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5 UFC fighters who are unfairly overlooked in the GOAT debate

Whenever the topic of UFC’s GOAT comes up, be it throughout the promotion or in a single weight division, similar names come up, usually mentioning Jon Jones, Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva.

However, when it comes to UFC’s GOAT, there are a number of fighters that probably deserve conversation but aren’t educated enough. Sometimes that’s because they’ve been overshadowed by another fighter in their weight class, but other factors often come into play.

Here are five UFC fighters unfairly overlooked in the GOAT debate.


#5. Shogun Rua – Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion

Former PRIDE Champion Shogun Rua is definitely in contention for the GOAT light heavyweight title
Former PRIDE Champion Shogun Rua is definitely in contention for the GOAT light heavyweight title

One fighter who definitely gets overlooked when it comes to the UFC’s GOATs is former light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Despite suffering some devastating losses in recent years, it’s hard to doubt the Brazilian’s origins.

Shogun first rose to fame in Japan’s PRIDE promotion in the mid-2000s, defeating the likes of Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Alistair Overeem and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira en route to winning the 2005 PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix.

Given that the Japanese promotion was widely regarded as the most of the world’s top 205lbers at the time, most observers considered Shogun to be the top light heavyweight in the world following his win.

If you don’t remember Shogun Rua footballers, you’re not a true old-school fan.

Sure, his early UFC days weren’t great, as he suffered a tough loss to Forrest Griffin in his Octagon debut, but it’s debatable whether a knee injury helped. He also subsequently recovered and became the first man to stop Lyoto Machida, winning the light heavyweight title in the process.

Two things probably keep Shogun from being directly considered the 205-pound GOAT: the presence of Jon Jones, who destroyed him in their 2011 title shot, and the fact that his career ended so badly.

Other would-be GOATs – Anderson Silva springs to mind – suffered heavy casualties on their way out, and if you factor in Jones’ positive drug tests, there’s probably an argument that Shogun should still be considered the light heavyweight front runner.


#4. Henry Cejudo – Former UFC Flyweight and Bantamweight Champion

Henry Cejudo's performances are unmatched in the octagon
Henry Cejudo’s performances are second to none in the octagon

When it comes to discussing the various potential GOATs of the UFC, some of the names that come up are fighters who have held two titles in different weight classes, such as BJ Penn, Georges St-Pierre and Amanda Nunes.

One fighter who was not only able to achieve this success, but was also one of the few fighters to hold two titles at the same time is Henry Cejudo. Even so, ‘Triple C’ rarely features in the GOAT debate, both in its two weight classes and in promotion overall.

Though his time at the top of the mountain was comparatively short, Cejudo’s accomplishments stack with any other fighter in the Octagon’s history.

Not only is ‘Triple C’ the only fighter to defeat legendary former flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson in the 125lb octagon, he was also followed by a win over then-bantamweight kingpin TJ Dillashaw, knocking him out in seconds.

When you add in his bantamweight title win against Marlon Moraes, then considered the division’s most dangerous contender, and his subsequent title defense against Dominick Cruz, himself an underrated man, it’s hard to argue against Cejudo’s status.

Sure, his decision to leave MMA in 2020 — at least for now — might have been a little misguided, but “Triple C” should definitely be viewed as one of the UFC’s potential GOATs.


#3. Alexander Volkanovski – Current UFC Featherweight Champion

At this point, Alexander Volkanovski has done enough to be considered a featherweight GOAT
At this point, Alexander Volkanovski has done enough to be considered a featherweight GOAT

When DAZN recently compiled a list of potential UFC GOATs, one name definitely stood out by his absence from the countdown – current featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski.

Oddly enough, two former featherweight kingpins – Jose Aldo and Max Holloway – were named on the list, though Volkanovski has beaten both and actually holds three wins over “Blessed.”

Alexander Volkanovski def. Max Holloway by unanimous decision to retain featherweight title belt 🏆What. A fight.

Why does ‘Alexander the Great’ seem to be ignored in the debate over who is the UFC’s featherweight GOAT? The most obvious reason would be timeliness, as observers might not be too quick to declare the Australian the greatest while he’s still in contention.

However, it’s hard to argue with his performances. Not only has he never been beaten in the octagon, but his casualty list easily rivals that of Holloway or Aldo considering he holds victories over Chad Mendes, Chan Sung Jung and Brian Ortega.

Perhaps once his title reign ends, Volkanovski will get the dues he deserves. For now, he remains underrated in conversation about who the GOAT of the UFC is.


#2. Dominick Cruz – Former UFC Bantamweight Champion

Absent injuries, Dominick Cruz's spot as the bantamweight GOAT would likely be undeniable
Absent injuries, Dominick Cruz’s spot as the bantamweight GOAT would likely be undeniable

One fighter that certainly belongs in the UFC GOAT discussion and often goes unmentioned is former bantamweight kingpin Dominick Cruz. Were it not for his long list of injuries, he would almost certainly be an option.

After dominating the WEC bantamweight division, Cruz reached the octagon for the first time in the summer of 2011, defending his new UFC crown against Urijah Faber and Demetrious Johnson before being derailed by a knee injury.

Remarkably, “The Dominator” returned despite only fighting once between October 2011 and January 2016 – a 2014 TKO by Takeya Mizugaki – and immediately reclaimed the title he never lost in the octagon by beating TJ Dillashaw in a stunning performance defeated.

Sure, the years haven’t been too good for Cruz, as when he lost his title to Cody Garbrandt, he was back on the shelf for four years with injuries and then failed in a 2020 attempt to win it back from Henry Cejudo. The fact of the matter is, “The Dominator” has never lost a non-title fight in the octagon.

Essentially, it’s fascinating to imagine what he could have accomplished without injury, and it’s not inconceivable to think that he would have pulled off a record number of bantamweight title defenses.

So when it comes to the debate over who the UFC’s 135-pound GOAT is, he’s not to be overlooked.


#1. Daniel Cormier – Former UFC Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight Champion

There is an argument that Daniel Cormier should be ahead of Jon Jones in the GOAT debate
There is an argument that Daniel Cormier should be ahead of Jon Jones in the GOAT debate

While he often appears on lists of the UFC’s potential GOAT, the general consensus on Daniel Cormier is that he trails Jon Jones for being the light heavyweight GOAT, and behind Stipe Miocic – and perhaps Cain Velasquez – when it comes to being the GOAT in promotion heavyweight.

But should that really be the case? In terms of his heavyweight credentials, it’s probably fair to have Cormier under Miocic and Velasquez based on his two losses to the former, but light heavyweight is a little more intriguing.

Sure, ‘DC’ doesn’t have Jones’ resume, and he’s lost to him twice. However, he also has no black spots on his name, like “Bones” does with his multiple failed drug tests.

It’s also not like Cormier’s record of 205 pounds wasn’t great. He picked up victories over Dan Henderson, Anthony Johnson (twice), Alexander Gustafsson and Volkan Özdemir, all of whom were senior when “DC” beat them.

This is classic Daniel Cormier 💪The champion is defending his belt #UFC220 with a second round finish by Volkan Oezdemir 🏆 https://t.co/Yz5vmWGXhI

So could there be an argument — especially since he won the heavyweight title while holding the light-heavyweight title, which Jones never achieved — that Cormier is above “Bones” in the discussion of who the GOAT is at light-heavyweight? It’s definitely possible.


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Linh

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