VigilanteMMA Mount Rushmore Part 1 — Lightweights

Posted: August 13, 2013 in Commentary/Opinion, Top 10

my rushmoreThis is the first installment of a series of “Mount Rushmore” articles–one for each weight class. This will be much more enjoyable than the real Mount Rushmore because you don’t have to drive through North Dakota (or is it South Dakota?). Briefly, here are some of the parameters I used to determine who should be considered the ‘Big 4’ at their respective weight class. First, I’m looking at this from a historical perspective. So historical significance is weighted much more heavily than “Fighter X beat A, B and C” arguments. Titles and accolades obviously count; as does perception. If a fighter was considered the best in the world for a few years, he should be considered. I’d love to hear you arguments as well. It’s obvious my list is opinion based and has plenty of room for argument. So here is MY Mount Rushmore of the Lightweight division.

BJ Penn. Any lightweight historical honor has to begin with Penn. Although he’s fought at several weight classes, he’s most recognized as a true lightweight. In addition to holding the UFC LW title, he also held the welterweight belt, adding to his career impact. He has wins over celebrated lightweights Pulver, Gomi, Sherk, Florian and more. His list of accolades is a mile long. Some fans consider him an all-time great at any weight class. For this series, we’ll just call him the greatest lightweight.

Takanori Gomi. As a former world champion in Shooto and Pride, Gomi was considered the best lightweight in the world for an extended period of time. He not only won the LW title, but also captured the LW Grand Prix championship as well. Wins over Pulver, Kawajiri and Sakurai were among his highlights. He also holds the record for fastest knockout in Pride (6 seconds vs. Ralph Gracie.

Jens Pulver. Like the others before him, you should ignore Pulver’s recent record. With a career that started in 1999, he was a pioneer of sorts for smaller fighters. He was the very first UFC title holder in the division and preceded both Penn and Gomi as “best in the world” in the eyes of most fans. He is also credited for initiating the “sprawl and brawl” technique used by many top fighters even to this day.

Ben Henderson. Am I premature on this one? Probably. If Henderson loses to Anthony Pettis this month, I’ll most likely ask for a mulligan. But look at where he’s sitting now. He captured the WEC LW title, defended it twice, captured the UFC title, has defended it 3 times (so far) and even defeated the longtime Strikeforce champ in the process. He’s done a lot in a shorter period of time. One more win would secure the record for most UFC title defenses and justify my placement of him on this list.

Honorable mention

Sean Sherk. This guy has staying power. He’s managed to spread a career of well over a decade without damaging his reputation with unnecessary losses at the tail-end. A former UFC champ with success at welterweight, this guy was the real deal for a very long time. He’d likely still do some damage if he decided to step back into the cage.

Frankie Edgar. He pulled off one of the most shocking upsets in a title fight and then backed it up with an even more lopsided victory in the rematch. The theme of Edgar’s career has been the underdog who kept plugging away. While his title reign lasted five fights—a draw and a loss to Henderson cost him a spot in this list.

Shinya Aoki. A Japanese legend, Aoki has collected titles in Dream, One FC, Shooto, DEEP, and WAMMA. His submission game is believed to be second to none in history. Losses to Melendez and Alvarez in his attempts to transition to the U.S. are the only thing keeping him from our Mount Rushmore.

  1. […] Also check out our Mount Rushmore at Lightweight […]

  2. […] of MMA to determine the “Big 4” in each weight class. We’ve already manhandled both the Lightweight and Welterweight divisions with unbelievable grace. And today, we tackle the Middleweights. […]

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