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CagePotato Roundtable #14: Who Was the Greatest American Fighter in MMA History?

(Little known fact: The original version of America the Beautiful contained a fifth verse about Don Frye’s shorts.)

In honor of our country’s 236th birthday, we’ve got a special CagePotato Roundtable discussion for you guys: Who was the greatest American MMA fighter of all time? Because let’s face it, America is exceptional, and we produce the best goddamned fighters in the world. SORRY LIBERAL MEDIA, I SAID IT. Enjoy, and if you have an idea for a future Roundtable topic, please send it to And hey, be careful with those bottle rockets, okay?

Ben Goldstein

What do MMA legends Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, Tito Ortiz, Kazushi Sakuraba, Wanderlei Silva, Randy Couture, and Mark Coleman have in common? They all started their careers within 11 months of Dan Henderson‘s professional debut in June 1997. And where are those guys now? Retired, pretty much retired, retiring this weekend, completely washed up, close to retirementretired, and retired unless Herschel Walker picks up the phone. Meanwhile, Hendo is preparing for his next title fight in September. Does the TRT help? Sure, though I don’t think you can credit Henderson’s heart, balls, and H-bomb power to a little hormonal help. (You also have to give some props to the Jam Gym.)

I’d stack Dan’s accomplishments up against any other fighter in this roundtable discussion — the unprecedented two-division title reign in PRIDE, the five single-night tournament sweeps, the stunning knockouts of Wanderlei Silva, Michael Bisping, and Fedor Emelianenko — but what makes him America’s MMA G.O.A.T. is his incredible longevity. Dan Henderson has been a top-ten fighter longer than anybody else in the history of the sport. I can only think of two other MMA fighters who started their careers 15 years ago who are still considered viable stars, and neither of them are American: Vitor Belfort, whose career was plagued by long stretches of injury and inconsistency, and Anderson Silva, who’s a freakish exception to any rule.

As for Dan, there’s no reason a 41-year-old man should still be able to compete at such a high level, after so many wars. Of all the old legends, he’s the last man standing. He’s even managed to outlast fighters who started competing several years after he did and who are still considered legends. (I’m thinking of Fedor and BJ in particular.) Henderson is without a doubt the best American fighter in the sport’s history, and if he manages to beat Jon Jones in September, he’s got my vote for greatest fighter of all time.

George Shunick

When you ask who the best American fighter is, there are two ways you can interpret this question. One way is “who is the best fighter born in America?” My answer to that would be Dan Henderson, but unfortunately, BG called dibs on him first. But fortunately for me, there’s another way to interpret this; “who is the best fighter who embodies the ideals and characteristics of America?” Before you say Brian Stann or Randy Couture, let’s be real; being in the Army isn’t a marker of how “American” you are. There are plenty of Americans who are not only not in the military, but actually oppose how our military is utilized. Are they somehow less American because they disagree with our country’s foreign policy? Hardly.

The fact is that America is a land of dualities. Two sides to one coin. East coast and West coast, Republican and Democrat, Coke and Pepsi, you know the drill. And no fighter embodies that sense of duality more than Nick Diaz. Occupy Wall Street says America’s got the 1% and the 99%? Nick Diaz gets paid “too much” — like the 1% — but “not enough” – just like the 99%! His interviews consist of minutes of nonsensical rambling that contain nuggets of profoundly accurate observations. He’s the world’s most energetic stoner. Speaking of which, like half of the country, he thinks marijuana should be legal. Like many Americans, he doesn’t like waking up and going to work sometimes and he is a fan of profanity.

Of course, he doesn’t share all the qualities of Americans. He’s in fantastic shape, which is somewhat contrary to the image of the country with the largest obesity rate in the world. But it’s not like Americans let the truth get in the way of their own convenient narratives anyway. That’s why it’s easy to pick a soldier when we think about who’s the best American fighter, because we like to buy into the concept of the ideal American. But Nick Diaz is a real American, with all the virtues and vices that make this country what it really is. And it just so happens he can throw down with the best of them in arguably the best division in the UFC. That’s what makes Nick Diaz the best American fighter.

God (as communicated to blessed virgin Jared Jones)

You are now listening to the word of The Lord.

