Sports Strength

The History of the UFC Heavyweight Division

In combat sports, the title of Heavyweight Champion carries a special mystique. Whether it’s due to exceptional skill or stature or both, heavyweights are magnets for fame. Boxing has its Muhammad Alis and Mike Tysons; wrestling has its Aleksandr Karelins and Bruce Baumgartners. Mixed Martial Arts is no exception. Below, a complete list of UFC Heavyweight Champions since the inception of the division.

Mark Coleman (16-10 MMA, 7-5 UFC)

Feb. 7th, 1997 – Jul. 27th 1997

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Def. Dan Severn at UFC 12

Mark Coleman was–is–a maniac! (I mean that in the best way; I’ve met him and he’s awesome). After an accomplished amateur career that included two Ohio high school state titles, an NCAA championship and an appearance in the 1992 Summer Olympics, Coleman devoted himself to the then-new sport of MMA after stumbling onto a broadcast of UFC 1. 

Coleman started his combat sports career in his teens as a wrestler for Saint Joseph Central Catholic High School. After winning two state championships, he went on to wrestle at Miami University, in Ohio, before transferring to The Ohio State University and winning an NCAA championship. After placing 7th at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, Mark happened to see the broadcast of UFC 1. From there, he dove headfirst into this new sport of MMA.

From the outset, Coleman dominated, thanks to a style that earned him the nickname, “The Godfather of Ground and Pound”. It was clear from the start of every fight that Coleman’s one goal was to take the action to the ground and strike his opponent unconscious or until they submitted. Thanks to his elite wrestling and ground and pound ability, he earned the first ever UFC Heavyweight Championship belt by defeating Dan Severn (101-19-7 MMA, 9-4 UFC) in a fight to unify the UFC Superfight Champion and UFC Tournament Champion titles. 

Though he was dominant early, his reign was short; Coleman lost his first and only title defense to a kickboxer named Maurice Smith. His stay may have been short-lived, but his impact is still felt to this day as one of the OG’s of MMA and one of the sport’s tactical trailblazers. 

Maurice Smith (14-17 MMA, 4-3 UFC)

Jul. 27th 1997 – Dec. 21st, 1997

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Def. Mark Coleman at UFC 14

Maurcie Smith’s title reign lasted just a little bit longer than Mark Coleman’s, as Smith notched one title defense against fan-favorite, Tank Abbott (10-15 MMA, 8-10 UFC). 

Prior to joining the UFC, “Mo” was an avid kickboxer. Although he didn’t officially make his kickboxing debut until he was 30 years old, Smith began training at 18. After nine kickboxing matches, a little Pancrase, and a stint on the regional MMA scene, Smith defeated Heavyweight Champion Mark Coleman in his UFC debut, taking the title belt from Coleman and handing him the first loss of his UFC career in the process.Though he ended his career with more losses than wins, Smith etched his name into the history books by delivering one of the biggest upsets in UFC history.

Another (not so favorable) reason he’s going to be remembered is for his controversial loss to Randy Couture in his second title defense.

Randy Couture

(1) Dec. 21st, 1997 – Jan. 1998, (2) Nov 17th, 2000 – Mar. 22nd 2002, (3) Mar. 3rd 2007 – Feb. 2nd, 2008

Josh Hedges / Getty Images

Def. Maurice Smith at UFC Japan

“The Natural” Randy Couture captured the UFC heavyweight strap three times over his 14 year career and also defended it three times. Since August 2007, only one other heavyweight has reigned victorious in six title bouts (more on that guy later), and none more than that. 


Randy’s style was reminiscent of Mark Coleman’s, albeit with Couture being much more well rounded and technical than the “smash heavy” Coleman. Couture became champion for the first time by defeating Maurice Smith in a close, slow-paced fight, but didn’t hold the title for very long.  

In January 1998, Couture signed with Vale Tudo Japan and was stripped of his UFC title. In his return nearly three years later, Couture faced and defeated storied wrestler, Kevin Randleman. After defeating Randleman, Couture successfully defended his title against Pedro Rizzo (20-11 MMA, 10-4 UFC) not once, but twice in a row, as Rizzo was awarded an immediate rematch after a tightly contested first fight. After losing the title to Josh Barnett in March 2002, Couture regained the belt five years later for the third and final time, defeating Tim Sylvia. Couture managed to successfully defend his title for the last time against Gabriel Gonzaga (17-12 MMA, 12-10 UFC), but Couture’s title reign finally reached its end when he faced the ultimate hype train that is Brock Lesnar.

Though he never fought for a title again, Randy Couture remains one of the most legendary and successful heavyweights in the short history of the UFC.

Bas Rutten (28-4-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC)

May 7th, 1999 – June 1999

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Def. Kevin Randleman at UFC 20

If you’re a fan of MMA, there’s a very good chance you’ve seen an ad with this incredibly spirited gentleman beating the shit out of this crazy-looking pad covered machine. If you haven’t seen it, you’re welcome (see Body Action System). 

Bas Rutten’s UFC career may have been short lived, but he was an astute veteran of combat having had 30 professional fights (all with pancrase) going into his debut. After he battered Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (41-33-2 MMA, 3-3 UFC), Bas got a title shot against Kevin Randleman. In a fight where position was dominated by Randleman, it was the accumulation of strikes that won the fight for Rutten who was fighting off his back nearly the entire fight. This split decision was met with heated controversy and resulted in the change of the judges official scoring system.

Bas vacated the title to drop to middleweight (now light heavyweight) to challenge to be the UFC’s first double champ, however, multiple injuries in preparation for his return led to the end of his UFC career.  

His stint in the UFC was short, but his impact on the sport is still felt today as he was recognized as one of the sports first great technicians, and was regarded for a time as the world’s greatest martial artist. 

Kevin Randleman (17-16 MMA, 4-3 UFC)

Nov. 19, 1999 – Nov. 17th, 2000

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Def. Pete Williams at UFC 23

Cue DJ Khalad. It’s time for “another one” with our next wrestler-turned-UFC Heavyweight Champion, Kevin “The Monster” Randleman. Like his mentor, former UFC heavyweight champ Mark Coleman, Randleman was a high school state champion in Ohio who then won two NCAA titles at The Ohio State University. Under Coleman’s tutelage at Team Hammer House, Randleman quickly climbed the ladder after making his UFC debut in 1999. 

After defeating former champ Maurice Smith in his debut and taking the controversial loss to Bas Rutten in his first attempt at gold, Randleman was awarded a second chance to fight for the crown once Rutten abdicated the throne. In his second attempt for the title, Randleman decisively defeated pete Williams in five rounds.

As champion, Randleman successfully defended the belt against Pedro Rizzo (unanimous decision) before losing to multiple time champ, Randy Couture by TKO. Over the next 10 years he fought for the UFC, PRIDE and Strikeforce before retiring at the age of 39. In 2016, he tragically passed away due to heart failure, but his legacy as one of the UFC’s toughest fighters lives on. 

Josh Barnett (35-8 MMA, 7-3 UFC)

Mar. 22nd, 2002 – Jul 26th, 2002

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Def. Randy Couture at UFC 36

Josh Barnett has been wildly successful in his time as a martial artist, but his career has been marred  by controversy. 

With 29 of his 35 wins coming by KO/TKO or submission, Barnett has been able to put away most of his opponents, including a TKO of Randy Couture to claim the title belt in March, 2002. Still, Barnett would be stripped of the title a few months after the fight after flunking his second steroid test of that year. 

This would be a common occurrence for Barnett throughout his career as he would go on to fail several more times. Although Barnett was one of the most prominent fighters to be caught juicing, he was hardly an anomaly; the UFC had rampant steroid usage problems during its early years, which has since necessitated the intervention of USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency). 

In 2009, Barnett, now on the Affliction circuit, again tested positive for steroids, spoiling a prospective fight against Fedor Emelianenko (40-6 MMA). 

Josh Barnett is a great fighter, there’s no debating that. He has defeated the likes of Mark Hunt (13-14-1 MMA, 8-10 UFC), and former champions Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Frank Mir. The dude can fight, but he never had the chance to fully live up to his potential because he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) stay clean.

Ricco Rodriguez (54-27-1 MMA, 5-2 UFC)

Sep 27th, 2002 – Feb. 28th, 2003

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Def. Randy Couture at UFC 39

Ricco “Suave” Rodriguiez had his first fight in 1999 with his last coming in 2019. He’s successfully fought in three separate decades and, even at the relatively ancient age of  44-years-old, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he fought in fourth.  

After growing up between New Jersey and Staten Island, Ricco later relocated to California to train in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. After a few years of competing in BJJ tournaments, he made his MMA debut in 1999. Within two years of starting in MMA, Rodriguezed amassed a 9-1 record before joining the chance to join the UFC. In his early UFC fights, Rodriguez took out perennial warriors Andrei Arlovski, Pete Williams and Tsuyoshi Kosaka, earning the right to challenge for the vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship against none other than the legendary Randy Couture. 

Despite being dominated by Couture for the bulk of the fight, Ricco Suave secured an early takedown with three minutes left in the fifth round, breaking Couture’s orbital bone with vicious elbows and forcing Couture to verbally tap out.  

Rodriguez was now a champion, but not for long—after defeating Randy Couture, Rodriguez lost his title less than 6-months later when he faced an undefeated Tim Sylvia. Sylvia KO’d in the first round and Rodriguez’s time in the UFC came to an end shortly thereafter once his contract expired in 2004. For the next 16 years, Rodriguez bounced around a variety of smaller circuits (even briefly transitioning to boxing), before retiring in 2018. 

Tim Sylvia (31-10 MMA, 9-4 UFC)

(1) Feb. 28th, 2003 – Oct. 15th 2003, (2) Apr. 15th 2006 – Mar. 3rd, 2007

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Def. Ricco Rodriguez at UFC 41

Two fights and three rounds. That is all it took for “The Maine-iac” Tim Sylvia to capture UFC gold.

