You know how the saying goes,”Opinions are like souls, everybody’s got one”, or something to that effect. Well come along and take a look deep into my soul as I have compiled a ranking that is completely up to date and accurate.
Using the latest fights and knowledge of these competitors, combined with a look to the near future of their upcoming fights, I’m here to tell you exactly where I stand on who’s really the best in the business, and why.
So without further adieu, we start at the top.
#1 Georges St-Pierre: GSP is the #1 fighter in the world simply because he is the picture of incredible skills, combined with incredible mental focus.
He has constant control of the Octagon, an always active and aggressive style, with the stamina and athleticism to perform at any intensity, consistently. Georges St-Pierre is the Ultimate Fighter.
Some say that his chin is suspect. He has a TKO loss to Matt Serra. But let’s be real, he was clipped in the back of the head. By his reaction it looked to me that his equilibrium was off. He was aware after the first shot, just could not control his legs and stand strait up in a defensive position. The barrage of punches that followed was on account of a great job by Matt Serra on finishing when the first opportunity arose. To be fair, GSP took a shot to the head and it’s his job not to, I just don’t see a scenario like that happening again.
I don’t think it was a good show of his chin because we did not see the ability of his chin to go from 100% and take a significant, clean impact, in order to gauge his limits. He may have been fluttering on the brink of unconsciousness with every accumulated blow, but he was never fully knocked out. Serra connected with good shots on St-Pierre but it was the referee stoppage that ended the punishment. In fact, in all of St-Pierre’s fights, he hasn’t really been knocked down or been in serious danger on his feet, other than the Serra fight.
He de-throned Matt Hughes, broke Josh Koscheck by beating him at his own game, dominated Serra, owned Fitch for 25 minutes and we all remember the public spanking and subsequent drama that ensued when he sent BJ back down to 155 and island paradise Hilo, Hawaii empty handed.
St-Pierre will be tested at upcoming UFC 100 and will have to put to rest the question of his chin when he takes on Thiago “Pitbull” Alves. Thiago is a scary, heavy hitting Muay Thai machine. Thiago also has excellent take down defense and knees waiting for anybody looking at his legs. St-Pierre needs to find a way around those knees and get to a dominant ground position and wear Alves down like he does to everybody. Matt Hughes held Alves down and if he can do it, I’m certain GSP can do it.
I even think GSP will eventually have a crack at Anderson Silva and everyone north of the border is hoping that everything lines up for the encounter to happen in Toronto, Ontario. Dana White mentioned it as a possibility but it’s all a matter of timing, especially since MMA is still illegal in Ontario for some strange reason. The UFC is knocking on the door with the biggest fight in history ready to be made and it all comes down to a Mr. Ken Hayashi, look him up.
Once the UFC gets this fight signed, I think GSP will take advantage of his strong wrestling base and ware down Anderson like nobody has. GSP has a history of beating guys like they have never been beat, handling them like they have never been handled before. I see the glaring difference in wrestling to be the most impactful and effective for St-Pierre.
GSP is incredibly dangerous in every range of fighting. His grappling is top notch and he has shown that in MMA, he can hang with anybody on the ground comfortably. His bottom game is nearly non-existent due to his dominant wrestling and his top game is tearing up some of the best grapplers in the world in Matt Serra, Matt Hughes and BJ Penn. His clinch game has been excellent and he is always dangerous to explode with in-close combinations or a nearly unavoidable takedown. His boxing is very technical, always threatening and he doesn’t linger in the pocket. He has that Karate in-and-out instinct that is so predominant in the game of Lyoto Machida, and he uses it to have more effective punches while lowering damage taken. He even has incredible control of the range due to his Muay Thai style kicks. He has a very long and accurate superman punch which he lands perfect on almost every attempt and the powerful spinning back kick that he utilizes just enough to maintain his stranglehold on the range. His and his teams’ game-planning has proven to be flawless (aside from Rashad Evans’ rough go with Machida recently), and he does an incredible job of executing when he needs to and can change strategy on command while in action.
He simply has it all. However, he is still pretty young and has a long career ahead of him. He still has a legacy to build, and he is focused entirely on doing that.
#2 Anderson Silva: A lot of people might think that Silva needs to be #1 on the pound for pound list because he is simply on another planet with his striking and Octagon control. I too believe he is a contender for the title. It’s just that as of late, he hasn’t seemed as focused on finishing and building his reputation. I think maybe he feels that he has reached the top and there is nowhere higher to go until he gets better competition in the UFC. His performance against Thales Leites was disappointing at best and boring at worst.
Does he have the right to try and avoid punishment as it is clearly hazardous to his long term health? Sure. Does he have a right to fight however he wants? Of course. Do we truly believe he was pushed to his limits against Thales, or at any point feeling like his back was against the wall? I certainly don’t. I think the Anderson Silva in a career-defining fight is a completely different fighter than the Silva who is dancing to a chorus of boos in a fight that lacked any urgency.
Is that why I rank him #2? Not at all.
I believe that he has a weakness in his game, which is his lack of wrestling. Now we all saw the clip of him switching Nate Marquardt embarrassingly before finishing him shortly after, but Henderson was able to keep him down and didn’t make one serious attempt to pass to side control. I’ll admit that I think GSP will eventually have his chance to exploit that weakness as he has a reputation of destroying opponents’ confidence in their guard. In many of his fights, he gains entry to side with increasing ease as the fight drags on as if his opponents lose their will or simply their belief in their ability to control him.