Randy Couture retired with a record of 19-11, having never defended one of the belts he was gifted more than twice in his career. He is a polygamist and an adulterer who will be run over by a Mack truck on the set of The Expendables 3 immediately after proposing to his seventh wife, a 17-year-old flight stewardess who just happened to be assigned to his private jet.

Dan Severn is a big, smelly, ape who used to sodomize other men — grown men — in the early days of the sport and pass it off as “entertainment” or “wrestling.” He now resorts to working matches against jobbers and fighting dementia-ridden homeless people who were lured into the hole-in-the-wall dives he calls home with the promise of a peanut butter and crack sandwich if they were able to defeat him. The few who were able to do so without succumbing to old-man-sweat-poisoning never received the PB & C sandwich they so rightfully deserved.

Don Frye is a misogynistic drunkard who resorts to crass jokes involving his genitalia, miles of broken glass, and the opportunity to hear a certain woman’s flatulence over a walkie-talkie during live broadcasts.

Tito Ortiz laid with a common wench-for-hire and produced twin versions of the antichrist.

Jon Jones is so full of hubris that he refers to me as “Bones” when carrying out his weekly prayers.

What do these men all have in common? They were/are all terrible champions, and they are all destined to spend eternity in the fiery pits of Satan’s anus for their insolence.

And then there is my favorite son, Matt Hughes.

Why is Matt Hughes the greatest American champion, you ask? Because he not only embodies every single core value of the land I and I alone created, but he was able to play David to Satan’s Goliaths through the simple power of hard work, determination, and constant worship of all that is me. If you need any more convincing, look no further than his seven title defenses. Not six, seven. Six is the devil’s number, which explains why Matt has defeated six former champions in his time. Suck it, Lucifer. Matt also currently holds the record for most UFC victories, a record that will never be broken if I have anything to say about it (Spoiler: I do. I have everything to say about it).

I am absolutely shocked (and rather insulted) that the rest of you would even insinuate that there is a greater American than Mr. Hughes. The book I wrote about him was calledMade in America: The Most Dominant Champion in UFC Historyfor My Son’s sake.What else do you need? A second coming? Mr. Hughes has defended our (re: my)country’s honor from those dirty, big-butted Brazilians and their latently-homosexual “ground fighting” by using their own techniques against them, showing them the err of their ways, if you will, despite the fact that he doesn’t even hold a “belt” in their amoral, so-called “sport.” He was the only man to offer any resistance whatsoever against that dry-humping Canuck who is currently fisting the welterweight division into non-existence, and in his spare time, Mr. Hughes defends our homes from the guardians of Hell.

The proof is in the country breakfast bread pudding, people.

Seth Falvo

You’re only allowed three great women in your lifetime. They come along like the great fighters, every ten years. Rocky Marciano. Sugar Ray Robinson. Joe Louis. Sometimes you get ‘em all at once…

It’s fitting that I start my entry with these classic lines from A Bronx Tale. In context, Sonny taught a generation through C how to look for a good woman. By themselves, Sonny sets the bar for how I’m about to define the greatest American mixed martial artist. There have been plenty of good fighters to come from America, but as far as I’m concerned, only one great one. Good fighters win. Great fighters dominate. Good fighters make you change your game plan. Great fighters change the game.

In the past ten years, MMA fans have been privileged to watch the following three individuals: There’s been Fedor Emelianenko. There still is Anderson Silva. And we’re just getting started with my selection for this discussion, Jon Jones.

Even the most jaded Bones haters cannot deny that he is a special talent; at least not without looking bitter and pathetic. He started his career going 6-0 in only three months. He’d go on to make Andre Gusmao look utterly hopeless en route to a unanimous decision victory in his UFC debut — on two weeks’ notice, nonetheless. He’d become the youngest champion in the history of the UFC, defending the title three times before his 25th birthday. Save for one round against Rashad Evans and a few 12-6 elbows against Matt Hamill (resulting in the “loss” by DQ on his record), he’s yet to look human, let alone beatable.

He is our sport’s Michael Jordan. He is our sport’s Roberto Clemente. He is our sport’s Mike Tyson.

Of course, time will tell which comparison is the most accurate. Will he continue to raise the bar to seemingly insurmountable heights? Will he be taken from us while he’s still in his prime, leaving us to wonder what could have been if he stuck around for another few years? Or will he suffer a monumental collapse, and be remembered as more of a cautionary tale than a once-dominant champion? We’ll have to wait and see, but regardless of how this story ends, Jon Jones deserves to be remembered as the greatest American mixed martial artist in our sport’s brief history.

