A considerable number of world class athletes to have graced the Octagon have plied their trade at 155 lbs. The UFC lightweight division has never been thin on spectacular events nor high profile fighters with devastating fighting skills. Even before the dawn of Conor McGregor, lightweight champions like BJ Penn, Benson Henderson and Kenny Florian were worshipped by fans worldwide.
We put our heads together to rank the best of the best and have produced a finite list of eight fighters, with honourable mentions for a further three. How does your top 10 fare against our selections below?
1. B.J. Penn
On paper, B.J. Penn’s MMA career may look average at best, but the reality is that B.J. Penn was
easily one of the best lighter weight fighters of the 2000s. A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu marvel, Penn
transitioned to MMA in 2001 and made his debut at UFC 31.
After a solid career at lightweight, Penn moved up to welterweight, winning the UFC Welterweight
championship. However, it was at lightweight where he found the most success. He won the UFC
Lightweight from Joe Stevenson at UFC 80 and successfully defended it three times before
eventually losing the title to Frankie Edgar at UFC 112.
2. Jens Pulver
A pioneer of the UFC Lightweight division, Jens Pulver is perhaps best known as the first ever UFC
Lightweight champion. After a 9-2- 1 start in his career, Pulver won the inaugural Lightweight belt
after Caol Uno at UFC 30, before successfully defending it against Dennis Hallman and B.J. Penn.
Pulver vacated the title and had success fighting outside of the UFC, and would later return to the
Octagon, losing to Joe Lauzon and B.J. Penn in a rematch.
3. Frankie Edgar
He was quite small even for a lightweight, but that did not stop Frankie Edgar from rising to the top
of the UFC lightweight division and beating most of the top fighters at 155 pounds. Edgar made his
UFC debut against Tyson Griffin at UFC 67 and went 6-1 in the Octagon before being given a shot
against B.J. Penn for the lightweight title.
He won that fight by controversial decision, which led to an immediate rematch, which he won again
in a far more dominant performance. Edgar defended his belt against Gray Maynard before losing it
to Benson Henderson. He has since moved down to Featherweight where he has firmly established
himself as a top five fighter at 145 pounds.
4. Benson Henderson
There have been few lightweight fighters who have displayed the well-roundedness, tenacity and
grit that Benson Henderson has throughout his MMA career. He won the WEC Lightweight
championship, which he lost to Anthony Pettis in the WEC’s last ever event before it merged with
After going 3-0 in the UFC, Henderson eventually got a shot at the UFC Lightweight belt against
Frankie Edgar at UFC 144, winning via unanimous decision. Henderson successfully defended the
title against Edgar, Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez before losing it in a rematch against Pettis.
5. Khabib Nurmagomedov
There are few MMA fighters who have been able to go undefeated in 10 fights, which makes Khabib
Nurmagomedov’s 26-0 record extremely impressive. Nurmagomedov won his first 16 professional
fights in the Ukraine and his native Russia before being signed by the UFC in 2012.
He won his UFC debut against Kamal Shalorus and eventually found his way into the UFC top ten
when he beat Rafael Dos Anjos in April 2014. However, Nurmagomedov was forced to sit out for the
next two years due to injuries. He returned in April 2016, resuming his unbeaten streak en route to
defeating Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 to win the vacant UFC Lightweight Championship.
6. Tony Ferguson
After a solid 10-2 start in his professional MMA career, Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson was accepted into
The Ultimate Fighter season 13. There, he displayed his solid grappling and striking skills, winning his
three ‘house’ fights via TKO before beating Ramsey Nijem to win the competition.
After beating Nijem, Ferguson won two more fights in the Octagon before losing to Michael Johnson
via decision. The loss only made Ferguson a better fighter, however, as he went 10-0 in the UFC after
the setback, which included wins over Edson Barboza, Rafael Dos Anjos and Kevin Lee.
7. Rafael Dos Anjos
Rafael Dos Anjos had a less-than- ideal start to his UFC career, but he constantly improved with every
fight to become one of the most dominant lightweights of the early and mid-2010s. The Brazilian
was 4-4 in his first eight UFC fights, but huge improvements in his striking and cardio led to a five-
fight win streak in 2012 and 2013.
He came up short against Khabib Nurmagomedov but rebounded from that loss with victories over
Jason High and Benson Henderson. Dos Anjos then defeated Anthony Pettis to win the UFC
Lightweight title, which he defended against Donald Cerrone before losing it to Eddie Alvarez.
8. Kenny Florian
Perhaps the most successful UFC Lightweight fighter to have never won a UFC title, Kenny Florian
was nonetheless successful in his 10-fight stint in the lightweight division. After short stints at
middleweight and welterweight, Florian moved to lightweight, where he lost a title match against
Sean Sherk before going on a six-fight win streak.
He lost his second title shot against B.J. Penn which was followed by submission wins over Clay
Guida and Takanori Gomi. Florian then lost a decision to a red hot Gray Maynard before moving
down to the featherweight division and eventually retiring from the sport.
Alvarez was signed by the UFC after a successful career in Bellator, and quickly won the UFC
Lightweight Championship. With a total of 4 wins, 2 losses and 1 no contest in the UFC so far, Alvarez
is not quite one of the best of all time, but is well on his way there.
Poirier moved up to the UFC Lightweight division after a solid career at featherweight. He has gone
7-1- 1 in the Octagon since the move, which includes wins over Jim Miller, Anthony Pettis and Justin
Gaethje. If he can get a few more top ten wins under his belt, Poirier will well and truly become one
of the top all time UFC lightweights.
The most financially successful fighter in UFC history, McGregor dominated Eddie Alvarez to win the
UFC Lightweight belt at UFC 202. However, McGregor has not fought in MMA since, and with only
one UFC lightweight fight under his belt, it’s impossible at this point to name him a top lightweight
of all time.
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