MMA’s Evolution Can Be Found In The UFC’s Welterweight Division

Photography by Josh Hedges

The apples and oranges argument of MMA vs. Boxing makes me roll my eyes sometimes. Some feel caged combat is overrated and deprived of any athletic craftsmanship. In contrast, others say clashes of the pugilistic variety are too one-dimensional and archaic to be considered real fighting. It’s easy to understand how MMA can look like an uneducated brawl at times, but you have to remember the sport is currently in its golden years.

Boxing’s organizational roots can be traced back to 1743, while the Marquess of Queensberry rules that were drafted in 1867 have governed Boxing ever since.

The first organized Mixed Martial Arts bout took place in 1989 in Japan for the Shooto promotion, while the Ultimate Fighting Championship held their inaugural event in 1993.

Outside of certain countries with no athletic commission, the Unified Rules drafted by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board in 2000 are the standard rules that regulate MMA today.

That is 269 years for Boxing with 145 years under its current format compared to 23 years for Mixed Martial Arts with 12 years under its contemporary design. MMA is still evolving, and the evidence of this is dictated in the UFC’s welterweight division.

Hughes choking out Frank Trigg @ UFC 45
Photography by Josh Hedges

Matt Hughes’ rule over the division:

Carlos Newton (2x)

Hayato Sakurai

Gil Castillo

Frank Trigg (2x)

Renato Verissimo

BJ Penn

Joe Riggs

Royce Gracie

Georges St. Pierre

GSP tapping out Matt Hughes @ UFC 79
  • Georges St. Pierre’s rule over the division:

Jason Miller

Frank Trigg

Sean Sherk

BJ Penn (2x)

Matt Hughes (2x)

Matt Serra

Josh Koscheck (2x)

Jon Fitch

Dan Hardy

Thiago Alves

Jake Shields


Rory MacDonald slamming Nate Diaz @ UFC 129

While both of their runs as champion are extraordinary, GSP’s resume is more impressive because he himself is a more complete fight than Matt Hughes, and his list of vanquished opponents are more well rounded than that of Hughes. You can’t knock Hughes’s accomplishments in the slightest as he was the best in his era; GSP is the best right now, and perhaps; Rory MacDonald is the heir apparent to be the next king of the division.


While certain fights may not be able to throw a jab to save their lives right now, MMA will look more refined to the untrained eye as the sport progresses its functionality and the fighters continue to evolve. It will be fascinating to see where the mixed martial arts is at the 145-year mark.

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