Nathan Smith

If he could go back in time and erase five of his six final bouts, Chuck Liddell would have gone down as one of the greatest Mixed Martial Artists of all time. Instead, the accumulation of 22 amateur kickboxing matches and 29 pro MMA fights caught up to the “Iceman,” who earned the nickname by knocking fools cold. Unfortunately for Liddell, he would be the one staring wide-eyed at the bright lights of the arena during the twilight of his career. So instead Charles David “Chuck” Liddell gets the consolation prize being my choice for the greatest American MMA athlete in history. But like I said, prior to the closing stages of his illustrious career where he was on the recieving end of some horrific KOs, he was the one doling out the punishment.

If you go eight-and-a-half years in the sport of MMA facing top tier talent and only lose three times, you’re either blessed or pretty damn good — or both. For Chuck, in his third professional fight, there was no shame in getting submitted by Jeremy Horn especially when he beat the piss of out of Gumby in their rematch years later. Having Randy Couture go all Cpt. Cardio on Chuck was not a reason to hang his head since he dicknailed The Natural in the following two bouts of their trilogy. Then he gassed against Rampage during the Pride Grand Prix in Japan after which he went back to the UFC, captured the light-heavyweight championship and defended it five times. At that point he was recognized as the clichéd “baddest man on the planet.”

Let’s face it. For the better part of a decade there were three fighters who literally carried the UFC. Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, and Liddell gave the UFC a piggyback ride towards the mainstream success it now has. Since Chuck has a 4-1 combined record against Ortiz and Couture, he wins. That trademark overhand right and the seemingly unbelievable ability to not get taken down garnered Chuck all the accolades. He was the focal point of the UFC at the very beginning of its push towards becoming a household commodity. He was the first MMA’er to be on the cover of ESPN the magazine. He was in movies and featured during an episode of Entourage (before it started to suck). Chuck did all the press junkets and visited various local morning news shows (with mostly great results) to promote the UFC.

Now in retirement, he is the Vice President of Business Development for the UFC. I don’t exactly know what the fuck that means but I am pretty sure he shakes hands and kisses babies all around the world while promoting the UFC with that crazy look in his eyes. Chuck is college educated and very well spoken even though he has a thick mohawk with a few head tattoos. Could you ask for anything more from an ambassador?

Jason Moles (with apologies to Patrick Henry)

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have been mentioned heretofore. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the roundtable is one of monumental moment to this Potato Nation. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of love or hate; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility, which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards this nation, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Readers of CagePotato, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Chael P. Sonnen is the greatest American mixed martial artist of all time. Not Couture. Not Severn. Not Henderson or anyone else for that matter. Despite his alter ego Señor Chael, Sonnen embodies what it truly means to be American like no other…and his MMA career speaks for itself. Come Sunday morning, you will all have a new pound-for-pound king. You may all cry troll alert, but you would be amiss. You can start a flame war in the comments section if you feel it necessary, but is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle to crown the best American fighter in MMA history?

All the guys above me have spewed their media hype with reckless abandon and smirk all the while. Is it that insidious smile with which you wish to agree with? Trust it not, sirs; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. They tell you about their record and accolades; they argue how their guys was always a formidable adversary and how without them, the sport just would not be the same. But who can match the awesomeness of Chael P. Sonnen? Who can lay claim to having thrown a beating to the most feared striker in the game? All of his future opponents need to acquire the means of effectual resistance instead of lying supinely on their backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until he grinds them into a bloody mess. The best American fighter award is not given to the champions of Christmas past alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. No fighter in MMA history, who has bled red, white, and blue has ever been more vigilant, active, and brave as Chael Sonnen has been in his pursuit with the UFC middleweight champion, Anderson Silva.

It is in vain, fellas, to extenuate the matter. These guys may cry, BS, BS but there is no bull here. The unadulterated truth has actually been revealed! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding leather gloves on Brazilian skull followed by a familiar voice shouting, “Aaaaannnnd new…!” His army of beloved fans is already waiting anxiously! Why stand we here idle? What more do you need to hear? Is honor so dear, or glory so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of money laundering and bold-faced lies? Quite possibly not, but hey, what are you going to do? I know not what whom others may take; but as for me, give me Sonnen or give me death!