Well, kind-of… While it only took him the first round of his second UFC event, Sylvia had fought 16 times before joining the promotion. Originally a Karate kid who wrestled in high school, Sylvia played semi-pro football upon graduation until he fully committed himself to MMA.

After a brief three-fight stint on the amatuer circuit, Sylvia won his first 16 professional fights, with 10 of those victories coming either via TKO/KO or a submission. In his 15th pro fight, he KO’d Ricco Rodriguez to become the Heavyweight Champion and managed to successfully defend the title against Gan McGee in February, 2003. Unfortunately for Sylvia, he lost his belt to Frank Mir in his next fight, submitting after being put in an armbar in the first round. 

In 2005, Sylvia faced off against Andrei Arlovski for the vacant belt, but succumbed to an Achilles lock. However, Sylvia got his revenge against Arlovski the next year, knocking out the Belrusian in a rematch and reclaiming the title. Sylvia defended his throne against Arlovski (the final installment of their trilogy) and Jeff Monson, but eventually lost a unanimous decision to Randy Couture, who captured his fifth UFC Championship  in a unanimous decision.  

After his departure from the UFC, Tim fought another 14 times against varying competition, including another fight against Arlovski and one against Fedor Emelianenko (40-6 MMA). 

In 2015, Sylvia was denied medical clearance to fight and announced his retirement in the cage alongside his potential opponent. Although Sylvia hadn’t had enough, the doctors had.

Frank Mir (19-13 MMA, 16-11 UFC)

(1) Jun. 19th, 2004 – Aug. 12th, 2005, (Interim) Dec. 27th, 2008 – Mar. 27th, 2010

Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Def. Tim Sylvia at UFC 48, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 92 (Interim)

Like Randy Couture, Frank Mir is a recognizable name, fighting in the UFC 26 times over 16 years. 

A 16 year vet of the UFC, Mir got his start training at the American Kenpo school that his parents owned and then later turned to wrestling as a way to improve his American Kenpo performance. After high school, Frank met UFC matchmaker Joe Silva while training BJJ, who convinced Mir to try out MMA. Two fights and two wins later, Mir earned a shot with the UFC. 

After 6 UFC fights spanning 3 years (2001-04), he got a chance at gold in 2004, squaring off against Tim Sylvia for the vacant UFC Heavyweight title. Mir broke Sylvia arm in the first round. Yes, you read that right. Even though Mir had Sylvia locked up in a straight armbar, Sylvia refused to tap; for his troubles, Sylvia had his arm snapped into four pieces. F*ck that! 

Unfortunately, Mir broke his femur and torn multiple ligaments in his leg. Unable to unify and defend his interim title, Mir was stripped of his belt.  

When he finally came back a year and a half later in February, 2006,  Mir was upset by BJJ blackbelt Marcio Cruz (8-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC), losing by TKO in the first round. After a turbulent two years, Mir spoiled Brock Lesnar’s UFC debut in 2008, earning him a chance to once again fight for the Heavyweight belt. Battling for the interim title against Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera, Mir knocked out the Brazilian with a flurry of punches. Sadly, Mir’s second attempt at defending his title only went marginally better than his first, with Brock Lesnar ground-and-pounding him during their rematch. 

Mir again fought for the interim title (2010), and then the undisputed title (2011), losing both bouts to Shane Carwin and Junior Dos Santos respectively. Since then, Mir is 3-7 in MMA and 0-2 in boxing (kinda – see Triad Combat). 

Andrei Arlovski (32-20 MMA, 21-15 UFC)

(Interim Promoted to Undisputed Champion) Feb. 5th, 2005 – Apr. 15th, 2006

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Def. Tim Sylvia at UFC 51 (Interim, promoted to undisputed)

“The Pitbull” Andrei Arlovski is the first fighter on this list who’s still actively competing in the UFC. At 42, Arlovski has won 4 of his last 5 fights, most recently notching a victory in October, 2021

Bullied as a kid, Arlovski started Sambo, Judo, and Kickboxing at the age of 16, eventually winning the European Youth Sambo Championships. Shortly after his success in Sambo, Arlovski developed an  interest in MMA, which inspired him to develop other skills and become a more well-rounded martial artist. 

Winning seven of his first 10 fights, Arlovski matched up against Sylvia in 2005 to fight for the UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship that was created following Frank Mir’s motorcycle accident. In this fight, Arlovski faced Tim Sylvia and finished him with a straight ankle lock after dropping him with a vicious right hand. Arlovski now had gold around his waist!

While waiting for a unification bout against Mir, Arlovski defended his title twice, TKO-ing Justin Eilers (19-7-1 MMA, 1-3 UFC) in the first round and then doing the same to Paul Buentello (35-17 MMA, 3-3 UFC) in the second. As a result of these dominating performances and Mir’s continued absence, Arlovski was promoted and became the undisputed champion.

By this point, though, Sylvia had rebounded from his earlier loss to Arlovski, winning three consecutive fights and setting up a rematch between the two rivals. Ultimately, Sylvia would seize the belt by beating Arlovski in consecutive fights. Although Arlovski has remained a strong presence on the circuit after those losses to Sylvia and undoubtedly still has gas left in the tank (he wants to fight until at least 45), he hasn’t participated in any championship fights since he last lost to Arlovski. Let’s hope he can keep up his strong form and avoid a downward spiral to round out his career as many before him have.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (34-10-1 MMA, 5-6 UFC)

(Interim) Feb. 2nd, 2008 – Dec. 27th, 2008

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Def. Tim Sylvia at UFC 81 (Interim)

“Big Nog” Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira practiced judô, boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu in his time growing up in Vitoria da Conquista, Brazil. By the age of 25, he was set to make his mixed martial arts debut. Most of his early career was spent fighting for PRIDE, where he faced quite a few of MMA’s top contenders, notching wins over Dan Henderson (32-15 MMA, 9-9 UFC), former champ Ricco Rodriguez and Fabricio Werdum (24-9-1 MMA, 12-6 UFC).

In 2008, nine years and 35 fights into his MMA career, Antonio met and defeated Tim Sylvia (this dude, again??) to capture the UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship in comeback fashion, pulling a guillotine choke shortly after being knocked down with strikes late in the third round. After winning the title, Nog and former UFC Champion Frank Mir appeared as coaches on the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter. After the season, Nogueira and Mir fought for the interim title where Mir won the lopsided affair by TKO in the second round. 

Since then, Big Nog traded wins for losses until hitting a three-fight skid that led to his retirement. Nogueira’s career was marked with him being a dominant force on the ground, with skills exceeding that of any other fighters at the time – and that’s how he should be remembered.

Brock Lesnar (5-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC)

Nov. 15th, 2008 – Oct. 23rd, 2010

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Def. Randy Couture at UFC 91

Our next champion is the WWE’s long-tenured bad boy, Brock Lesnar. Lesnar, like many before and after him, grew up an amatuer wrestler. He went on to compete at Bismarck State College, winning a national junior college title (NJCAA) in his sophomore year before transferring to the University of Minnesota. There, Lesnar became a two-time Big Ten Champion and a one time NCAA Champion. After college, Lesnar transitioned into professional wrestling where he made his debut for the WWE in 2002, just two years into his career.

Lesnar rose to stardom quickly, defeating Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson later that year to become the youngest WWE champion at age 25. Lesnar would spend five more years headlining WWE events before eventually making and winning his MMA debut in 2007. 

In just his 2nd MMA fight, Lesnar faced former UFC Heavyweight Champion, Frank Mir, in a test he would not pass, losing by kneebar. Next, he had a scheduled bout with Mark Coleman that unfortunately never happened due to a Coleman injury (can you imagine how insane those two would look fighting one another??). His replacement, Heath Herring (28-16 MMA, 2-3 UFC) was a formidable opponent, but undoubtedly a step down from Mir. This fight managed to go the distance with Lesnar taking the win by unanimous decision, and was more than enough evidence for the UFC that they could put the WWE star in a fight for the title (plus, dollar signs…)

In a fight for the UFC Heavyweight Championship, we saw the sports most heralded heavyweight champion of the time, Randy Couture, fall in the second round to MMA newbie Lesnar. Brock was able to keep the fight standing and after knocking down Couture with strikes, was able to capitalize and finish the fight by raining down punches. Through 2010, we saw Brock defend his title in two unification bouts, one avenging a loss against Frank Mir with punches, and another by finishing Shane Carwin with an arm-triangle choke. 

Though starting his career incredibly strong, Lesnar went on to lose his title to then-up-and-comer Cain Valezquez by first round TKO. After battling a bout of diverticulitis that required surgery, Lesnar returned to face Alistair Overeem and lost in the first round after taking multiple body shots. In his last fight with the UFC, he faced the storied Mark Hunt in a fight that he dominated, but was later overturned to a no-contest after Lesnar tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.

Though a comeback has been discussed, nothing has come to fruition and at this point, that’s likely a good thing. Lesnar’s time in the UFC was short lived, but nothing less than massively entertaining. With his showmanship and the experience he attained as a top WWE athlete, Lesnar certainly added some fun wrinkles to the UFC history books in the late 2000s.

Shane Carwin (12-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC)

(Interim) Mar. 27th, 2010 – Jul. 3rd, 2010

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Def. Frank Mir at UFC 111 (Interim)

Ding, another wrestler! Unlike his wrestling counterparts, though,“The Engineer ” Shane Carwin has a college degree and worked in mechanical engineering alongside his MMA career.

At Western State College, Shane pursued his degree while competing in both wrestling and football, becoming a NCAA D2 Heavyweight Champion and participating in the Senior Bowl in 1997. This guy can handle a lot at once!

That being the case, Carwin took his time and eventually made his debut in MMA in 2005. He took 8 fights over the course of two years, winning them all and earning his shot in the UFC. Between 2008-09, The Engineer fought Christain Wellisch, Neil Wain, and Gabriel Gonzaga, winning each fight in the first round and demonstrating spectacular punching power. This led to him having the opportunity to compete for the UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship against Frank Mir. 

