Best Pound-For-Pound UFC Fighters In History

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[Image via Zuffa, LLC]

While often disputed as being too subjective or even meaningless, the list of best pound-for-pound UFC fighters is a great indicator of skill, achievements, records, and reputation. If not mathematical it is informative and useful for gauging the greats in a concise manner. 

While even contemporary, current P4P lists UFC announces weekly are disputed by fans and journalists not voting on it, the historical list can easier to agree upon. If not on the actual placement, then at least on the included fighters. 

Pound-for-pound rankings are used in combat sports and evaluate the greatness of fighters who fight in different weight classes based on their record, quality of opposition, quality of performance, and belts won. 

Ultimate Fighting Championship started in 1993 and has changed in many ways across the 27 years it has been producing the best MMA fights. The format, the weight classes, the coverage, the owners, the rules. All of it has been changed multiple times. One thing hasn’t – the better fighter will get its hand raised at the end of the rounds. 

Led by Dana White, UFC truly became MMA leader, as they proudly state themselves, and are leaps and bounds above the competition, obvious for all to see. 

As it stands, UFC has 12 weight classes. That includes eight male divisions and four female divisions. With female featherweight division having a bleak shorthand future most likely. Some divisions have shorter histories, other longer, messier and bloodier but they are all defined by these best pound-for-pound UFC fighters.

**Bullet points underneath each fighter only count actual Knockouts, not TKOs and KOs together. The Fighter’s UFC record is in brackets.**

 

Henry Cejudo

Henry Cejudo
[Image via Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC]
  • Record: 15-2 (9-2)
  • Knockouts: 0 KOs (7 by TKO)

Henry Cejudo is still a young guy and has a lot left to accomplish. However, he has already made a massive impact on the sport of MMA and UFC overall. Similar to other people on our list, Henry has been a two-division champion. However, he also held the two gold titles at the same time.

Henry had to massively impressive fights to accomplish this. First, he defeated Demetrius Johnson to win the UFC Flyweight Championship. He then won his fight against then-UFC Bantamweight Champion Marlon Moraes to become the new champ of the division.

Oh, and to add icing on the cake of impressiveness…he also beat TJ Dillashaw to defend his UFC Flyweight Title. With three big wins over some of UFC’s best smaller division fighters, it is hard to believe Henry should be kept off the best all-time list.

Yet these three men are just part of his win list. He has also defeated the likes of Sergio Pettis, Jusier Formiga, and many more. Truly, he may go down as one of the greatest to ever fight in the Flyweight and Bantamweight Divisions. He very well could go on to dominate other divisions too.

 

B.J. Penn

B.J. Penn
[Image via Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com]
  • Record: 16-15-2 (11-13-1)
  • Knockouts: 3
  • Submissions: 6

While BJ Penn’s return to the UFC has not been very fruitful, in the prime of his career, there weren’t many considered better than him. He first fought for the UFC back in 2001 and went on a huge run, winning five out of his first six fights. UFC was not making fighters exclusive at the time, so Penn could travel to other companies and fight for them too.

He then decided to compete outside UFC only but returned later on. While he defeated the likes of Matt Hughes during his big UFC run, he tried his hand at Welterweight and lost to Georges St-Pierre like so many before him. Penn did have success in the UFC’s Lightweight division and ended up becoming the champion of the division.

However, he felt most comfortable at Welterweight and did win the UFC Welterweight Title at UFC 46 but lost it soon after. He could never capture it again due to some French-Canadian guy.

In spite of this, Penn has some major wins in his career. He has two UFC Title wins, holding the record for the most UFC Lightweight Title defenses with three. Although, this record will likely be broken soon.

Penn has slowly started to hurt himself legacy-wise due to all the recent losses. He began to lose a step back in 2012 & 2014, leading to a large break for the Hawaiin Prodigy. However, since his return, he has only lost more fights. In spite of those losses, his mark on the UFC is still quite large.

