The next entry in the GOAT series tackles who is the best light heavyweight of all time.
Reigning UFC champion Jon Jones, MMA legend Chuck Liddell, former champion Rashad Evans and Bellator fighter Lyoto Machida are all credible options for the best light heavyweight of all time.
Jon Jones (24-1, 1 NC)
Jon ‘Bones’ Jones is widely recognised by many MMA fans as the greatest MMA fighter of all time. The pound-for-pound king rules the light heavyweight division with an iron fist. Jones has beaten the likes of Daniel Cormier, Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Mauricio Rua, Vitor Belfort and Ryan Bader.
Fighting out of Jackson-Wink MMA and trained by submission specialist Greg Jackson, Jones is the youngest champion in UFC history. The highly talented athlete has an incredible arsenal of offensive and defensive techniques. Jones usually has a height and reach advantage over his opponents and so his extraordinary reach allows the striking specialist to land nasty elbows and control the distance. Jones is comfortable in the clinch or at the fence as well and he uses his frame in the clinch to unload Muay Thai shots at close range. Jones quickly closes the distance with short punches and sets the rhythm of the fight with oblique kicks to the legs and body shots.
‘Bones’ is also known for his ‘dirty’ (but perfectly legal) grappling tricks like his savage shoulder cranks. The slick submission artist pummels his opponents with brutal ground-and-pound while his impressive wrestling defence allows Jones to threaten chokes from stand-up, notably submitting Lyoto Machida via a standing guillotine at UFC 140.
A teammate of female MMA legend Holly Holm, Jones is arguably the most creative fighter on the UFC roster. Jones doesn’t just win fights, his performances are always a technical masterclass. His lone loss is a dubious disqualification against Matt Hamill. Jones defends his belt against former middleweight Thiago Santos at UFC 239.
Chuck Liddell (21-9)
‘The Iceman’ is the former UFC light heavyweight champion. The UFC Hall of Famer claims famous victories over Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, Wanderlei Silva, Alistair Overeem and Vitor Belfort. Liddell carried MMA into the mainstream spotlight during the noughties and his intense rivalries with fellow veterans Couture and Ortiz lit up the early MMA world.
The backstreet brawler with a distinctive mohawk appealed to the blue-collar masses. Training at The Pit, Liddell defended his UFC belt four times. The old school cage fighter cleaned out the light heavyweight division, starching contenders with his badass power punches. Liddell also benefited from a granite chin and strong takedown defence.
Chuck was at his best on his feet, jabbing to establish range and following feints up with sharp left hooks and juggernaut slugs. Liddell famously knocked Overeem out with a massive overhand right during his time in Pride.
The wild man of MMA sadly kept on fighting well past his prime. After more than 2 years out, the 49-year-old was knocked out in his last fight by old enemy Tito Ortiz. Many fans and pundits criticised the fight’s promoter Oscar De La Hoya for the controversial event. Despite this sad defeat, Liddell will always be remembered for his fiery feuds and entertaining fights.
Rashad Evans (19-8-1)
‘Suga’ Rashad Evans is the former UFC light heavyweight champion. He was responsible for one of the greatest upsets in MMA history when he KO’d the legendary Chuck Liddell. The title fight ended up becoming one of the first viral knockouts. Evans also beat Tito Ortiz, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Dan Henderson, Forrest Griffin, Michael Bisping and Chael Sonnen.
The winner of ‘The Ultimate Fighter Season 2’ was known for his athletic build and explosive power. Initially training with Greg Jackson, Evans ended his career at Henri Hooft’s Combat Club. ‘Suga’s’ methodical striking style enabled slick transitions from stand-up to takedowns. He tested opponents with probing jabs then closed distance with a vicious left hook or speedy overhand right. Evans revamped his style after beating Michael Bisping via split decision, building on his constant pressure and excellent conditioning.
After being knocked out by challenger Anthony Smith, Evans retired from MMA in 2018. However, MMA fans will never forget his iconic knockouts or rampage through the stacked light heavyweight division. Rashad Evans will be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame during this years ‘International Fight Week’, joining the likes of Ronda Rousey and former foe Bisping in the Modern Wing.
Lyoto Machida (25-8)
‘The Dragon’ is a specialist in Shotokan Karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The former UFC light heavyweight champion fights with an eye-catching unorthodox style. Machida holds wins over Rashad Evans, Tito Ortiz, Mauricio Rua, Ryan Bader, Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort.
The southpaw striker incorporates elements of Muay Thai and Sumo into his unique style. Machida is a highly accurate counter puncher, timing his strikes to perfection. He moves his hands in a pinwheel motion and distracts his opponents from his deadly footwork. Machida patiently waits for his opponent to close the distance then pounces with lightning strikes or savage liver kicks.
After losing his UFC title to Jon Jones, Machida suffered a slump in form. Moving down in weight, The Dragon beat middleweight veteran Gegard Mousasi in a Fight Of The Night performance. The elusive striker has been criticised by some fans and pundits for his restrained aggression. However, Machida’s fighting style is highly effective.
After knocking out the veteran Vitor Belfort in his final UFC fight, Machida made his Bellator debut in December 2018, earning a split decision victory against Rafael Carvalho. The Dragon next faces gritty wrestler Chael Sonnen in a headline bout at Bellator 222.