Carwin’s punching power reigned supreme in a fight where he smashed Mir against the fence and proceeded to hammer him with short punches before falling to the ground and being finished off with ground and pound from the back. Carwin captured a piece of UFC gold and was set to unify the title in a bout against out next champion, Brock Lesnar. This unification didn’t go Carwin’s way, and he lost his following bout to Junior dos Santos, but he remains as one of the more powerful punchers in UFC history.

Shane Carwin never fought MMA again, but did fight a modified rules boxing match against skateboarder Jason Ellis in 2016, where he had his right arm duct taped to his body. Nonetheless–surprise, surprise–he still won by knockout.

Cain Velasquez (14-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC)

(1) Oct. 23rd, 2010 – Nov. 12th, 2011, (2) Dec. 29th 2012 – Jun. 13th, 2015

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Def. Brock Lesnar at UFC 121

Cain Velasquez stands as one of the most intimidating forces to ever compete inside a UFC octagon. Sure, he has some blemishes to his record, but he still stands as one of the most gifted and awe-inspiring heavyweight fighters who ever was.

That said, can you guess what sport he started in? You might as well guess wrestling, because you’ll be right almost every time. After a high school career that saw him compile a record of 110-10, Velasquez went on to win an NJCAA National Championship for Iowa Central Community College before transferring to Arizona State University. There, he secured 5th and 4th place finishes at the NCAA tournament in his final two years (2005-06).

Right after college, Velasquez joined American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) and began training to take his first fight. That same year, he fought twice, winning his first two bouts within the first round due to strikes. That was enough to earn him a shot at the UFC; his domination continued as he rattled off eight wins in a row, including one over “Big Nog”, with only one of them not coming by KO/TKO. 

Enter “The Next Big Thing” Brock Lesnar. Though Brock started strong by landing a takedown, Velasquez eventually made it back to his feet and ended the fight with elite striking. Not only did he derail the Lesnar hype train, he captured UFC gold! Unfortunately, he tore his rotator cuff in the midst of the fight and was sidelined for a year before making his first title defense, which was against a Brazilian up-and-comer named Junior dos Santos. This fight was billed as an exciting clash but many expected Velasquez to dominate in retaining his title. Just one minute into the skirmish, it was a sweeping overhand by dos Santos that connected, put Velasquez down and led to the finishing sequence of punches. 

Though his title reign ended quickly, it wasn’t long before he was fighting for gold once again, defeating Antonio Silva 6-months later to earn another shot at JDS. This time, the fight went much more as expected, seeing Velasquez dominate dos Santos for all five rounds on his way to a unanimous decision win, where he landed double digit takedowns, and triple digit significant strikes. Once again, one of the most imposing forces in MMA was the UFC Heavyweight Champion.

After capturing the title for a second time, Velasquez was back to his finishing ways, defending the title against Antonio Silva and JDS, winning both before the bell thanks to his heavy hands. Then came Fabricio Werdum. Werdum had won the Interim title a few months before, as Velasquez had gotten injured in preparation for their initial title fight. Once they finally met in the octagon, Werdum was able to finish Cain by guillotine choke in the third round, marking the first time he had lost via submission in his nearly 10-year career. 

A rematch was scheduled for February of 2016, but both fighters needed more time as injuries arose. Upon his return, Velasquez faced and defeated Travis Browne (18-7-1 MMA, 10-7 UFC), but in another attempt to face Werdum, he was not cleared by the Nevada State Athletic Commission due to bone spurs in his back. 

Velasquez took one last fight in February 2019 against Francis N’Gannou, where, in 26 short seconds, a short uppercut dropped him and led to him to being finished by ground and pound.

Though Velasquez has yet to fight again, he is currently competing as a professional wrestler for Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide and has made appearances in the WWE. He seems to be moving on from real fighting to opt more for entertainment, and good on him for continuing to use his athletic skills to bring something worth watching to the world.

Junior dos Santos (21-9 MMA, 15-8 UFC)

Nov. 12th, 2011 – Dec. 29th 2012

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Def. Cain Velasquez at UFC on Fox: Velasquez vs. dos Santos

Finally, enough with the wrestlers! “Cigano”, Junior dos Santos or JDS for short, grew up in Brazil training in capoeira before committing to BJJ at the age of 21. He turned pro just one year later (2006), winning his first 5 fights in little over a year’s time. After winning six of his first seven fights, he made his debut for the UFC as a clear underdog against Fabricio Werdum. In a stunning turn of events, JDS knocked Werdum out in under two-minutes, earning him the knockout of the year for the UFC. 

To follow the impressive start, Cigano followed with six wins in a row to fight for the title against the aforementioned Cain Velasquez. As we explored, it was a massive overhand that sent Velasquez tumbling and earned JDS his first UFC Heavyweight Championship. Six months later, he successfully defended his title against perennial contender, Frank Mir, defeating him with superior boxing and finishing the fight in the second round. 

Seven months later, JDS faced Velasquez for a second time and lost his title by unanimous decision. Though he would go on to challenge for the title a few more times throughout his career, Dos Santos has yet to capture it again and is most recently riding a four-fight losing streak against a row of killers (Francis N’Gannou, Curtis Blaydes, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, and Ciryl Gane).

In March of 2021, it was announced that JDS was being released from the UFC and we have since seen him also compete in professional wrestling, but for an organization called All Elite Wrestling (AEW).

Fabricio Werdum (24-9-1 MMA, 12-6 UFC)

(Interim) Nov. 15th, 2014 – Jun. 13th 2015, (2) Jun. 13th, 2015 – May 14th, 2016

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Def. Mark Hunt at UFC 180 (Interim), Cain Velasquez at UFC 188 (Undisputed)

Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum’s venture into combat sports is unlike any others on this list; it started only after he was choked out in a triangle choke by his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend.

Ouch. Talk about a blow to the ego. Luckily for Werdum, there’s a pretty good chance that he’s way more successful than Mr. Steal Ya Girl. 

Werdum made his professional debut in 2002, winning six of his first seven fights, the one blemish being a draw. At this time, Fabricio was competing in PRIDE, facing top competition pre-UFC (Alistair Overeem, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira). In 2007, Vai Cavalo made his UFC debut against Andrei Arlovski, losing by unanimous decision to the former UFC Heavyweight champ. Over the next seven years, Werdum would fight 11 times between the UFC and Strikeforce before putting together a four-fight win streak to earn the opportunity at the Heavyweight belt. Due to the fact that the champion of the time, Cain Velasquez, was injured,  Werdum instead fought Mark Hunt for the UFC Interim Heavyweight Title. Werdum finished Mark halfway through the second round, throwing a long knee from range, connecting perfectly to send him to the canvas. 

Finally, on June 13th of 2015, Werdum challenged for the UFC Undisputed Heavyweight Championship, defeating Velasquez by guillotine choke in the third round, and was declared the unquestioned champion of the heavyweight division. In his first and only title defense, he faced first-time title challenger, Stipe Miocic. While charging forward and throwing a flurry, Werdum was caught with a counter right-hand that sent him crashing into the canvas. He was out cold.

Since then, Werdum traded wins and losses through his final contract with the UFC, and in 2021 decided to go fight for the PFL (Professional Fighters League). His first and only fight with them was met with controversy as it seemed his opponent tapped to a choke prior to a fight ending sequence that left Werdum on the losing end. The fight has since been reviewed and overturned to a no-contest.

Stipe Miocic (20-4 MMA, 14-4 UFC)

(1) May 14th, 2016 – Jul. 7th, 2018, (2) Aug. 17th 2019 – Mar. 27th, 2021

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Def. Fabricio Werdum at UFC 198

Stipe Miocic is widely considered as the greatest UFC Heavyweight of all time. While capturing the title twice, he also defended it four times, including a record three in-a-row. No heavyweight in the world has dominated the top of the UFC Heavyweight division quite like Miocic. And guess what… we’ve got ourselves another wrestler!

Born in Euclid, OH, Miocic grew up a multi-sport athlete between football, baseball and wrestling. He went on to play baseball and wrestle between Cleveland State, Trevecca Nazarene, and Coker College. He was initially brought into Strong Style MMA to wrestle with former UFC contender, Dan Bobish, and soon began training himself. After becoming a Golden Gloves Champion and competing at nationals, the former NCAA Division I wrestler developed the tools to dominate those at his level, making his debut in 2006 and winning his first six fights by KO.

Such a run earned him a shot in the UFC. Between his UFC debut in 2011 and 2016, Miocic fought 10 times, winning eight fights, five of which were finished with strikes. This was enough to earn him a shot against the current champion, Fabricio Werdum.The fight was set in Werdum’s home country of Brazil and was attended by a notably hostile crowd that was eager to watch the challenger fall. Unfortunately for them, Miocic had other plans. Early in the fight, Werdum blitzed forward, leaving himself exposed. Miocic saw the opening and put Werdum out cold with one precise punch. A new champion was crowned, and Stipe brought a championship back to the city of Cleveland for the first time since 1964.

After defeating Werdum, Miocic defended his title three times against the often challenging Alistair Oveerm, Francis N’Gannou, and former champion Junior dos Santos. He then met UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Daniel Cormier. Late in the first round, while escaping the clinch, Miocic exited with his hands low and caught a short shot that put him on the ground. The fight was over shortly afterward and Daniel Cormier was crowned champion. More than a year later, the two fought a second time, with this fight being one of the toughest in Miocic’s career. Although he was outmatched for much of the fight, Miocic found an opening by way of body shots late into the fourth round. By taking advantage and hammering Cormier’s body, he was able to land some ferocious shots to the head and put Cormier to the canvas for the win and the championship. Since both fighters had just traded wins, the UFC booked the trilogy, a third fight between the two. This time, in a much less damaging fight for both men, we saw Miocic grind out a very tactical, hard fought win, coming by way of unanimous decision. This fight marked Miocic’s record-setting 6th win in UFC Heavyweight Title fights and cemented him in the record books.

