Sherdog's division-by-division rankings
For the first time since Sherdog.com started publishing divisional rankings, a single promoter dominates one weight category. The division? Light heavyweight. The promoter? UFC.
For the first time since Sherdog.com started publishing divisional rankings, a single promoter dominates one weight category. The division? Light heavyweight. The promoter? UFC. Bolstered by high-profile free-agent signings and the development of its own fighters, there's no doubting the depth of talent that resides at 205 pounds. How do other divisions stack up?
Check out the division-by-division rankings by clicking on the links below.
Who is the world's best fighter, regardless of weight class? See Sherdog's pound-for-pound rankings.
Note: Results through Nov. 26:
1. Fedor Emelianenko (26-1-0, 1 NC)
After a profile free-agent sweepstakes, "The Last Emperor" and his handlers have opted for MMA's top heavyweight to become the face of M-1 Global. With the bulk of quality heavyweights elsewhere, the obvious issue is Emelianenko's ability to retain his top status if he is facing inferior heavyweight opposition. That trend continues with Emelianenko fighting mammoth Korean Hong-Man Choi on New Year's Eve in Tokyo.
2. Randy Couture (16-8-0)
Just when it seemed Couture couldn't capture any more headlines in 2007 after his underdog demolitions of Tim Sylvia and Gabriel Gonzaga, "The Natural" resigned from the UFC. The Couture-Emelianenko fight now seems all but impossible. If anything, Couture's next battle will be a legal one, as he attempts to get out of his contract with Zuffa.
3. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (30-4-1, 1 NC)
Nogueira will have only competed once in 2007, taking an unnecessary but almost disastrous third win over Heath Herring in July. Thankfully, with the UFC title picture now up in the air, a bout with former champion Tim Sylvia could be in order for early '08, which is exactly the kind of matchup fans were looking for when this whole UFC-PRIDE thing went down.
4. Tim Sylvia (24-3-0)
After his domination at the hands of Randy Couture in March, Sylvia underwent successful back surgery and took apart rising contender Brandon Vera last month. A win over a borderline top-10 heavyweight and the relative stagnancy of the rest of the division sees the former UFC champion rise to the fourth spot in these rankings. With a potential bout against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira looming, "The Maine-iac" may be poised to move even further up the list.
5. Josh Barnett (20-5-0)
After an incredibly active 2006 in which he fought seven times, Barnett has not competed in 2007. The next action for "The Babyface Assassin" will be in December, when he has both a pro wrestling match in Antonio Inoki's IGF and a catch wrestling bout against Hikaru Sato in Pancrase. Given that Barnett is one of the few elite-level heavyweight competitors the sport has, such excursions are frustrating, to say the least.
6. Gabriel Gonzaga (8-2-0)
Gonzaga flirted with championship glory but was brought back to earth against a more experienced foe in Randy Couture. The 28-year-old Brazilian will begin his journey to another chance at being champion on Jan. 19, when he looks to avenge his first career loss to countryman Fabricio Werdum.
7. Andrei Arlovski (11-5-0)
The former UFC champion has one fight left on his deal with Zuffa and won't be seeing action until he re-signs or gets out of the deal. Worse yet, his bargaining power is hampered by his losses to Tim Sylvia and his lackluster effort against Fabricio Werdum in April. The last thing MMA needs is another top heavyweight not competing.
8. Fabricio Werdum (9-3-1)
After a dismal UFC debut in April against Andrei Arlovski, Werdum will head back to England in January for another tall task in former foe Gabriel Gonzaga. Werdum handed "Napao" the first loss of his pro career in September 2003 in their native Brazil, and he will need to replicate his effort to maintain his standing as a top heavyweight.
9. Cheick Kongo (11-3-1)
Speaking to the power of a win over a name opponent, Kongo, who is still fairly limited as a mixed martial artist, finds himself ranked after his impressive decision victory on Sept. 8 over Mirko Filipovic. The tall, powerful striker is a danger for anyone on the feet, but quality grapplers may still have their way with the Frenchman.
10. Mirko Filipovic (22-6-2)
After losing to Kongo, "Cro Cop" is just 1-2 since joining the UFC ranks after winning the 2006 PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix. Filipovic needs time off and a serious re-evaluation of his career if he's going to approach top-five status again.
1. Quinton Jackson (28-6-0)
"Rampage" has worked past the troubles that haunted him after a tough series of fights in PRIDE, the last of which saw him go down in defeat to "Shogun" Rua. The exciting and flamboyant UFC light heavyweight put himself on the map by blasting out Chuck Liddell in less than two minutes. He followed that with a hard-fought victory over Dan Henderson on Sept. 8. With an injured hand, Jackson likely won't fight until next spring. "Rampage" takes the No. 1 spot with Rua's loss.