On the next page: Tito, Don, Randy, and ReX’s extra-special Top 7 ranking of American legends.

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Cagepotato Comments

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bell1423- August 3, 2013 at 8:51 am
best mma fighters ever,dan Henderson,randy coutre,fedor,chuck lidel,anderson silva,gsp,maybe j jones not sure of him yet,matt hughes,don frye,probably some more, they always come to fight,or came to fight,they were and are the best,dan severn ,ken shamrock, an a few more from the past were good then but would have been beaten a lot fighting the fighters of today.
kirsdela- July 30, 2012 at 12:43 am
like Arthur replied I am shocked that a student able to earn $9035 in four weeks on the internet. have you seen this web link N u T T y R i c h D o t C o m
Mr_Misanthropy- July 5, 2012 at 11:46 am
That was a drunken late night compliment by the way.
KarmaAteMyCat- July 5, 2012 at 10:41 am
Thanks a ton for the compliment Xeno! I put a lot of work into that and had to finish it mobile and catch a plane at the same time. Everyones taking Jared way to literal which is funnier then lighting a bag of shit and knocking on someones door and then watching them Stomp it out
XENOPHON- July 5, 2012 at 8:00 am
@Bloodsport - God dammit, you're right. Stann was not Army, Marine. Nice editorial catch. Oh and I've heard that "someone" could nearly make a living fucking with the CP staff. I thought the 4th of July effort intertwined in this thread was top notch, although CrushCo was missing, it was original.
Enricho Palazzo- July 5, 2012 at 6:54 am
Dear George: The topic is "Who is the greatest American fighter in MMA history" not "Who is the most patriotic American fighter in MMA history" so leave your bullshit politics out of it. There was no reason to bring up anyone's military background in your article. Since you felt the need to assert that somewhere in America there's a person with a political ideology that makes them more American than a uniformed soldier, I'd like to point out that the uniformed soldier is the one who stands between an armed aggressor and your liberal college professor who objects to the way the military is utilized. So who's more American, the person ready to do violence and die in defense of the Country or the person hiding behind him?
jyveturkey- July 5, 2012 at 2:17 am
Chael = Thief. Snitch. Liar. Cheat <---impossible to be any less of a man, especially being a snitch. What an embarrassment to men.
Whitemare- July 5, 2012 at 1:31 am
Hey J Jones!!!! RANDY COUTRE defended his Heavweight Title Against Gabriel Gonzaga, AFter he came out of retirement to DESTROY Tim Sylvia (which was The Greatest thing ever) Your a rookie Jones I should be writing for this website
J.Jones- July 5, 2012 at 6:07 am
I said never defended a heavyweight title more than twice. As in twice in a row. Thanks for trying.
Mr_Misanthropy- July 5, 2012 at 12:53 am
The writer not the pugilist.
XENOPHON- July 5, 2012 at 8:14 am
I thought they were one and the same. Simply the case of a difference in the choice of the weapon, no?
Mr_Misanthropy- July 5, 2012 at 12:52 am
J. Jones sells refrigerators to Eskimoes.
Cornerman- July 4, 2012 at 11:25 pm
I remember watching Dan get subd by Frank Shamrock on the wide world of sports. It was a time when I thought he will either fade to obscurity or learn how to wrestle his way to greatness. Low and behold he got himself a RIGHT HAND! whoop!
Bloodsport- July 4, 2012 at 11:23 pm
To finish my rant up. I'll never understand how people can talk shit about something they can't do. You say JJ is a horrible champ that shows how uneducated you are in this sport, he's one of the most talented men this sport has ever seen. He gets 1 dui and other then that he's a great ambassador for mma. Coutoure affairs and such are his personal life and don't belong in public im sure your a st right? Gifted a belt? Umm no maybe gifted a title shot there's a huge monumental difference because he had to fight and win it something you'll never do unless you go to WalMart and buy it hand it to a 5yo and slug the poor kid. Doesn't matter if he didn't defend he won it, that's an accomplishment. Have some respect for men in the sport you supposedly enjoy. No clue how the hell your allowed to write pieces around here but being a write especially you should have respect for the people you write about before burning bridges for future endeavors but by reading this you aren't smart enough to think that hard.
Bloodsport- July 4, 2012 at 11:13 pm
Wow first time commenting here usually somewhere else but I had to say something whenI read the most uneducated, most hater filled whiney Im never gonna be as successful as them write up I've ever read. By the full of himself Im God wannabe JJ. Dogging on fighters who will forever be much more successful then you more talented then you will ever be. Saying a GSP is all lay n pray lol he gets his share of decisions but Kos should've been stopped he did everything to get hardy yo tap he fights the best of the best and they can't beat him. People fight so defensively against him its hard to finish they fight offensively against others.
Bloodsport- July 4, 2012 at 10:47 pm
GS- Stann was a DevilDog not army, being a fellow Devil there's a huge difference
enrikk- July 4, 2012 at 10:30 pm
Ah, shucks, correction - Chael considers himself the best American fighter. But his argument for Anderson being American is amusing, eh?
enrikk- July 4, 2012 at 10:28 pm
How come everyone referenced Anderson Silva as the opponent of the "Best American fighter"(s)? Clearly, Anderson Silva is the best American fighter! Just ask Chael!
/end sarcasm
RwilsonR- July 4, 2012 at 9:36 pm
Where was Chad Griggs?
guelph gym- July 4, 2012 at 8:46 pm
colman and kerr 2 tough dudes very tough and ballsie what i cant believe is someone would put the 3 most sheltered and protected fighters on this list outure liddell and hughes the most overrated fighters of all time id put rampage way b4 liddell couture and hughes good choice on hendo though
doscinco25- July 4, 2012 at 4:42 pm
Mark Colman, Kerr!!!?? Yea i know they werent the most skilled. But they were hardass workers, that helped pave the way for american mixed martial arts!! Going over to japan to fight in pride and represent america?! Now thats a true, american fighter. Yea i know Hendo, Chuck, Guy Mezger, etc did it. But those Marks were like the Godfathers of the Sport. Happy Independence Day!!
Get Off Me- July 4, 2012 at 4:10 pm
Frank Dux
XENOPHON- July 4, 2012 at 3:29 pm
@ Mr_Misanthropy - hahaha, OK,OK, not that fucking hose. If it counts, so no more lotion either, I'm going to take a online English class to show some good faith...
Mr_Misanthropy- July 4, 2012 at 3:08 pm
My dictionary doesn't fit in my purse and my high heels keep giving me corns. Looks like I'm just going to have to keep excavating this hole in my basement.