Daniel Cormier (22-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC)

Jul. 7th, 2018 – Aug. 17th, 2019

Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Def. Stipe Miocic at UFC 226

Daniel Cormier’s successful career has been tied heavily to two individuals: Stipe Miocic and Jon Jones, the only two men to defeat DC over the course of his 11-year, 26-fight career. The last of his kind on this list, DC was an elite wrestler coming out of Lafayette, Louisiana. He started at Colby Community College, going 61-0, before transferring to Oklahoma State University. There he finished second in the country, losing in the NCAA finals to wrestling legend, Cael Sanderson. His final record at OSU was 53-10.

After college, Cormier competed in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, finding success as an Olympic level wrestler. Following his Olympic achievements, he turned to training MMA. Though he finished his career as a heavyweight, he fought most of his career at light heavyweight. Cormier dominated nearly everybody in his early MMA career, starting in Strikeforce and compiling an 11-0 record before getting called to the UFC. Even then, he faced little adversity in his first four fights with the UFC. Then came Jon Jones. If you’ve made it this far, chances are you know who Jon Jones is and the ups and downs that come with one of MMA’s most outstanding and chaotic fighters. 

In this first title challenge for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, we saw DC lose a unanimous decision to the undefeated Jones. Months later, Jones was stripped of the title due to a felony hit-and-run, and DC was set to challenge for the title once again, this time against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (23-6 MMA, 13-6 UFC). After defeating Johnson by rear-naked choke, DC went on to defend his title three times, including a second time against Rumble Johnson. In between came another heartbreaking loss to Jon Jones, which was overturned to a no-contest, because Jones tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. As such, the title stayed in DC’s hands. 

After such a dominant reign at LHW, DC wanted to move up and challenge Stipe for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. In their first meeting, DC was able to capitalize on that short right hand when leaving the clinch to put down Miocic and secure the victory to win Heavyweight gold. Soon after, he defended his title successfully against “The Black Beast”, Derrick Lewis, winning by rear-naked choke. Then came the final two fights against Stipe that resulted in two subsequent losses and the retirement of one Daniel Cormier.

DC had a storied and successful career, a career marked by being on the other side of two extremely dominant champions. This does not denote his achievements, but many will remember him by being the other side of Jon Jones–and in my opinion, that’s a lot better than being Jon Jones.

Francis Ngannou (16-3 MMA, 11-2 UFC)

Mar. 27th, 2021 – Present

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Def. Stipe Miocic at UFC 260

One of the most terrifying men to walk this earth, Francis “The Predator” N’Gannou is not a man from whom anyone wants to line up across the cage. Born and raised in a village in Cameroon, Francis worked in sand quarries, harboring dreams of pursuing professional boxing. By the age of 22, he started training and by 26, he took off to Paris, France to pursue professional fighting.

Once he arrived in Paris, he ended up at the MMA factory where he trained and lived at no cost. This is where Fernand Lopez, the MMA Factory’s head coach, convinced N’Gannou to pursue MMA instead. In 2013, Francis made his MMA debut. He won five of his first six bouts before garnering the attention of the UFC. Once there, he rattled off six wins in a row, many by landing huge strikes that sent his opponents crumbling. Thus, his title shot had arrived. In his first try at gold, he was tasked with facing Stipe Miocic. Although N’Gannou unloaded his full arsenal, he was unable to secure the victory, losing a unanimous decision to Miocic.

He then had one of the most slow-paced, not action packed fights in the UFC’s history against Derrick Lewis. Both being known for having insane knockout power, neither guy was willing to get too close or do too much in a fight that saw Lewis come out with the win (they should’ve both been given an L). Since then, he put together 4 wins in a row, all in the first round, where he connected with brutal punches that no man has been able to handle. Again, he earned an opportunity to challenge Miocic for the title. In this title challenge, we saw N’Gannou come out much more measured and calculated. He still threw the big shots, but he was charging forward and throwing less, opting to stay patient and pick his shots. A very scary sight indeed. This time around he was able to find the punch that would put Miocic down and garner him the UFC Heavyweight Championship. 

N’Gannou is scary, with nobody seemingly able to match the power he has in his hands. However, the newest UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion may have the recipe.

Cyril Gane (10-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC)

(Interim) Aug. 7th, 2021 – Jan. 22nd, 2022

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Hailing from La Roche-sur-Yon, France, Ciryl Gane grew up playing proper football and basketball but didn’t pursue either at a higher level. While working at a furniture store, he was introduced to Muay Thai and subsequently made his professional Muay Thai debut in 2016, winning by second round knockout. After winning four more in a row, he faced multiple time WBC MuayThai champion Yassine Boughanem and won the fight by decision–particularly impressive considering he had started fighting for only a few years.

In 2018, Gane made his professional MMA debut. He won three in a row before signing with the UFC. Under the UFC’s banner, Gane has won seven fights in a row, including a finish against Derrick Lewis, to capture the UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship. We have since found out that Gane is a former sparring partner of Francis NGannou and possesses the physical tools to move in and around the Cameroonian–to land strikes and not be struck. Ultimately, though, Gane lost the belt to his former sparring partner.

Francis Ngannou

Jan 22., 2022 – present

Getty Images

By defeating Gane in an unanimous decision at UFC 270, Ngannou unified the belts and became the undisputed best heavyweight in the sport. Already the best African fighter of all-time, the Cameroonian will add to his legacy whenever he fights again, which should be some time early next year.


Israel Adesanya’s 5 Best Fights

This Saturday at UFC 276, Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will attempt to defend his title for the fifth official* time against Jared Cannonier, who’s coming off of a vicious finish of Derek Brunson. In anticipation of the headline bout, we decided to take a look back at Israel’s five best fights so far in his UFC career.

* Israel would argue that his unification bout against Robert Whittaker in 2019 counted as a defence, which would make Saturday’s fight his sixth defence.

5. Robert Whittaker at UFC 271
MMA Fighting

Perhaps you’re a little confused about this fight making this list. For many, it was shunned as a boring fight with little to sway judges, but for anyone who understands who nuanced MMA is for either of these fighters, this was a nail-biter.

For Robert, vengeance was on his mind. For Israel, he had the tough task of having to outdo his own impressive performance against Whittaker a few years earlier. In the end, neither man fully completed their task, but that’s only a credit to their opponent.

Israel was careful about when to strike due to Robert’s explosive tendencies and Robert was timid about when to step in, the grey cloud of the first fight hanging over him. It made for an incredible spectacle and one that doesn’t make it unlikely that we see a trilogy fight between these two in the near future.

4. Paulo Costa at UFC 253
The Sporting News

Before their headlining title bout at UFC 253, both men were coming off of polar opposite performances against the Cuban Muscle Crisis, Yoel Romero. Costa and Romero had a war which left both men a little lesser than they came in. Adesanya and Romero however, was a fight that disappointed many with its inactivity.

Anyone who thought that might have an effect on the result of Adesanya and Costa’s fight at the UFC Apex was doing MMA math though, which rarely adds up. Styles make fights and Adesanya had to remind fans exactly who he was.

For the 9 minutes that the fight lasted, the Nigerian-born fighter had his way with Paulo, using lateral movement, feints and well-timed leg kicks to freeze the Brazilian. The fight was a masterclass and a swift reminder that Adesanya was in his own league when it came to kickboxing.

3. Robert Whittaker at UFC 243
MMA Fighting

Whittaker and Adesanya’s rematch from earlier this year made the cut for this list, but it’s their first meeting from 2019 that remains in fans’ minds the most.

The setting was perfect. An Australian champion fighting in Melbourne against a fighter from New Zealand, in front of a crowd of nearly 60,000. That crowd was roaring from the get-go, hearts racing because of Robert’s fiercely focused walkout and Adesanya’s dance routine before his.

Learning from Kelvin Gastelum’s success against Israel earlier that year, Whittaker had no qualms about rushing in with a barrage of punches, ending combinations with his signature high kicks. Unfortunately for him, Israel had learnt from his prior mistakes and seen what Whittaker had to offer before. He was smooth as ever, leaning out of the way of strikes that had finishes fighters in the past.

The end sequence from this fight is one that can’t help but stick in your mind. Israel was confident on the inside and used Whittaker’s own momentum against him, dropping him with a short left hook, the opening for which he had seen minutes ago. It was a star-making performance and a night to remember for both men.

2. Anderson Silva at UFC 234
The Body Lock

This fight isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s impossible to deny the optics.

Anderson and Israel were toe to toe with their vintage styles, the younger man coming out on top most of the time. Watching the two trade strikes was a moment that’s hard to describe, a true passing of the torch.

Much of this fight’s technical aspects needs rewatches to fully appreciate, but even on a more surface level, watching the pair embrace after 15 minutes of fighting was beautiful and only ages more and more gracefully as the pair see their own versions of success over time.

1. Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236
Bloody Elbow

This is a no-brainer. Adesanya and Gastelum’s war in Atlanta, Georgia was heralded as the Fight of the Year by most outlets who compiled a list and there wasn’t much to argue about. The interim title fight was made because of Adesanya’s aforementioned win over Anderson Silva and Whittaker pulling out of his fight with Gastelum on the same card.

Some fans predicted that Kelvin’s wrestling could give Izzy a look he hadn’t seen before, but in reality it was his lunging strikes which caused the most problems, doing all but dropping Stylebender. The pair fought tooth and nail over five rounds with Israel getting his hand raised at the end of the fight and rightfully so.

It was the kind of performance that no fighter ever wants to have to put on, but was welcomed by both men anyway.

NFT Sports

UFC STRIKE: How the UFC Is Doing NFTs

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For those of you familiar with sports NFTs, UFC STRIKE is the MMA version of NBA Top Shot—collectable moments of your favorite fighters. Newbies, here is a deeper breakdown that I will keep very simple.

Take a sports card. Now make that sports card virtual. Then, add a video highlight to it instead of just a photo, assign a particular rarity to it based on the fighter, how crazy the highlight is, or the number of them that exist, and what you’re left with is a UFC STRIKE moment.

How Does It Work?

The UFC has partnered with Dapper Labs, a platform helping them create and distribute these moments as NFTs. UFC STRIKE will announce a “drop” date and time where they will be releasing the packs to the public. 