 

Joanna Jędrzejczyk

Joanna Jędrzejczyk
[Image via Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC]
  • Record: 16-3 (9-3)
  • Knockouts: 1 KO (3 TKOs)
  • Submissions: 1

Joanna Jędrzejczyk is one of the greatest pound-for-pound UFC Fighters ever in the female divisions. After the success of the women, UFC decided to open up a Strawweight Division for the ladies. Joanna was the perfect person to bring in as she had been one of the most dominant Kickboxing and Muay Thai competitors in the world.

The Polish dynamo quickly became the UFC Strawweight Champion and basically cleaned out the division. She had 5 successful title defenses, among the best in UFC history. She also has the most wins in division history, making her the greatest strawweight competitor in UFC history.

While we all knew Joanna was an amazing striker before she entered the UFC, she proved it massively in each fight. She has the first, second, third, and fourth best significant striking differential in UFC Title Fight History. The record is a +142, which she did in her fight against Jéssica Andrade at UFC 211.

She also has the highest significant strikes thrown in UFC Title Fight History, as well as the second most. When you look up domination in the dictionary, a picture of Joanna Jędrzejczyk pops up.

In spite of her amazing strikes, 11 of her fights were won by decision and she even has a submission win to her record. Rose Namajunas has seemingly been this superwoman’s kryptonite. However, it’s likely we see these two battle again one day.

 

Dominick Cruz

Dominick Cruz
[Image via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports]
  • Record: 22-2 (6-1)
  • Knockouts: 3 KOs (5 TKOs)
  • Submissions: 1

Dominick Cruz first became notable in the WEC, an area UFC’s former parent company, Zuffa LLC, often took fighters from. At this point in history, WEC sort of became UFC’s farm system. Therefore, his last WEC fight led to him also winning the UFC Bantamweight Title.

The winner of the fight he took part in with Scott Jorgenson would have the honor of being the first champ of the division. Cruz won but he was just getting started with his impressive run.

Cruz made his official jump to UFC in 2011 and became a top addition to the team as UFC’s first Bantamweight Champ. He quickly became a favorite, defeating Urijah Faber in his first UFC contest, defending his newly won title. In his next fight, he beat Demetrius Johnson. Talk about a murderer’s row, right?

UFC continued to roll out the welcome wagon for Dominick, as they put him into a fight with then-Japanese sensation Takeya Mizugaki. Not to be outdone, the next fight was with T.J. Dillashaw. He won both fights, giving him one of the best runs in UFC history. He’d defeat Faber once more before finally losing to Cody Garbrandt.

We sadly have not seen him fight since this loss in 2016. Sadly, Cruz has been plagued with numerous injuries.

In total, he won Fight of the Night three times and Performance of the Night once. The unorthodox fighter was one of the best people to watch in the octagon. You knew when Cruz was on the card, things were going to get good. Let’s hope we see him back in the cage once again. He is truly one of the best pound-for-pound UFC Fighters in history.

 

Randy Couture

Randy Couture
[Image via Gregory Payan/AP]
  • Record: 19-11 (15-8)
  • Knockouts: 0 KOs (7 TKOs)
  • Submissions: 4

Randy Couture is one of the original beasts in UFC history. He was the first man to hold a title in two different divisions with the UFC and currently holds the record for the most UFC Heavyweight Title reigns with three. He is also a two-time UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.

Each fight Randy was in seemed to always be a treat for the fans. He also fought and beat some top names in MMA history. This includes wins against Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Tim Sylvia, and Vitor Belfort. He went on to beat people like Brandon Vera and even Mark Coleman.

His last fight for the UFC was sadly a loss against the impressive Lyoto Machida. However, Randy was a natural at MMA. He took to it better than most and with five total official title reigns (six with his interim title), he is the most decorated UFC Fighter in history.

He main evented a UFC PPV 18 times, tied for the most in history with Anderson Silva. Couture also has the most title defenses in history, with 15! Truly, Randy Couture has to go down as one of the best pound-for-pound UFC Fighters to ever live.

 

Ronda Rousey 

Ronda Rousey UFC
[Image via ABC]
  • Record: 12-2 (6-2) 
  • Knockouts: 2
  • Submissions: 9

The mighty have fallen but they’ve undeniably been mighty. Ronda Rousey finished her career with two devastating losses but her reign and influence on the sport can’t be undermined by two Knockout losses. 

