Who is the best fighter in the world?
This question has been asked since the beginning of combative sports. In fact it is one of the main reasons that the Ultimate Fighting Championship was launched in 1993. The concept was to place fighters of various mixed martial arts backgrounds against one another and see who comes out on top.
At that time, Royce Gracie was the man who stood at the top of the mountain – a relatively small fighter from Brazil who used submission techniques to get the better of the larger opponent. Since then, other names have stood out along the way including Anderson Silva, Fedor Emelianenko, and Georges St. Pierre.
Never once, however, has a female fighter’s name ever even been included in the same sentence as “pound for pound best fighter.” It just never occurred to anyone that a woman could achieve what a man has done inside the cage.
Historically Gina Carano and Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos were the two names that predominately stood out in women’s mixed martial arts. One of the two has since put her MMA career on hiatus to pursue acting in Hollywood and the other was stripped of her title after testing positive for a banned substance. It goes without saying as to who did what.
Santos was considered the top female fighter on the planet yet her dominance and physique over the women she competed against seemed unfair at times. Something had to give. We would later find out that Stanozolol, a banned anabolic steroid.
This finding put a blemish on not only MMA as a whole but primarily women’s MMA. What the other women were trying so desperately to prove was that they could be just as competitive and talented as the men.
Women’s MMA is not as big a draw as when their male counterparts duel it out, and the amount of women competing on a professional level could also use improvement, so when one fighter tarnishes the industry, all female competitors feel the backlash.
However, Strikeforce did an excellent job of keeping the focus off of the negative and kept the attention shining on two other female fighters who might not have been household names this time last year.
In the absence of Cyborg, hype revolved around the chase for the women’s 135-pound championship as champion Meisha Tate would step into the cage with “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey.
There was a lot of pre-fight trash talk between the two competitors but that’s not the reason for attention from both the male and female audience. People became intrigued as two seemingly attractive women set out to pummel one another’s face for five-five minute rounds without proper hand protection.
Rousey, the only American female to win an Olympic medal in women’s judo, transferred her accomplishments over to the MMA game and went undefeated as both an amateur and a professional.
Even more interesting than that, all of Rousey’s wins came via way of armbar submission in less than 57-seconds into the first round. Before fighting Tate, Rousey had gone 3-0 as an amateur and 4-0 as a pro and spent a mere four minutes inside the cage in all fights combined.
Still, many speculated that it was too soon for Rousey to be fighting for a championship in a major organization much the same as they did when Brock Lesnar challenged Randy Couture for his UFC heavyweight title. But like Lesnar, Rousey defied the odds and forced the naysayers to keep quiet.
Watching the fight you could easily understand how Tate and Rousey might be considered to round out the top 10 pound for pound fighters on the planet. From punches to judo throws, submission attempts, reversals and much more, the women truly displayed with mixed martial arts is all about.
Rousey emerged the victor as she put on a combined judo and jiu-jitsu clinic and did everything that she was supposed to do and more.
Gentlemen, not taking anything away from any fighter on the planet but it might finally be time to recognize women’s mixed martial arts. The main goal for most any fighter is to fight on the biggest stage of them all, the UFC. So it is no surprise that eight of the top 10 pound for pound fighters fight in the largest mixed martial arts organization.
The only fighters who made the list who are not in the UFC are Gilbert Melendez and Rousey. Why? Because the UFC does not have a female division and the UFC has failed to transfer Melendez from Strikeforce to the UFC talent pool. Otherwise, the list would be comprised entirely of fighters on the UFC roster.
Now that women’s MMA is finally on the map here’s how my list of top 10 pound for pound fighters is broken down.