2. Dan Henderson (22-6-0)
Undersized for the division, Dan Henderson is not a known name among any casual MMA fans. A scrappy former Olympic wrestler who's worked hard to integrate a dangerous striking game punctuated by one of the best right hands in the sport, Henderson has continually defied the odds against heavier opposition. Henderson's 25-minute war against Jackson is indicative of how tough the 37-year-old can be. Henderson slides up two spots. News of a fight with Anderson Silva at 185 pounds would suggest that Henderson will focus on the middleweight division, where he was previously ranked and subsequently dropped because of inactivity.
3. Wanderlei Silva (31-7-1, 1 NC)
Finally, after setback after setback ad nauseam, a clash between Wanderlei Silva and Chuck Liddell will happen Dec. 29. It isn't the fight it would've been at one time, but at the end of the day, it is still a clash between enduring top fighters in one of MMA's strongest weight classes. Not a bad Christmas gift at all.
4. Keith Jardine (13-3-1)
Proof that a good game plan and a quality fight camp can get you far in MMA, Keith Jardine enjoyed the benefits of both on Sept. 22 in outpointing former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell. Like Liddell, "The Dean of Mean" was returning to the ring for the first time since suffering a brutal knockout loss, but Jardine showed no ill effects in winning.
5. Forrest Griffin (15-4-0)
Being tough is an important trait for a fighter, but alone it's usually not enough to find someone ranked among the elite. Griffin has taken his toughness and added to it over the years. That hard work, done recently in Randy Couture's gym in Las Vegas, paid huge dividends on Sept. 22, when the unranked "Ultimate Fighter I" winner submitted Mauricio Rua, who topped most rating lists at 205 pounds.
6. Mauricio Rua (16-3-0)
Rua had nothing for the previously unranked Griffin in their Sept. 22 UFC fight. Following the choke-out loss, Rua falls from No. 1 to 6. The Brazilian earned his reputation by winning in Japan, where he demolished current UFC champion Quinton Jackson and captured the prestigious PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix. With his exciting fighting style and world-class skill, the Chute Boxe fighter was poised to become a star in the United States. At just 25 years of age, he can rebound from the Griffin defeat, but it will take excellent performances for him to find the top spot anytime soon.
7. Chuck Liddell (20-5)
Although his dismal decision loss to Keith Jardine in September shouldn't earn him any favors, Liddell will get his longtime wish Dec. 29, when he will finally meet Wanderlei Silva in the cage. If Liddell was looking for a way to erase his back-to-back disappointments this year, this is it.
8. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (4-1-0)
Africa's top mixed martial artist exploded on the world stage in 2007 with early knockouts of then top-10 light heavyweights Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona. The accomplished judoka has relied on his hands, but he's also paid the price for slugging it out, suffering a stoppage loss in October 2006 to Glover Teixeira, a training partner of Chuck Liddell. Finally Sokoudjou has signed with an organization and will make his UFC debut Dec. 29 versus Ryoto Machida.
9. Rashad Evans (11-0-1)
"Sugar" Rashad returns to the Sherdog Top 10 after his tight decision win over Michael Bisping at UFC 78. On the heels of a draw versus Tito Ortiz, which Evans would have lost had Ortiz not grabbed the cage fencing and suffered a point deduction, a destructive KO over Sean Salmon and, most impressively, a dominating stoppage of Jason Lambert, "The Ultimate Fighter II" heavyweight winner moves into the ninth spot.
10. Ryoto Machida (11-0-0)
While the enigmatic Machida's fight style and consequent low finishing rate tend to polarize fans' opinions of him, the 29-year-old Brazilian has gone from a hard-core fan's curiosity to a bona fide contender over the course of 2007. His undefeated record is fortified by his back-to-back dismantlings of then-undefeated David Heath and the respectable Kazuhiro Nakamura. With his recent wins, and the lack of performance from Arona and Nogueira, Machida moves into the 205 ranks. Machida will have a golden opportunity to climb the rankings, and to answer his detractors, when he meets fellow breakout light heavyweight Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou on Dec. 29.
Note: Ricardo Arona, previously ranked ninth, and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, previously ranked 10th, fall out of the rankings.
