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Five Best Light Heavyweights of All-Time


While the big boys at heavyweight get all of the attention, the light heavyweight (205lb) weight class has arguable housed the most talented fighters in the history of mixed martial arts.  They also contain some of the names that helped take the sport out of the shadows and into the mainstream; the biggest names and crossover stars that the sport has ever produced.  Movie stars.  TV stars.  Magazine cover subjects.  So compiling a list of the five best 205lbers of all-time is a daunting task – who do you leave off?  Our trusty voting panel of experts have done the hard work, and we present to you the five best that the light heavyweight class has ever offered.

Voting panel: Jeff Fox from The MMA Manifesto, hoops writer and MMA fan College Wolf from TWolvesBlog and some top performers from our MMA Pick ‘Em Contest, Dave Hunter, Chris McNaughton, Trifon Trivor and MMA Chiro.


Honourable Mention: Frank Shamrock, Quinton Jackson, Kazushi Sakuraba, Dan Henderson

5) Mauricio Rua


Record: 19-4
Light Heavyweight Titles Held: 2005 PRIDE Middleweight (205lbs) Grand Prix Tournament winner, UFC (2010 – present, no title defenses)
Notable Wins: Quinton Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem (twice), Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida

“Shogun is one of the few PRIDE guys who have come over to the UFC and actually performed at the same level.” – Jeff Fox

“Shaky UFC start, but now the Rua we all know.” – Chris McNaughton 

4) Tito Ortiz


Record: 15-8-1
Light Heavyweight Titles Held: UFC (2000-2003, five successful title defenses)
Notable wins: Guy Mezger, Wanderlei Silva, Ken Shamrock (three times), Vitor Belfort, Forrest Griffin

“Ortiz probably would have ended up higher on this list if he had hung them up years ago, considering the only person he’s beaten in the past five years is Ken Shamrock.  But in his prime he was a machine, successfully fending off challengers to his title five times.” – Jeff Fox
“How could you not put Ortiz on the list?  At the age of 25 he had the world in his hand as the UFC 205 champ…may i note that this is younger than Anderson Silva (31), the same age as Georges St. Pierre (25), and younger that BJ Penn (29)…our previous #1 picks for the Top 5’s of All-Time.  Over his 14 year career in the UFC, Ortiz has always been the “entertainer” amongst the roster, providing some interesting sound bites over the years while fighting pretty much every 205’er that the UFC has had in stock.  I would like to believe that if Ortiz even tried to make some changes to his game over the years he would have been more well rounded for the newer breed of MMA fighter that steps into the Octagon nowadays.  His recent slide includes a loss to his apprentice in TUF 3, a loss to the winner of TUF 1, Mr. Griffin, a loss to then up-and-comer Lyoto Machida, and a draw against a TUF 2 winner in Rashad Evans.  The fact that he’s lost to members from seasons of TUF 1-3 (two of which ended up preceding each other as champ) shows that Ortiz has been somewhat of a one-trick pony.  However, he remains a pioneer for wrestlers in MMA and the UFC.” – Dave Hunter

“Love him or hate him, one of the best at the ground and pound.” – Chris McNaughton

3) Randy Couture

couture vs ortiz

Record: 19-10
Light Heavyweight Titles Held: UFC (twice: 2003-2004, no successful title defenses; 2004-2005, no successful title defenses)
Notable wins :Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Vitor Belfort

“As funny as it sounds, considering his age, but Randy Couture still has time to improve his standing on this list.  A win over Lyoto Machida would definitely be a feather in his cap and possibly move him into title contention once more.” – Jeff Fox

“As a two-time champion and one-time interim champion, Couture has no doubt seen it all in his UFC career…and that’s not just because he is the oldest active UFC competitor coming in at 47 years of age.  Couture has no doubt contributed to the mainstream media push, enjoying memorable wars with the likes of Vitor Belfort, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz.  Couture was also one of the pioneers to usher in the world of wrestling into MMA and what we’ve come to know today.  His dominating control and ability to smother a fighter on the ground made for tough times for many fighters over the years.” – Dave Hunter

2) Wanderlei Silva

Record: 33-10-1-1
Light Heavyweight Titles Held: 2003 PRIDE Middleweight (205lbs) Grand Prix Tournament Winner, PRIDE Middleweight (205lb) Champion (2001-2007, four successful title defenses)
Notable wins: Guy Mezger, Dan Henderson, Kazushi Sakuraba (three times), Quinton Jackson (twice)

