Sports is like politics. People can twist the facts to fit whichever narrative they wish to be true. It is a branch of confirmation bias and general biases toward our favorite fighters and against those we dislike. Yes. The Greatest of All Time in any sport will always be debatable since it is in fact a matter of opinion. But this seven part series presents as lucid an argument for the best MMA fighter of all time that you will find anywhere on the Internet. And if you disagree, jump right in and let’s have an open debate. But just remember one thing….sports, like politics, may boil down to what one wants to believe….but it also does contain cold hard facts. This list is not about favorite or media darlings or the most popular fighters, it’s about objective facts. And by the end of this series, the evidence will show who is as factually close to being the greatest fighter of all time as possible. The seven parts of this series are as follows:
Part 1: The Honorable Mentions
Part 2: The Notorious Mention
Part 3: Fedor Emelianenko vs. The UFC
Part 4: Down Came the Rain and Washed the Spider Out
Part 5: Explanation of the third greatest fighter of all time.
Part 6: Explanation of the second greatest fighter of all time.
Part 7: Explanation of the greatest MMA fighter of all time.
Part 5: The Meteoric Rise of Mighty Mouse
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is the third greatest MMA fighter of all time, but no, he is not #1. I suspect that most fans would not place him at #1 regardless, and in fact might find his placement over Anderson Silva questionable if not offensive. But those people would be wrong.
First of all, when we look at Johnson’s skill set, he is more well-rounded than Anderson Silva. This opinion is about as close to a fact as anything predicated on an eye test between two GOAT contenders could be. Silva is easily a better and more precise striker, but not only can Johnson strike well with the speed he is blessed with, but he is also an elite wrestler and master tactician. Silva is by no means weak on the ground, but fighters like Sonnen and Cormier are the two finest examples of how Silva can be dominated when put on his back. Right now, Demetrious Johnson and Anderson Silva are perhaps the two biggest contenders for the best champion of all time argument. They not only have the longest streak of title defenses, but they both cleared out their divisions. Demetrious Johnson has now actually cleared out every top contender in the flyweight division. Before Weidman came along, the same could be said for Silva. But I would give the nod to Johnson in terms of having a better reign than Silva because not only has he never loss in his division, but he has faced stronger competition. “What he say!?!” You heard correctly. Demetrious Johnson, in spite of the myth that the flyweight division is weak, has faced stronger competition.
The top fighters Silva faced were Dan Henderson, Chris Weidman, Vitor Belfort, Rich Franklin, and maybe Chael Sonnen. Silva lost to one of those fighters and got dominated for 4.8 rounds of the Sonnen fight. Yes, Silva won, and that’s all that matters, but it’s not all that matters in the argument for the GOAT. Demetrious Johnson on the other hand has defeated elite fighters Joseph Benavidez (TWICE), John Dodson (if you look at how Dodson was performing prior to his matches with Johnson, especially prior to the second title fight, you will instantly agree that he was an elite contender), and then Henry Cejudo is in the same class as a Chris Weidman prior to Weidman’s challenge against Silva. His Olympic wrestling credentials, dominance in each round prior to the DJ fight, and his recent fight against Joseph Benavidez each point to a fighter who is in fact elite. Then, perhaps the most underrated of DJ’s opponents, Kyoji Horiguchi, who is a great striker with lightning-quick speed AND a great grappler, has only loss one time in his MMA career aside from the DJ loss (a split majority decision in his 7th MMA fight). Horiguchi’s recent shutout victory over former title contender Ali Bagautinov continues to point to a fighter who is elite. The biggest question marks on this assessment of contenders would be Cejudo and Horiguchi, who most may say need more time to be considered elite. But based off of the skill set they have already demonstrated in multiple shutout wins, as well as their win-loss records, I feel comfortable enough putting them in that class already, and am confident that they will continue to prove why, as Horiguchi has already been doing since his loss to DJ.