The first female UFC fighter and champion, Ronda has six successful title defenses. She became the UFC Bantamweight Champion when Zuffa, LLC, the UFC’s former parent company, bought the organization where she previously reigned – Strikeforce.

“Rowdy” Ronda Rousey finished the last three of her wins in a minute and four seconds. Combined! She holds the record for the second-fastest finish in a UFC title fight, defeating Cat Zingano in 14 seconds. Only three more were needed for Alexis Davis. 

Three of Ronda’s opponents in UFC title fights have been undefeated before they matched up with the armbar specialist. Rousey is a true trailblazer and a great of the sport. This was proven by her induction into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2018. 

Today, Ronda rules in the squared circle at World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). She made history with the UFC but her small career in the WWE led to the first women’s main event of WrestleMania 36. Ronda Rousey is simply a walking, talking, history maker.

 

Royce Gracie 

Royce Gracie
[Image via MSN]
  • Record: 15-2-3 (11-1-1)
  • Submissions: 12

Certainly, the fighter most responsible for UFC’s early success and it can be said that the organization – or the sport -was built on the submission of Royce Gracie. 

Gracie was the winner of the first and second UFC tournament, withdraw undefeated from the third, and then won the fourth. Back when the tournament didn’t have weight classes, Royce often combated much bigger men. 

Gracie submitted his first 11 opponents in the UFC making Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu the global phenomenon it is now. It also influenced all of MMA and it’s clear he helped build the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). He and his wins personified that anything can truly happen at UFC matches, so you better tune in. 

Royce’s last match in the UFC was also the longest one in the promotion’s history. It lasted 36:00 before he and Ken Shamrock saw their fight end in a draw due to a lack of judges. 

 

Jose Aldo

Jose Aldo
[Image via The Sun]
  • Record: 28-6 (10-5)
  • Knockouts: 5
  • Submissions: 1

When it comes to longevity at the elite level, Jose Aldo bows to no one. The Brazilian brawler earned his place on the list of best pound-for-pound UFC fighters by ruling over the featherweight division for nearly 10 years.

Aldo also isn’t a stranger to expeditions to other weight classes, dabbling into 135 lbs recently. 

Jose had three reigns over the UFC 145lbs, two undisputed and one interim.  The man with devastating leg kicks has the most title defenses in division’s history, seven. All of them consecutive.

 

Cain Velasquez 

Cain Velasquez
[Image via Nick Laham/Zuffa LLC]
  • Record: 14-3 (12-3)
  • Knockouts: 1

Regarded by many as the most impressive Heavyweight ever, Cain Velasquez can be considered the best of the most devastating division in the UFC. However, his injuries stopped him from being even scarier and his placement on the all-time UFC pound-for-pound list higher.

The Mexican-American has only three losses in his career, the last one coming after a three-year hiatus. The American Kickboxing Academy product avenged his first loss twice over by defeating Junior dos Santos in regaining his belt and then defending it. Of course, Santos is the man who cut his first reign short.

Cain has the most total strikes landed in heavyweight history (1464), most takedowns in UFC heavyweight history (34), and joint most knockouts (KOs and TKOs) in the heavyweight division (10). All of this makes Cain Velasquez a certified UFC great.

 

Demetrious Johnson 

Demetrious Johnson 
[Image via UFC]
  • Record: 30-3-1 (15-2-1)
  • Knockouts:
  • Submissions: 12

Demetrius Johnson is a man who is found higher on most best pound-for-pound UFC fighters list. His 12 wins in UFC title fights certainly deserve acclaim but there are arguments against him. The flyweight GOAT had the “luck” of fighting people with less than impressive stature in the sport. 

The quality of opponents is where DJ falls short, if anywhere. Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo are his most notable wins, the latter even avenged his loss. Other names on his long list of hits didn’t excite the fans pre-fight. That was evident in PPV numbers and DJ’s value to the organization. 