” A devastating, relentless striker, Wanderlei Silva is one of the most exciting and brutal fighters the sport has ever seen.  His knockout of Rampage Jackson at PRIDE 28 is one of the greatest of all-time.” – Jeff Fox
“Is there anyone with a better nickname than The Axe Murderer? …I think not.  As PRIDE’s Middleweight Champ (205 in UFC), Silva went on a tear from late 2000 to late 2004, posting a dominating 15-0-1 with 1 NC, with 13 wins coming by way of KO or TKO.  Silva was without a doubt the most dominating force coming from overseas that only diehard MMA fans had the chance to experience.  A wrecking ball that decimated anything in its path is pretty much the best way of describing Silva’s style in the ring or Octagon.  With his last submission win coming way back in January 2000, Silva doesn’t exactly work his ground game but instead gives the fans what they came to see…a brutal war with fists flying, more times than not ending in the Axe Murderers favour.  No one will ever be able to accomplish what Wanderlei Silva did in Japan in establishing MMA in the Eastern regions of the world.” – Dave Hunter

“The nickname says it all.” – Chris McNaughton
1) Chuck Liddell

liddell vs couture

Record: 21-8
Light Heavyweight Titles Held: UFC (2005-2007, four successful title defenses)
Notable wins: Guy Mezger, Vitor Belfort, Alistair Overeem, Tito Ortiz (twice), Randy Couture (twice), Wanderlei Silva

“If he had retired at the end of 2006, he would have left with a 20-3 record, which is incredible considering the level of competition he faced.  In fact, he beat every other guy on this top five list, save for Shogun Rua.” – Jeff Fox

“Now before anyone jumps on me and tries to drop me with a right or left hook of their own, reminding me of his not so terrific 1-5 record over his last six, with four being KO’s of the not so pleasant variety, hear a little history.  Liddell may have only been champ one time, however he did hold it for three years, in the process defeating the who’s-who of the MMA UFC dictionary, from Randy Couture (twice), Jeremy Horn, Renato Sobral and Tito Ortiz…none of which were slouches in their careers at the time.  However, for me, being #1 has to entail more than a fancy gold belt around your waist.  Since his inception to the UFC in mid-1998, Liddell has been one of, if not thee, person who is instrumental in bringing the UFC into the mainstream media come the early 2000’s.  I mean, who didn’t want to go home from work and watch a huge biker-like brawler with a mohawk and tattoos on his head pound the living daylights out of someone?  Liddell’s commitment to his fans was evident throughout his career, and no doubt his memorable wars will be etched in the minds of his fans for years to come.” – Dave Hunter

“Was once one of the most dominant.  Scary overhand right.” – Chris McNaughton

Previous “Five Best” Lists: Five Best Middleweights of All-Time,  Five Best Welterweights of All-Time, Five Best Lightweights of All-Time, Five Best Non-UFC Fighters, Five Best The Ultimate Fighter Casts.

About Jeff Fox

Jeff Fox is Mr. Manifesto - the Supreme Leader and evil mind behind The Hoops Manifesto, The MMA Manifesto, & A Dry Heat.

Five Best Light Heavyweights of All-Time

Honourable Mention: Demian Maia, Nate Marquardt, Chael Sonnen

5) Kazushi Sakuraba

Record: 26-14-3
Middleweight Titles Held: None
Notable Wins: Royce Gracie, Renzo Gracie

4) Jake Shields

Record: 25-4-1
Middleweight Titles Held: Strikeforce (2009-2010, one successful defense)
Notable wins: Yushin Okami, Robbie Lawler, Jason Miller, Dan Henderson

3) Dan Henderson

Record: 25-8
Middleweight Titles Held: PRIDE Welterweight (under 184lbs) (2005-2007, no defenses)
Notable wins: Renzo Gracie, Murilo Bustamante (twice), Michael Bisping

2) Rich Franklin

Record: 28-5-1
Middleweight Titles Held: UFC (2005-2006, two successful defenses)
Notable wins: Evan Tanner (twice), Yushin Okami

1) Anderson Silva

Record: 27-4
Middleweight Titles Held: Cage Rage (2004-2006, three successful defenses), UFC (2006-present, seven successful defenses)
Notable wins: Jeremy Horn, Rich Franklin (twice), Nate Marquardt, Dan Henderson 

Previous “Five Best” Lists: Five Best Middleweights of All-Time,  Five Best Welterweights of All-Time, Five Best Lightweights of All-Time, Five Best Non-UFC Fighters, Five Best The Ultimate Fighter Casts.

About Jeff Fox

Jeff Fox is Mr. Manifesto - the Supreme Leader and evil mind behind The Hoops Manifesto, The MMA Manifesto, & A Dry Heat.