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The Countdown to No. 1: Fab Five

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

We're down to the final five. With some major names already accounted for in yesterday's article, it should be pretty obvious by now which fighters haven't been listed yet. Now it's just a question of what order they take in the top five slots. The fighter list until now looks like this:

No. 20 (tie): Lyoto Machida - 38 points
No. 20 (tie): Vitor Belfort - 38 points
No. 18 (tie): Junior dos Santos - 40 points
No. 18 (tie): Benson Henderson - 40 points
No. 17: Frankie Edgar - 41 points
No. 16: Andrei Arlovski - 43 points
No. 15: Tim Sylvia - 44 points
No. 14: Jose Aldo - 47 points
No. 12 (tie): Frank Shamrock - 48 points
No. 12 (tie): Rich Franklin - 48 points
No. 11: Royce Gracie - 50 points
No. 10: Cain Velasquez - 51 points
No. 9: Pat Miletich - 57 points
No. 8: BJ Penn - 61 points
No. 7: Chuck Liddell - 62 points
No. 6: Tito Ortiz - 68 points

We're going to switch-up the format a little this time, saving the Outlook pieces until the end. That way we can explore the overall outlook for the fighters in the top 5, since so much of what happens here depends on what the other listed fighters do. So without further ado, here are the top five greatest fighters in UFC history:

No. 5 Jon Jones - 79 points

It's incredible to think that a 26-year-old fighter with just a little more than five years of UFC experience is already the fifth-greatest fighter in the history of the organization. But that's what happens when all you do is win, no matter who they put in front of you. He's gone 13-1 (and we all know he didn't really lose to Matt Hamill) with nine stoppages. He ran through some decent fighters on the way to his title shot, but it's the title wins that really spotlight Jones' dominance. All he did was beat five straight former light heavyweight title-holders. Since then he's tacked on another couple of title wins, making it six straight defenses, a new record at 205 pounds. The loss to Hamill artificially hurts his score a little bit - he'd have a 14-fight win streak instead of his current 10-fight streak - but it gets drowned out by the preponderance of other impressive accomplishments Jones has attained.

No. 4 Randy Couture - 90 points

Couture's standing in the UFC boils down to a simple metric: If you're watching a UFC title fight from the UFC's first 20 years regardless of weight class, there's better than a 9 percent chance that Randy Couture was fighting. Couture won a title five separate times. No one else has ever won more a title more than twice. And while he shares with BJ Penn the distinction of being the only fighters to win titles in two different weight classes, he's the only fighter to defend a title in two weight classes. If we're ticking items of a list (and we are), he also won a UFC tournament way back at UFC 13. While it's true that he also lost in five title fights, and got stopped seven times in his career, it's hard to imagine any fighter competing for as long and as successfully as Couture did.

No. 3 Matt Hughes - 92 points

The difference between Couture at No. 4 and Hughes at No. 3 is a scant two points, a trivial number considering how long each of them competed. Hughes has more total wins, with his 18 victories currently tied for most in UFC history. But the major difference between Hughes and Couture, and the reason Hughes gets the higher ranking, is that Hughes was able to hang onto his belts longer. It helps that he didn't switch weight classes several times, but regardless, his seven title defenses should be considered more impressive than losing a belt and being able to reclaim it. Isn't it better never to lose it in the first place?

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No. 2 Georges St-Pierre - 109 points
No. 1 Anderson Silva - 121 points

There were really only two possible choices for the top of this list. Both Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva have re-written the UFC record books over the last seven years. They both won their UFC titles about four months apart back in 2006. If we have to contrast the two numerically, GSP has two more wins than Silva, but Anderson has 14 stoppages to GSP's seven. GSP is currently riding his longest career win streak of 11 wins, while Anderson just concluded an unprecedented 16-fight streak. They've both won 11 title fights, but the obvious difference between them is that St-Pierre lost and had to regain his title while Silva kept his straight through until July, when he lost to Chris Weidman. These two are far and away the top two fighters in UFC history. The nod goes to Silva, but for how long?

Outlook: The first question to answer is: could St-Pierre overtake Silva with a win tonight. While a victory over Johny Hendricks would tie him with Silva for the most title defenses in UFC history at 10, even a stoppage over Hendricks would only give GSP 119 points, still two behind Silva. He would inch himself ever so close, but not quite close enough. St-Pierre is assisted by the fact that he currently holds the longest active winning streak in the UFC with 11 consecutive wins, but it would take at least one more win after UFC 167 for him to solidify himself as the best ever. And then there's the possibility that Silva reclaims his belt next month against Chris Weidman, which would make claiming the top spot even harder. At this point, however, it's hard to imagine Silva going on another lengthy string of title defenses. Anything is possible, but the chances that St-Pierre could sustain his run at 32 are greater than the chances that Silva can start a new dominant period at age 38.

But then there's 26-year-old Jon Jones. His current win streak of 10 is only one behind St-Pierre. How long would it take before Jones is knocking on the door of the top couple of spots? Given that his longest win streak is still active, that means that every title defense is worth nine points, with a stoppage worth 10 points. He currently sits 42 points behind Anderson Silva. Even if both Silva and St-Pierre never won again, Jones would still need five more consecutive title defenses before he could surpass Silva's 121 points. If you think about how much Jones has accomplished already and how far he has to go before tying what Silva has just done to date, it's easier to appreciate how special Silva's been. That level of sustained dominance is rare based on what we've observed over the first 20 years of the UFC's history. How many of these fighters will still be here in another 20 years remains to be seen.

For more on FightMetric, check out its website here.

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