Let's face it. The greatest fighters of all time come and go. One day Anderson Silva is the greatest, then he gets KO'd, breaks his leg, loses a decision and tests positive for performance-enhancement drugs.
Or for a time it was Georges St-Pierre, the well-conditioned original cyborg who dismantled his opponents one dry hump at a time.
Now it's kind of looking like Jon Jones, except he hasn't finished a fight since 2013 and 20 rounds ago. So for many reasons, the GOAT is a really a myth because even the best fighters are just one fight away from getting reminded of their mortality.
So who's among the next batch of GOATS that we'll all be talking about soon?
Here's a few:
We're already talking about DJ as being the best. He has won 10 fights in a row and has defended his flyweight title eight straight times. DJ is not quick; he's sudden. He looks pretty much unbeatable. His only problem is that he is fighting, well, in the flyweight division. Most of the great athletes who weigh 125 pounds are either on ice skates, swinging from parallel bars or riding horses. With the exception of Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson, Johnson is pretty much in a league of his own, along with Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell. DJ will need to move up to bantamweight to prove that he is the GOAT and fight a guy named Dominick Cruz again.
He's conquered tigers, big waves and Tim Kennedy. Nothing says GOAT more than that. The Santa Cruz surfer is on his way to immortality. If he can keep his ego in check and maintain his focus on getting better, Rockhold has a super-bright future ahead of him. He's 6 foot 3 inches tall, strong and raging with manliness. If he wins a few more fights at middleweight he could easily move up to light heavyweight and challenge someone like Jon Jones (it wouldn't be his AKA training partner Daniel Cormier). Rockhold is a talented kickboxer and grappler and his size alone gives his opponents a tough time. Luke Rockhold vs. Jon Jones could be the fight of the decade over Super Bowl weekend in 2017 and Rockhold may be the guy who finally strips Jones of his title and GOAT reputation.
OK, stop laughing. Let's think about this. Robbie Lawler has won eight out his last nine fights in the UFC. He has won five in a row and his list of opponents aren't weekday taxi drivers. We're talking about Johny Hendricks, Carlos Condit, Matt Brown and the guy who was supposed to be the biggest thing in MMA, Rory MacDonald. Lawler brutalized MacDonald twice and he will never be the same fighter. Lawler's dismantling of the top guys in the UFC's welterweight division is absolutely stunning considering that he was written off while in Strikeforce, losing to guys like Lorenz Larkin, Renato Sobral and Jake Shields. Somehow, someway, Lawler gets his wins and that's what great fighters do. If he can get through a few more fights and cap his career off with a KO victory over a returning Georges St-Pierre, Lawler will certainly earn the spot of the GOAT.
DC has defied the odds. At 5 foot 11 inches he's not the biggest guy in the world. He came from a world of wrestling, which is a strong base, but wrestlers in MMA don't always transition into effective strikers. DC however has pulled off some amazing things inside the cage. He shocked everyone to win the Strikeforce Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament, a tournament that Fedor Emelianenko was supposed to win. Cormier then moved to the UFC and has won six out of seven fights. He also did something that few fighters have ever done -- he dropped down in weight class. Cormier showed a discipline to get into shape and cut weight, not to win an easy title, but to go up against the great Jon Jones. Cormier failed in that attempt, but he was never out of the fight. Cormier will get his rematch with Jones at UFC 200 and if he can pull off the upset victory, he will certainly make a case for being the undisputed GOAT.
If Cruz can overcome his injury problem, he will be unstoppable. With a record of 21-1, he's already been dominant. He returned from a two-year layoff to win the UFC bantamweight championship, and he holds a victory over Demetrious Johnson. Those are great credentials. Like DJ, since Cruz is in a low-weight division, he doesn't get the mainstream attention he should – but let's face it, the UFC heavyweights aren't the greatest batch of brawlers we have ever seen. Cruz is lightning quick, has punching and kicking power, and has great wrestling. He can go and hang with anyone. There's no limit for this guy if he can protect his knees. He could move up to lightweight, or better yet, fight Johnson one more time and prove he's the best. Whomever wins that fight has the right to call himself the GOAT. Cruz appears on his way.
(Images via MMAWeekly.com)