First, you need to create a Dapper account, which is very simple, requiring only an email, password, and a card/bank account connection to make purchases. Once that’s done, all you’ll need to do is be on the UFC STRIKE website pack page at the time of the drop (the earlier the better) to be randomly placed in line to receive one of the X amount of packs that they release; for the inaugural drop, they released 100,000.

There’s a counter that shows how many users are ahead of you and approximately how long it will take. Once it’s your turn, you’re redirected to a page to complete your purchase and BOOM, you are now the owner of a UFC STRIKE pack containing three moments. You click a button to open them and the moments you get are revealed to you, stored in your “collection” that sits on their platform under your account tab. It’s not too much different from buying something off of eBay besides the counter and waiting for it to be your turn.

My Experience With the UFC STRIKE First Drop

Scene – 1:30 p.m. on drop day, approximately 30 minutes before the drop starts. I have the UFC STRIKE pack link pulled up waiting to be entered into the queue and see my place in line. Thoughts begin to flood my mind: “What place am I going to be in line?”, “I hope I can get more than 1 pack,” and, “Wait, am I even going to get one at all?” My palms start sweating…

Gotcha! It wasn’t that stressful, outside of my friends in Discord making COD callouts and acting like they somehow got a pack early. Once 2 p.m. rolled around, I was placed in line: 11,546. Sounds big and scary, but considering that there were 100,000 packs being released, I’m more than happy with being in the first 12 percent. Approximate wait time: 55 minutes.

I proceeded to hop into Rainbow Six Siege to play a few rounds as the boys and I waited. There was a slight pause in the queue for about 15 minutes as Dapper ensured that they were able to get ahead of any transaction processing issues, and other than that, 55 minutes passed and it was my turn.

I claim my pack, confirm the purchase, and the time has come. I stream the pack opening to Discord so that everybody can see what I pull. I click to open the pack and some music starts playing. It’s very cinematic and exhilarating, building up as the digital UFC STRIKE pack is ripped open and three icons fly out and smash the screen. Luke Sanders and two Ian Garrys appear (play the Pokémon battle sound). I go through and play each moment: the intro, music, and commentary all leading to the knockdowns/knockouts are stellar. This is a very cool thing to own as a fellow MMA fighter and fan of the sport. Time to hop back in line for pack number two.

30 minutes later I can now purchase my second pack, and I do, where I pull a Derrick Lewis, Robbie Lawler, and Alessio Di Chirico; finally some vets to join the young guns I pulled in the first rip. None of my pulls were of insane value from a rarity standpoint, but they are a first of their kind and I’m very satisfied with my experience.

Why You Should Care

If you are an MMA fighter, have a friend or family member fighting, are a fan of the sport, or are merely a casual viewer that wants to see these warriors being recognized and compensated for their intense line of work, you should take the small amount of effort needed to be involved in what UFC STRIKE is doing. 

The incentive for you at the onset is owning a moment of history created by your favorite fighters. It’s bragging about and showing it off to your friends and being able to relive a time that got you off your feet and had you erupting with an intense joy for something you care about. 

There is also utility long term—some known and some unknown. What we know is that UFC STRIKE will be launching a secondary marketplace where users can list and sell their moments for whatever price the market demands. Maybe you pull a championship tier card but don’t have much of a connection to the fighter or moment and it happens to be worth $100, $1000, or $10,000. That’s straight cash back in your bank.

What we don’t know—and what excites me—is that the UFC can add further utility to these digital cards, even physical utilities. A meet and greet with a fighter? Tickets to a UFC Fight Night? $100 worth of UFC gear? There are a ton of different directions that they can take to make the moments you love and cherish even more valuable and worth holding onto.

What you do is up to you. Head over to UFC Strike now to sign up and be a part of the beginning stages of the future of UFC collectables.

Sports Strength

The Five Things We Learned Most About Sports In 2021

Sports tend to teach us incredible lessons on any occasion throughout a year, but what we learned in 2021 may have been the most taught to us in a long time. If there’s anything I took away from sports this year, it’s that not everything is what it seems, and anything is beyond possible. Below are the five things we learned most from watching sports in 2021.

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Dominance comes in different shapes and sizes

At the beginning of our relationship with sports, we were constantly presented with images of what dominant athletes looked like– all in great shape and deemed “perfect.” But in 2021, the likes of Tyson Fury and Nikola Jokic showed you could achieve dominance in your field even if that weren’t the case.

Fury, the undefeated world heavyweight boxing champion, and Jokic, the reigning NBA MVP, dominated their opponents with their unique blend of size, mental toughness, and intelligence despite lacking in other areas that some fans, and even their peers, believe are the most important to have.

Sports is now positionless

While positions in team sports will always exist, this past year really proved there are simply labels for the identification of players. In sports such as basketball and soccer, we watch everyone possess a similar skillset and push the boundaries for where the game is going next– a reality that was incomprehensible for some even a decade ago.

The Olympics allowed every country to have their moment

Despite the Tokyo Olympics being delayed a year because of the initial start to this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s most significant athletic competition was back in action this past summer. And among the various things we witnessed, it was the dominance a multitude of countries had in any sport.

As the United States maintained its lead in sports such as basketball, Great Britain excelled in boxing, and China shined the most in diving, with an extensive trail of countries putting the world on notice in their respective sports.

Women’s athletics is the home of trail blazers

While naysayers will continue to hate women’s athletics in any way possible wrongfully, this was an excellent year for women’s athletics. Sports such as basketball, gymnastics, and tennis saw their talent level get advanced on every level. A new wave of exciting talent got introduced in mixed martial arts and softball.

But most importantly, a majority of women’s athletics utilized their platforms to highlight issues in race relations, pay disparity, and equal rights.

Age is nothing but a number if you’re Tom Brady or LeBron James

Earlier this year, sports fans marveled (or groaned) at the sight of quarterback Tom Brady winning his seventh Super Bowl title. At the age of 44-years-old, Brady is balancing the act of dominating his competition and still improving, a situation 37-year-old LeBron James is going through in the NBA.

This is a massive development as the narrative around an athlete’s prime and longevity is revised. It will get accepted that their “prime” is much longer than everybody else for some players.

Sports Strength

3 Fighters To Watch at UFC 267

UFC 267 is set to bring chaos to your screen on a Saturday morning/afternoon on Oct. 30th, with the prelims kicking off at 10:30 AM EST and the main event following at 2:00 PM EST. 

This card is headlined by two resurgent warriors, with current Light Heavyweight Champion, Jan Blachowicz (28-8 MMA, 11-5 UFC) taking on Glover Teixeira (32-7 MMA, 15-5 UFC). Although neither Blachowicz nor Teixeira offer the mainstream appeal of a Conor McGregor or Israel Adesanya, both men have won their previous five fights and have the talent to cap off a talent-packed card featuring veterans and newcomers alike. 

There are many fighters to be excited about, but these are three fighters you need to watch this weekend:

1) Islam Makhachev (20-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC)
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Islam Makhachev has had no problem finding praise or hype when it comes to his fighting career; in fact, he’s often dubbed “Little Khabib” because of his resemblance to newly retired, former undefeated UFC Champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov. Beyond the superficial reasons for the comparison (Makhachev and Nurmagomedov are both Dagestani), Makhachev displays a discipline and willingness to expand his skill set outside of fight camp that’s similar to that of his more famous compatriot.  In a recent interview, legendary coach Javier Mendez, the founder of the MMA gym AKA (American Kickboxing Academy), offered some insight into Makhachev’s work ethic. “[Makhachev goes] home and [finds] other guys to teach him how to strike,” Mendez said. “I’d tell him to train with this guy, train with that guy and find somebody that’s a good striking guy and learn from them.”

Even if Makhachev has already proven his bona fides as a fighter, a victory in his upcoming matchup with Dan “The Hangman” Hooker (the sixth-ranked light heavyweight who boasts eye-catching wins over Paul Felder, Gilbert Burns, and Jim Miller) would cement Makhachev’s place amongst the elite. Keep an eye on Islam Makhachev this weekend and moving forward, lest you miss moments like this:

2) Khamzat Chimaev (9-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC)
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For our second fighter to watch, we’re keeping it in Dagestan with the king of “smeshing”, Khamzat Chimaev. This man is a FORCE. Khamzat burst onto the scene in 2020, making waves for taking two fights in 10 days for the UFC and winning them both in dominant fashion, finishing both John Phillips and Rhys McKee with ease. One more time – two fights, TEN DAYS. Observe the carnage:

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I know what you’re thinking, “Who could doubt this man after that!?” But despite this, Chimaev received criticism from many who claimed that his profile had been propped up by victories against underwhelming fighters. During the run-up to Chimaev’s fight against UFC vet Gerald Meerschaert in September 2020, Meerschaert crowed about Chimaev’s weak quality of competition—and then got silenced by Chimaev a mere 17 seconds into their bout the next day. I don’t know what most people can do in only 17 seconds, but here’s what he can:

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Since that victory, though, it’s been a tough 13 months for Chimaev as he struggled against a case of COVID-19 that was so severe it forced him to contemplate retirement. In an article by Brett Okamoto at ESPN, Khamzat stated, “I was never scared about my life. I’m scared about what my mom is going to do after I die. My mom, my brothers— was thinking, ‘What are they gonna do after I die?’ I start with this MMA shit because of my family. I want to make some good life with them.”

Thankfully, Chimaev recovered and UFC 267 represents his much-anticipated return to the sport. Making Chimaev’s return even more exciting, though, is that he’s matched up against Li Jinliang (18-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC), a very dangerous and stylistically interesting opponent for Chimaev; Jinliang (also known as “The Leech”) looks to move forward and impose his will on his opponents, which may cause Chimaev trouble. Still, if Chimaev can rediscover his pre-Covid form and control the center of the octagon, this could be an exciting affair that re-establishes Chimaev as one of the most dangerous prospects tearing through the welterweight division.

3) Lerone Murphy (10-0-1 MMA, 2-0-1 in UFC)
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What better way to end this than with a red-hot prospect boasting an undefeated record with 60% of his wins coming by first-round KO/TKO!? This weekend, the world will formally meet Lerone “The Miracle” Murphy. 