Silva has incredible striking and very solid Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I just don’t think he is 100% complete and believe that once people start to truly believe he is human, we will see much more competitive fights for him. I think he has built up some mystique and it may be beginning to wear off.
We will see him in action at UFC 101 against Forrest Griffen. Forrest will definitely not take him lightly and he will come with an intelligent game-plan as he is a very sharp guy with a great camp behind him. If anyone will know how to beat Anderson Silva, I’d imagine it being Randy Couture. Having him in his corner should guarantee that Forrest brings it and that we see a back and forth fight that is up and down.
Dependant on the upcoming performances by these top 2 fighters, we will have to re-evaluate their status. It may also end up in a fight between the two of them at MW to settle this dispute once and for all. However, maybe not yet, since Marquardt and Maia have definitely earned their contender status.
#3 Fedor Emelianenko: I am inviting criticism having the much hyped “Last Emperor” sitting way down at number 3. However, I do so for the lack of real competition he has faced outside of his days in PRIDE, which I feel may be due to his choice to stay out of the UFC and avoid the majority of his divisions’ competition.
Fedor has it all; devastating punches with great accuracy and instinct, excellent takedowns and takedown defense and his submission ability is top notch. His skills are well documented and well respected.
He has been criticized as of late for a lack of prime competition. I know that for many, beating Tim Sylvia the way he did was unbelievable. I just think it is a little more believable now that we have seen how “The Maine-iac” handled a 50 year old former pro boxer. Not so well. I think Tim has seen better days and is not even his old self anymore.
I’ll give Fedor all the credit in the world for the Arlovski fight. Sure he didn’t look so hot, but when I saw the replay from over Fedor’s right shoulder, I saw his split second reaction to Arlovski planting his feet for a take-off. He instantly began turning over for the overhand right that ended Arlovski’s night. To me that indicates that he still has great composure or just some crazy dumb luck on his side.
I just am not convinced that he could do so well with a guy like Brock Lesnar. This is a much debated dream match, and from seeing how Hong Man Choi controlled him on the ground I’m thinking that is not a stretch for Lesnar at all. Choi just laid on Fedor basically. He did do a significant amount of damage to Fedor as well from top position. Give Brock Lesnar the same opportunity, a case of Red Bull and I think Fedor is in a bit of trouble.
I think the unofficial HW crown is completely up in the air right now as Brock, Fedor and Frank Mir all have a potential vote from me leading into their upcoming fights. We will have to wait and see how they do.
I feel as if Fedor is still riding the remaining momentum from his good old days and now must put on a masterful performance against Josh Barnett to be considered for #1 pound for pound in my eyes.
Also, I’d like to see him put aside his Sambo for awhile and compete in the UFC. I understand it is your national sport, but very few in MMA care about your record in Sambo, and if you are only doing it to impress yourself and your home country, don’t expect to impress me. When it comes to the pound for pound best, that title includes drive and dedication, and the fans will decide who the best in the world is.
#4 BJ Penn: He may be licking his wounds from his recent domination at the hands of Georges St-Pierre, but I still believe that BJ Penn at his home of 155 is the absolute best. I simply don’t see him losing that belt any time soon.
He will have a great challenge ahead of him in Kenny Florian. I just believe he is a little better in the striking with his elite boxing and a good notch above in the grappling. But who am I to say in this fight? This is going to be a fantastic Main Event at UFC 101 and I can’t wait to see it.
It is well known that BJ has eye opening grappling technique, and a real nack for finishing opponents with vicious punches from ground as well as from the feet, but he now might even be able to boast great conditioning leading up to this fight.
He has continued his high level of strength training and cardio conditioning and is now beginning to really feel the effects of his work.
I place him above Lyoto Machida because when they fought at LHW years ago, BJ was grossly out of shape and was really stretching himself to his limits in moving up weight. It went to a decision and since then, BJ has dropped 3 weight classes to find his comfort zone. At LW, he is a completely different fighter and can really reach his full potential. I anticipate a long title reign.
#5 Lyoto Machida: I have always respected his style simply on account of him coming out of fights with wins and never really having a scratch on him. Finish or no finish, this guy is really dangerous and is about to really reach his prime. He looks more comfortable than ever in the Octagon, and it all began with the handling of Tito Ortiz. I believe he will begin finishing his fights on a regular basis.
His ground game is solid, his striking is precise, and his timing is perfect. His takedowns are usually in the form of well timed foot sweeps where he often gets the takedown, and will end up in great position. He also has excellent takedown defense and appears to be very aware of his opponents’ intentions at nearly all times.
I believe that Lyoto Machida will really come into his own with the UFC and will continue to look better from fight to fight. His punching power may not be devastating, but apparently that doesn’t stop him from knocking people out who have previously had unquestioned chins.
He always brings great strategies, he always comes with incredible focus and sharp reactions, and he displays a very effective style of fighting that is unordinary and hard to fully prepare for.
Lyoto may very well make a case to be moved up the list in the upcoming couple of years. However he has a huge challenge in front of him. Lyoto is taking on fellow Brazilian Superstar Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Expect one of the best fights of the year, and maybe a succession of rematches due to the potential of both of these competitors to stay near the top of the division.
Some of the notable unmentioned are Miguel Torres, Urijah Faber, Norifumi Yamamoto (despite a disappointing return to competition), Mauricio Rua and Quinton Jackson.
I’m not going to go past a top 5 because I believe that there are too many arguments for too many fighters and it can get a little more about opinion and personal preference. I’ll leave that to you. Name your top 5 or 10, and if you think I’m wrong, post why in the comment field below.