Masters of the Octagon: The Top 5 Pound-For-Pound UFC Athletes

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The term “pound-for-pound” carries a significant importance in the electrifying world of mixed martial arts (MMA). It not only signifies that a fighter is the best in their particular weight class but that the sport’s experts believe they are the best of the best. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is just one combat sport that utilizes pound-for-pound rankings. In this article, we dive into today’s top five pound-for-pound UFC athletes and what makes them masters of the Octagon.

Pound-for-pound rankings are important in the UFC because they indicate who is the best fighter overall. There are some supremely talented lightweights, but they can never step into the Octagon with a heavyweight, as it would be a significant mismatch and a one-sided affair. The UFC’s rankings allow fans and athletes to see which brave warriors would be the best if they all weighed the same and, therefore, were able to grapple one another under the bright lights and in front of the pay-per-view television cameras.

1. Jon Jones: The Controversial Heavyweight

Jon “Bones” Jones is an iconic figure in the UFC, and his name is synonymous with dominance in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Jones’ unparalleled grappling skills, combined with his unorthodox striking style and ability to adapt to his opponent’s strengths and exploit their weaknesses, made him virtually unbeatable in his prime. While Jones would be a heavy underdog with those who bet on boxing at online sportsbooks if he ever followed in Francis Ngannou‘s footsteps and took on a professional boxer, there is no denying Jones is an incredible mixed martial artist who strikes fear into his opponents.

Jones’ reign as UFC Light heavyweight champion was historic. He successfully defended his title a record-breaking 11 times, including against the likes of Daniel Cormier, Rampage Jackson, and Lyoto Machida. Nobody has managed to stop nor outscore Jones during his professional career, with his only defeat coming via a controversial disqualification against Matt Hamill.

Controversy seems to follow Jones around, and he has faced several legal issues during his career, along with failing drug tests. However, after leaving the UFC in February 2020, Jones returned in March 2023 as a Heavyweight. On his debut in that weight category, he defeated Ciryl Game with a first-round submission to win the vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship.

2. Alexander Volkanovski: The Featherweight Phenom

Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski is an Australian native who continues dominating the UFC’s featherweight division. Volkanovski may only stand at 5ft 6in tall, but he packs immense power and speed into his slight frame, and his record of 26 wins and only two defeats speaks for itself.

UFC experts and fans already knew Volkanovski was a formidable athlete before he stepped into the Octagon with the legendary Max Holloway at UFC 245 in December 2019. The duo fought for the UFC Featherweight Championship in Las Vegas, and Volkanovski came out on top to become the champion. A rematch seven months later also went Volkanovski’s way, and he showed incredible fight IQ and adaptability during those two clashes to solidify his position as an elite-level fighter.

3. Islam Makhachev: The Rising Star of the UFC

Islam Makhachev hails from Dagestan, Russia, and is a rising star in the Lightweight division of the UFC. The legendary Khabib Nurmagomedov trained Makhachev, which shows in the Russian’s phenomenal wrestling and grappling skills. Once Makhachev takes down an opponent, it is unlikely they can escape. Indeed, 11 of Makhachev’s 24 victories stem from submissions.

Makhachev made his UFC debut in May 2015 when he submitted Leo Kuntz. Adriano Martins knocked out the Russian three months later, which left many people wondering if he had a career in the UFC, especially as his initial contract was only for four fights. Any doubts were soon quashed when Makhachev embarked on a ten-fight winning streak, including victories over Drew Dober and Thiago Moises.

His continued form earned Makhachev a UFC Lightweight Championship shot in October 2022. He took on Charles Oliveira in Abu Dhabi and became champion of the lightweight division following a second-round submission.

Makhachev wasted little time defending his title because he faced Alexander Volkanovsky in Perth, Australia, in February 2023, where he came out on top by unanimous decision.

4. Leon Edwards: Quietly and Efficiently Climbing the Ranks

Leon Edwards is a 32-year-old British UFC fighter and the reigning UFC Welterweight Champion, having captured the title in August 2020. Edwards joined the UFC in 2014, but two defeats in his first four fights left significant question marks about his ability to reach the top.

Kamaru Usman inflicted the second defeat on Edwards, doing so by unanimous decision. Usman was the last person to beat Edwards, so it was fitting that Edwards and Usman stood toe-to-toe for the Welterweight title in August 2022. Edwards became world champion after a spectacular head kick knocked out Usman. Seven months later, the duo locked horns in a rematch, and Edwards successfully defended his title with a majority decision victory.

5. Israel Adesanya: The Assassin of the Middleweight Division

Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya is one of the most popular UFC athletes, thanks partly to his unique fighting style. Adesanya comes from a boxing and kickboxing background, but the Nigeria-born UFC legend has extensive knowledge of various martial arts, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. “The Last Stylebender” combines several martial arts to land precise strikes that leave spectators in awe and his opponents bamboozled.

Adesanya won the interim UFC Middleweight Championship in April 2019 after defeating Kelvin Gastelum in Atlanta, Georgia. He won and unified the championship by knocking out Robert Whittaker with a flurry of punches in the second round of their fight in October 2019.

Five successful middleweight title defenses followed before Alex Pereira defeated Adesanya at UFC 281 in November 2022; Pereira was the first person to stop Adesanya at middleweight. A rematch followed in April 2023, and Adesanya got his revenge with a knockout in the second round, the 16th of his career, to get his hands back on the UFC Middleweight Championship belt.

In conclusion, these fighters represent the very best the UFC has to offer, and each showcases their skills, determination, and ability to overcome challenges. Watch their every move in the Octagon because you will witness greatness in the making.


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