1. Anderson Silva (20-4-0)
You expected someone else? Silva repeated his October 2006 whipping of Rich Franklin with an October whipping of "Ace" in front of his hometown Cincinnati crowd. Yet another high-level win has even further solidified Silva's stature atop the division. While many are waiting for the other shoe to drop for "The Spider," they may have to wait a bit longer yet. UFC's 185-pound title picture is anything but clear-cut.
2. Paulo Filho (15-0-0)
Adding to an already outstanding lineup, Filho found a fight on the Dec. 12 WEC card in Vegas. He'll fight a veteran middleweight grappler out of Team Quest in Gresham, Ore. -- though not the one most want Filho to fight. Instead of a third-ranked Matt Lindland, Filho fights the unranked Chael Sonnen.
3. Matt Lindland (20-5-0)
"The Law" wins based on addition by subtraction, taking the third spot in the rankings after the removal of previously third-ranked Dan Henderson due to inactivity and the loss of Rich Franklin. However, in order to maintain his ranking and validate his reputation as one of MMA's best fighters, he'll need to beat some elite competition in his division.
4. Rich Franklin (22-3-0, 1 NC)
Following another destruction at the hands of Anderson Silva, Franklin's next move is unclear. He slides below Matt Lindland with the loss. However, with Dan Henderson's subtraction from the top 10, Franklin remains in the No. 4 slot. Still a quality competitor in a relatively shallow division, Franklin is left with very few options given the nature of his debasing losses to "The Spider."
5. Nathan Marquardt (25-7-2)
Marquardt found himself overwhelmed by UFC champion Anderson Silva in July. Though many thought Marquardt provided a bad style match for Silva, his chin failed to hold up against the champion's strikes. "Nate The Great" will be in action come Super Bowl weekend against once-beaten Brazilian Thales Leites.
6. Robbie Lawler (15-4-0)
Lawler, the Elite XC and ICON Sport champion, has won seven of eight fights starting in 2005 against the likes of Frank Trigg, Joey Villasenor and Falaniko Vitale twice. His lone loss came against Jason Miller, and he was bombing on "Mayhem" before succumbing to a submission. Lawler returns to ICON Sport in December to defend his organizational title against dangerous banger Kala Kolohe Hose.
7. Yushin Okami (21-4-0)
Following his domination of Jason MacDonald in October, rumors immediately surfaced that Okami was done in the UFC and that Zuffa had no interest in re-signing him. While there is talk of Okami as a part of K-1's 2007 Premium Dynamite! card, Okami and his handlers at least remain outwardly optimistic that he will be in the Octagon in '08.
8. Yoshihiro Akiyama (10-1-0, 1 NC)
After spending almost 11 months on the shelf after his slippery situation with Kazushi Sakuraba, Yoshihiro Akiyama silenced many of his critics with his vicious KO-of-the-year candidate against Denis Kang. Such an outstanding win sees Akiyama jump in the Sherdog.com rankings. However, the more pressing issue, given the inclinations of FEG and the HERO'S product, is whether we'll get to see Akiyama face another top middleweight.
9. Denis Kang (27-9-1, 1 NC)
After a broken hand had kept him out for most of 2007, Kang got a rude welcome back to competition when an Akiyama uppercut sent him to sleep with his eyes wide open. One of the division's most gifted athletes, Kang has had to deal with injury and visa woes this year that have limited and hampered his in-ring performance. With the loss, Kang falls from the No. 7 spot in the Sherdog.com rankings.
10. Frank Trigg (15-6-0)
When Paulo Filho was added to Dec. 12's stacked WEC lineup, rumors immediately broke out that he would meet "Twinkle Toes" in a highly compelling middleweight clash. The problem? No one told Trigg. Trigg is now officially set for action as part of HDNet Fights' Dec. 15 card in Dallas, where he'll meet TUF 4 alum Edwin Dewees.
1. Matt Serra (9-4-0)
Even though he's become a part of MMA fans' weekly television watching, it's been seven long months since "The Terror" shocked the world, running roughshod over Georges St. Pierre. In a year full of solid performances from the likes of Randy Couture, Quinton Jackson and Anderson Silva, Serra had the chance to entrench himself as 2007's most outstanding fighter and validate himself in the eyes of nonbelievers against Matt Hughes on Dec. 29. However, an injury on Thanksgiving week forced Serra to the sidelines, where he'll watch the No. 2 and 3 welterweights battle for an interim title.
