December was a busy month of action in MMA and FiveOuncesOfPain.com (www.FiveOuncesOfPain.com) has just released its new rankings to reflect all of the developments. You can access the rankings by clicking the “Rankings” tab at the top of the page, or, by clicking here.
I’ll be doing a separate post that lists the top ten pound-for-pound rankings with analysis as to why everyone is ranked where. But for now, I’d like to rundown all the changes to the rankings within each individual weight class.
There were two changes here. One major, and the other minor. First, the minor was Fedor Emelianenko being moved from three back to two at the expense of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Am I impressed with Emelianenko’s win over Hong-man Choi? No. However, it did answer concerns about inactivity.
The major change was Josh Barnett falling all the way to seven. As great of a fighter I think he is, I have to call it like I see it. I was very down on Fedor for his inactivity and it’s now been over a year since Barnett has fought. I realize he’s trying to do what’s best for him financially, but strong financial planning skills don’t factor into my rankings.
December 29 answered a lot of questions for me. It was really hard to put the light heavyweight rankings together until now because there was so little clarity. There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered, but at least some have been answered. I really didn’t like having Mauricio “Shogun” Rua as my number two ranked light heavyweight coming off a bad loss but I really couldn’t think of a better option. Until now.
The number two spot behind Quinton “Rampage” Jackson now belongs to Lyoto Machida. Look, I’m not the biggest fan of his fighting style but these rankings aren’t for who has the most exciting style. It’s about who are the best fighters. And Machida has done nothing but win and has recorded wins against the likes of Stephan Bonnar, B.J. Penn, Rich Franklin, Kazuhiro Nakamura, and now Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou.
Some people are saying Sokoudjou was a “fraud” and was “exposed,” but I don’t buy that. Sokoudjou recorded dominant wins over two fighters I considered to be top ten at the time in Ricardo Arona and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. So to me, Machida recorded a win Saturday night in dominant fashion over a legitimate top ten light heavyweight.
I know that there will be those that say number two for Machida is too high, but when I project him head-to-head with a lot of other top ten fighters, I believe he can beat most of them. Think about it: how sure are you that Quinton Jackson can beat Machida?
Right behind Machida is Chuck Liddell, who regained a lot of steam with an impressive victory over a top ten opponent. I had Liddell as low as seven coming off two consecutive losses but his victory over Wanderlei Silva means a lot.
Silva falls to six but remains with a strong ranking in spite of three consecutive losses because the loss to Mirko Cro Cop in September of ’06 was an openweight match. The knockout loss to Henderson last February hurt him bad, but I don’t think he did anything to embarrass himself with his performance against Liddell at UFC 79.
Also remaining in the top ten is Sokoudjou. His wins vs. Nogueira and Arona don’t get erased simply because he did not perform well vs. Machida. Losing badly hurts his cause, but the fact it was against a top ten opponent is enough to keep him in my top ten.
New entries into the top ten include Thiago Silva and Vladimir Matyushenko. While they don’t hold wins over top ten opponents this year, I feel they were active enough to crack the top ten based on their efforts as well as the fall of others.
Also, Dan Henderson is no longer in my top ten because his next fight is scheduled at middleweight and Ricardo Arona was dropped from the top ten due to inactivity.
Yoshihiro Akiyama is out and Kazuo Misaki is back in. Akiyama didn’t look bad at Yarennoka and looked close to winning at one point, but a loss is a loss and a win is a win. Akiyama simply wasn’t ranked high enough to prevent himself from falling completely out.
With the Akiyama loss, Yushin Okami and Frank Trigg both moved up a spot with Misaki coming in at ten.
Even though he didn’t end up fighting vs. Shinya Aoki on New Year’s Eve, Gesias “JZ Calvan” Calvancante is still 5 Oz.’s new number one lightweight. B.J. Penn has been penalized for inactivity and I felt I had to drop Gilbert Melendez after his loss to Ishida.
Hayato Sakurai also moved ahead of Penn and Melendez with his win at Yarrenoka against Hidehiko Hasegawa, as did Tatsuya Kawajiri.
Also, with his win over Melendez, who I had previously ranked as my number two lightweight, Ishida was able to crack the top ten at number nine, moving Kenny Florian back a spot and Tyson Griffin out of the top ten completely.
Compiling a top ten at lightweight is so difficult because I believe Griffin, Frankie Edgar, and Roger Huerta are all worthy of being in it. There just aren’t enough slots to hold everyone. Ryan Schultz, based on his knockout victory over Chris Horodecki during the finals of the IFL World Grand Prix, garnered some minor consideration as well.