Whether or not DJ has faced greater competition is not what his placement over Silva is dependent on, so if you still believe Silva’s competition at middleweight was greater at DJ’s at flyweight, it still does not negate the fact that Johnson has a much higher winning percentage than Silva at the highest level of the sport. And even if one believes Silva faced greater competition, I find it difficult to believe that one would consider the disparity between this competition to be a wide one when looking at some of Silva’s opponents. The fact is that DJ’s opponents had a combined winning percentage (discounting draws) of 81.2% compared to Silva’s 78.9%. Even if one were to explain why that is while simultaneously pointing to how close these numbers are, it at the very least should prove that the disparity between the competition is narrow. Johnson, though, has NEVER lost in his division. That is a major difference that cannot be overlooked. While he has had less fights in the burgeoning flyweight division than Silva at middleweight, this still points to Johnson being better when arguing for GOAT placement at this moment. As stated in the Fedor article, in MMA, being the best isn’t just about how much the fighter has won, it’s also about how much they have yet to lose. Therefore, it’s not just that we have to wait for Johnson to keep winning until we can put him over Anderson Silva, we also must wait for Johnson to LOSE before we can put Silva over him, especially now that DJ is only one fight away from tying Silva’s record, and has never lost a fight in the division. And he certainly was never dominated for four rounds the way Silva was in his fight against Chael Sonnen.
That concludes the argument for why DJ is ranked higher than Silva, so why then, is a fighter ranked above who many, if not most MMA fans believe to be the best of all time NOT ranked #1!? What is he missing!?
For starters, he’s missing the awareness of the fact that he is missing something. Which means he is missing a hunger. Demetrious Johnson himself has, perhaps unknowingly, admitted that he wants to be the greatest champion of all time, but what he does not realize is that this is delaying him from being the greatest fighter of all time.
It does Johnson’s legacy no favors to remain in a division that he has already cleared out when he is only 10 pounds away from not only a division with a new set of challengers but a division that he has already competed in and in which his lone UFC loss occurred. That is where the lack of hunger comes in. Instead of insisting on fighting Dominick Cruz and meeting his toughest challenge and conquering his legacy’s biggest demon….he is content at rinsing, washing, and repeating. He has already beaten two, albeit elite, challengers twice. If he defeats Benavidez again, I predict he would then face Horiguchi again. That would make SIX of his defenses against repeated opponents. Though it would be a record (and division) broken, it simply is nothing new in terms of WHO is actually being conquered. In fact, in some respects, defeating six repeated challengers lessens the significance of the record he is so keen on chasing because you would have just defeated many of the same guys repeatedly. As great as Joseph Benavidez is, he is not Mighty Mouse’s greatest career opponent thus far. That would be Dominick Cruz. And as stated with Fedor, when someone loses to his greatest opponent, it is very difficult to be the greatest of all time unless this loss is avenged. So, more than anyone else in the GOAT conversation, Demetrious Johnson is holding himself back from being the GOAT in order to be statistically the greatest champion of all time. Until DJ can avenge his loss to Dominick Cruz, his toughest opponent, he will be demonstrating a lack of hunger, and even a lack of merit to surpass the two names that remain ahead of him on the list.
By now, the criteria of this series is beginning to become as lucid as the logic it claims to contain. The areas that are being valued and what are considered disqualifiers are becoming more consistent. Experts, fans, journalists…EVERYONE has their own criteria. What I have noticed is that usually when there is any list compiled of the best WHATEVER of all time, they just continue to go up the list and exclaim how awesome the person or thing that is being ranked is. What I am doing is directly comparing the fighters on the list against one another and showing the unbiased, objective differences between them. That is what makes the list lucid. If, for instance, I were to rank Anderson Silva at #4 and talk about how dominant he was as middleweight champion, and then put Demetrious Johnson at #3 and only talk about his dominance at flyweight, it does not specifically resolve why I placed him higher than Silva. Joe Rogan’s criteria for what makes someone the greatest seems to be based mostly on 1) Continued success and 2) The eye test. I am trying to limit the eye test as much as possible because of how subjective it is, but the truth is, that is in fact another reason why DJ is being listed above Silva. Rogan said on live TV that because of DJ’s technique, he is the best mixed martial artist he has ever seen, and thus, he is the greatest of all time. I say, because of DJ’s technique AND cleaning out the underrated flyweight division, AND losing significantly less than Silva (even before his most recent losses where he was coming off an injury and past his prime), he may not be the greatest of all time, but he climbs higher than the Spider.
Part 6 Coming Right up.