Member Since: 3/25/04
In fact, going into that fight, Nog had been the dominant, undisputed #1 in the world, the consensus absolute best - and the essentially undefeated Champion, who was even considered virtually invincible, along with being the greatest-ever up to that point. Nog had beaten every single opponent he had ever faced, with the only official "loss" on his record being the extremely controversial decision to Hendo in RINGS. (Which was one of the most baffling and counter-intuitive decisions in MMA history - which a rather overwhelming majority at the time felt Nog had really won. Which Nog then officially, decisively avenged anyway.)
There was absolutely no one even possibly ahead of Nog at that point. No one had ever really beaten him, the Sapp fight had actually even added to his mystique and only further proved how almost mythically unconquerable he was - and Nog was both the best now, and the best ever.
In many ways, Nog was essentially Fedor before Fedor. (And if not for Fedor, would have still stayed so - as the undisputed #1 - for most of the decade.)
But then even including the reality of Fedor - Nog, along with Fedor, has still been the most long-term consistent fighter in MMA history (and specifically throughout the entire last decade). In fact, Nog has been the most continuously top-3/top-5 fighter in MMA history - in any weight class ever - even including Fedor himself (since Fedor came up through the ranks after Nog).
For over 7 straight years, Nog was perennially top-3 in the world. Actually, for over 7 years and 3 months straight, Nog had been universally ranked no lower than #4 at worst (briefly, following the Barnett loss, which he then immediately avenged) - and absolutely no lower than #3 for 7 of those years. Longer and higher than any other fighter ever, except for Fedor (who's been #1 for 7 straight years).
Nog first became generally ranked top-5 at HW in early 2001 (along with Coleman, Igor, Randy, and Rizzo at the time) - after dominantly winning the stacked RINGS KoK (including easily finishing the guy who had just easily finished the reigning UFC HW champion in Randy).
Then Nog was the undisputed #1 for a year and a half after beating the previously #1 Coleman - and then, after being upset by Fedor, was STILL universally ranked #2 or #3 for the next 5.5 years straight (aside from the 3 months in between the Barnett fights, where he was #4). (Although along the way, Nog should have also very arguably lost to Ricco as well, in an extremely controversial decision which most people felt should not have gone Nog's way.)
But Nog was still top-3 from 2001 all the way up until the end of 2008 - before finally dropping out with the loss to Mir. (Which was not only the first time Nog had ever been finished, but also the first and only definitive loss he has ever had to an unranked opponent at the time.)
So in total Nog was #1, #2, or #3 in the world for 7 years of the last decade - and was top-5 for almost NINE of the 10 years of that decade (and is still generally ranked top-5 even today). That kind of constancy is simply unparalleled. These aren't just empty stats or meaningless numbers in themselves. They accurately and completely reflect the reality of Nog's elite dominance throughout the decade - as it actually existed at the time.
In fact, no other fighter in MMA history, aside from Fedor, has ever had more highest-level consistency than Nog - or has remained continuously top-3 and top-5 (including having dominantly reigned at #1), for as long as Nog has.
Hughes was the most dominant UFC fighter and champion throughout the decade - but Nog was still more consistently dominant. Not only was Nog #1 even before Hughes was - but Nog still stayed top-3 and top-5, even after Hughes dropped off. Nog's run at the highest level actually both preceded and outlasted Hughes'.
Wanderlei was up there as well in terms of highest-level, top-3 longevity - but Nog's run was even longer and more consistent than Wanderlei's, just as it was over Hughes' and everyone else's. Randy and Hendo have had the greatest A-level longevity overall - but still not even close to as consistently or as highly as Nog's. (Where unlike with Nog, there were times when they had even dropped out of the top 10 - and years when they weren't top-5 or top-3, like Nog constantly was.)
Anderson and GSP are thoroughly dominant Champions today. But while Anderson was still getting finished by guys like Takase and Chonan - and before GSP even became a top contender at all - Nog had already been #1 and top-3 in the world for YEARS. And STILL remained so even after those guys emerged as consistently dominant forces, later in the decade.
So it is a fact that, aside from Fedor, there has been no fighter who was both as continuously and as highest-level dominant - in any weight class - throughout the entire decade (or ever) as Nog. And ultimately, the only reason why Nog was not #1 was because of Fedor. (Otherwise, Nog would have still stayed #1 as he already was - and ended up the #1 overall.)
But even with Fedor included - Nog was still the second most consistently dominant fighter in MMA, over the span of that entire last decade.