With the explosive UFC London now in the past, we take a look at the ten most prolific modern fighters who made their rise through the rapidly improving European MMA circuit.
UFC London most certainly can place itself amongst the year’s most entertaining fight cards to date but on top of that, it did a tremendous job at proving that the European MMA scene is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down as we move further into 2017.
With four UFC titles now across the pond in the hands of the Europeans, these ten outstanding competitors are living proof that the two-horse race between the North and South American athletes in the UFC has officially welcomed a new front-runner into the mix.
#10 – Gunnar Nelson
The Icelandic Gunnar Nelson is the one who starts this top-10 off and after his dominant performance over Alan Jouban last weekend, he proved himself to be deserving of his place.
His elite black-belt level BJJ and awkward stand-up style complement each other perfectly and aside from losses to Demian Maia and a close decision to Rick Story, Gunni has looked destined to challenge for UFC gold before all is said and done.
#9 – Jimi Manuwa
Another UFC London standout comes in at ninth place. The Londoner, Jimi “Poster Boy” Manuwa is a heavily slept-on knockout artist whose left-hook may be amongst the most lethal in the game today.
His two losses have come against top 205lb-rs in Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson but when you consider that just one fight in his entire career has gone the distance, it’s easy to see why the MMA world’s attention has been drawn to this hard-hitting Brit.
#8 – Germaine de Randamie
Germaine de Randamie’s UFC run perhaps hasn’t been the most electric or even the most noteworthy on this list but she does hold the honour of being the promotion’s inaugural women’s featherweight champion and she took on a highly-dangerous former bantamweight champ in Holly Holm to win her title.
Her kickboxing stands among the most elite on the UFC roster and at 37-0, she made the transition to the world of MMA without a single blemish to her name. With the shadow of Cris Cyborg looming large over her, however, her next matchup will do a lot to determine exactly how her legacy will hold up in the grand scheme of things.
#7 – Alistair Overeem
Another elite Dutch kickboxer featuring in this top-10 is the heavyweight superstar, Alistair Overeem, who made a point of reminding each and every person that was left unimpressed by his UFC 203 showing against Stipe Miocic that he is definitely still one of the most dangerous men on the planet when he obliterated the veteran, Mark Hunt at UFC 209.
Overeem has done it all at this stage. He’s fought some of the best to ever do it and on the feet, possesses some of the most high-level stand-up skills the sport has ever seen, something that makes him a certainty for this list’s seventh spot.
#6 – Alexander Gustafsson
Alexander ‘the Mauler’ Gustafsson is without a doubt still one of the most elite European fighters on the planet right now. His sole losses since a 2010 defeat to Phil Davis have come against the three greatest light-heavyweights on the planet, Anthony Johnson, Daniel Cormier and, of course, Jon ‘Bones’ Jones.
As Sweden’s premier mixed martial artist, he holds the distinct honour of giving the former champion Jones by far the toughest fight of his career to date and at 30 years of age, has all the time in the world to make another run at the title. His athleticism, range and well-rounded MMA skillset make him a nightmare for anyone he faces so don’t make the mistake of ruling out this highly-skilled Swede just yet.
#5 – Gegard Mousasi
The Dutchman Gegard Mousasi truly is one of MMA’s most consistently impressive athletes. At just 31 years of age, he owns a simply astounding record of (41-6-2) and despite fighting at middleweight at the moment, holds a submission victory over the monstrously huge Mark Hunt at heavyweight.
Gegard’s methodical approach to his in-octagon strategy has seen him absorb minimal damage for such a well-travelled veteran and he stands as one of modern MMA’s most astute technicians. With four wins and three finishes in his last four matchups, you can expect Mousasi to earn himself a title shot within the next year if he can get past Chris Weidman at UFC 210.
#4 – Michael Bisping
The people need to start giving Michael Bisping the credit he deserves. As a long-time bridesmaid but never the bride, Bisping went through his entire career without once getting himself into a spot of real title contention. Of course, the stars aligned and in his twilight years he was finally given his chance and like it or not, he took full advantage and now stands as the UFC’s middleweight champion.
He talks quite a bit and he might not be the most technically skilled fighter on this list, but he’s on a five-fight win-streak and has gotten his hand raised against some of the best fighters the 185lb division has had to offer so at this stage I think all that is left to do is just accept that Bisping is one of Europe’s great exports.
#3 – Khabib Nurmagomedov
His stock might have taken a bit of a hit following his recent pullout from his eagerly anticipated lightweight showdown with Tony Ferguson at UFC 209 but you’re a fool if you don’t think his skills in the octagon are amongst the elite of the elite in the sport.
At 24-0, he holds perhaps the most impressive record in all of mixed martial arts right now and as a master in the art of sambo, he has rightfully earned himself a reputation as the most fearsome and unstoppable grappler in the UFC’s lightweight division. His issues with his weight-cut have been well-documented at this stage but if he does indeed overcome those problems, you can expect to see his magical skills on the mat in action again before the summer is done.
#2 – Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Joanna Jedrzejczyk is without a doubt one of MMA’s most elite muay-thai practitioners. As a decorated kick-boxer, she made the switch to the world of MMA and has since become one of the promotion’s most dominant champions, showing both her elite skillset and unwavering desire to win to defend her women’s strawweight title on four separate occasions to date.
Joanna is a nasty competitor and remains unbeaten as a professional after her thrilling all-Polish showdown with Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 205. She’s a real star in the making and holds all of the tools necessary to dominant the 115lb division for a very long time.
#1 – Conor McGregor
Was anyone else ever going to take the top spot with this one? Conor McGregor has been nothing short of phenomenal since the UFC signed him to fight Marcus Brimage in 2013. His left hand has KO’d every single person he has fought with the exception of Nate Diaz and Max Holloway and in 2016, he became the first fighter in the history of the UFC to hold two titles in two divisions simultaneously.
McGregor’s journey to the top has always had a sense of inevitability about it and with his future Hall of Famer-status all-but-assured, he most definitely stands as Europe’s most elite and most decorated export to date.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena