The Fedor Emelianenko Era: 3/03-present
Fedor’s dominance over MMA’s heavyweight division is such that, had he been born a few hundred years ago, they might have burned him for being a witch. At least they might have tried, though he would certainly have armbarred the entire mob and then calmly collected their pitchforks. Fedor is the rare fighter with devastating one-punch knockout power on the feet and deft submission skills off his back. In other words, you are never really winning against Fedor; you’re just temporarily not losing.
Fedor’s run through Pride’s heavyweight class was like Sherman’s March to the Sea, only much more efficient. He beat everyone there was to beat and he did it convincingly. His list of victims includes former UFC champs like Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, as well as Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mark Coleman, and even Hong Man Choi. In fact, the only barrier to Fedor’s continued reign of terror is his own refusal to sign with the UFC, where more heavyweights are waiting to be conquered. Will he ever cave in and do to the UFC’s big men what he did to Pride’s? It’s doubtful, though until he loses you really can’t begrudge him the title of the world’s best heavyweight.
The Anderson Silva Era: 10/06-present
When Silva burst on the UFC scene and messed up Chris Leben like he had just popped a Hot Pocket in the microwave and wanted to get done before it got cold backstage, we should have known that we were witnessing a new era. When he pushed Rich Franklin’s nose to the side of his face a few months later, there was little doubt. Back in his early days as UFC middleweight champ, Silva was as elusive as he was ferocious. He dispatched challengers like Nate Marquardt and Dan Henderson with relative ease, and even went up a weight class to punish James Irvin‘s insolence.
Now the Silva pendulum has swung more in the elusive direction, and he seems fine with that. But when he feels like hurting someone there are few men who do it better than “The Spider.” He combines knockout power with an unpredictable attack that seems to find holes in your defense even when you’re devoted solely to protecting your pretty face. His upcoming light heavyweight fight with Forrest Griffin is a testament to how thoroughly he has ravaged his own division. If only he’d rediscover the monster he unleashed on poor Leben. Poor, poor Leben.
The Georges St. Pierre Era: 11/06-present
Instead of talking about what GSP does well, it might be simpler to talk about what he lacks. Nah, screw it. Nothing really comes to mind. The guy is a machine. His cardio is unmatched and his athleticism allows him to do things that most people can only do in video games. He came up the ranks fast and got a title shot against Matt Hughes in only his third UFC fight, though he wasn’t quite mentally ready for it. The submission loss helped him come back harder than ever, resulting in an impressive run through the likes of “Mayhem” Miller, Sean Sherk, Frank Trigg, and B.J. Penn.
He destroyed Matt Hughes twice, beat B.J. Penn once more (though there is that greasing thing still staining his otherwise squeaky clean image) and tossed in wins over contenders like Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch just for the hell of it. His upset loss to Matt Serra raised some questions about his chin and overall mental approach, but he’s since quieted those concerns and remains the man to beat in the welterweight class.
The Lyoto Machida Era: 5/09-???
In case you haven’t heard, Machida’s one-sided shellacking of Rashad Evans heralded the dawn of “The Machida Era.” We know this because UFC employees keep saying it, but also because if he fights as flawlessly as he did against the man we’re now calling “Suga,” there aren’t many people in the UFC’s 205-pound class who seem to present a problem for him, at least on paper.
Up until a few months ago Machida was known as the guy you couldn’t hit, but who would hit you just enough to win. Then he knocked out Thiago Silva and Evans back to back and now he’s the guy you still can’t hit who will make a fool out of you with his karate skillz, yo. Who knows how long his reign will last, or even if it will turn out to be a reign at all, but at the moment “The Dragon” seems to be putting the “martial arts” back in mixed martial arts, as well as putting karate dojos back in business.
Did we miss any? Go ‘head and let us know in the comments, as we know you will.