If you were to ask the majority of MMA fans which fighter is closest to being perfect, they’d probably say Jon Jones, GSP and Demetrious Johnson. And on the women’s side of things Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko. Taking six important aspects of MMA, I’ll be building the ‘perfect’ MMA fighter. (active fighters only)
Fight IQ is pivotal in MMA, it’s not just cage fighting. There are so many different reads and angles that fighters need to figure out mid-fight. If a strategy isn’t working, having the fight IQ to level change or switch stance could change the complexion of a fight completely. Also, with good fight IQ a fighter can predict when an attack is coming from an opponent by analysing their previous movements. If I was to pick a fighter that has elite level IQ, I’d have to say Jon Jones. His ability to read his opposition is incredible and we rarely see him get rocked or knocked down because his ability to evade strikes due to those reads. Also, when he’s in trouble, like against Thiago Santos and Dom Reyes he’ll find a way to win. Against Santos it was beating up the leg and against Reyes it was a couple of takedowns that won him rounds to retain his title.
Honourable Mentions: Gegard Mousasi, Robert Whittaker, Israel Adesanya
Wrestling is another vital aspect of MMA, especially defensive wrestling. There have been brilliant stand up fighters that can’t wrestle and that’s ruined their chances of being a champion. Being able to take an opponent down is important because it gives them something else to fear other than the hands and feet. We’ve had so many terrific wrestlers retire recently (Khabib, Henry Cejudo and Daniel Cormier) which leaves me to pick UFC Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. The way he’s able to control a man on the ground for 25 minutes is scary. When he dominated Tyron Woodley to become champion, T-Wood had a takedown defence percentage of 94%. I don’t think there’s anyone that is close to Usman in terms of wrestling ability right now.
Honourable Mentions: Islam Makhachev, Colby Covington, Jon Jones
Having an opponent on the ground is brilliant, however grabbing a submission to finish the fight is even better. There are so many brilliant jiu-jitsu practitioners in the world that’s it’s hard to choose who’s the best. I’m going with Shinya Aoki. The two time ONE Championship lightweight champion is a master on the ground with 30 submission victories in 47 wins. He has smooth transitions from submission to submission and if he gets hold of a limb, more likely than not it’s going to result in a tap.
Honourable Mentions: Demian Maia, Kron Gracie, Nate Diaz
The fight starts on the feet, so it’s pretty important to be able to strike with an opponent because an early takedown can be easily telegraphed if a fighter doesn’t have hands. Prime example is Ben Askren vs Jorge Masvidal. When it comes to the best technical striker in the world right now, although he lost to Jan Blachowicz, I’ve got to back Israel Adesanya. He’s magical on the feet. The way he dispatched of Paulo Costa and Robert Whittaker showed a masterclass on the feet. The control of range, feints, the illusive movements sets him apart from the rest of the field in my opinon
Honourable Mentions: Giga Chikadze, Max Holloway, Stephen Thompson, (Michael Page?)
I think explosive strength is extremely important in MMA. With it, a fighter can get a flash KO, hold a submission extremely tightly or explode to get up from bottom position on the ground. When it comes to this category, I’m going to look at it pound-for-pound but even then Francis Ngannou takes this. Ngannou can knock anyone out. His explosive strength/power got him a nasty KO against Rozenstruik where he didn’t even bother to use any technique. When it comes to this, no one comes close.
Honourable Mentions: Kamaru Usman, Deiveson Figueiredo, Anthony Johnson
If you can’t eat a punch you’re screwed in the fight game. It doesn’t matter how good you are at anything else, if you get touched and KO’d you can’t make it in the sport. There are so many solid chins in MMA but when it comes to the greatest right now, I’d have to say Nate Diaz. For the amount of headshots he takes each fight, the fact he’s only been finished in the fight once (Masvidal was Dr stoppage) is crazy. Especially as he loses vast amounts of blood every time he fights due to his poor scar tissue, which leaves him with less oxygen going to the head. I would’ve picked Jon Jones but the reason he doesn’t get rocked is because of his fight IQ and illusive movement so he doesn’t get hit as much as Nate does.
Honourable Mentions: Jon Jones, Max Holloway, Tony Ferguson