completely different person when he came back to face Weidman, like an old man. Moreover, Weidman has fell off bad since USADA came into effect, with a record of 2-5, all 5 of his losses being knockouts. Whether it was cause of his chin turning into glass, or not being able to use PED’s, or a mixture of both, Weidman’s career was going downhill at the age of 31, an age when almost all fighters are at their peak. His title wins having asterisks, and him falling off hard early are the reasons why he is this low on the list.

#8 – Michael Bisping

A UFC Hall of Famer and former UFC Middleweight champion, Bisping is the first and only British fighter to ever hold a UFC title. Winner of Season 3 of “The Ultimate Fighter, he was a consistent presence on the UFC roster ever since then, up until his retirement in late 2017. During his early UFC run, he was very solid, but never managed to get a title shot. For the great majority of his career, it was thought that being an excellent gatekeeper was his full potential. But luckily for him, he was offered a short notice title fight, and managed to win the title, at the tail end of his career. I don’t think I need to explain why he is on the list, but I definitely need to explain why he is so low. While he deserves credit for fighting with one eye, and just being tough as nails in general, there are several asterisks next to his name.

First off, after becoming champion, he ducked deserving contenders, like Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker, for guys like old Dan Henderson and GSP, who was considerably past his prime. Secondly, he won the title because his opponent Luke Rockhold was a cocky & overconfident buffoon, who thought he would breeze past Bisping, due to Rockhold having finished Bisping in the past. Bisping took Rockhold seriously because he got submitted by Bisping, but Rockhold did not take Bisping seriously, which led to his downfall. Lastly, Bisping has won multiple arguable decision wins in his home country of England. The first decision against Matt Hamill, which was a straight up robbery, there’s no argument for Bisping winning that fight. The second decision was against old Anderson Silva, who was way past his prime and on the decline, and Bisping got knocked out by Silva at the end of the 3rd round. While Bisping deserves credit for toughing it out and coming back to fight, Silva still easily did enough to win the last 3 rounds. The third decision was against 46 year old Dan Henderson, who in Bisping’s own words “beat the crap out of him”, and also previously annihilated Bisping 7 years ago in his prime, in one of the most legendary knockouts in MMA history. Henderson definitely won at least 2 rounds, Round 1 being a 10-8 round, so at best, Bisping came out of this fight with a draw. A draw is not a successful title defense, and like I previously mentioned, Dan Henderson wasn’t the most deserving guy of a title shot, so this puts an asterisk next to Bisping’s title run.

You can make the one-eye excuse all you want, the fact of the matter is, Bisping ducked the best competition when he was champion. Moreover, while Bisping fought known PED users like Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen, he himself was fighting well before USADA came into effect, and he only fought fought 6 times after USADA, going 4-2, so I don’t want to hear that “he was a clean fighter always fighting cheaters”. Regardless, Bisping has still cemented his legacy in the Middleweight division. Throughout his career, he amassed a solid record of 30 wins & 9 losses, and has wins over the likes of  Chris Leben, Denis Kang, Jorge Rivera, Jason Miller, Brian Stann, Cung Le, Anderson Silva, Luke Rockhold, and Dan Henderson.

#7 – Yoel Romero

An Olympic Silver Medalist in Freestyle Wrestling, Romero came over to the world of MMA in 2009. Despite the fact that he never won a belt, there is a clear argument for Yoel Romero to be on the list. With a solid MMA record of 13-5, Romero has wins over Derek Brunson, Brad Tavares, Tim Kennedy, Lyoto Machida, Ronaldo Souza, Chris Weidman, and Luke Rockhold. 3 of Romero’s 5 total losses are arguable, to say the least. In 2 of those 3 arguable decision losses, he fought for the UFC Middleweight title, and all arguable losses were one after the other. The first arguable decision loss was Romero’s second fight against Robert Whittaker at UFC 225, in where Romero came in weighing at 185.2 pounds, and thus wasn’t eligible for the title, which is ridiculous. It it was a whole pound, that would be understandable, but 0.2 pounds is ridiculous.

In the fight, Romero lost a split decision, meaning 1 judge scored the fight for him. Romero did enough to win the last 3 rounds, and he did enough to win the last round by a score of 10-8, so in this fight, he got robbed. The second arguable decision loss was to Paulo Costa at UFC 241, an absolute barnburner. The arguable round in this fight was the second round, in which Romero easily did enough to win. All 3 judges ended up scoring the fight for Costa however. The third arguable decision loss was to Israel Adesanya, in arguably THE most boring fight in UFC history. Both Yoel and Israel barely engaged at all, with Israel running away most of the time Yoel tried to engage. However, Yoel definitely tried to engage more, and he seemed to get the better of the exchanges, when they did manage to come into contact. This fight should honestly have been a draw, because neither guy really did anything. Romero didn’t deserve the belt with that performance, but he didn’t deserve to lose that fight either.

All of these things happened when Romero was already in his 40’s, a decade older than his competition. Other then those 3 arguable decisions, Romero’s other 2 losses consisted of yet another decision loss to Robert Whittaker in their first fight, and one KO loss against Rafael Cavalcante, at Light Heavyweight. Regardless, Romero will go down in history as a Middleweight great.

