By Graham Jones @graymatter91 on April 23, 2014
With Jon Jones in search of his unprecedented 7th light heavyweight title defense this Saturday night at UFC 172 against Glover Teixeira, the champion has another chance to further cement his spot as the greatest 205 pound fighter of all-time. The Light Heavyweight division has long been the most glamorous division in the UFC. With the No. 1 spot firmly belonging to Jones, here are the rest of the top 205ers in MMA history.
Randy Couture was never the most explosive or imposing fighter in the 205 pound division, but the two-time UFC Light Heavyweight champion was usually smarter and more skilled than his opponent. The former heavyweight champion lost a step on his competition when he chose to fight at 205 pounds, but “The Natural” used his superior grappling and conditioning to wear out his younger and more athletic foes like Vitor Belfort and Tito Ortiz.
After crushing Chuck Liddell and Forrest Griffin in route to a UFC Light Heavyweight title, it looked like nothing could stop the former Michigan State Spartan from making a long run at 205 pounds, until he met Lyoto Machida at UFC 98. Since losing his belt, Rashad Evans has been a model of consistency going 6-2, and has looked dominant when expected to. “Suga” Rashad might not ever regain UFC gold, but he is still one of the best ever.
Possibly the most fearless fighter in MMA history, the natural middleweight has truly taken on all comers in his career. Dan Henderson has captured 205 pound titles in Pride and Strikeforce, but throughout his career, UFC gold has eluded him. Henderson has who’s who list of MMA great’s littering his resume, but with much of his success coming at 185, his stock on this list slips slightly.
Before he was defeated by Mauricio Rua at UFC 113, no one knew what to make of Lyoto Machida. The undefeated Karate fighter looked virtually unstoppable during his title run, and even more so in earning the UFC belt from Rashad Evans. With blinding speed and shocking power, “The Dragon” looked like the next big thing at 205 pounds, but since having puzzle his solved by “Shogun,” Jones and others, Machida has opted to drop to 185.
Few fighters intimidate like former UFC champ and Pride veteran Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Since his time in Pride, Jackson has been known for his ungodly strength and lethal hands, and neither have failed him as “Rampage” captured the UFC light heavyweight belt from Chuck Liddell at UFC 71 with a vicious KO. Like many fighters, Jackson has gone cold toward the end of his career, but in his hay day, no one in MMA was scarier than Rampage Jackson.
Tito Ortiz is one of the most polarizing figures in the history of MMA, but his place as one of the best light heavyweight can’t be argued. Ortiz remains one of the most successful 205 pound champions in UFC history with five successful title defenses from 2000-02, and was one of the pioneering fighters in terms of bringing high level wrestling into the cage.
Many would argue for Wanderlei Silva to be placed higher, but his list of victories doesn't impress in the same manner as the fighters above him. It can be argued that no fighter has ever struck fear in the hearts of their opponents like Wanderlei in his prime, but fear is only one factor. Silva slaughtered his Japanese counterparts (and Rampage Jackson twice) in Pride, but looked less impressive when consistently facing the best.
Even in retirement it is hard to mention the light heavyweight division without thinking of former champion Chuck Liddell. The UFC’s mohawked 205 pound ruler was the poster child of the promotion in its earlier days, and for good reason. From 2004-06, Liddell rattled off seven straight victories, all by knockout, earning the light heavyweight title in the process from fellow Hall-of-Famer Randy Couture at UFC 52.
Mauricio Rua is one of only three men to hold titles in the UFC and in Pride. “Shogun” ran through the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix like it was nothing, annihilating the likes of Alistair Overeem, Rampage Jackson and Ricardo Arona in the process. The later part of his career has been marred by injury, but during his time in Pride, there was no man in the history of the sport who was more feared or dominant at 205 pounds than Shogun.
Jon Jones may one day be the best fighter to ever enter MMA competition, let alone at 205 pounds. The dynamic UFC Light Heavyweight Champion has used his mammoth reach, creative striking, and deadly ground game to keep opponents confused and on the defensive for most of his 19-1 professional career, and will look to do more of the same against Teixeira this Saturday. Most people aren't the greatest by 26, but “Bones” is the exception.
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