Sherdog’s Top 10: Greatest Middleweights

Top 10

Welcome again folks, this time to Sherdog’s list of the 10 greatest middleweights ever. It was compiled based on a weighted poll of 12 Sherdog contributors, and I will note where my own views deviated considerably from the consensus. Personally, though, the appeal of any such list is not the exact order or who was included or excluded but the actual discussion of each entry. Anyone can come up with a list with no further commentary, and it is no more “right” than another. However, the best such lists have entertaining and informative explanations, which is the goal I hope to accomplish.

A word about criteria: The main measure for this list was greatness for one’s era and how long that era lasted. Ranking historical fighters based on who would beat whom does not make sense since the sport keeps improving and evolving. If this was purely based on who would win against the others most of the time, current Bellator MMA champion Johnny Eblen would crack the Top 5 and make mincemeat of actual inclusions like Michael Bisping, Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson 10 times out of 10. However, that makes little sense, as it does not take historical context into account. Nevertheless, older fighters get docked for how uncompetitive their division was at the time. There were few decent fighters in the 1990s when compared to even the 2000s, let alone today.

The light heavyweight greats who received at least one vote from the panel but not quite enough to break the Top 10 were Yoel Romero and Murilo Bustamante. Now to the list:

10. Ronaldo Souza

Souza is one of the unsung legends of mixed martial arts. Starting out as merely one of the greatest Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners of all-time with outstanding wrestling, to boot, Souza developed good striking and scored a number of impressive knockouts. In his prime, he was virtually unbeatable but never received a shot at the UFC middleweight crown, though he did enjoy a stint as 185-pound champion in Strikeforce. During the peak of his powers, Souza defeated Jason Miller, submitted Matt Lindland, dominated Joey Villasenor and Tim Kennedy, submitted Robbie Lawler, knocked out Derek Brunson twice, knocked out Yushin Okami, submitted Gegard Mousasi and knocked out Vitor Belfort. Souza’s quest for the UFC championship hit a major road block when he dropped a questionable split decision to Yoel Romeroone that most observers had going the Brazilian’s way. If that had been counted as a victory, Souza would have had a six-year, 11-fight winning streak against a daunting series of legends, world champions and top contenders. Two years later, the Brazilian, at 37 years old, lost by knockout to a surging Robert Whittaker.

Even past his prime, Souza recorded a nice knockout of Chris Weidman, and in my opinion and many others, including one cageside judge, he beat Jan Blachowicz at 205 pounds. Blachowicz would become the UFC light heavyweight champion a few fights later. No “Jacare” victory was more impressive to me than his triumph over Gegard Mousasi. Against an easy Top 5 middleweight still in the prime of his own career, Souza’s irresistible blend of grappling and striking was overwhelming, with the great Mousasi reduced to a hapless victim that could generate no offense of his own. Honestly, on that night, I believe Souza could have beaten a prime Israel Adesanya and a prime Anderson Silva, too.

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