Top 10 Brazilian UFC Stars
This weekend’s UFC 237 is the latest edition of what has become the UFC’s annual trek into Brazil on the Pay-Per-View stage. As usual there are some notable Brazilian stars to lead the way which got me thinking who are the best fighters from Brazil to ever fight in the UFC? There have been so many and it continues to be a hotbed of MMA talent. Some of the best MMA fighters of all time are on this top 10 list including Anderson Silva (who fights Jared Cannonier on Saturday) and Jose Aldo (who fights Alexander Volkanovski) and perhaps Jessica Andrade can force her way onto the list if she gets an impressive win over champion Rose Namajunas. Feel free to quibble with my placement and/or tell me who I’m missing on the BSL board here, but for now here is my list.
1. Anderson Silva – One of the greatest to ever step foot in the Octagon regardless of where they come from. He won his first 16 UFC fights, quickly winning the middleweight championship belt and defending it 10 times. That mark was the record for quite awhile until Demetrious Johnson dominated the flyweight division for years after it was created. The ‘Spider’ also went up to light heavyweight three times during that run, embarrassing the competition. He did all that while not making his UFC debut until he was already in his 30’s. At 38 he lost to Chris Weidman twice and is 1-5 with a NC since 2013. That no contest came after he defeated Nick Diaz by decision in the first fight following his broken leg in the second Weidman fight. He tested positive for PEDs while Diaz also tested positive but for marijuana. At 44 years old Silva is still a competitive fighter, even if he’ll never again contest for the belt, but his career helped set the bar for what it means to be dominant in MMA.
2. Jose Aldo – Speaking of dominance, Aldo is still the best featherweight fighter of all time despite two losses to the current 145 pound champ based on his track record. Similar to Silva he went on a long winning streak to start his UFC/WEC career, 15 to be exact. He won the title by beating Mike Brown and defended it nine times against very good competition. Uriah Faber, Chad Mendes twice, Frankie Edgar, Kenny Florian, Ricardo Lamas, the Korean Zombie. He has rebounded nicely the past couple years after getting knocked out by Conor McGregor and suffering two beatings from Max Holloway by knocking out Jeremy Stephens and Renato Moicano in his last two outings. He also dominated Edgar again over five rounds between those losses. He may have lost a mile per hour or two off his fastball and is talking about retiring soon but he is still one of the best pound for pound fighters in the sport to this day. If he beats Volkanovski this weekend he could be in line for another title shot, maybe having to beat one more top contender.
3. Royce Gracie – The Trailblazer. The UFC was essentially designed as a coming out party for the Gracie’s and their jujitsu and they couldn’t have picked a better representative to put it into practice for the world to see. Or maybe they could’ve, how the hell do I know, but Royce put on a clinic in each of the first four events in the company’s history going 11-0 (all via submission) and winning three tournaments. He didn’t fight much after he fought Ken Shamrock to a draw at UFC 5 and by the time he did get back in cage the sport had evolved to the point where he no longer had a huge advantage. Regardless, it wouldn’t be until Ronda Rousey burst onto the scene that we would see another string of submission dominance and that played out similarly over time as women’s MMA continues to grow. The Gracie’s have left their mark on the sport even if there hasn’t been another member of the family that had success in the UFC until Kron Gracie submitted Alex Caceres earlier this year. Plenty of great fighters have come out of their teachings, Brian Ortega is the first that comes to my mind.
4. Amanda Nunes – Nunes is the fighter who has done the most for her case lately. After her first round knockout of Cris ‘Cyborg’ to close out 2018 its very hard to argue that she isn’t the greatest female fighter of all time. Wins over ‘Cyborg’, Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, Germaine de Randamie, Julia Budd, and Valentina Shevchenko twice is an incredible resume. All former or current champions (Budd is Bellator’s female featherweight title holder) and some of the biggest names in WMMA. She has a fight lined up with Holly Holm in July. If she can claim another trophy with a win there and then beat ‘Cyborg’ again in a rematch she will definitely be higher on this list and would start to have an argument to be at or near the top of the all time pound for pound list. There have been rumblings that shes thinking about retiring in the near future which while it would be a shame, there would be no better way than to go out on top if she can accomplish her goals over the next couple fights.
5. Cris ‘Cyborg’ Justino – ‘Cyborg’ lost the first fight of her MMA career by submission but then rattled off 21 consecutive wins, 18 by knockout, until Amanda Nunes knocked her out at UFC 232. (Albeit one of those wins was overturned due to a positive test for PEDs.) Shes been a champion in four major organizations (UFC, Invicta, Strikeforce, and EliteXC) and is so dominant in her division that they had to constantly get creative to find compelling match-ups by bringing up bantamweights to fight her at 145 or have her try to cut down to a catch weight. It looks like she is going to get a re-match with Nunes at some point either later this year or early next year. If she can at least even up that series she could reclaim her spot at number four on this list. Even if she doesn’t she will still be one of the most intimidating fighters to stand in the cage with relative to weight class.