On his way to the UFC, “The Miracle” chose violence, finishing 5 of 7 fights spectacularly. What’s even more spectacular is what led him to the sport in the first place.

As reported by Joe Coleman at talkSPORT, at the age of 21 Murphy was shot twice in the face. After being shot, he reportedly spit out the bullets that had hit him in the chin and neck, and was rushed to the hospital. It was at this point he decided to begin training MMA, and in 6-months he had his first amateur fight. In just 5 years he was able to make his way through the ranks and to the UFC, where he fought arguably his toughest fight in a split decision draw against mainstay Zubaira Tukhugov. While Murphy was dropped early in the first round, he demonstrated incredible resilience by battling back and showing the judges nearly enough to win the fight.  

Murphy went on to win his next two fights to remain undefeated, including this one against Ricardo Ramos via merciless ground-and-pound:

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His opponent at UFC 267 is “Mr. Finland” Makwan Amirkhani (16-6 MMA, 6-4 UFC) who began his UFC career by scoring an 8-second TKO via flying knee.

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Amirkhani is certainly a quality opponent that provides a true test to Mr. Murphy’s “0,” but one that he’s one that Murphy can handle breezily, nonetheless. 

Be sure to tune in to UFC 267 on Saturday, Oct. 30th, and remember, the prelims begin at 10:30AM EST with the main card following at 2PM EST.

Sports Strength

Tyson Fury Knocks Out Deontay Wilder, All Hail The Gypsy King

This past weekend, two of the best heavyweight boxers in the world, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder put on one of the greatest title fıghts in boxing history. Consider the stats: 

  • Five knockdowns (two for Wilder, three for Fury)
  • Round 3: Fury knocks down Wilder 
  • Round 4: Wilder responds with 2 vicious knockdowns with his patented right hand 
  • Fury gets up and dominates the rest of the next six rounds outlanding Wılder 150-72 (BoxScene, October 10, 2021)
  • Which leads to Wilder gettıng knocked down twice in the 11th round and the eventual TKO victory for the Gypsy King Tyson Fury.
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Even if this marked the third act of a trilogy between two boxing titans, the run-up to this fight lacked the pomp and circumstance that usually accompanies a heavyweight title bout. Whereas most third acts function as rubber-matches between two evenly-matched fighters, Fury outboxed Wilder in their first fight which ended in a tie and then thoroughly dismantled Wilder in their February 2020 match-up. Wilder may have proven his bonafides as a champion, but most fans thought he didn’t deserve another title shot. Still, due to issues caused by promoters and convoluted politics, Fury was forced to fight Wilder for a third time. Accordingly, Wilder was largely underestimated because he didn’t seem capable of executing a game plan that could trouble Fury.  

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From the opening bell, Wilder came out looking like a different fighter–at least for the fırst three rounds. At 238 pounds, Wilder was 25 pounds heavier than he was in the trilogy’s second installment back in February 2020. Already one of the hardest hitters in boxing history, Wilder doubled down on his power at the cost of some stamina and endurance, realizing that his best shot to win would be via knockout.

Despite packing on extra weight and strength, Wilder adopted a surprisingly measured approach during the first three rounds, peppering Fury with body blows in an attempt to lower Fury’s hands and set up a knockout blow. Moreover, Wilder established himself as the aggressor and controlled the fight, consistently pinning Fury against the ropes. 

After a knockdown in the fourth by Fury, Wilder went back to his roots and started headhuntıng. Even if Wilder’s aggression allowed him to knock Fury down twice in the fifth round, this undisciplined approach caused Wilder to lose the ability to control the ring. 

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As such, after getting knocked down twice in the fifth, Tyson Fury slowly took over the fight, using his lightnıng-quıck 1-2 combinations and his own sheer mass to methodically drain Wilder of any power or energy. At 277 pounds, Fury possesses a rare combination of size and agility. Last February, Fury outclassed Wilder with his footwork, technical brilliance and tactical wherewithal, frustrating the Alabama native by dancing around the cage like a British Muhammad Ali. This time, though, Fury relied on his gigantitude, leaning on Wilder throughout the fight. In doing so, Fury revealed the fatal flaw of the bulked-up Wilder’s plan of attack, exploiting Wilder’s lack of stamina and leading to the eventual TKO. This diversity of boxing ability and technique is what makes the Gypsy King the greatest heavyweight of the generation. 

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While fight #3 initially seemed less interesting than the previous two, it was by far the best. With his heart and newfound stylistic diversity, Deontay Wilder proved that he’s more than a one-handed knockout merchant; by lasting 11 rounds against the hulking Fury, he demonstrated incredible resilience and even managed to deliver damage in the later rounds. This talent—the potential to end a fight at any moment, no matter how woozy or hobbled he may be—is what makes Wilder such a special fighter.

As for Fury’s next move, Oleksandr Usyk is the clear fight, since this would offer the opportunity to unify the heavyweight titles. By beatıng Anthony Joshua last month, Usyk proved that he can compete with bigger heavyweights after moving up from the cruiserweight division. If Fury can overwhelm Usyk the same way he did Wilder, he would not only become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, but etch his name in the history books as one of the greatest boxers of all time.

Sports Strength

What is the Best Season Of ‘The Ultimate Fighter?’

The 29th season of The Ultimate Fighter wrapped itself up at UFC on ESPN 30 and it saw Bryan Battle and Ricky Turcios go home with the UFC contracts in the middleweight and bantamweight divisions, respectively.

The coaches for the season were current featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega. That choice was met with some criticism initially, with other choices like Masvidal and Covington seemingly being the preference from fans. In the end it worked out well enough, with the featherweights developing a rivalry that wouldn’t have been there had it not been for the show.

After UFC on ESPN 30, Dana confirmed that the show will return next year and will always be around. What better time to look back on the seasons than now? We did just that, ranking them from worst to best.

29. Season 6 (2007)
Winner: Mac Danzig

The coaches for this season were former TUF winner Matt Serra and Matt Hughes. On paper, perhaps it should have been one of the better seasons with two Mt. Rushmore welterweights, but it just didn’t come to fruition, largely due to a lack of talent.

28. Season 26 (2017)
Winner: Nicco Montaño
MMA Junkie

The only reason this season doesn’t fall to last place is the fact that there was a new champion crowned. Although, many felt the women’s flyweight division was created purely for Valentina to get a title and Nicco Montaño ended up having a lacklustre UFC career, never defending the belt and missing weight multiple times.

27. Season 16 (2012)
Winner: Colton Smith

This season’s fighters lacked star power, with the fighter that most would know being Neil Magny, who got finished in the semi-finals. Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin as coaches was disappointing too, not to mention the fact that they never ended up fighting each other.

26. Season 19 (2014)
Winners: Eddie Gordon & Corey Anderson
Fight Booth

On paper, this one sounded like it was special because it boasted lightweight greats Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn as coaches. However, by this point, Frankie had already beaten B.J. twice before. In hindsight, B.J. was already into his 7-fight losing streak here.

25. Season 25 (2017)
Winner: Jesse Taylor
MMA Weekly

This season featured the drama between T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt which was entertaining but felt monotonous by the end. The premise of this season was former contestants getting redemption and just felt like the UFC banking on nostalgia.

24. Season 28 (2018)
Winners: Juan Espino & Macy Chiasson
MMA Junkie

Had former champion Robert Whittaker and former TUF winner Kelvin Gastelum not been the coaches for this season, it would be even lower on the list. The coaches’ challenges were the main source of entertainment here. Whittaker even criticised his own team for being lazy after the show.

23. Season 29 (2021)
Winners: Ricky Turcios & Bryan Battle

It was a pleasant surprise to see some back and forth jawing from Volkanovski and Ortega on the show, but even then, some of the pranks felt a little childish. Ricky Turcios came out of the show with the most memorable moments, with Dana comparing him to TUF 1 winner Diego Sanchez.

22. Season 8 (2008)
Winners: Efrain Escudero & Ryan Bader
MMA Full Contact

The show deserves credit for producing pro-wrestling star Tom Lawlor and of course, current Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader. It also had some funny coaching moments from Mir and Nogueira, the former knocking out the latter to win the interim UFC title.

21. Season 7 (2008)
Winner: Amir Sadollah

This season is perhaps most well-known today for being the one where Rampage smashed a door to pieces, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. It produced big names like Matt Brown and WWE superstar Matt Riddle.

20. Season 22 (2015)
Winner: Ryan Hall

With the line-up of coaches, TUF 22 was always going to be one of its most popular. It featured Conor McGregor, fresh off of his win over Chad Mendes, going up against Urijah Faber. Ryan Hall was undefeated until his last fight in July.

19. Season 14 (2011)
Winners: John Dodson & Diego Brandão
MMA Mania

Looking back, this season was a gem and has aged very well. Bisping and Mayhem Miller were coaches and some of the fighters included T.J. Dillashaw, Jimmie Rivera, Dennis Burmedez and John Dodson. Miller also brought in current champ Kamaru Usman as a wrestling coach, before he even had his first professional MMA fight.

18. Season 13 (2011)
Winner: Tony Ferguson
SB Nation

Funnily enough, this season wasn’t as well received by fans as you’d think after it aired, but it has aged well, producing a top 5 lightweight of all time in Tony Ferguson. That could have had it higher, but there weren’t enough memorable moments despite the coaches beig Lesnar and JDS.

17. Season 11 (2010)
Winner: Court McGee
Bleacher Report

While it was airing weekly, the show was on pace to become one of the better seasons ever, but it drops slightly on our list because of a string of bad luck. Tito Ortiz was forced into neck surgery meaning he couldn’t finish the show and Ortiz’s first pick Nick Ring also got injured.

16. Season 3 (2006)
Winners: Kendall Grove & Michael Bisping

Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock being on the show was a real treat for MMA fans and some hilarity ensued. The third season of TUF also produced legend and UFC hall of famer Michael Bisping.