2. Georges St. Pierre (14-2-0)
An incredible two-year run saw the French Canadian capture the UFC welterweight belt while defeating the likes of Jason Miller, Frank Trigg, Sean Sherk, B.J. Penn and Matt Hughes. No one gave Matt Serra a chance of beating GSP when the two met in April, yet Serra blasted out the champ to take the coveted UFC crown. St. Pierre got back on track at UFC 74 with a resounding decision win over Josh Koscheck. GSP is slotted in to fight Hughes for the UFC welterweight interim belt on Dec. 29.
3. Matt Hughes (41-5-0)
While Hughes' team has taken a beating on the latest season of "The Ultimate Fighter," the former two-time UFC welterweight champion thought he was going for his third title against TUF 6 adversary Matt Serra on Dec. 29. However, Serra's back injury prompted St. Pierre to fill in, making the year-ending fight a chance for Hughes to take a two fights to one edge over the French Canadian. A trilogy-winning performance from Hughes puts him back in line to fight his rival from New York.
4. Jon Fitch (15-2-0, 1 NC)
With his impressive decision victory over Diego Sanchez on Sept. 22, Fitch moved to 7-0 in the UFC and up two spots in the Sherdog rankings. The impressive wrestler turned mixed martial artist showed an array of skills, including an amazing ability to avoid submissions. Fitch has come out of the shadows the right way, winning tough fights that helped him grow as a fighter -- and as a known commodity among MMA fans.
5. Josh Koscheck (9-2-0)
A last-second loss to Drew Fickett is no longer the only blemish on the powerful wrestler's ledger. Koscheck was dominated during his 15-minute clash with former UFC champion Georges St. Pierre. Perhaps most surprising: He was outwrestled and forced to fight from the bottom for most of the fight. Training with Jon Fitch at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., should only help Koscheck's progression.
6. Diego Sanchez (17-2-0)
Undefeated before losing by decision to Koscheck in one of his worst efforts as a pro, Sanchez redeemed himself even in losing to Jon Fitch on Sept. 22. "The Ultimate Fighter I" star aggressively attacked Fitch with submissions, but he failed to find one due to his foe's incredible defense. Sanchez recently left his childhood home of Albuquerque, N.M., and longtime trainer Greg Jackson to be with his child in San Diego. The move to work with Rob Garcia regularly didn't appear to hurt Sanchez, who might consider a move down to lightweight following his second loss in a row.
7. Karo Parisyan (18-4-0)
Parisyan was once promised a title shot before the UFC's 170-pound title picture went haywire. However, he has done his job as a prizefighter, continuously facing quality opposition and, apart from his classic with Diego Sanchez, winning. The high amplitude-minded Armenian continued his march toward a title shot by outlasting former DEEP champion and PRIDE veteran Ryo Chonan at UFC 78.
8. Jake Shields (20-4-1)
With free agency looming, Shields inked a long-term deal with ProElite and then went out and quickly dispatched a quality opponent in Mike Pyle. The next stop for Shields would seemingly be an EliteXC title match. The real question, however, is whom Gary Shaw and company can find to face Shields that will offer him any sort of challenge.
9. Shinya Aoki (11-2-0)
Aoki slides a spot in the rankings to No. 9 due to his obvious inactivity. Another of the PRIDE Bushido castaways, Aoki is another reason for fans to keep their fingers crossed that Shigeru Saeki and Hiroyuki Kato can organize some MMA bouts for the HUSTLE card on New Year's Eve.
10. Carlos Condit (21-4-0)
The young fighter from Albuquerque, N.M., has compiled quite a record, most recently defending his WEC title by submitting Brock Larson in the opening round. Condit's participation in last year's Rumble on the Rock tournament put him on the map, though he ended the event losing to Shields. A bad defeat against Pat Healy followed, but the 23-year-old fighter has reeled off six wins in a row to squeak into the final slot at 170 pounds. To get any higher, he needs to hope WEC brings in serious competition.
1. Takanori Gomi (27-3-0, 1 ND)
Gomi's submission loss in February to Nick Diaz was overturned when Nevada ruled that the Californian had marijuana in his system, which when added to the fact that Gomi has fought at 161 pounds for the past three years makes this ranking tenuous. A 2006 submission loss to Marcus Aurelio doesn't help either, but Gomi avenged being put to sleep by winning a decision over Aurelio in November 2006. Even with all that working against him, Gomi stands atop a deep and exciting weight division with wins over the likes of Kawajiri, Ishida and Sakurai.
2. Gilbert Melendez (12-0-0)
Regrettably, when 2007 comes to a close, we'll have seen "El Niño" only once over the course of the year. Thankfully, his September domination of tough Japanese veteran Tetsuji Kato has led to a March '08 clash with Josh Thomson. Given the state of limbo a lot of top lightweights are in, that's a pretty darn good matchup.
