The past 10 years have been huge for the still-young sport of Mixed Martial Arts.
Since 2010, MMA has continued its global expansion into new territories and the mainstream media. Many fighters have shone over the past decade, but a select few have helped take the sport to the next level.
Here’s our list of the best five fighters of between 2010-2019.
#5. Georges St Pierre
Despite only fighting seven times during the decade, Georges ‘Rush’ St Pierre makes the list. This is testament to what he achieved despite limited octagon time. The Canadian started the decade with a fourth defense of his UFC welterweight title. He would go on to make five additional defences of his belt against Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields, Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz and Johnny Hendricks.
An absolute who’s who of not just the 170lb division, but the sport as a whole. After scraping by prime Hendricks, he announced his temporary retirement from the sport. Four years later, he returned to the UFC looking to cement his legacy by claiming a second belt against Michael Bisping at middleweight. After a back and forth bout, GSP emerged victorious and even picked up his first stoppage win in eight years.
Unbeaten for the entire decade and held two belts. Of course, he makes the list, it’s just a shame he didn’t fight more. If he did, he could have topped this list. Prehaps we’ll see him fight again in 2020, the MMA legend has been chasing a fight with undefeated lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
#4. Daniel Cormier
The 40-year-old only made his MMA debut a few months before the decade began. Since then, he has amassed a record of 22-2 (1NC) and became one of the sports standout stars.
Daniel Cormier first burst onto the scene by claiming an upset win of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand-Prix by beating Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva and former UFC champion Josh Barnett. Since joining the UFC, he has beat almost every elite level fighter they have put in front of him: Frank Mir, Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, Alexander Gustafsson, Stipe Miocic and Anthony Johnson (TWICE).
During his epic 10-year run, he has held the light-heavyweight and heavyweight titles simultaneously, becoming just the second fighter to ever do so. Cormier almost had perhaps the greatest rivalry in MMA history with Jon Jones, who also makes this list.
He is certainly one of the best to ever do it, and its not over yet.
#3. Jon Jones
Away from the controversies and out-of-octagon antics, Jon Jones has enjoyed a perfect 10 years inside the cage. In 16 fights, he has picked up 16 wins which all have come against top-level competition.
His decade began by wiping out the old guard at 205lbs. Firstly, capturing the title against Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua before beating Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort. Then came the new guard, who were also handily dealt with by ‘Bones’: Alexander Gustafsson (TWICE), Glover Teixeira, Daniel Cormier, Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos all fell during his second stint as UFC light heavyweight champion.
He sits at third in this list, but could easily have topped it, if he just been able to avoid the various disruptions to his career.
#2. Conor McGregor
The 31-year-old Irishman has taken the sport to the next level over the past 10 years. ‘Notorious’ started the decade competing on London-based MMA promotion Cage Warriors, where he became a dual weight champion before making his way to UFC. Once there, his rise to the top was meteoric.
Conor McGregor’s level of trash talking and mental warfare was unheard of and it only added to his world class performances. Beyond the talk and the money, McGregor actually backed everything up in the cage. Wins over Max Holloway, Dustin Poirier, Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo make up his dominant run at featherweight. Before an ambitious jump to welterweight saw him set PPV records with Nate Diaz as they twice went to war.
His biggest achievement though, was becoming the first-ever UFC champion to hold two belts at the same time. McGregor destroyed Eddie Alvarez to capture the lightweight title which propelled him to superstardom. Almost four years later he has earned $100m for a boxing bout and appears to be semi-retired at this point, although he’ll make his long-awaited return to the cage in less than a month’s time.
Perhaps he can get his mojo back in 2020 and the years ahead.
#1. Ronda Rousey
The first-ever women’s UFC champion managed to fit her entire MMA career into just half of the last decade. Between 2011 and 2016 Ronda Rousey incited true change to the sport.
Dana White was on record as saying women will never fight in the UFC and that would likely still be the case today if ‘Rowdy’ hadn’t changed his mind. Six straight armbar wins got everyone’s attention and earned Rousey the Strikeforce bantamweight title. Once in the UFC, she got six more wins with all six coming inside the scheduled distance. It went wrong towards the end with an upset win by Holly Holm and an ill-advised comeback against Amanda Nunes, but Rousey in her prime was a truly great fighter: Julia Budd, Meisha Tate (TWICE), Liz Carmouche, Sara McMann, Cat Zingano and Bethe Correia all fell to peak Rousey.
Today, we enjoy elite-level women’s fights every week. The careers of Joanna Jedrzechyck, Rose Namajunas, Jessica Andrade and any other female fighter is in part due to Rousey blazing the trail. She is undoubtedly the fighter of the decade for everything she has accomplished inside and outside of the cage.
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The Scrap’s Jordan Ellis of Liverpool, UK is a lifelong fight fan and aspiring writer. Covering all things MMA and Boxing, you can follow him on Twitter (@JordanEllisUK) for daily fight news and content.