Furthermore, when “Mighty Mouse” tried his hand at a higher weight class he was outclassed by Dominick Cruz in a title fight. Yet DJ did earn many bonuses. This includes three-time Fight of the Night, four-time Performance of the Night, and one submission and KO of the Night. 

Johnson has most consecutive title defenses in UFC history with 11. However, it must be noted that at flyweight, his margin of error was greater than in any other division. This is due to the improbability of KOs, pound-for-pound list or not.

 

Stipe Miocic 

Stipe Miocic 
[Image via UFC]
  • Record: 19-3 (13-3)
  • Knockouts: 6

Even the list of best pound-for-pound UFC fighters must take into consideration the differences between the weight classes. When weighing up to 265 lbs, there is no room for error. One short punch can end the match in a moment. It is in that environment that Stipe Miocic ruled and broke records.

He is known for the most consecutive title defenses in UFC heavyweight history at three. A low number which illustrates how nearly impossible his feat was. 

Stipe also achieved his success with style points as he has the UFC record for most strikes landed in a fight (361) vs. Mark Hunt. However, his greatness is also seen in the way he stopped the biggest hype train the UFC has sent from the station, Francis Ngannou. 

When it comes to the quality of opposition faced, Stipe Miocic is up there with the best in the UFC. He has defeated Junior dos Santos, Fabricio Werdum, Mark Hunt, Alistair Overeem, and Daniel Cormier. All have been champs in UFC or other elite promotions.

He defeated all of these men while collecting nine bonuses from the UFC!

 

Chuck Liddell

Chuck Liddell
[Image via UFC]
  • Record: 13-7 (16-7)
  • Knockouts: 9
  • Submissions: 1

Despite not knowing when to quit, Chuck Liddell remains one of the greatest UFC fighters. Six of his total nine career losses came at the very end of his career. The last loss came after being retired for eight years. Thus, Liddell’s legacy looks tarnished a bit. However, out of his three other losses, he avenged two of them. That came at the expense of Randy Couture (twice) and Jeremy Horn. 

Liddell won the Light Heavyweight Championship from another UFC great, Randy Couture. He then defended it four times against the likes of Tito Ortiz, Jeremy Horn, Randy Couture, and Renato Sobral. 

Known for his impressive kicks, Liddell has the most actual Knockouts of anyone on this list.

 

Amanda Nunes

Amanda Nunes
[Image via Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today]
  • Record: 19-4 (12-1)
  • Knockouts: 2
  • Submissions: 3

Without a doubt, Amanda Nunes is the greatest female fighter UFC and MMA has ever seen. She dethroned and decapitated the two women which previously had that title attached to their names – Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg. Both of which are two of the biggest names in female MMA history.

Her skills and her resume speak for themselves. No one can dispute that “Lioness” deserves to be in the top 10 on the list of best pound-for-pound UFC Fighters of all time.

Amanda has an impressive 19 wins in her career. This is a lot for a male fighter, let alone female fighters who usually have fewer fights throughout their careers.

The Brazilian fighter has five defenses of the female Bantamweight belt. Furthermore, Nunes won the female UFC Featherweight Title against Cyborg, becoming the first female multidivisional champion. Only 5 people have held two titles in the UFC at the same time. Doing so just further solidified her in MMA history as one of the greats, male or female.

 

Matt Hughes

Matt Hughes
[Image via John Gichigi]
  • Record: 45-9 (18-7)
  • Knockouts: 3
  • Submissions: 19

Matt Hughes is known for two historic trilogy fights and the fact that he lost both of them 2:1. However, this doesn’t diminish his status on the list of best pound-for-pound UFC fighters. Matt Hughes is a UFC Hall of Fame inductee and two-time UFC Welterweight champion. 

Embodying his impressive amateur wrestling background in his career, Hughes had five title defenses in his first reign, and two in his second. Overall, he had 12 title fights in his career.

Hughes first fought in the organization back in UFC 22 and retired after UFC 135, 12 years later. With 45 MMA wins in his career, a massive 18 were in the UFC during that 12-year timeframe.