3. Gesias Calvancanti (14-1-1)
Another great year from "JZ" led to another HERO'S 154-pound tournament title and a top-three slot in these rankings. The only caveat is the ever-present worry that HERO'S backer Fight Entertainment Group won't match Calvancanti with suitable top-level fighters. Here's hoping Dynamite! offers up something explosive with the 24-year-old Brazilian involved.
4. Tatsuya Kawajiri (19-4-2)
It seems ages ago that "Crusher" was in the ring. At this point, all we can hope for is that former DSE exec Hiroyuki Kato and Shigeru Saeki put together some MMA fights on HUSTLE pro-wrestling card on New Year's Eve as rumored. If they do, expect the presence of former PRIDE Bushido fighters, which could possibly mean Kawajiri.
5. Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro (19-2-0)
"Shaolin" had successful eye surgery in September following his destruction at the hands of Gesias Calvancanti. For Ribeiro, recovery likely can't come fast enough to allow him to erase the memories of his dreadful performance in the HERO'S semifinal.
1. Akitoshi Tamura (11-5-2)
Enjoying a tremendous breakout year, the Shooto world champion was scheduled to compete on the Nov. 8 Shooto card at Yoyogi. However, leading promoter Sustain, in an all-too-familiar scenario, said it could not find a suitable opponent for Tamura. Hopefully Tsudanuma's "Ironman" can return to action as soon as Shooto kicks off 2008 on Jan. 26 at Korakuen Hall.
2. Urijah Faber (19-1-0)
The face of featherweights in North America, Faber's crackling bout with Chance Farrar in June served as an exemplar of what 145-pounders bring to the table. The only thing stopping "The California Kid" from topping this list is his glossy record, which features mostly tough but not outstanding opponents. However, this will change when he fights Jeff Curran on Dec. 12.
3. Takeshi Inoue (14-2-0)
In a thoroughly entertaining but ultimately one-sided affair earlier this month, Lion Takeshi showed the form that made him Shooto world champion in dominating tricky veteran Katsuya Toida for the meaningless Shooto 143-pound Pacific Rim title. In the current climate of pro Shooto, the potent-punching Yokohama native seems bound for a world title rubber match with Akitoshi Tamura in '08.
4. Jeff Curran (28-8-1)
"The Big Frog" had a much tougher time than expected in his Aug. 5 bout with unknown Stephen Ledbetter, but he won a unanimous decision. The win secured Curran a hotly anticipated bout with WEC champion Urijah Faber, which is scheduled for Dec. 12 in Las Vegas. In the meantime, Curran moves up in the rankings with the loss by Antonio Carvalho earlier this month.
5. Hiroyuki Takaya (9-4-1)
It was disappointing for many fans when Takaya abandoned Shooto and the featherweight division in 2005 for the bigger paydays of HERO'S and the lightweight division. However, Takaya has looked sensational since returning to the division, demolishing Jarrod Card in September before stopping Antonio Carvalho this month. Takaya likely won't stick around in Shooto because world champion Akitoshi Tamura is a close friend, but GCM is rumored to be organizing a 145-pound tournament for next year's CAGE FORCE series that could provide steady work for the "Streetfight Bancho."
1. Akitoshi Hokazono (6-0-2)
The king of Shooto's 132-pound class, Hokazono remains one of MMA's largest enigmas. In effortless back-to-back thrashings of Marcos Louro and Kenji Osawa to capture the vacant Shooto crown, Hokazono looked like a pound-for-pound king. Yet he only fights once or twice a year, and he insists MMA is a hobby for him. Worse yet, his much-anticipated July title clash with former champ Ryota Matsune was cancelled after the oft-injured Matsune suffered a torn bicep and a broken rib. American promoters would be smart to nab the 30-year-old Osakan and give him a stage to let his potential shine through.
2. Marcos Galvao (6-1-0)
Long overdue for better paydays, the 26-year-old Brazilian is set for his stateside debut when he faces Brian Bowles on the undercard of the WEC's stacked Dec. 12 offering. The Galvao-Bowles fight is exactly what MMA's ardent followers had hoped for in terms of globalizing the sport as the WEC opted to focus on the smaller weight classes.
3. Koetsu Okazaki (5-0-1)
After an 18-month layoff, Okazaki returned in June 2006 and has rattled off successive wins over Hiroyuki Tanaka, So Tazawa and Atsushi Yamamoto. The well-rounded pupil of Dokonjonosuke Mishima is perhaps the best-kept secret in Shooto's 132-pound division, and another solid win may make him the most worthy challenger to Hokazono's title.
