7. Wanderlei Silva
Though his UFC tenure has been just average, his time in Pride put him among the very best to ever compete in MMA. Silva was to Pride what Chuck Liddell was to the UFC. Both were dominant champions at 200/205lbs., both defended their titles four times (a Pride record), both were considered the greatest knockout artists in their respective divisions, and both were among the biggest stars in their respective organizations.
Silva tallied the most wins (22) in Pride history and his middleweight title reign spanned more than five years. Though in that time Silva defended his title just four times, his title reign included victories over Guy Mezger, Dan Henderson, Kazushi Sakuraba, Kyoshi Tamura, Hidehiko Yoshida, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Ricardo Arona, and Kazuyuki Fujita. Though critics cite Silva’s losses during his title reign as proof of his inferiority to Liddell, Silva’s only losses as champion came to Mark Hunt, a Super heavyweight, Mirko Filipovic, a heavyweight, and Ricardo Arona, who Silva beat in an immediate rematch. Silva ultimately lost his title to Henderson at one of the great events in the history of MMA, Pride 33, in one of the great matches of 2007.
Though Silva has not enjoyed the same level of success in the UFC (3-5-0) as he did in Pride, Silva has managed to become one of the organization’s bigger stars. Much of his stardom is resultant from his success in Pride, but much of it is also due to his UFC 79 bout against Chuck Liddell. The match was years in the making and pitted the two greatest light heavyweights of all time against each other in a match considered to be the second best in the history of the UFC. It didn’t matter much that Silva lost a unanimous decision; his ferocious style endeared him to the crowd and has made him a fighter who, win or lose, fans enjoy watching fight.