The UFC returns to Brazil on Saturday night after nearly thirteen years since Ultimate Brazil in 1998. In commemoration of the event, Bloody Elbow looks at the top ten Brazilian MMA fighters of all time.
The worst part of any top ten list is the bottom half. Where the top half, especially the entity at number one, is fleshed out, the bottom half is an exercise in chaos control. There’s a value in being a “top ten guy,” and leaving someone outside the top ten is sure to draw the ire of judging eyes.
This list was put together with ample input from the Bloody Elbow staff. Friendships were lost, unlikely alliances were made, and many people are sure to be offended.
10. Jose Aldo (19-1) – I’ve flipped Aldo with a couple guys at the ten spot. (You’ll see them as honorable mentions.) Ultimately, Aldo winning and defending a major title — even in a young, developing division — gets the nod from me. The caveat, of course, is that he’ll be 25 years old when he fights Kenny Florian in October. While Aldo could falter, drop his title, and never realize his potential, he could also continue to dominate his division, move up and take the lightweight title, and prove himself an all-time great.
9. Jose “Pele” Landi-Jons (26-14) – “Pele” went downhill hard and fast, but that happens when you’re fighting guys across all kinds of weight classes and a lot of top guys in the sport. He’s on the very short list of who have stopped multiple UFC champions — Matt Hughes and Pat Miletich, and he broke Jorge Patino in a pair of wild bouts in Brazil.
8. Murilo Bustamante (14-8-1) – Bustamante became the first Brazilian UFC champion when he defeated Dave Menne for the middleweight belt at UFC 35. He followed that up by defending his title against Matt Lindland at UFC 37, who he ended up having to submit twice in one bout. Bustamante didn’t have great longevity, but his forty minute draw with giant heavyweight Tom Erickson is one of the most underappreciated accomplishments in the sport’s history.
7. Vitor Belfort (20-9) – Belfort burst onto the MMA scene with one of the most violent twelve seconds of brutality when he knocked out Jon Hess in Hawaii. His inconsistency — “Vitor’s back!” has been a long-running joke over the last five years — prevented Belfort from becoming the all-time great that his talent and athleticism would suggest. For instance, his 44-second demolition of Wanderlei Silva is sandwiched by decisive losses to Randy Couture and Kazushi Sakuraba. He’s made a career resurgence since dropping down to middleweight in 2008, but, at 34 years old, his loss to Anderson Silva means he’s probably peaked in that weight class as well.
6. Lyoto Machida (17-2) – One of the greatest light heavyweights of all time, Lyoto Machida capped his 14-0 unbeaten record — including ending Rich Franklin’s undefeated record in 2003 — with a careful deconstruction of Rashad Evans for the UFC title in 2009. It’s been rocky since — a controversial win over “Shogun” Rua, a controversial loss to “Rampage” Jackson, and an emphatic knockout loss to Rua in a rematch — but Machida will go down in history as the guy who crane kicked Randy Couture into retirement.
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