Onto the final four …
#4: Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos
Handiwork expert and all around nice guy Junior Dos Santos begins the second portion of our list. Cigano is watchable and worthwhile for a pretty elementary reason: This dude is lethal with his hands. And because he happens to be competing in the heavyweight division, you can pretty safely assume that he’s going to touch up whoever he fights.
This isn’t the case in his rematch with Cain Velasquez, though. I was as shocked as everyone else at how quickly he put the screws on Cain last November, but there’s mounting evidence that Cain was far from being 100% in that fight. The rematch is a true crossroads for Junior: Is he an all time great heavyweight? Or is he an exciting opportunist that entered his prime at just the right time and caught a few breaks along the way?
I love watching JDS pistol whip dudes with his mitts. Even if he loses the rematch, he’s been a great champion and ambassador for MMA, and still makes it into any “greatest HW’s ever” conversation. And this is my FOURTH most watchable champ. The UFC … they have some good fighters, folks.
#3: Jon “Bones” Jones
Jon Jones could be headlining against Kristof Midoux and I’d be right there watching. That’s what sets him apart from JDS to me; Jones is so talented that I honestly don’t care who he fights. With JDS … I mean … was anyone really feverishly chewing their nails wondering what would happen when he fought Frank Mir?
Bones might be the most polarizing champion in UFC history. He’ll never win over some fans; I’ve talked to people that view Jon Jones as a petulant, arrogant black athlete that is in existence solely to be booed and hated. When I counter by bringing up his incredible resume and seemingly endless talent, they inevitably say something irrational and dismissive, like “I don’t care … he’s an asshole”.
Even though I’ve defended Jon Jones, the truth is that I don’t have much emotional investment in his success or failure. I mainly defend him because so many of the criticisms and attacks against him seem so nonsensical.
The biggest reason I enjoy watching Jones is his creativity. Front kicks to the leg, spinning back elbows, standing elbows with the lead hand … if it can be done, this guy will try it. Also, he’s unique because of how he took the MMA world by storm. Anderson Silva was always talented, but he took awhile to put it all together. GSP has always had a physical advantage over his opponents, but we all know that it just takes one shot to potentially give you a chance to finish him. Jones burst onto the scene and just started murdering everybody, pretty much immediately. It’s unprecedented, and we should all embrace his dynamism. How do you beat this guy?
# 2: Anderson “The Spider” Silva
I’m in agony putting Silva at #2, but it is something that I must do. Now, if we’re just looking at the fighter himself (not the overall experience of watching one of his fights), then Anderson is number one. No one can match the combination of veteran savvy, theatrical ambition, striking efficiency, and at times outright audacity that Silva brings to the table. He has the rare distinction of making whoever challenges him look ordinary, if not downright foolish. He’s the greatest “I just got home from a night out, it’s 2 AM, I missed the pay-per-view … I’m going to hop online and see how badly this guy humiliated his opponent” fighter of all time.
Actually, that isn’t quite descriptive enough. Anderson Silva made Yushin Okami look about as competent as Sean Salmon (It took months, but I finally snuck a Salmon dig into a column). He embarrassed Forrest Griffin to the degree that I think it permanently damaged his psyche. He allowed the much larger Stephan Bonnar to punch him directly in the face, just so people would be more floored when he finished him. He knocks out guys that have never been knocked out before. When you watch him, he makes you say things like “Is Yushin Okami terrible and I just never noticed?” Of course not. Anderson is that good.
My favorite part of any Anderson Silva fight is when he starts performing those showy hand movements. When the hands start to go bonkers, it’s like lighting a stick of dynamite and anxiously waiting for the wick to burn down. He gets in the zone in a fashion that is unparalleled. It’s theater. You can’t believe what you’re watching. You’re just glad you’re watching it.
#1: Georges “Rush” St-Pierre
Georges St-Pierre is all things to all people. To casual fans, he’s the guy you go to Buffalo Wild Wings with your vaguely excited friends to half-heartedly pay attention to. To women, he’s the humble, sheepish gentleman you’d feel comfortable bringing home to meet the folks. To hardcore fans, he’s the supremely gifted wrestler who, despite his sensational talent and dominance, manages to disappoint because he isn’t the bloodthirsty finisher that they lust after. To older white guys, he’s French.
People CARE about this guy. I made the executive decision to take in UFC 154 on the big screen. Up until the GSP fight, it was like I had rented the theater out to myself. Don’t get me wrong; this was awesome. But more than once I thought “Are these people brain-dead? Tripping on acid? In anaphylactic shock?” Not that I was hoping for “YEAH BRO! THIS IS A WAR!!!!” or some other form of ridiculous outburst, but still. I was searching for signs of life.
GSP’s entrance music came on, and the atmosphere in the theater went from comatose to electric. Every GSP takedown was met with a thunderous round of applause. People squealed in delight after every elbow. When Condit had his big moment in the third round, people lost their minds. Mouths agape, hands on their heads, all of it. And all in reaction to a guy that was still in the fight.
It was a perfect comeback for Georges. His first two rounds were masterful. He got his bell rung and recovered, something he hadn’t previously proven he could do. He had Condit hurt with punches … and then took him down. It’s what makes him unique; no fighter jellylegs a guy with punches and immediately thinks takedown. To alot of people, this is what’s so frustrating about watching Georges. To me, it adds to his aesthetic. He dominates every aspect of the fight by doing things like this. Carlos Condit was so awesome in that fight, and it hardly even mattered.
I loved being there to experience it. I saw his rematches with Serra and Koscheck in public as well, and I left feeling glad that I went. No other MMA fighter is, for lack of a better word, as famous as Georges. He tops my list because he’s the only guy that makes me feel like going out in public to see the fight live, just to see other people’s reactions.
St-Pierre vs. Silva, Cowboys Stadium, for all the marbles? It’s time.