For decades, combat sports observers have attempted to pin a Best Pound-For-Pound Fighter label on someone. Whether it was Tyson in his heyday, Roy Jones in numerous weight classes – hell, even wrestling has its supermatch arguments – fans have wanted to crown one fighter as the best. It’s the same for MMA, with even more heated debate as the UFC now dwarfs boxing in popularity.
Who is the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet? There is art and science in our list, and some good ol’ down-home opinion based on what fight fan Justin Hartling sees in the Octagon. See the OddsShark Pound-For-Pound Rankings below and watch for updates.
1. Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1)
There is no more technically perfect fighter in MMA today than Demetrious Johnson. He’s able to move and exploit angles like few fighters have ever been able to do in combat sports. With his hard-fought victory over Tim Elliott at the TUF Finale, Johnson has now defended his strap nine times.
Johnson has defeated all comers and none of them have come close to slowing him down. ‘Mighty Mouse’ has lost only one fight in the UFC and that was back in 2011 when he fought Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight title.
2. Jon Jones (22-1)
No doubt about it, Jon Jones is one of the greatest fighters ever. ‘Bones’ has been damn near unbeatable, with his one career loss coming from a DQ against Matt Hamill in 2009. Jones had defended his light heavyweight title eight consecutive times, which is the most in divisional history – before he was stripped due to legal problems.
Jones was expected to challenge for the light heavyweight belt at UFC 200, but he was pulled from the event after being informed by the USADA of a potential doping violation. After fighting the allegations, Jones was suspended for a year dating until July 2017.
There is no doubt of Jones’ skill, but his conduct away from the sport has hurt his status.
3. CONOR MCGREGOR (21-3)
Since landing in the Octagon three years ago, Conor McGregor went from a relative unknown to the most popular fighter on the planet. Some people want to discredit his fighting abilities because he talks shit, but he backs it up better than anyone else.
McGregor became the first fighter to ever hold two UFC belts simultaneously when he defeated Eddie Alvarez to claim the lightweight gold at UFC 205. There is no fighter on the planet who has such proven success at multiple weight classes and he has done so by absolutely dominating elite-level opponents.
4. Daniel Cormier (19-1)
Daniel Cormier has proven his remarkable abilities at both heavyweight and light heavyweight while picking up wins against some of the biggest names in the sport today. Cormier has translated his Olympic-caliber wrestling skills to MMA and has shown time and time again that he is able to control almost every fighter on the planet.
The lone blemish on his record is a loss to rival Jon Jones – which sadly may never be redeemed with Jones’ suspension.
5. JOSE ALDO (26-2)
Conor McGregor’s 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo hurt the long-tenured featherweight champion, but ‘Scarface’ is still one of the best on the planet. Aldo got counterpunched perfectly, but more than anything he looked like he was full of nervous energy during the walkouts and fighter introductions.
There still may be no better fighter in the world when it comes to endurance or stamina. Since joining the UFC, Aldo has won six of his fights by decision, all of which were five-rounders. If there was any doubt about ‘Scarface’ following his loss to McGregor, it was obliterated with his UFC 200 victory over Frankie Edgar.
6. Cody Garbrandt (11-0)
Cody Garbrandt has taken the MMA world by storm and has gone from little-known prospect to UFC bantamweight champion within two years. ‘No Love’ has power well beyond his weight and has proven that his extensive boxing background makes him one of the deadliest strikers in the game. Add to that his all-state high school wrestling pedigree and Garbrandt has the tools to hold the 135 belt for a long time.
The scariest part about Garbrandt? He is just 25 years old and has fought just 11 pro MMA fights. There is no doubt that he should just get better and better in the years to come.
7. Dominick Cruz (22-2)
Despite huge layoffs due to multiple injuries, Cruz rode a 13-fight winning streak with wins over Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez (twice), Urijah Faber (twice) and Demetrious Johnson to the bantamweight title in 2016. Cruz has proven to be a ghost in the Octagon as his footwork has made him nearly unhittable. A tight win over T.J. Dillashaw cemented his status as the top 135-er on the planet.
Cruz looked noticeably slower in his loss to Cody Garbrandt, but one subpar fight is not enough to drop ‘The Dominator’ too far. Until proven otherwise, Cruz is still one of the best and most intelligent fighters on the planet.
8. Stipe Miocic (17-2)
Stipe Miocic proved to be one of the best strikers in the world when he knocked out Fabricio Werdum in the first round to claim the UFC heavyweight championship. However, the former Golden Gloves winner is more than just a boxer, as he mixes precision strikes with an amazing wrestling pedigree – he is a former NCAA Division I wrestler.
Stipe is 5-1 in his past six bouts with four victories coming within the first round and the lone loss being a five-round decision to Junior dos Santos. Miocic’s ability to dictate the pace of the fight by utilizing his length or defensive wrestling ability is unmatched in the heavyweight division.
9. T.J. DILLASHAW (14-3)
Ever since being thrust into the main event of UFC 173 to compete for the bantamweight title, T.J. Dillashaw has looked amazing. His mixture of aggression and Octagon control has proven he deserves to be looked at as one of the world’s best, especially with two wins against previous P4P king Renan Barao. Dillashaw has parted ways with Team Alpha Male to train in Colorado with Elevation Fight Team after splitting his past fight camps between the two.
Dillashaw may have lost his bantamweight title to Cruz, but it was far from a beating. Dillashaw proved that he deserves to be among the elite fighters in the world and an immediate rematch would be fun to see.
10. Tyron Woodley (17-3-1)
Tyron Woodley has one of the most powerful right hands in the sport. ‘The Chosen One’ is extremely athletic and is able to pair the power in his hands with a quickness not expected for a man of his build. Woodley is also an accomplished collegiate wrestler who is able to dictate a fight in the grappling department, though he has used this more defensively to capitalize on his powerful hands.
If he is able to defeat Stephen Thompson in their inevitable rematch or Michael Bisping in a potential superfight, Woodley will cement himself in the eyes of many as one of the best in the world.
On The Cusp
Georges St-Pierre: We simply don’t know what to expect from GSP when he eventually makes his return to the Octagon but if it’s anything like his old self, he will be on this list again.
Khabib Nurmagomedov: Nobody doubts Nurmy’s prowess inside the Octagon, but weight cutting issues and injuries have made his appearances few and far between.
Frankie Edgar: The perpetually underrated Edgar proved he is still one of the elite fighters on the planet by destroying Yair Rodriguez at UFC 211.
Luke Rockhold: It wasn’t Rockhold’s skill that failed him against Michael Bisping, it was his ego. If Rockhold can come back motivated, he has the rounded skill set to dominate a deadly middleweight division.