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Posts Tagged ‘Greatest’

In most sports, the debate over who is the greatest of all time is sort of a static one.

Sure, there’s plenty of room for disagreement, but the overall parameters of the discussion are mostly set. In a well-established mainstream pastime like baseball, for example, you’ve got your handful of perennial candidates—Ruth, Bonds, Mantle, Mays, etc.—and that’s about it. You keep the door open for Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, but most of the guys under consideration are longstanding legends.

In a fledgling sport like MMA? Things are a little bit different.

For starters, the sport is still so new that debating the GOAT must be taken with a grain of salt. It’s not like there is a huge pool of applicants or decades of history to sort through. For another thing, many of the people who are making their cases as the best ever are still active—so their resumes continue to unfold before our very eyes, both for better and worse.

Anderson Silva, for example, once the consensus pick for GOAT status, may have undermined his candidacy after putting up an 0-4-1 record since the dawn of 2013. His one win during that time, over Nick Diaz at UFC 183, was overturned after Silva failed a drug test.

Likewise, Fedor Emelianenko’s claim to the throne has suffered as he continues to push his flagging career into his late 30s.

Meanwhile, Jon Jones simply can’t get out of his own way, and Jose Aldo recently had his aura of invincibility shattered by Conor McGregor.

After so much turmoil during the last few years, who is the greatest MMA fighter of all time?

We’re glad you asked. Here, Bleacher Report’s Chad Dundas and Mike Chiappetta take their best shots at breaking down the current scene…


Chad Dundas: Unpopular opinion alert, Mike. I’m going to tab former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre as my current pick as greatest of all time. Previous to this, arguments against St-Pierre passing Silva as the GOAT have been largely stylistic ones. Silva was the popular knockout artist who blazed a trail through the middleweight division, while St-Pierre was seen as a play-it-safe wrestler.

After Silva’s positive drug test in 2015, I’d argue that logic no longer holds water.

Fact is, during the seven or so years he spent as champion, St-Pierre fought arguably a higher level of competition than Silva. He put together 12 wins in a row between 2007-13, making the rest of the best 170-pound fighters in the world look mostly helpless while mastering a discipline (wrestling) he had next to no background in before coming to MMA.

Aside from an early-career defeat to Matt Hughes, GSP had all of one real slip-up—against Matt Serra at UFC 69—and he avenged both losses with extreme prejudice. Otherwise, he was nearly spotless. He did it all without a stain on his personal life, without ever being arrested, without ever failing a drug test.

He was, in fact, one of the first advocates for real, enhanced testing in MMA, proving he was ahead of his time both in and out of the cage.

Until St-Pierre abruptly announced his retirement after UFC 167, he was the picture of consistency and professionalism. He also walked away with the belt still in his possession. Not too shabby, considering how things have gone recently for a few all-time greats who’ve stuck around too long.

Mike Chiappetta: At his peak, St-Pierre was perhaps the most perfect fighter we’ve ever seen, efficient in all of his movements, confident in all of his decision-making and with exceptional skills in every facet of the game. He was mostly flawless to watch, a textbook fighter if ever there was one. In any objective analysis of GSP’s work, he’s a worthy candidate for the GOAT conversation.

However, in examining the top candidates and casting my vote, it is difficult for me to raise St-Pierre above the level of Jon Jones, the 29-year-old wunderkind who’s biggest challenges have come outside of competition.

Inside the Octagon, there is little doubt of Jones’ brilliance. Were it not for the existence of a rule forbidding the “12-to-6” elbow, one that is likely to one day soon be abolished, he would be undefeated. Regardless, his .957 career win percentage is tops all-time among fighters who have held major championships, and his 2011-2012 run of defeating five straight former UFC champions remains unprecedented.

If you examine all of the individual elements of his game, he was not the best at any one thing. He didn’t have the top wrestling pedigree, his striking could be awkward, he had no jiu-jitsu lineage to speak of. But the sum of the parts added up to something close to untouchable. What other argument needs to be made?

While the relatively short length of his career may stand as a fair counter of Jones’ place atop such a list, the fact remains that he never lost a championship fight, and that he was without peer in the cage.

Chad: Jones is certainly a defensible choice. For a long time, he seemed like he was shoo-in to become the undisputed greatest of all time. The stretch you mentioned when he defeated five former champions in a row is perhaps the greatest 12-month span for any individual fighter in the history of the sport. But I can’t shake the feeling that at least a bit of our notion of Jones’ greatness was based on potential.

At this point, can we be sure he will ever reach that? I’m not so sure. I’m also not totally convinced that—were his career to end today, with him being stripped of the title and then prematurely removed from a highly publicized second fight with Daniel Cormier for a potential doping violation—I could in good conscience consider Jones the best ever.

I’d still favor St-Pierre.

As far as other contenders to the crown go, however? I think Jose Aldo can make an interesting case.