4. Atsushi Yamamoto (11-4-1)
Yamamoto's decision to leave Pancrase, in which the smallest weight class is 141 pounds, for pro Shooto, in which he can compete at his more natural weight of 132 pounds, continues to pay dividends. The "Kid" Yamamoto disciple took a dominant unanimous decision over standout grappler "Hadairo" Tetsu Suzuki on Sept. 22 and solidified his spot in the upper echelon of Shooto's 132-pound division.
5. Ryota Matsune (15-1-1)
After vacating the Shooto world title in February 2005 and spending 18 months on the shelf with a knee injury, it was hoped 2007 would offer a return to form for "The Shooto Junkie." Then, a week out from his much-anticipated July world title bout with Akitoshi Hokazono, Matsune pulled out due to a broken rib and torn bicep. Matsune is only 25 years old and has plenty of time to get healed and back into peak form, but this is getting ridiculous.
1. Shinichi Kojima (8-2-4)
A miserable year for the Shooto world champion got even worse at Shooto's super card at Yoyogi earlier this month. Kojima said it was his dream to hold both the Shooto world 123-pound and 132-pound titles. He tried to take his first step toward that goal against 18-year-old Brazilian prodigy Eduardo "Dudu" Dantas in his 132-pound debut. The young Andre Pederneiras pupil was a step ahead of BJ, who has looked dreadful since leaving Hiroyuki Abe's AACC and linking up with Shuichiro Katsumura and his Katsumura Dojo. With his next 123-pound title defense in the upcoming months, something drastic will have to happen, or BJ likely will be beltless.
2. Yasuhiro Urushitani (14-3-4)
Although Urushitani may still be suffering the stings of injustice after being robbed of the Shooto world title against BJ in March, the 31-year-old was able to just edge out former adversary Mamoru Yamaguchi in September to keep himself atop the rankings and perhaps earn another shot at BJ's title early next year. In the meantime, Urushitani is scheduled for action in the cage as part of GCM's Dec. 1 Cage Force card against a yet-to-be-named opponent.
3. Mamoru Yamaguchi (18-4-3)
The longtime ruler of the 123-pounders wasn't able to repeat his December 2003 win over Urushitani. He will need to work his way back up the ladder to earn another shot at BJ or Urushitani. However, the positive for Mamoru is that while BJ and Urushitani may offer difficult tests for him, he is still head and shoulders above the rest of the weight class.
4. Yuki Shoujou (7-3-2)
Having one of the best 2007 campaigns of any pro Shootor, Shoujou ran his record to 3-0 this year with a commanding decision victory last month over ever-tough veteran Junji Ikoma. The always-exciting Shoujou is now in the thick of things in Shooto's 123-pound division and should provide fantastic scraps for years to come.
5. Rambaa Somdet (4-2)
Surreal to say the least, former Thai stadium standout Rambaa "M-16" Somdet, after nearly five years away from MMA, returned to the ring earlier this year. First he demolished 115-pounder Takehiro Harusaki effortlessly in July. Then this month he destroyed a streaking Masaaki Sugawara, threatening with both submission attempts and vicious strikes before forcing a doctor's stoppage after the second round. While it's unclear if Somdet will continue campaigning at 115 or 123 pounds, the colorful and unorthodox fighter has commanded the attention of fans with his past two wins.
1. Joel Casamayor (34-3-1)
The only legitimate lightweight champ finally will return to action for his first fight in 13 months and his first fight since signing with Golden Boy Promotions. He will face Jose Armando Santa Cruz on the Miguel Cotto-Shane Mosley HBO PPV undercard. It's about time, isn't it?
Next: Nov. 10 vs. Santa Cruz.
2. Juan Diaz (31-0)
"Baby Bull" is the favorite to add a third alphabet belt to his collection when he meets fellow titlist Julio Diaz in a terrific "Boxing After Dark" main event on HBO. The winner of the fight should insist on facing the winner of Casamayor-Santa Cruz to determine the true champion of the division. Unfortunately, that probably won't happen because of alphabet organization politics.
Next: Oct. 13 vs. Diaz.
3. Julio Diaz (34-3)
It's Diaz vs. Diaz -- no relation -- in a unification fight on HBO. It figures to be quite exciting, but who is your pick? We'll take Ju. Diaz to win.
Next: Oct. 13 vs. Diaz.