6. Junior Dos Santos – The best Brazilian heavyweight of all time burst onto the scene by knocking out the second best Brazilian heavyweight (Fabricio Werdum) in his UFC debut. He would go on to win his first nine UFC fights (seven by knockout) over strong competition such as Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovich, Roy Nelson, Frank Mir, and Cain Velasquez – who he knocked out on the first ever FOX TV card to win the heavyweight belt. He would go on to lose the belt back to Velasquez as well as their trilogy fight but has remained in the title picture to this day by going 6-3 over the five and a half years. Hes currently on a three fight winning streak and is scheduled to fight Francis Ngannou in July and with a win will most likely earn his fourth title shot since he lost his belt. JDS also just happens to be one of the nicest, most likable figures in the sport and is easy to root for.
7. Fabricio Werdum – The best jujitsu practitioner in heavyweight history, he is the only man to submit all time great Fedor Emelianenko as well as another top 10 heavyweight in Alistair Overeem. Werdum debuted in the UFC in 2007 but was cut after going 2-2. He went over to Strikeforce where he found some success (3-1 with his only loss to the aforementioned Overeem) but was brought back to the UFC when they bought out that organization. Upon his return he reeled off six straight wins, the last of which earned him the heavyweight belt when he submitted Cain Velasquez down in Mexico. As is common at heavyweight he lost the belt immediately the next time out to Stipe Miocic but was 3-2 since then until he failed a performance enhancing drug test earlier this year. Its hard to say how much that should hurt him on a list like this since USADA didn’t come around until fairly recently and its hard to say who was using before then or even how accurate their tests are.
8. Lyoto Machida – If you rewind back to 2009 there would be a lot of people who would be shocked at this low of a placement for Machida. One of those people would be UFC color commentator Joe Rogan who pronounced we were in the ‘Machida Era’ after he knocked out Rashad Evans at UFC 98. Later that year he would defend the title against Shogun Rua in a controversial decision. That win ran his record to 16-0, 8-0 in the UFC, with wins against notable names like Stephan Bonnar, Rich Franklin, BJ Penn, Tito Ortiz, Evans, and Rua. Since 2010 he is 9-8 including a first round knockout at the hands of Rua in an immediate title rematch. To be fair he continued to fight the best of the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions with wins over Randy Couture, Ryan Bader, Dan Henderson, Gegard Mousasi, and Vitor Belfort. His losses include Chris Weidman (in a middleweight title fight), Jon Jones, Luke Rockhold, Yoel Romero, ‘Rampage’ Jackson, and Phil Davis. Hes currently on a three fight winning streak and is set to fight Chael Sonnen over in Bellator in July. A win there would presumably set him up for a title shot so he still has a chance to move himself up a couple of notches on this list.
9. Demian Maia – Speaking of the greatest jujitsu practitioners in MMA history… (we were talking about that at some point right?) Maia has to be one of the most unassuming great fighters in the sport. He started his career at middleweight and earned his way to a title shot against Anderson Silva. He didn’t stand a chance in that fight but he did end up going 9-4 in the UFC at 185 pounds before dropping down to welterweight. He went 10-2 in his first 12 fights at 170 pounds with his only losses coming to Rory MacDonald and Jake Shields. That would earn him his second title shot this time against Tyron Woodley. Unfortunately for him it was a similar story as his first one, not very competitive. He was on a three fight winning streak and some wondered if he was coming to the end of his career at 40 years old. But those three fights were against the three best wrestlers in the division and he bounced back with a submission victory over Lyman Good in February. He has nine submission wins in the UFC (13 overall) and could conceivably compete at a high level for at least another couple years.
10. Vitor Belfort – ‘The Young Dinosaur’ made his UFC debut all the way back at UFC 12 in 1997. He went 5-1 in that initial run with the organization only losing to Randy Couture. He went over to Pride, came back to the UFC, and then bounced around from organizations (Pride again, Strikeforce, Affliction, Cage Rage) for a few years before finally settling back in with the UFC for the tail end of his career. His final record in the UFC was 15-10-1 NC. He lost all three of the title fights he was in post-2010 to Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, and Chris Weidman in that order. I’ll always remember him as the fighter who was affected the most after USADA came into the picture. In 2013 he went on a three fight winning streak, brutally knocking out Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, and Dan Henderson while looking like a body builder. He got his title shot against Weidman two years later and looked like a shell of himself. From that point on he was essentially 2-4 with all four losses via knockout (the one at the hands of Kelvin Gastelum was overturned due to a positive marijuana test). He retired after his loss to Lyoto Machida but recently announced he has signed on to fight for ONE Championship.
Honorable Mentions – Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Wanderlei Silva
An auxiliary member of the MMAJA, Bob used to run the baseball blog 'The Oriole Report' before transitioning to podcasting about movies, TV, Video Games, and MMA. 'The Redbox Report' movie podcast was started in 2013 followed by 'The Redbelt Report' MMA podcast in 2016. In 2018 they were merged into 'Phelan to Communicate', a podcast that can be found on iTunes and a blog that can be found at http://PhelanToCommunicate.wordpress.com. Bob has also written for Konsume.com and BaltimoreSportsReport.com and delivers mail for a living in Baltimore County. Follow him on Twitter @PhelanToTweet.