November 30, 2009
The nature of mixed martial arts dictates that stars come and go. Injuries, burnout, contract issues and illness make it so that few fighters can dominate for a long period of time. But there have been a few who have stayed at or near the top of the pile for the past decade. As part of Yahoo! Sports' look back at the past ten years in sports, here are the top ten mixed martial artists of the decade.
10. Matt Hughes: Though he's faded in recent years, Hughes was one of the UFC's most successful champs. His win over MMA pioneer Royce Gracie signaled a change of the guard, and he defended his welterweight belt eight times. Hughes also has wins over both B.J. Penn and Georges St. Pierre.
9. Tito Ortiz: The "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" ended the decade on a weird note, with a decision loss to Forrest Griffin. Before his exile from the UFC, Ortiz was the longest reigning UFC champ with wins over Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort and a trilogy of wins over nemesis Ken Shamrock.
8. Wanderlei Silva: In his prime -- which covered the bulk of the decade -- no one could stop "The Axe Murderer." His reign over Pride's 205-lb. division lasted for four years and included two epic wins over Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
7. Georges St. Pierre: GSP represents the new guard in MMA, the type of fighter who sticks to a strategy, blends together different disciplines, and gets sponsored by huge companies like Gatorade and Under Armour. He's also the sort of guy who avenges his only two losses, and puts together a 19-2 record over his career.
6. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: Fighting in both Pride and the UFC, Big Nog has wins over Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Josh Barnett, Fabricio Werdum, Mirko Filipovic, Dan Henderson and Mark Coleman. His bout with Couture was one for the ages, and out of his five losses, two are to Fedor Emelianenko, and two were later avenged.
5. Anderson Silva: In the second half of the decade, Silva has been unstoppable. Currently, he is riding an 11-fight winning streak. In his career, he has wins over Forrest Griffin, two over Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson and the best fighter impressions on the planet.
4. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua: You may be surprised to see Rua so high on the list until you take a close look over his record in both Pride and the UFC. He has just four losses. One of them was the recent razor-thin decision to Lyoto Machida, and another was the controversial loss to Mark Coleman which Rua later avenged. Wins include Alistair Overeem, Quinton Jackson,
3. Fedor Emelianenko: The Last Emperor has one loss in his career, which includes fights in Strikeforce, Pride, Affliction and Rings. The only thing keeping him from the top of the list is the fact that he has not faced top-notch competition in the latter part of the decade.
2. Randy Couture: Before fighting Brandon Vera at UFC 105, Bruce Buffer took a full minute to announce Couture. With all of Couture's accolades, Buffer needed that much time. Couture is the former heavyweight and light heavyweight champ of the UFC, as well as a Hall-of-Famer. He is still fighting top-flight competition at the age of 46.
1. Chuck Liddell: Few people's names have become so synonymous with MMA. Before taking to the dance floor, Liddell was the king of the UFC, a light heavyweight champion with wins over Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva, Tito Ortiz, Renato Sobral. As the decade comes to a close, Liddell's style has caught up with him and he might be done with fighting, but there is no question who owned the past 10 years.
Honorable mention: B.J. Penn, Dan Henderson, Miguel Torres, Kazushi Sakuraba, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Urijah Faber, Lyoto Machida, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic
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