15. Season 9 (2009)
Winners: Ross Pearson & James Wilks

Just a few years after winning TUF, Bisping found himself back on the show as a coach, going up against Dan Henderson in the United States vs. United Kingdom version of the show. The fighters were mostly unmemorable, with Team U.K. winning in both weight divisions, but Henderson ultimately KOing Bisping at UFC 100.

14. Season 2 (2005)
Winners: Joe Stevenson & Rashad Evans

The second season of TUF was coached by Matt Hughes and Rich Franklin, who were the welterweight and middleweight champions respectively. Today, there’d be no doubt that they’d be in a super fight, but unfortunately they didn’t fight each other at all. The show gave us Rashad Evans and the late great Keith Jardine.

13. Season 23 (2016)
Winners: Andrew Sanchez & Tatiana Suarez

This season’s highlights were undoubtedly the tension between Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Cláudia Gadelha, which led to some famous moments. It felt like a fight could break out between the pair at any moment.

12. Season 21 (2015)
Winner: Kamaru Usman
MMA Junkie

TUF 21 was interesting because it pitted American Top Team against the Blackzillians, specifically Dan Lambert and the late Greg Robinson. The two gyms have had so many great rivalries over the years. Usman ended up winning the show and is arguably the best fighter in the world right now.

11. Season 27 (2018)
Winners: Brad Katona & Michael Trizano
MMA Junkie

The catch for this season was that every prospect on the show was undefeated. It’s an interesting one to look back on now because of how turbulent Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic’s relationship got and how cool they were at this point.

10. Season 24 (2016)
Winner: Tim Elliott
MMA Junkie

Although the concept for this season was cool – bringing together regional champions to compete for a UFC contract – I’m sure fans would have preferred it to happen in a different division.

9. Season 12 (2010)
Winner: Jonathan Brookins

TUF 12 created some of the best moments in the history of the show, namely GSP bringing in the unique Jean-Charles Skarbowsky to beat up the fighters and GSP baiting Josh Koscheck to pick Marc Stevens so that he could pick Michael Johnson.

8. Season 15 (2012)
Winner: Michael Chiesa
MMA Mania

TUF 15 was the first and only live edition of the show and fans enjoyed it. It saw rivals Cruz and Faber going back and forth for some fun drama, but the fights were very entertaining. It also brought us Raging Al and Michael Chiesa.

7. Season 17 (2013)
Winner: Kelvin Gastelum
MMA Mania

This show was made for someone like Chael Sonnen and he stepped up for his moment. He went head-to-head against Jon Jones, who of course ended up winning their fight. This was the season that featured that classic Uriah Hall KO.

6. Season 10 (2009)
Winner: Roy Nelson

This season had it all. Rampage and Rashad had a bitter feud going on which got extremely heated and nearly came to blows once. It also featured the surprising inclusion of the late legend Kimbo Slice.

5. Season 4 (2006)
Winners: Matt Serra & Travis Lutter
Bleacher Report

The concept for this season was that the fighters were made up of UFC fighters that had not had the career they wanted. It’s famous for producing Matt Serra who ended up with the biggest upset in MMA history when he beat GSP, an advisor on the show.

4. Season 20 (2014)
Winner: Carla Esparza
MMA Freak

TUF 20 produced arguably the most big names in one division in a single year. On the show were Rose Namajunas, Joanne Calderwod, Felice Herrig, Tecia Torres, Carlpa Esparza, Angela Hill and Bec Rawlings, amongst others. Pettis and Melendez coached.

3. Season 18 (2013)
Winners: Chris Holdsworth & Julianna Peña

This season was set to be coached by Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano, but Zingano got injured late into the process, which gave us the great moment of seeing Rousey realise her rival Miesha Tate was going to coach alongside her.

2. Season 5 (2007)
Winner: Nate Diaz
MMA Mania

The appeal of this season was initially B.J. Penn and Jens Pulver finally fighting but looking back in 2021, it’s impossible not to notice the early days of Nate Diaz, back when he was mostly known for being Nick’s young brother.

1. Season 1 (2005)
Winners: Diego Sanchez & Forrest Griffin
The Athletic

Coached by Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, TUF 1 introduced us to superstars like Forrest Griffin, Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez, Kenny Florian, Nate Quarry, Chris Leben and Mike Swick. It ended with the classic fight between Griffin and Bonnar which saw both getting the contract because of the performance they put on.

Sports Strength

Anthony Smith Explains What “Lionheart” Is All About

One of the very cool things about combat sports is the different people that you will meet along the way. Some of those people are nice, and some aren’t so. I’m not the first person to say it, but I will gladly echo what other people have said for years:

Anthony Smith is one of the “good guys.”

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Smith joined ‘In The Fight” during a live event for GCX (Gaming Community Expo). The event went incredible and ONE37pm raised $6,900 for St. Jude’s Children Hospital.

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When “Lionheart” fights, he brings the action. He is notorious for action-packed scraps. He has 10 wins in the UFC and his last nine have all come by way of submission or TKO.

“For a while, I was the only fighter who fought in a major promotion who had 40 fights, who had never gone to a decision. On one hand, that’s cool. On the other, that means I get in fiery spots sometimes. I’ve never really chased a finish. I just put my foot on the gas and go.”

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Smith has been in the game a long time. He’s seasoned. He has dealt with everything that comes with fighting, and that includes the media. So as a younger member of the media, I thought this would be a good opportunity to ask him about the questions that really bother him.

“The first one is, ‘I know you don’t want to give us a game plan, but what is your prediction?’ Like, I don’t know man. I’m just trying to win… that’s the fun. When the ref asks if I am ready… I don’t know. He is lighting a bomb in the middle of the cage and we have to go stand on it.”

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Smith is on a two-fight win streak and is scheduled to get back into the Octagon in September.

Sports Strength

The 20 Best PFL Fighters to Watch

The Professional Fighters League (PFL) is launching their NFTs so you might want to know a thing or two about some of their fighters fighting this year in their sports season format.

The Professional Fighters League (PFL) is about to close out its 2021 season in June. Then, the fighters with enough points to advance to the playoffs in the PFL’s season format of MMA will make it to the finals to be the 2021 champions. Being the PFL champ comes with a $1-million-dollar prize and an invite back for next year.

Recently, the PFL just announced the launch of their own NFTs. So, anyone interested in grabbing these collectibles will likely want to know about some of the fighters in the league. Here are 20 PFL fighters you should watch.

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1. Kayla Harrison (9-0, PFL 8-0)
  • 2019 PFL women’s lightweight world champion
  • 2x Olympic judo gold medalist (2012, 2016)
  • Undefeated in her MMA career
  • 7 of 9 wins came by stoppage (4 knockouts, 3 submissions)

Harrison has been the catalyst for the women’s lightweight division in the PFL. The Olympic Gold medalist in Judo made the transition to mixed martial arts in 2018. She is the PFL 2019 lightweight champion and currently number two in the women’s lightweight standings.  She’s a favorite to win again this year.

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2. Rory MacDonald (22-6-1,PFL 1-0)
  • Top-15 Welterweight In The World
  • Former Bellator Welterweight Champion
  • 14 Wins By Stoppage (7 Knockouts, 7 Submissions)
  • Wins Over Nate Diaz, Tyron Woodley, B.J. Penn And Douglas Lima

The former UFC welterweight contender and former Bellator MMA welterweight champion was one of the first big signees for the current season when the PFL closed out the 2019 season. COVID-19 delayed his debut but he picked up a first-round submission over Curtis Millender.

3. Ray Cooper III (21-7-1, PFL 9-2)
Photo by Ryan Loco/PFL
  • 2019 PFL Welterweight World Champion
  • 14 Career Knockouts
  • 6 Knockouts Over The Last 2 Pfl Seasons
  • Has Made The Pfl Welterweight Finals In 2018 & 2019

Cooper went from underdog when the PFL began to one of its top welterweights. He fought Jake Shields twice in 2018, avenging a loss his father had against Shields while cementing himself as one of the PFL’s top fighters. He is currently ranked number one, above MacDonald.

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4. Brendon Loughnane (21-3-0 PFL4-0)
  • Winner Of 6 Straight Fights
  • 11 Career Wins By Knockout
  • 2-0 In Pfl Showcase Bouts In 2019

Loughnane fought his heart out on The Contender Series in 2019 and won a unanimous decision that many felt should have gotten him a UFC contract. It didn’t, but it certainly got him on the radar of anyone looking for new talent, so the PFL grabbed him up as soon as they could and got him into some fights. He secured his spot in the playoffs at PFL 4.

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5. Bubba Jenkins (16-4-0 PFL 2-0)
  • Former Brave Featherweight Champion
  • 6 Career Knockouts
  • D-1 Ncaa Wrestling Champion

Jenkins is the man just behind Loughnane in the featherweight standings. After his first win this season, he said the final fight of the year would likely consist of him and Loughnane. The win he picked up was against the 2018-2019 champion, Lance Palmer.

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6. Lance Palmer (22-4, PFL 10-1)
  • 2-time PFL Featherweight World Champion (2018, 2019)
  • 4-time All-american Wrestler (Osu)
  • 2-time WSOF Featherweight Champion

Palmer has been grinding through the PFL since before they rebranded. Before that, they were known as the World Series of Fighting and he held the featherweight title then as well. While his first fight this season did not go his way, Palmer has shown in the past losing is not something he ever takes lightly.

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7. Antonio Carlos Júnior (11-5-0, 1 NC, PFL 1-0)
  • 9 Wins Via Submission
  • The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 Heavyweight Tournament Winner
  • Multiple Time Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Champion

Known by hardcore MMA fans as Cara de Sapato (Shoe-face), Carlos Júnior is another signee that came from the UFC where he picked up wins over Marvin Vettori, Tim Boetsch, and Eddie Gordon. Most of his wins come by way of submission and with the first-round submission he picked up this season, he’s definitely a light-heavyweight that should be on the fan’s radar.