*turns around*

It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again!
XENOPHON- July 4, 2012 at 2:59 pm
@WeedRULZ15 - Without a doubt, Severn stands both tall and the test of time. At 54 years old and just this year winning his 127th fight - he puts all the others to shame. That's 4 times as many professional fights than even Captain America himself, R. Duane Couture.

Calling Fedor a "bald-headed commie" rocked. Problem is most of the punks with their gay-ass MMA t-shirts were born well after the cold war, and just don't remember what life was all about or how much was at risk before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
XENOPHON- July 4, 2012 at 2:45 pm
@ Mr_Misanthropy - Misanthropy is the general hatred, mistrust or dislike of the human species or human nature.

This was about the best American MMA fighter, not a spelling B. Maybe you should change your stage name to something more appropriate, like Miss Grammar Girl.

I don't know how you could be offended when I only commented about the writers picks, their logic, reasoning, and critical thinking?
XENOPHON- July 4, 2012 at 2:23 pm
OK ReX13..I didn't see Severn on that list of yours, and when thinking back, he carried the UFC for quite some time, before any of the others mentioned. Like Jeremy Horn (who was already mentioned) he also had over 100 fights to his credit. I'd of thought that since the editor placed you last, that you would have one other name thrown into the hat.

Being that no one has yet to mention him I am going to toss one more horse-shoe into the pit. This one has won a championship title, won UFC tournaments, and UFC exhibitions (in 2009 was the winner 2nd most-watched MMA match in U.S. history), won tournaments outside the UFC, won fight night awards, won knockout fight awards, won Grand Prix's, defended his title, and won Super Fight championships. His record at 17-7 with three additional undefeated exhibition fights best that of Ortiz. His name is Roy Nelson, and much like the U.S.A., you might remember him as Big Country.