Australian mixed martial arts have never been in a better place. It seems that ever since Melbourne hosted UFC 193 in November 2015, an event that ended with Holly Holm shockingly knocking out Ronda Rousey and shattering the long-time champions aura, MMA down under has gone from strength to strength.
Throughout the last half-decade or so, a number of top prospects from Australian shores have carved their way within the world’s premier fighting organization, with more than ten active fighters on the UFC roster. However, there are three current fighters that are head and shoulders above the rest.
1 – Alexander Volkanovski
Up until Jon Jones’ return in March, Alexander Volkanovski wasn’t just the best fighter in Australia, he was the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. And his recent bout against Islam Makhachev only solidified his standing within the world of MMA. Heading into the contest at UFC 284 in Perth against Russia’s lightweight king, the current featherweight champion of the world was made a massive $5.00 underdog by websites such as Bovada, which provides betting on UFC fights.
Alexander the Great put up a performance that was scarcely believable, albeit in an ultimately losing effort. Many felt that the Aussie did enough to get the victory against his much bigger opponent from Dagestan, who is practically the second coming of all-time great Khabib Nurmagomedov. Volkanovski ended the fight standing over Makhachev pounding away and looking for a come-from-behind victory, a victory which ultimately would not come.
Despite his razor-thin unanimous decision defeat, Volkanovski remained the pound-for-pound number 1 ranked fighter on the official UFC rankings. That decision angered Makhachev and his team, however, considering the huge weight differential on fight night, it’s clear to see why Volkanovski remained at the top of the list. Jon Jones’ triumphant return a few weeks later did eventually usurp The Great at the top of the pound-for-pound standings, but he remains at number 2 on the heavily debated list.
Volkanovski will return to featherweight to defend his world championship against dangerous Mexican contender Yair Rodríguez in Las Vegas on July 8th.
2 – Robert Whittaker
Back in 2017, Robert Whittaker became Australia’s first-ever UFC world champion when he outpointed the dangerous Yoel Romero in an absolute slugfest to secure the division’s interim championship. He was then promoted to undisputed champion following the retirement of Georges St. Pierre and he successfully beat Romero once again at UFC 225 via split decision. His reign would ultimately be short-lived, eventually succumbing to Israel Adesanya in Melbourne at UFC 243, however, by that point, he had solidified himself as one of the greatest fighters on planet Earth.
The Reaper has a stellar resume within the MMA industry. He has defeated a murderer’s row of opponents including the likes of Romero, Darren Till, Jared Cannonier, Kelvin Gastelum, and Marvin Vettori.
Whittaker will take on South African middleweight Dricus du Plessis at UFC 290 in Las Vegas with the winner promised a title shot against current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya in Sydney this coming September.
3 – Tai Tuivasa
Last but certainly not least is heavyweight slugger Tai Tuivasa. The Sydney-born star shot to prominence last year when he knocked out fan favourite Derrick Lewis in his hometown of Houston, Texas, USA. Since that famous night last February however, the Aussie has suffered back-to-back knockout defeats, firstly at the hands of Ciryl Gane and then at the behest of Russian knockout artist Sergei Pavlovich.
Those defeats have seen Tuivasa tumble down the heavyweight rankings. He was previously thought to be on the brink of a title shot however, he now finds himself down in sixth in the rankings, and he may well have to rebuild himself before a shot at Jon Jones’ heavyweight championship rears its head. He is still just 30 years of age though, and his best years are still ahead of him, provided his chin can hold up following consecutive knockout losses.