Especially if you track Aldo back to his WEC days, it’s tough to find someone who had been so dominant over his weight class for so long. Prior to his stunning KO loss to McGregor at UFC 194, he’d gone 15-0 in WEC/UFC fights, had defended the 145-pound title nine times and breezed through all his top competition without much difficulty.

That loss, though, is a tough one to get out of your head. Seeing McGregor topple Aldo like a stack of bricks in just 13 seconds at UFC 194 undid a lot of the thinking about him. Now that he’s bounced back to recapture an interim version of the title, it seems he’s back on a good path. Perhaps if he ever meets McGregor again and emerges victorious in the rematch, he could make a compelling argument.

Mike: I don’t think the perception of Jones’ greatness rests on potential at all. What he accomplished is a full body of work that can stand on its own. Let’s remember, he was literally four months into his professional career when he got called up to the UFC, and even then as an anonymous nobody, rose to the occasion in a way few ever do. He had no business being in the cage that day, but instead, he won. That’s all he would ever do.

Jones never truly stumbled in the cage, whether he was an underdog or everyone’s target. He fought 17 times in the Octagon and destroyed both opponents and our notion of what a truly transcendent talent could do on his best day.

Of course, his legacy could be radically altered—maybe even destroyed—by his recent United States Anti-Doping Agency drug test result, which remains under adjudication and awaits a decision. And even if he somehow skirts any harsh reprimand, his legacy can also change through time, whenever (and if) he makes it back. It is usually the late years that change these things, after all. Look, for instance, at both Silva and Emelianenko, both of which you named. These men were so great for so long, and yet we downgrade them for their failures as past-their-prime athletes. (Silva, too, it must be noted, may lose support based upon his own performance-enhancing drugs failure.)

There are surely complicated histories involved, but if you want to look past GSP and disqualify Jones from the argument, I think Emelianenko would be the pick. Small and undersized in a land of giants, he was for a time indestructible, a myth in human form who wrote one of MMA’s all-time storied win streaks. While his list of vanquished may not blow you away, the consistency he displayed throughout his prime in a sport full of traps remains nearly inconceivable.

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With the UFC’s middleweight division currently receiving as much attention as any time in previous years, Thiago “Marreta” Santos may be flying a little under the radar. But the Brazilian believes the UFC, at least, is paying attention.

“I’m very happy to be in the two greatest events this year – UFC 198 and UFC 200,” Santos told MMAjunkie. “I’m very happy that my work is being recognized and for this opportunity from the UFC. I also appreciate the fans’ support. It’s the fans who make the UFC pay attention to me.”

Santos was in action most recently at May’s UFC 198 event in Brazil, a record-breaking stadium show in Curitiba. The 32-year-old Santos scored an impressive first-round stoppage of Nate Marquardt at the event, extending his octagon winning streak to four fights.

But “Marreta” isn’t waiting long to get back to work. When Derek Brunson was injured and forced to withdraw from next week’s UFC 200 event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Santos (13-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) stepped in to face his biggest name to date, Gegard Mousasi (38-6-2 MMA, 5-3 UFC), who is currently ranked No. 9 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA middleweight rankings.

It’s a stiff challenge, especially on a little less than three weeks’ notice, but Santos said he’s more than prepared.

“I had already been watching his fights,” Santos revealed. “Actually, I watch all the fights in my weight class. I’d been watching him. He’s very complete and dangerous, both with his jiu-jitsu and striking. He is in no way to be underestimated.

“I had already been training all facets of MMA, so now I’m focusing on strategy. He likes to control the pace of the fight, so my objective is not to allow him to feel comfortable. I’ll fight my way and impose my rhythm.”

Santos, who recently has begun to split time training between Brazil and the U.S., wasn’t able to take advantage of that arrangement this time around. On short notice, Santos felt his time was best spent in one location, but with his last outing so closely in the rearview mirror, “Marreta” believes his preparation wasn’t impacted with limited options.

“There wasn’t enough time to travel to American Top Team, so I’m doing my work at my team, Tata Fight Team,” Santos said. “We’re also assisted by master Pedro Rizzo. We’re drawing up my strategy and tightening up my diet.

“I’m ready. I didn’t fight that long ago, so it’s just a matter of continuing to do the same things.”

Santos and Mousasi meet on the UFC Fight Pass-streamed prelims of an incredibly stacked UFC 200 card. Additional prelims then air on FOX Sports 1 before the main card shifts to pay-per-view.

Santos knows it’s a massive opportunity, and he appreciates the UFC bringing him from one blockbuster event to another.

“Thankfully, I’m in a good moment in my career,” Santos said. “I’m on a four-fight win streak in the UFC. This is an important transitional moment. I’m entering the rankings. I’m amongst the top fighters now, and I’m closer to fighting for the belt. I’m renewing my dedication after the opportunity materialized for this next fight. I’ll seize the moment. I expect to be victorious and continue my climb in the weight class.

“A lot of people feel I’m a future champion. I’m thankful for all the love I’ve received.”

For more on UFC 200, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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