4. Nate Campbell (31-5-1)
While patiently waiting for an eventual mandatory title shot against the Juan Diaz-Julio Diaz winner, "The Galaxxy Warrior" will stay busy on the undercard, probably against Humberto Toledo (31-4-2), who has lost two of his past three -- but to quality opponents: former champ Stevie Johnston and junior lightweight contender Humberto Soto.
Next: Oct. 13 vs. TBA.
5. David Diaz (33-1-1)
The third of the Diaz titlist trio -- also no relation -- makes exciting fights just like the others, so match him with just about anybody and it should be fun. With his big victory against Erik Morales in the books, it's time to start thinking about the next move, even if he is unlikely to fight the rest of the year.
6. Acelino "Popo" Freitas (38-2)
Although the Brazilian icon says he is retired, he still is talking about taking one more fight at the end of the year in his native country to say farewell to his millions of loyal fans. If he does retire for good, it's been one heck of an exciting run for the two-division titleholder.
7. Michael Katsidis (23-0)
There are few fighters who have made such a big impression on hard-core fans in such a short period of time. Katsidis has done so because of his two all-out brawls this year against Graham Earl and Czar Amonsot. They could be a prelude to a mandatory fight with Juan Diaz in early 2008. That could be the mother of all brawls. We shiver at the thought.
8. Zahir Raheem (28-2)
Raheem might as well be the mayor of no man's land. He hasn't fought since a May decision victory against Cristobal Cruz, which was so boring that some spectators still are asleep, and nobody seems to care.
9. Jose Armando Santa Cruz (25-2)
He has a huge opportunity in front of him, a shot against Casamayor on a major HBO PPV card headlined by Cotto-Mosley. Santa Cruz will be a big underdog, but if Casamayor is going to get licked, it could be now, when he is coming off a 13-month layoff.
Next: Nov. 10 vs. Casamayor.
10. "Kid Diamond" Almazbek Raiymkulov (25-1-1)
A proposed fight with Prawet Singwangcha of Thailand for the vacant -- and thoroughly worthless -- "regular" WBA title still is in the works, but nothing is set. It could wind up on a November Versus-televised card. Whoopee!
Next: TBA vs. Singwangcha.
1. Manny Pacquiao (44-3-2)
There have been continual reports about turmoil and distractions coming out of Pacquiao's training camp as he prepares for his rematch against Marco Antonio Barrera. He is training at home in the Philippines instead of in the more tranquil atmosphere of trainer Freddie Roach's Wild Card Gym in Southern California. At some point, the distractions are going to catch up to Pacquiao. The only question is, will it be against Barrera?
Next: Oct. 6 vs. Barrera.
2. Juan Manuel Marquez (47-3-1)
The Sept. 15 HBO PPV card he was supposed to headline in his first defense against Rocky Juarez was canceled when Marquez's cut knuckle developed a nasty infection that caused his hand to swell badly. Showtime rode to the rescue with a new date for the card -- a date that won't require a $44.95 PPV bill. Thank you, Showtime.
Next: Nov. 3 vs. Juarez.
3. Marco Antonio Barrera (63-5)
Sure, Pacquiao crushed him in their 2003 fight, knocking him out in the 11th round. But Barrera never should be underestimated because he has a track record of rising to the occasion when he is counted out. Anybody remember his second and third fights with Erik Morales or his masterpiece against Naseem Hamed? If the distracted Pacquiao isn't on his game, Barrera pulling the upset won't be a shock.
Next: Oct. 6 vs. Pacquiao.
4. Humberto Soto (42-5-2)
In a dangerous move being made against the wishes of American co-promoter Top Rank, Soto is taking a tuneup fight in his hometown in Mexico against Ismael Gonzalez. Soto already has an HBO "Boxing After Dark" fight against titlist Joan Guzman scheduled for Nov. 17. A loss in Mexico, or even a cut or other injury, will be a disaster for Soto.
Next: Sept. 14 vs. Gonzalez.
5. Joan Guzman (27-0)
Guzman undoubtedly will say a prayer that Soto comes through his ill-advised tuneup fight unscathed, because Guzman has a nice payday riding on defending his title against Soto later in the fall on HBO.
Next: Nov. 17 vs. Soto.
6. Edwin Valero (22-0)
Although Valero reportedly suffered a stab wound during an altercation in his native Venezuela, the knockout artist supposedly will be OK to fight before the end of the year. He is supposed to co-headline a card with emerging featherweight star Jorge Linares in Cancun, Mexico. If the card happens, expect to see it offered on pay-per-view in America.
