The busy fight month of January is now over and it was time for me to update FiveOuncesOfPain.com’s rankings from top to bottom. You can click here to see the updated rankings in their entirety.
January saw top ranked middleweights Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson go head-to-head; top ranked heavyweights Fedor Emelianenko and Andrei Arlovski square off; and top five pound-for-pound fighters Georges St. Pierre and B.J. Penn matched up in an epic clash. Additionally, we saw scores of other top ten caliber fighters involved in high-profile fights.
There were several major changes in the rankings, starting with my pound-for-pound rankings. One change was obvious and the other will cause a great deal of debate. The first major change was the need to move Penn down in my pound-for-pound rankings. St. Pierre was already ranked ahead of him at number three but I felt compelled to create more separation between the two because their bout at UFC 94 was not close.
However, it should be noted that the decision to move Penn down wasn’t based on his performance alone because in order to move someone down, it means I have to move someone up. But Lyoto Machida showed Saturday night that he was worthy of moving up. In defeating the previously undefeated Thiago Silva, Machida improved to 14-0 and added yet another big win to his resume.
Where the controversy will come in is the fact that the UFC’s light heavyweight champion, Rashad Evans, is now ranked behind a fighter that does not hold a major singles title. While I believe titles are important and should count for a lot, I don’t believe a belt should automatically make a fighter ranked number one. I am also prepared to receive an onslaught of comments claiming that I am disrespecting Evans even though that’s not the case.
Evans is a great fighter whose skills are overlooked by many in the fight game. As such, my decision to move Machida ahead of him is not an indictment of Evans’ accomplishments. The decision to move Machida ahead of him is based on the fact that I simply consider Machida to be the better fighter at this point and if the two met head-to-head, I believe Machida would win the fight in decisive fashion. So let me be clear: there’s nothing wrong Rashad Evans; I just believe that Machida is better.
I believe the point of a top pound-for-pound list is to rank the best overall fighters regardless of weight from one-to-ten. It’s not about ranking title holders or ranking resumes. Based on that logic, I felt I needed to be consistent in my view and move Urijah Faber back into the top ten. Mike Thomas Brown holds a win over him and now owns the WEC featherweight title once held by Faber but I believe Faber is the better fighter and that when the two have their rematch that Faber will avenge his previous loss.
Many changes were also made to my rankings is the individual weight classes. At heavyweight, Josh Barnett’s win at “Day of Reckoning” coupled with Arlovski’s loss on the same show prompted me to swap the two fighters. Barnett is now my number two ranked heavyweight in the world with Arlovski falling to three.
At light heavyweight, Machida is now my number one ranked 205 pound fighter with Evans falling to two. With his win at 205 at UFC 93 earlier this month, I believe that Henderson must once again be viewed as a top ten light heavyweight and I now have him ranked as the seventh best in the world in the weight class. With Henderson’s addition, Keith Jardine falls out of the top ten… for now. A win over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in March would easily justify moving him back up. With his loss at UFC 94, Thiago Silva also falls from seven to ten.
At middleweight, Henderson moves out of the top ten as I now view him as a light heavyweight fighter until he competes at 185 pounds again. Even though Rich Franklin’s last two fights have occurred at light heavyweight, I still consider him the number two ranked middleweight in the world. However, if he doesn’t get a win at 185 in the next few months, he will be in jeopardy of falling behind Robbie Lawler and Gegard Mousasi. Two other significant changes are the debuts in my top ten at 185 by both Vitor Belfort and Demian Maia. Maia’s addition is long overdue and Belfort’s win over Matt Lindland at “Day of Reckoning” was enough in my mind to move him into the top ten. While it’s only been two wins for Belfort at 185, a win over a top ten fighter means a lot. Prior to the loss, Lindland had been a consensus top ten middleweight and the impressive victory against him by Belfort justifies what essentially amounts to a swap.
At welterweight, the only change made was Jake Shields dropping from number two all the way to five. Because Shields is not in the UFC, he’s not able to fight the best in his weight class. He compensated for that by fighting frequently and dominating his competition. Caught in a state of purgatory, Shields has been unable to remain active and it’s really hurt his stock with fighters such as Thiago Alves, Jon Fitch, and Josh Koscheck all having recorded wins since he last fought.
There were no changes at lightweight, as Penn’s loss occured at welterweight and nobody behind him won a major fight. As disappointing as Saturday’s performance was, I still believe he’s the best lightweight fighter in the world until proven otherwise.
Finally, at featherweight, I felt compelled to move Faber back up following his dominant victory against Jens Pulver at WEC 38. Again, Mike Thomas Brown has a head-to-head win over Faber and holds the most prestigious 145 pound title in the world, but I still consider Faber to be the better fighter.
Again, CLICK HERE to see the updated rankings in their entirety.