While he was active, Hughes was almost unanimously considered #1 pound-for-pound UFC fighter during his reign as welterweight champion. In fact, he might have been considered the greatest Welterweight ever if a certain French-Canadian didn’t come along.

 

Conor McGregor 

Conor McGregor 2 Titles
[Image via Jason Silva/AGIF]
  • Record: 19-4 (10-2)
  • Knockouts: 1
  • Submissions: 5

Some overestimate him because of his charisma and influence on the sport beyond the cage. Others underestimate him for his notoriety and the money he brings to the UFC. However, the truth is that Conor McGregor became MMA’s biggest star by backing up what he claimed he will do.

In fact, he has seven Performance of the Night bonuses. Those certainly weren’t awarded for talking. 

His rise through the featherweight division was movie-like with the “Mystic Mac” predicting how and when he will finish opponents. As the theatrics became more intense, so did his performances. The Interim title win against Chad Mendes was a side destination.

The goal was the undisputed belt and Conor took only 13 seconds to knock out the great Jose Aldo. Keep in mind that the Brazilian had kept the UFC Featherweight Title for 10 years at that point. 

A loss to Nate Diaz and the comeback win were only the appetizers. The greatest Conor performance, and one of the best performances in UFC title fights, came soon after when he fought Eddie Alverez.

McGregor was underestimated by all his colleagues prior to the Alvarez fight. Yet he made the UFC Lightweight Champion look amateur before finishing him in the second round. Conor became the first man to hold two division belts simultaneously upon defeating Eddie.

The only mark against McGregor truly is that he has never once defended a title he won in the UFC.

 

Anderson Silva 

Anderson Silva
[Image via The Province]
  • Record: 23-10 *1NC (17-6 1NC)
  • Knockouts: 8
  • Submissions: 3

A fighter on everyone’s list of best pound-for-pound UFC fighters, Anderson Silva has the longest title reign in UFC History. It lasted 2,457 days, making him the undisputedly greatest UFC Middleweight Champion ever.

Watching Anderson Silva fight was almost like watching a movie. He often made his opponents look stupid while searching for the man’s head. This all came before punishing them with his own precise strikes. 

Silva had 10 title defenses, but he was eventually stopped by Chris Weidman twice in a row before his career went south. He went on to lose to Weidman, Michael Bisping, and Daniel Cormier. However, his legacy was tarnished by testing positive for two substances following the 2015 UD win over Nick Diaz. The W was later turned into NC. 

The Brazilian’s fight with Kelvin Gastelum in 2017 was canceled as Silva once again popped for PEDs. With his decision win against Derek Brunson in 2017 hotly contested, it would be ok to say that “the Spider” didn’t triumph in a fight since 2012. Yet his status as one of the best pound-for-pound UFC fighters is certain. Although, it may come with an asterisk or two.

 

Daniel Cormier

Daniel Cormier
[Image via The Associated Press]
  • Record: 22-2 *1NC (11-2 1NC)
  • Knockouts: 3
  • Submissions: 5

The fifth multi-division champion in UFC history is also the only fighter who has ever defended titles in two different divisions. Daniel Cormier was the second man to hold two belts simultaneously.

He started his MMA career as a heavyweight despite being 5 feet 11 inches (at best) but made his name as a Light Heavyweight. 

Cormier lost in his first chance for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title, as Jon Jones won by unanimous decision. DC then won the vacant UFC Light Heavyweight Championship in a fight against Anthony Johnson. He then had a legendary bout against Alexander Gustafsson before defeating Johnson again. 

DC had to drop weight a lot to make Light Heavyweight, as he had to keep up with lighter and faster men. Upon moving back to Heavyweight, he was lightning in a bottle for the bigger men of the UFC. 

UFC saw a need for the Heavyweight Division and Cormier wanted to move back after cleaning out the division he was in. This set up for a super-fight against the UFC Heavyweight Champion, Stipe Miocic. DC’s faster skills and impressive wrestling and striking allowed him to defeat Stipe in a first-round knockout.

DC never officially lost the UFC Light Heavyweight Title but vacated it after defending it three times.

