VigilanteMMA Mount Rushmore, Part 3 — Middleweights

Posted: September 5, 2013 in Commentary/Opinion
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my rushmoreWe’re working our way through the various divisions 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. Remember, we look at these selections from a historical perspective–the fighters’ accomplishments inside the cage/ring as well as the mark they made on the sport. It isn’t always about X beat Y; or career records. We’re also looking for comments. There’s nothing better than a good debate.

Anderson Silva. Is there an easier choice at this weight class? Perhaps the greatest ever in any division, The Spider has become the gold standard for excellence in this sport. He FINALLY lost his first UFC bout after almost seven years of perfection. He’s one of those guy who are seemingly so dominant that people stop talking about his accomplishments and start analyzing his VERY few mistakes instead, as though they were just some kind of rumor or old wives’ tale. If you ever forget just how good Silva can be, just take a look what he did when he moved up a weight class to destroy and humiliate former LHW champ Forrest Griffin.

Dan Henderson. Although later in his career, “Hendo” preferred to fight at 205 pounds, much of his success actually came at 185 in both Pride and UFC. It’s almost forgotten that he was the winner of the UFC 17 middleweight tournament—the last such tournament ever held in the UFC. Among his accomplishments were Pride Grand Prix titles as well as world championships in multiple divisions—most relevant in this case the Pride welterweight title (185 pounds). Perhaps most remarkable about Henderson’s career is that it spanned (and continues to span) such a long period of time. He’s fought champions at least three different weight classes and never seemed outmatched, despite being outsized in his openweight battles. While Randy Couture is the poster boy for long, prosperous careers, Henderson’s may be more impressive.

Rich Franklin. Today, Franklin is sadly viewed as “the company man” for his willingness to step into the cage whenever he’s needed; but he’s so much more than that. When you toss around “what if” scenarios, try this one…”what if” Anderson Silva didn’t enter the UFC? We might be talking about “Ace” as the greatest ever. When Silva defeated Franklin for the UFC title, Ace was an amazing 21-1 with the only blemish being a loss to future LHW champ Lyoto Machida at heavyweight (214 pounds). Like the others on this list, he fought in multiple divisions with success, but his best work was undoubtedly at middleweight.

Kazushi Sakuraba. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of Sakuraba’s career is that he only left Japan once, preventing many American fans from being too familiar with the all-time great. While he had wins over the likes of Rampage Jackson, Ken Shamrock, Vitor Belfort and others, the defining moment was his historic victory over legend Royce Gracie in 2000. That epic battle lasted 90 minutes until Sakuraba became the first man to ever defeat Gracie. Had weight classes been more prevalent in the early days of MMA, Sakuraba would have likely been even more dominant. Many of his fights were against much larger legends such as Wanderlei Silva, Cro Cop, Minotauro Nogueira and Vovchanchyn. But his place among the sport’s greats has been cemented.

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Lightweight Mount Rushmore

Welterweight Mount Rushmore

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