UFC lightweight rankings: Who is the best lightweight fighter?

UFC lightweight rankings: Who is the best lightweight fighter?

Since its inception in 2001, the UFC Lightweight Championship has been steeped in tradition. The title was previously a secondary attraction because of its low profile when lower-weight classes were less popular. These are the UFC lightweight rankings from the main attraction of the highest-grossing events.

Ultimate UFC lightweight ranking in 2022?
Khabib Nurmagomedov (red) in action against Dustin Poirier (blue) during the UFC Lightweight Championship match at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on September 6, 2019. Photo: Stringer
Source: Getty Images

The Lightweight category has seen some of the sport's greatest competitors and biggest stars, but only a select few have ever won a title there. There is something special that each of them has contributed to the history of the championship.

10. Sean Sherk

ufc lightweight rankings 2022
Lightweight Sean Sherk battles against lightweight Frank Edgar during their lightweight bout at UFC 98 on May 23, 2009, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Jon Kopaloff
Source: Getty Images

Sean Sherk is ranked lower than two men who failed to successfully defend their titles. Charles Oliveira, the current champion, is left off the roster because his reign is so young. That leaves Sean Sherk safely ensconced in the final spot on our ranking of the top ten champions.

Sherk competed in a tournament for the vacant light heavyweight title and defeated Kenny Florian to become the second champion in the division's existence. Being the only fighter ever to be caught for a doping violation before USADA testing was instituted is certainly something to be proud of, but it is also a distinction that will forever hurt a champion's reputation.

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9. Eddie Alvarez

current ufc lightweight rankings
Eddie Alvarez poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at Scotiabank Saddledome on July 27, 2018, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Photo: Jeff Bottar
Source: Getty Images

Eddie Alvarez was revered as the "King of the Underground" among mixed martial arts enthusiasts for a long time. Those accolades seemed well-deserved as Alvarez defeated Rafael Dos Anjos in the first round via technical knockout at a Fight Night in 2016.

Even though Alvarez had established himself as the undisputed Lightweight GOAT across promotions, he could not defend his belt against Conor McGregor due to the latter's overwhelming media attention.

8. Conor McGregor

ufc lightweight rankings 2022
Conor McGregor before facing Khabib Nurmagomedov in their UFC lightweight championship fight in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Photo: Stephen McCarthy
Source: Getty Images

Conor McGregor is a phenomenon. He is not even close to being one of the greatest UFC fighters ever. As Featherweight Champion, he moved up to 155 pounds and knocked out Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, becoming the first fighter in history to win titles in two different weight classes. Unfortunately, the victory was McGregor's last in the ring.

Conor would have to give up his featherweight and lightweight titles to fight Floyd Mayweather, losing both without ever making a defense. Since his return, Conor has struggled at Lightweight, where Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated him. His victory over Alvarez for the championship belt gives him priority over Alvarez.

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7. Anthony Pettis

current ufc lightweight rankings
Professional Fighters League MMA fighter Anthony Pettis weighs in for his fight at the New Yorker Hotel in New York City, NY, on Thursday, August 4, 2022. Photo: Amy Kaplan
Source: Getty Images

After defeating long-time rival Benson Henderson in his home state of Wisconsin, internet sensation Anthony Pettis became the new UFC champion. The UFC marketing machine backed Pettis, and he became a star after he won the championship.

As dangerous as Pettis has always been in the ring, his stint as champion fell short of expectations. After successfully defending it against Gilbert, he would lose it to the following contender.

6. Rafael Dos Anjos

ufc lightweight rankings
Rafael Dos Anjos of Brazil stands in his corner during the Fight Night event at PNC Arena on January 25, 2020, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Photo: Jeff Bottari
Source: Getty Images

The UFC has been wasting one of its best fighters, Rafael Dos Anjos. In 2021, many spectators were surprised to learn that the current Welterweight champion was once the Lightweight World Champion. Dos Anjos won a unanimous decision over Anthony Pettis in five rounds earning him the title of light heavyweight champion.

5. Jens Pulver

Who are the top 5 lightweight UFC?
Jens Pulver celebrates his victory over Cub Swanson on December 12, 2007, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Josh Hedges.
Source: Getty Images

First-time UFC champions have a negative rep since they are often viewed as having had an easier road to the top. While this is supported by evidence, Jens Pulver appears to be an outlier. Pulver is still considered one of the best Lightweight fighters of all time. His victory over Caol Uno cemented his place in history as the organization's first Lightweight Champion.

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4. Benson Henderson

current ufc lightweight rankings
R-L) Benson Henderson punches Frankie Edgar during the event at Saitama Super Arena on February 26, 2012, in Saitama, Japan. Photo: Al Bello
Source: Getty Images

A legendary fighter in his class, Benson Henderson was able to bring out the best in his opponents inside the UFC Octagon. He ended the undefeated Frankie Edgar's run with a unanimous decision in Japan.

It would be a great run for Bendo, who would defend the title three times and tie the record held by BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar. In this round, he triumphed over Frankie Edgar once more, Nate Diaz, and Gilbert Melendez.

3. Frankie Edgar

Who are the top 5 lightweight UFC?
Frankie Edgar prepares to fight Chris Gutierrez in a bantamweight bout during the event at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2022, in New York City. Photo: Chris Unger
Source: Getty Images

Many UFC athletes, including Frankie Edgar, deserve praise for establishing the legitimacy of the featherweight and lightweight divisions. Edgar defeated BJ Penn by unanimous decision to become champion of their division.

Following his second victory over Penn, Edgar defended his championship three times against Gray Maynard, with two victories and a draw, producing one of the greatest trilogies in MMA history. A loss against Benson Henderson cost him the belt, and he has since been challenged for the featherweight and bantamweight belts. Edgar is one of the greatest of all time.

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2. B.J. Penn

ufc lightweight rankings
BJ Penn weighs in at 156 pounds during UFC 232 official weigh-ins at Los Angeles Airport Marriott in Los Angeles, Friday, Dec 28, 2018. Photo: Hans Gutknecht
Source: Getty Images

While BJ Penn's fall from grace was one of the most dramatic in UFC annals, his rise to prominence was undoubtedly a high point in the promotion's history. Penn's career-ending seven-fight losing skid receives most of the attention, but "The Prodigy" became known as such because he was a phenomenon nobody had ever seen before.

Penn would defend his championship three times, beating Sean Sherk, Kenny Florian, and Diego Sanchez in each attempt (all wins via stoppage). Penn was defeated by Frankie Edgar for the championship in 2010, although his run as lightweight champion was among the most dominant in the division's history.

1. Khabib Nurmagomedov

Who is No 1 UFC fighter lightweight?
Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov of Russia speaks to the media during the seasonal press conference at T-Mobile Arena on July 5, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Josh Hedges.
Source: Getty Images

Who is the best lightweight fighter? No matter what you think of Khabib Nurmagomedov, he has a more impressive run of championship defences than anyone else on this list. Khabib is tied for the most successful title defences in the division's history, but his opponents have always been formidable. He won the title after defeating Al Iaquinta in Brooklyn's controversial UFC 223.

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Who is the No. 1 UFC lightweight fighter?

Khabib retired from MMA as the sport's only undefeated Lightweight champion and still tops the UFC lightweight rankings. At the highest-grossing event in UFC history, he successfully defended his title for the first time and ended McGregor Mania.

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