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8. Emiliano Sordi (23-8, PFL 7-1)
  • 2019 PFL Light Heavyweight World Champion
  • Most Dominant Season In Pfl History (5-0 With 5 Finishes In 2019)
  • First Fighter From Argentina To Win A Major Mma Title

Sordi was the 2019 PFL Champion and he used his $1-million-dollar prize money to help those in need in his home country of Argentina. Virtually unknown before then, when he got closer to the finals and won the season, he became a fan favorite at the PFL. He currently sits at number four in the PFL light-heavyweight standings.

9. Clay Collard (20-8-0, 1 NC ,PFL 2-0)
  • 10 Career Knockouts
  • Former UFC Contender
  • 2020 Boxing Star

Collard was an MMA fighter, turned boxer, then returned to MMA when he signed with the PFL. His first fight was against Anthony Pettis where he was the underdog. The fight was tough, but Collard showed his time away in the sweet science of boxing helped make him a better mixed martial artist. He’s currently the number one lightweight in the 2021 lightweight standings.

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10. Anthony Pettis (24-11, PFL 0-1)
  • Former UFC Lightweight Champion
  • 18 Career Wins By Stoppage
  • 11 Career Knockouts
  • Former WEC Lightweight Champion
  • First MMA Fighter Featured On A Wheaties Box
  • Coined The “Showtime Kick”

Pettis has fought everywhere. WEC, the UFC, and now the PFL. He has held the lightweight titles in the last two promotions he fought in and has made it known he wants the PFL gold for 2021. His first fight did not go as planned but that does not mean he’s out yet. Keep an eye on Pettis.

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11. Chris Wade (19-6, PFL 7-3)
  • Former Ring Of Combat Lightweight Champion
  • 2018,2019 PFL Semi-finalist

Wade recently picked up one of the most spectacular knockouts of his career at PFL 4 this season. The New Yorker is a favorite in the northeast region and his PFL and UFC fights are fun to watch. The win he picked up in Atlantic City will keep him atop the current featherweight standings, putting him on track to challenge for the title if he keeps the momentum going in the playoffs.

12. Natan Schulte (21-4-1 PFL 10-1-1)
  • Two-time PFL Lightweight World Champion (2018, 2019)
  • Unbeaten In Two PFL Seasons (9-0-1)
  • 9 Career Wins By Submission

Schulte is a two-time PFL lightweight champion that has always found a way to get to the main event on New Year’s Eve. While he lost to  Marcin Held this season, like Pettis, he still has a chance to get back in the mix if he picks up a win while the season is still going. He’s lost one before and came back to win the prize, so it can certainly be done again.

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13. Genah Fabian (3-1, PFL 2-1)
  • 2019 PFL Playoffs Qualifier (#3 Seed)
  • 2018 Muay Thai World Champion
  • Both MMA Wins Came By Knockout

Fabian’s record seems green for MMA given the small numbers but so was Harrison’s when she began and became champion. In the 2019 season, she was supposed to face Harrison and had to pull out due to illness. That’s a fight that could still be in the future depending on how things go.

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14. Claressa Shields (1-0, PFL 1-0)
  • Holds Multiple Titles In Multiple Boxing Weight Classes
  • 2012, 2016 Boxing Olympic Gold Medal Winner
  • Considered Pound-for-pound Best Active Female Boxer

Shields is new to MMA but 11-0 as a professional boxer. She is the only boxer to ever hold all four major boxing titles (WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO). She really has nothing left to prove in the world of boxing and, at 26-years old, is looking to have the same success in MMA. The PFL is a good place to start, and since fellow Olympian and 2019 champion Kayla Harrison started the same way, the move makes complete sense. She won her debut against Brittney Elkin at PFL 4.

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15. Bruno Cappelozza (11-5-0 , PFL 1-0)
  • All 11 Wins Have Come Via Knockout
  • Former Jungle Fight Light Heavyweight And Heavyweight Champion

Cappelozza made a statement in his first PFL fight by scoring a first-round knockout in his debut over Ante Dilija in a fight where he was the underdog. The quick finish shot him to the top of the 2021 heavyweight standings making him the man to beat thus far in the PFL.

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16. Tyler Diamond (12-1, PFL 1-0)
  • 7 Of 12 Wins Came By Stoppage
  • Member Of Team Alpha Male

There’s something about mullets and MMA that make for some scrappy fights and probably a pretty cool NFT. The young featherweight is definitely someone that brings the fight to all of his opponents. Even though he lost he fought one of the best fights of the season against Loughnane at PFL 4.

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17. Olivier Aubin-Mercier (11-5, PFL 0-0)
  • 8 Career Submission Wins
  • 12 Of First 16 Career Fights Came In The Ufc

Aubin-Mercier made his PFL debut against Held on June 10 at PFL 4. The former UFC fighter holds wins over Drew Dober and Anthony Rocco Martin. What he brings to the PFL seems to be the same traction of success he had when he was in the UFC. He fights out of Tristar Gym, the same gym that brought fans Georges St-Pierre.

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18. Larissa Pacheco (14-4, PFL 3-2)
  • 2019 PFL Women’s Lightweight Runner-up
  • Defeated #1 Seed Sarah Kaufman In The 2019 Pfl Playoffs

If any woman in the PFL women’s lightweight division knows Harrison, it’s Pacheco. Her two losses come from Harrison, which means she beat everyone else to get to her. She seems to be gunning for a rematch this season since she picked up a first-round finish, and sits at number one in the women’s lightweight standings.

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19. Kaitlin Young (12-10-1 PFL 1-0)
  • Former Invicta Fc Title Challenger 
  • Of 12 Wins, 8 Come By Way Of Knockout

Young beat a very tough Cindy Dandois in her PFL debut. She’s built most of her MMA record fighting in Invicta FC, the all-women’s MMA promotion where she fought for a vacant title not too long ago. She currently has enough points to repeat the same opportunity in the PFL if she picks up some more wins.

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20. Denis Goltsov (26-6, PFL 4-1)
  • 2019 PFL Heavyweight Semifinalist
  • First PFL Fighter To Secure An Ezekiel Choke
  • Combat Sambo World Champion

Goltsov accumulated most of his wins in his native Russia before coming to the PFL. The average MMA fan might not have known much about him before then, but since he has come close to winning before, and currently looks to get closer to the million-dollar grand prize in 2021. Of his 26 wins, 10 are by submission with 11 knockouts. 

Grind Money

What Is Nate Diaz’s Net Worth?

There have been a lot of conversations about fighter pay in MMA in the past couple of years, spearheaded by fighters like Jon Jones and Jorge Masvidal at times. In the past week or two, Paulo Costa and current UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou have commented on the difference in their purses to that of Logan Paul in his recent fight against Floyd Mayweather. When Nate Diaz was asked about Ngannou’s “what are we doing wrong?” comment, his response was, “what is he doing wrong?… I’ve been doing more right than all these motherfuckers for years and years. They should have been spitting all that ‘I need money’ shit a long time ago like I was… and what happened? The stock just raised anyway.” He’s not lying. Today, Nate Diaz boasts an estimated net worth of approximately $8 million.

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Fight Earnings

But of course, it wasn’t always that way.

Diaz first debuted in the UFC on the TUF 5 Finale, fighting Manvel Gamburyan. He was given a check for just $16,000. If he had lost the fight, he would have made just $8,000 before taxes and paying coaches. A couple of fights later when he stepped into the octagon against Alvin Robinson, he had graduated to a $15k/$15k contract. He won the fight but also earned a bonus for Submission of the Night, which bagged him an extra $40k, totaling $70k for that fight.

The first time that Nate earned six figures in a fight was just over three years into his UFC career. It was at UFC 118 which was headlined by Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn’s second scrap. The younger Diaz brother tapped Marcus Davis in round three, earning his $30k show money, $30k win bonus, and a $60k Fight of the Night bonus. Over the next few years, while he traded wins and losses, Diaz’s purses would fluctuate massively. In 2012 when he beat Jim Miller, Nate pocketed $147k but just under a year later after he was stopped by Josh Thompson, Nate made just $15k. That’s even less than his debut. This is just one of the issues that people have with the UFC’s show money/win bonus structure, it means that fighters get punished for losing in a sport where losing is far more acceptable than boxing, for example.

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How Much Did Nate Diaz Make Fighting Conor McGregor?

When Nate Diaz filled in for Rafael dos Anjos against Conor McGregor, his purse for it versus up to that point were night and day. For the short notice fight against the then-Featherweight Champion and undefeated (in the UFC) Irishman, for the first time in his career, Nate made a flat fee of $500k. On top of that, his two bonuses for Fight of the Night and Performance of the Night earned him $50k each and Reebok paid him $20k. That’s $620k in total, a massive rise from his previous years with the company. That doesn’t include the PPV points that he might have gotten either. Now, with a win over the company’s biggest star, the ball was in his court.

Nate earned himself a flat fee of a whopping $2 million for the rematch five months later, easily his biggest purse to date. The FOTN bonus and his Reebok sponsorship made him $70k on top, and with PPV points included, he undoubtedly made an extra few million too. Nate’s total career earnings from his UFC fight purses add up to nearly $5 million.

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Endorsements & Ventures

In terms of endorsements, Nate Diaz has been with some brands that are close to him. He’s had deals with Represent Ltd and Lodi Vintners. There’s also Game Up Nutrition, which is a CBD brand founded by Nate and his older brother Nick. They offer organic hemp-based products which match up with the disciplined lifestyle they both live.

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Next Fight

Nate’s next fight takes place this Saturday at UFC 263, live from the Gila River Arena in Glendale, AZ. He fights Leon Edwards at 170lbs, by all accounts a very tough fight for him. There’s no word yet on what his purse could be, but in terms of the matchup, Edwards is on a big win streak and is one win away from challenging the dominant champion, Kamaru Usman. Nate is coming off of the loss to Jorge Masvidal in late 2019.

Interestingly, this fight is already historic long before it takes place. It’s the first UFC fight ever that is scheduled for 5 rounds despite not being the main event or a title fight. Some would argue that this suits Diaz and the way he weaponizes his cardio, but perhaps it only gives the Birmingham fighter more time to impose his own will. Only time will tell.