Once considered the premier division in all of MMA, the UFC’s light heavyweight division has lost some luster as of late. Between an aging talent pool and the indefinite suspension of long time champion, Jon Jones, the division isn’t nearly as strong as it once was. But absent of its depth and age issue, the UFC light heavyweight division is still a fan favorite.

In honor of newly crowned champion, Daniel Cormier’s upcoming first title defense at UFC 192 in Houston on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, let’s take some time to celebrate the division the put the UFC on the map. The division that turned the struggling enterprise of the UFC into the billion dollar goliath it is today. These are the five greatest light heavyweights in UFC history.

#5 – Tito Ortiz

Regardless of his current relationship with the UFC or lack thereof, Ortiz will always be remembers as one of the organization’s greatest champions. Ortiz also played an important role as the face of the organization in the early 2000s.

After coming up short in his first UFC title bid – losing in the fourth round to then champion Frank Shamrock – Ortiz defeated Pride legend Wanderlei Silva to capture the vacant belt at UFC 25. Ortiz would go on to defend his title five times before losing the belt to Randy Couture at UFC 44.

Even though all of his UFC light heavyweight title records have since been broken, Ortiz’s lasting impression on the sport has not and will not be forgotten.

#4 – Randy Couture

Already a two-time UFC heavyweight champion, Couture dropped down to light heavyweight following back-to-back heavyweight title fight losses. In his first bout in the division, Couture defeated Chuck Liddell to become the division’s interim champion then defeated Ortiz to unify the titles; becoming the undisputed UFC light heavyweight champion.

Even though Couture lost the title to Vitor Belfort in his next outing, he won it back at UFC 49; stopping Belfort at the end of the third round. That would be Couture’s last time wearing UFC light heavyweight gold as the two-division champion would lose the belt to Liddell at UFC 52 and never regain it.

There are many fighters with better records than Couture and perhaps fighters more deserving of the opportunities to compete for titles he was afforded, but Couture made the most out of those opportunities. That’s why he will always be remembered as one of the greats.

#3 – Frank Shamrock

Before UFC 31, the UFC light heavyweight title was known as the middleweight title and the division’s first champion was Shamrock. Shamrock first captured the title at UFC Japan on Dec. 21, 1997, in his UFC debut. Shamrock would then go on to defend the title four times; winning all four defenses by way of stoppage.

Following his fourth title defense, Shamrock vacated the belt and left the UFC. Shamrock has stated many times that he left the organization because of the lack of competition at the time. When you consider he was 5-0 with all five wins coming by stoppage, Shamrock had an argument.

Not only was Shamrock the division’s first champion, he was the division’s first dominant champion. It’s an absolute travesty that Shamrock is not in the UFC Hall of Fame today. Shamrock was one of the first true “mixed” martial artists in MMA as he had great skills in all facets of the game. His influence on the fight game was profound and his dominance in the cage will always be remembered.

#2 – Chuck Liddell

While Ortiz was the face of the UFC in the early 2000s, Liddell and his rivalry with Couture really brought the sport out of the dark ages and opened it up to the mainstream fans. A talented wrestler with big knockout power, Liddell was known for his “sprawl and brawl” style. By using his wrestling in reverse to keep the fight standing, Liddell would headhunt his opponents looking to land his big overhand right.

Liddell didn’t capture the light heavyweight title until UFC 52 – nearly eight years after his UFC debut – but when he did finally become champion, he made the most of it. After knocking Couture out to claim the title, Liddell would go on to defend the belt four times; knocking all four of his opponents out.

Even though his title reign was not long, it was dominant. Had Liddell been given an opportunity to compete for the title sooner, there is no telling just how great his title reign could have been.

#1 – Jon Jones

Forget about all of the personal struggles that lead to Jones being stripped of his title and suspended indefinitely. Let’s just focus on why Jones is the greatest light heavyweight in UFC history and quite possibly the greatest MMA fighter of all-time.

Jones became champion at UFC 128. Jones stopped Pride legend Mauricio Rua to become the youngest champion in UFC history. Then, Jones would go on to break just about every UFC light heavyweight championship record; defending his title eight times with four of those wins coming by way of stoppage.

What’s truly scary is that Jones has accomplished all of that and he is still only 28 years old. As long as he can get his personal life back in order, Jones has another half dozen prime fighting years left to add to his legacy.

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.