He was the prototype, a forerunner to great welterweights who would follow in his footsteps, from Georges St. Pierre and Tyron Woodley to Rory MacDonald, Robbie Lawler and Carlos Condit.
Matt Hughes retired on Jan. 24, 2013, leaving behind a legacy that was as full as any in mixed martial arts history. A two-time Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder at 170 pounds, the Hillsboro, Illinois, native finished with a 45-9 record that included an 18-7 mark inside the Octagon. A longtime protégé and confidant of fellow UFC hall of famer Pat Miletich, Hughes made what would be his final appearance at UFC 135 in September 2011, when he was knocked out by Josh Koscheck before 16,344 fans at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Prior to making the transition to MMA, he was a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler at Eastern Illinois University, where he twice finished in the top 10 nationally.
In a career that spanned 54 fights and more than 13 years, Hughes amassed plenty of compelling statistical data:
6: UFC champions he defeated. They are St. Pierre, Matt Serra, B.J. Penn, Sean Sherk, Carlos Newton (twice) and Dave Menne.
8: Men other than Hughes who have captured the UFC welterweight crown. They are Newton, Penn, St. Pierre, Serra, Miletich, Woodley, Lawler and Johny Hendricks.
14: Career wins by submission. Hughes posted three victories by rear-naked choke, three by armbar, three by arm-triangle choke, two by keylock, one by anaconda choke, one by kimura and one by guillotine choke.
15: Submissions attempted in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, per FightMetric. Only five welterweights in history have tried more: Chris Lytle (31), Matt Brown (24), St. Pierre (23), T.J. Waldburger (19) and Martin Kampmann (17).
18: UFC victories. Though Hughes retired more than four years ago, the number still ranks fifth on the promotion’s all-time list behind only Michael Bisping (20), St. Pierre (19), Donald Cerrone (19) and Demian Maia (19).
25: Opponents he stopped inside one round. His list of victims includes St. Pierre, Ricardo Almeida, Royce Gracie and Frank Trigg (twice).
37: Combined seconds it took Dennis Hallman to defeat Hughes in their two head-to-head meetings. Hallman submitted Hughes with a standing guillotine in 17 seconds at an Extreme Challenge event on Oct. 17, 1998 and tapped him with an armbar in 20 seconds at UFC 28 on Dec. 16, 2000. Hallman is one of three fighters -- Penn and St. Pierre are the others -- who beat Hughes twice.
52: Percentage of significant strikes landed in UFC competition, making him the statistically the fifth-most accurate welterweight striker in the history of the organization behind Matt Brown (54.0), St. Pierre (53.3), Nordine Taleb (53.0) and Alan Jouban (52.7).
78: Percentage of career wins that have resulted in a knockout, technical knockout or submission. Hughes sports 35 finishes among his 45 professional victories.
1,577: Days as the undisputed UFC welterweight champion. Only St. Pierre (2,204) has spent more time at the top of the 170-pound weight class.