Cormier is set to battle in a trilogy fight soon with Miocic, as he lost the rematch. The outcome of his final MMA bout will only further enhance his legacy.

 

Jon Jones 

Jon Jones
[Image via UFC]
  • Record: 26-1 *1 NC (20-1 1NC)
  • Knockouts: 2
  • Submissions:

Jon Jones is essentially undefeated in his career and might be at the top of this list for the best pound-for-pound UFC Fighters…if his career didn’t have big asterisks involved. His only official loss came by disqualification against Matt Hamill for breaking the ridiculous rule of no 12 to 6 elbows allowed. 

However, Jones has broken other significant rules, testing positive for banned substances three times!

One of these came right before UFC 200 when he was set to fight in a huge rematch with Cormier. This forced UFC to change the fight while Jones was banned from competition for one year. Upon returning, he fought DC and defeated him via knockout. Yet it was ruled a No Contest after the UFC discovered he tested positive for steroids.

He was supposed to get a 4-year ban, among the most for a PED violation. While it didn’t last that long, his battle with the USADA wasn’t over. In 2018, UFC was forced to switch the location for Jon’s second bout with Alexander Gustafsson on just a week’s notice.

This was due to the Nevada State Athletic Commission refusing to allow Jones to fight after finding traces of PEDs in his tests.

Jones’s last two decision wins against Thiago Santos and Dominick Reyes are heavily disputed, especially the later. Several prominent MMA journalists, fighters, and coaches vocally claim Jones lost to Reyes. 

Combined with his hit-and-run incident involving a pregnant woman, it’s hard naming Jon “Bones” Jones as the best in the sport. He has so many problems, in spite of his successes. 

Light Heavyweight ruler Jones has 10 knockouts in his career and the most wins in title bouts with 14. However, his legacy was determined outside the cage.

 

Khabib Nurmagomedov

Khabib Nurmagomedov
[Image via UFC]
  • Record: 28-0 (12-0)
  • Knockouts: 1
  • Submissions: 10

28 professional MMA fights, 12 of them in the UFC, and all of them convincing victories. Khabib Nurmagomedov has only lost one round in his 12-year-long career. Where Khabib excels in the best pound-for-pound UFC fighters rankings is the quality of opposition and the dominance with which his victories are won.

Khabib makes opponents, all elite fighters and former champions, look like they are in a dream where it’s impossible for them to strike.

Commentators describe his wrestling style as mauling. However, Khabib notably calls it smashing. This is not surprising, as Nurmagomedov often wrestled bears in his youth. Thus, he developed a wrestling style and skill that is hard to beat for any human being.

Nurmagomedov won the vacant UFC Lightweight Title in an unexpected fight with Al Iaquinta. However, he defended it against world-class opponents in Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. Khabib broke both men like they were nothing.

Khabib shares the third-best active win-streak in the UFC with the man he is destined to share the octagon with next – Tony Ferguson. If “The Eagle” wins against Ferguson, we just might need to update this list immediately.

 

Georges St-Pierre 

Georges St. Pierre
[Image via Yahoo Sports]
  • Record: 26-2 (20-2)
  • Submissions: 6

Georges St-Pierre has the second-most title wins in UFC history with 13. He comes from a traditional martial arts background in karate, yet he actually has most takedowns in UFC history. That perfectly encapsulates the greatness of Georges St-Pierre. Truly, his adaptability and the ability to adjust to his opponent and beat him at his own game. 

“Rush” St-Pierre doesn’t have a perfect record but has something perhaps even better, revenge for his losses. His only two losses, to Matt Hughes and Matt Serra, have been rectified by GSP. In fact, he has two wins over Hughes. 

The Canadian ruled the Welterweight division with nine successful title defenses after regaining the UFC Welterweight Title. GSP has conquered a staple of best pound-for-pound UFC fighters lists. As an amazing fighter, he could be considered the best just for his Welterweight work. However, he takes the cake by also being a multi-division champion.

After four years of retirement, St-Pierre returned to the Middleweight division. It was here that he submitted UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping and took his title in what is considered the best UFC event ever.

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