Next: Dec. 1 vs. TBA.
7. Alex Arthur (25-1)
The exciting Scottish star and interim titlist is the mandatory challenger for the Guzman-Soto winner, but it's clear he wants to fight Guzman, based on the smack talk he has been directing Guzman's way. Whether he winds up facing Guzman or Soto, either would make an exciting fight.
8. Jorge Barrios (47-3-1)
The former titleholder got a double whammy of bad news that forced him to withdraw from a Sept. 15 shot at Marquez. He has retina tears in both eyes, injuries that will keep him on the shelf for at least the rest of the year.
9. Mzonke Fana (27-3)
The titlist from South Africa retained his belt in his first defense by stopping undeserving Javier Osvaldo Alvarez in the ninth round Aug. 31 in South Africa. But boxing fans in the United States who are familiar with Fana know him because he was destroyed in two uncompetitive rounds against Barrera in April 2005.
10. Sirimongkol Singwancha (56-2)
The former bantamweight and junior lightweight titleholder from Thailand is looking for his 14th consecutive win. His last defeat came at the hands of Jesus Chavez in August 2003, when he lost his title to Chavez via unanimous decision.
Next: Sept. 14 vs. Christopher Saluday.
1. Chris John (39-0-1)
The Indonesian titleholder went to Japan, where he dominated Zaiki Takemoto and knocked him out in the ninth round Aug. 19 to keep his belt. John's status as the No. 1 featherweight in the world is obvious. Nobody else is even close at the moment.
2. Rocky Juarez (27-3)
Juarez's shot at junior lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez, and the accompanying career-high payday of nearly $500,000, went down the drain when Marquez's hand injury forced the HBO PPV card to be canceled a week before the Sept. 15 fight. But Juarez's shot suddenly was revived when Showtime stepped up to the plate with a new date that is six weeks later. Juarez, and all boxing fans, are appreciative.
Next: Nov. 3 vs. Marquez.
3. Robert Guerrero (20-2-1)
Guerrero's title defense against Martin Honorio was one of the undercard fights canceled when the Sept. 15 Marquez-Juarez fight was called off, but it also was one of the fights Showtime rescued a few days later.
Next: Nov. 3 vs. Honorio.
4. Steven Luevano (33-1)
When Marquez moved up in weight, he gave up his 126-pound belt. Luevano won the vacant strap by knocking out Nicky Cook on July 14 in England. Now Luevano is set for his first defense against Antonio Davis (24-3, 12 KOs), a slick boxer who recently moved down in weight from 130 pounds. They will fight on the Manny Pacquiao-Marco Antonio Barrera HBO PPV undercard.
Next: Oct. 6 vs. Davis.
5. Jorge Linares (24-0)
The phenom from Venezuela is slated to make his first defense in Cancun, Mexico, on the same card with junior lightweight titlist and fellow countryman Edwin Valero. Linares probably will face mandatory challenger Gamaliel Diaz of Mexico. But it doesn't matter who Linares faces. We can't get enough of him.
Next: Dec. 1 vs. TBA.
6. Jorge Solis (33-1-2)
In his first bout since being stopped by Manny Pacquiao in a junior lightweight bout in April, the brother of junior flyweight titlist Ulises Solis returned to featherweight and stopped Santiago Allione in the fourth round Aug. 18.
7. Thomas Mashaba (19-2-4)
The South African's long-delayed bout against former titlist Eric Aiken has been rescheduled and will take place in Johannesburg on the same card as the Cassius Baloyi-Gairy St. Clair junior lightweight elimination bout.
Next: Nov. 12 vs. Aiken.
8. Martin Honorio (24-3-1)
Talk about ups and downs. Honorio first got the call to fill in as Guerrero's challenger on a Sept. 15 PPV card when Juarez was bumped up to face Marquez in the main event. Then the entire card was called off. Then, a few days later, Showtime stepped in and picked up Guerrero-Honorio. Hopefully, the only drama remaining around this fight will be in the ring.
Next: Nov. 3 vs. Guerrero
9. Hector Velazquez (48-11-2)
The gritty vet from Mexico has won six in a row -- including an upset victory against previously undefeated rising prospect Mario Santiago on July 28 -- since being stopped by Manny Pacquiao in a junior lightweight bout in September 2005.
10. Nicky Cook (27-1)
The tough Brit isn't crying over spilt milk. Three months after being knocked out in the 11th round by Luevano in a shot at a vacant belt, Cook will return to action on an undercard in London, seeking to revive his career.
Next: Oct. 13 vs. TBA.