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#6 – Luke Rockhold

Because of his cocky personality, Luke Rockhold tends to be underrated and underappreciated for what he’s accomplished in MMA. He was a Middleweight champion in both Strikeforce AND UFC, and he has wins over the likes of Ronaldo Souza, Keith Jardine, Tim Kennedy, Tim Boetsch, Michael Bisping, Lyoto Machida, Chris Weidman, and David Branch.

#5 – Robert Whittaker

At the age of 30, Robert Whittaker has already accomplished more than the great majority of MMA fighters do by the age of 30, and accomplished more at the age of 30 than a lot of fighters do in their entire career. Nicknamed “Bobby Knuckles”, he has already been in 2 weight divisions, been a UFC champion, and has faced an absolute murderers row of competitors. With a record of 22-5, he has wins over the likes of  Brad Tavares, Uriah Hall, Derek Brunson, Ronaldo Souza, Yoel Romero twice, Darren Till, and Jared Cannonier. His only loss at 185 was to current champion Israel Adesanya, who Bobby Knuckles faced when he was totally burnt out, and coming off of surgery.

#4 – Israel Adesanya

The current UFC Middleweight champion, Israel proved that he is the Next Big Thing in the UFC. With a perfect record of 20-0, he has wins over the likes of Marvin Vettori, Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, Anderson Silva, Kelvin Gastelum, Robert Whittaker, Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa. His fight with Kelvin Gastelum is one of the best fights in MMA history, and his performances against Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa are some of the best in UFC history. He is aiming to add a second belt to his resume, and is scheduled to face UFC Light Heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz in March of this year, for the LHW title. Israel CANNOT GO HIGHER ON THE LIST, because he is still fairly new to the sport, was pretty much scared to engage in one of his title defenses, and the fighters ranked above him have much better resumes.

#3 – Gegard Mousasi

You may be thinking why Mousasi is so high on the list. There is CLEAR reason for that. Arguably the most underrated fighter in MMA history, Mousasi is ridiculously accomplished. The current Bellator Middleweight champion, Mousasi was also a former DREAM Middleweight champion, DREAM Light Heavyweight champion, and Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion. The only reason he never won a UFC title is because he never got a chance to fight for a UFC title. With an outstanding record of 47-7, he has wins over the likes of Denis Kang, Melvin Manhoef, Ronaldo Souza, Mark Munoz, Dan Henderson, Thiago Santos, Vitor Belfort, Uriah Hall, Chris Weidman, Rafael Carvalho, Rory MacDonald, Lyoto Machida, and Mark Hunt, who is A HEAVYWEIGHT! Nothing more to be said here.

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#2 – Dan Henderson

Now that we’re getting to the top 2, there should be no debate over the placements. A former Middleweight champion in Pride FC, as well as a Light Heavyweight champion in both Strikeforce and Pride FC, being a simultaneous titleholder, Henderson forged a legacy that will stand the test of time. Starting off as a Greco-Roman wrestler and making it to the Olympics twice, he came over to the world of MMA and became known for a powerful right hand that resulted in a number of highlight-reel knockouts. Henderson excelled well into his 40’s, and by the time his career was over, he cemented his place as an all-time great. He has wins over the likes of Carlos Newton, Renzo Gracie, Murilo Bustamante twice, Kazuhiro Nakamura, Yuki Kondo, Ryo Chonan, Kazuo Misaki, Vitor Belfort, Rousimar Palhares, Rich Franklin, Michael Bisping, Tim Boetsch, Hector Lombard, Wanderlei Silva, Big Nog, Shogun Rua twice, Renato Sobral, twice, and Fedor Emelianenko.

#1 – Anderson Silva

Nobody else could have possibly been at the #1 spot on this list. Nicknamed “The Spider”, he laid waste to everyone in his path, as he captured the UFC Middleweight championship, and defended it a record 10 times, for the better part of a decade. He also holds the record for the longest title reign, at 2457 days. In his prime, he looked untouchable, he just seemed absolutely invincible. He has beaten the likes of Carlos Newton, Jeremy Horn, Jorge Rivera, Chris Leben, Rich Franklin twice, Nate Marquardt, Dan Henderson, Forrest Griffin, Demian Maia, Chael Sonnen twice, Vitor Belfort, Yushin Okami, Stephan Bonnar, and Derek Brunson. He even had 3 wins at LHW, one of them being against a former champion, who he made look like an amateur. If we are looking at primes only, Silva has an argument to be MMA GOAT, so him being the Middleweight GOAT is obvious, and there is absolutely no argument!


Tell us what you think! Where do we have it right, and where do you think we got it wrong? Comment below with your top 10, and don’t forget to bookmark our page and check back often for more top 10s, predictions and fight coverage. If you like what you see, go ahead and give our Facebook page a like and follow us on Twitter & Instagram @fightsportfocusAlso, subscribe to the Fight Sport Focus podcast on Anchor.fm, Spotify, iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts!

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