Best MMA Fighters Pound-for-Pound
by Trevor Whenham - 10/05/2007
The last time I did a pound-for-pound ranking of mixed martial arts fighters it was the beginning of June. Though only four months have passed since then, the sport has been turned upside down because of some huge fights and some surprising outcomes. The biggest mess comes in the light heavyweight division, where Forrest Griffin and Keith Jardine, neither of whom were anywhere near my top 10 before, knocked off No. 2 Mauricio Rua and No. 10 Chuck Liddell, respectively. Figuring out where the two victors belong, and if the losers should still be ranked, is just one of the many challenges this time around (to end the suspense - none of those fighters made the cut this time). Enough complaining, here's my list (Ranking last time around is in brackets):
1. Fedor Emelianenko (1) - The legend of this terrifying heavyweight is growing in his absence. He's been largely inactive since the purchase of PRIDE by UFC and the expiration of his PRIDE contract, with the exception of a meaningless fight for BodogFight. The obvious place for him to be is the UFC, and the reports of his negotiations and signing are flying all over the place, but as of yet nothing is confirmed. Sooner or later he'll sign, and his debut will be the biggest event in UFC in a long time. Until someone proves otherwise, Emelianenko is the best there is.
2. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (4) - Jackson isn't my favorite fighter, but he pretty much has to be in this spot. He is, after all, the unified light heavyweight champion. My malaise towards him is partly because a broken hand will keep him out until the spring, partly because he wasn't as convincing against Dan Henderson as I hoped he would be, and partly because I can't get that image of his loss to Mauricio Rua out of my head. Still, for now he is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC.
3. Georges St. Pierre (5) - This is the first place that the rankings get a little dicey. You could argue that St. Pierre shouldn't be ahead of the champion in his division, Matt Serra, or of middleweight champ Anderson Silva. Maybe it's because I am a Canadian like St. Pierre, but I think that this where he belongs. The welterweights are way tougher than the middleweights right now, and St. Pierre, as he showed decisively against Josh Koscheck at UFC 74, is the class of the division. He'll fight the winner of Matt Hughes and Matt Serra next, and I fully expect him to leave the octagon with the belt.
4. Randy Couture (unranked) - I left Couture off the list last time because I thought his Heavyweight Championship was a fluke. I can't say that after the 44-year-old destroyed Gabriel Gonzaga, getting a TKO despite having broken his arm earlier in the fight. Couture deserves to be here partly for what he has done, but mostly because the inevitable Fedor-Couture showdown will be absolutely epic and will be the biggest fight in a long, long time.
5. Anderson "Spider" Silva (3) - The thing that hurts Silva most in these ratings, ironically, is that he is winning too easily. In his latest defense he knocked Nate Marquardt out in the first round, but Marquardt was hardly worthy of a title shot. Until Silva shows what he's made of against a real opponent I will have difficulty taking him as seriously as some of the other champs. His next fight likely won't help his cause in my eyes - he fights Rich Franklin again at UFC 77. I hope that fight is tighter and more interesting than the first time they met.
6. Dan Henderson (9) - It's not often that someone rises up the rankings with a loss, but Henderson did just that when he lost to Jackson. He took the fight the full 25 minutes and won two rounds. Not bad for a guy who was fighting at the top of his weight range. The most remarkable thing about Henderson is his versatility and his ability to be not only competitive but elite in multiple weight classes.
7. B.J. Penn (unranked) - Penn's not the lightweight champ but, one way or the other, he should be soon. He was set to fight Sean Sherk for the title, but Sherk failed a drug test and will likely be stripped. No matter who Penn fights he will get his shot. Penn was competitive as a welterweight, so the decision to keep him in the lightweight division automatically makes him a dominant force and elevates him on my list.
8. Matt Hughes (8) - I can't really move Hughes anywhere because he hasn't fought since the last list. I think it's telling that he is the second welterweight to be ranked ahead of division champion Matt Serra, and I am very confident that Hughes will win their fight at UFC 79. Whether Hughes goes on to fight St. Pierre or makes good on his threat to challenge Silva if Franklin doesn't beat him first, Hughes is sure to provide at least two outstanding fights in the next year.
9. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (7) - I know that it's not fair to drop a guy down after a win, but he falls for two reasons - his win over Heath Herring at UFC 73 was far from overwhelming (a better fighter than Herring would have been able to finish the fight when Nogueira was knocked down in the first round), and it's not at all clear what his next logical fight is. His best hope is that Fedor doesn't sign with UFC and he gets to fight Couture for the title.
10. Gilbert Melendez (unranked) - It only seems fair that I pick a fighter that is not either in UFC or soon to be. I could go with Paulo Filho as I did last time, but instead I will do the trendy thing and go with Melendez. He's the undefeated lightweight champion in the fast-rising Strikeforce. His last victory came last week in a unanimous decision at the Playboy Mansion as he returned from injury. He has the personality and the skills to become a huge star.