'The Spider' holds down top spot on pound-for-pound list
Who is the best mixed martial arts fighter on the planet, regardless of weight? Sherdog.com weighs in with their expert picks in their pound-for-pound rankings.
An incredible run by UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, combined with a long period of inactivity by Russian heavyweight stalwart Fedor Emelianenko, has resulted in a shakeup at the top of Sherdog.com's pound-for-pound mixed martial arts rankings. What does the rest of the list look like?
For a list of the 10 best fighters in each weight division, click here.
1. Anderson Silva (20-4-0)
After a career of appearing on pound-for-pound lists before being unceremoniously evacuated, Silva has put together the most impressive streak of his career during a period of monumental upset and inactivity. The only blemish on Silva's record in his last nine fights is his infamous disqualification loss to Yushin Okami, but that doesn't prevent him from to taking the top spot. Beyond that mishap, he's steamrolled his competition. Moreover, three of his last four wins have come against firmly entrenched, high-standing top-10 fighters. Silva's ability to maintain his pound-for-pound status will be tested early next year when he fights perennial pound-for-pounder Dan Henderson.
2. Quinton Jackson (29-6-0)
Let there be no mistake, there is certainly a case for putting "Rampage" atop this list. Jackson, alongside Silva, seems to be the only top fighter beating other top fighters in a stretch of upsets and inactivity. His back-to-back wins over Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson are certainly sterling. However, "Rampage" has the potential to strengthen his pound-for-pound status more than any other fighter because a steady crop of elite light heavyweights appear to be coming down the pipeline for him. Nursing an injured hand, Jackson likely won't fight again until spring 2008.
3. Fedor Emelianenko (26-1-0, 1 NC)
Mixed martial arts' most enduring pound-for-pound figure falls from his long-held top spot. Nothing's changed for "The Last Emperor," except for the only real crucial aspect to this list: fighting solid competition. While Emelianenko's second win over Nogueira and his triumph over "Cro Cop" are not ancient history, his only remotely meritorious heavyweight victory in the last two years was over Mark Hunt. Emelianenko eschewed pound-for-pound status, saying at the M-1 news conference in October that he didn't think he was the best fighter in the sport because he had yet to face the bulk of top heavyweights. If M-1 can corral some top heavyweights for Emelianenko to fight, at least he will have the opportunity to renew his reign atop the pound-for-pound rankings. If not, he'll be hard-pressed to regain his No. 1 perch -- his Dec. 31 fight against Hong-Man Choi isn't the place to start.
4. Gilbert Melendez (13-0-0)
"El Niño" embodies the spirit of the pound-for-pound prizefighter. After breaking out in 2005 as one of the best featherweights in the sport, Melendez was essentially forced out of the division when long-reigning Shooto champion Alexandre Franca Nogueira chose elective surgery over facing him. More importantly Melendez jumped back up to 155 pounds without missing a beat and has solidified his spot as one of the best lightweights in the world. Many hope to see him in the mix against the UFC's lightweight crop, but a March '08 Strikeforce title bout with Josh Thomson isn't too shabby, either.
5. Dan Henderson (22-6-0)
Is Henderson's gift his curse? One of the most recognizable fighters with dual-divisional clout, the 37-year-old former Olympian has up until recently told Zuffa that he doesn't favor a drop to the 185-pound class. Although additional wins at 205 pounds would only enhance the Team Quest Temecula leader's pound-for-pound stock, his decision to fight as a middleweight has produced one of the best fights in MMA. He'll face No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter Anderson Silva for the UFC 185-pound title, March 1 in Columbus, Ohio.
6. Takanori Gomi (27-3-0)
For all his warts, "The Fireball Kid" is the most accomplished lightweight this young sport has seen. While Gomi's unrequited losses to Joachim Hansen, B.J. Penn and Nick Diaz tend to stick out like a sore thumb, he has endured at the upper echelon of his division for seven years with heaps and heaps of top wins. Only time will tell whether the 29-year-old can continue to accrue those wins in his future home, wherever it is.
7. Shinya Aoki (11-2-0)
Yet another victim of PRIDE's demise, Aoki has solid wins in two weight classes that, at least for now, earn him a pound-for-pound ranking. As the sport trudges onward, though, it is imperative that the 24-year-old submission wizard gets back into some kind of action. MMA waits for no man. With the amount of competition in his weight range -- from 155 to 170 pounds -- even without the PRIDE Bushido refugees, the "Tobikan Judan" will quickly find himself overshadowed if he continues to opt for autograph sessions at Club DEEP rather than fights.
8. Sean Sherk (33-3-1)
Another fighter with a respectable résumé in two divisions, Sherk was seemingly poised to reign over the young and vibrant UFC 155-pound class, which would have provided ample opportunity to fortify his pound-for-pound stature. That is, of course, until he tested positive for nandrolone metabolite, thrusting him into a fight he's been embroiled in for the last three and a half months. The chips are stacked against "The Muscle Shark" in his formal appeal now scheduled for Dec. 4. If Sherk is suspended, the dynamic lightweight division and the rest of MMA will move on without him.
9. Norifumi Yamamoto (16-1-0, 1 NC)
After establishing himself as a top featherweight, "KID" jumped to K-1 three years ago and moved up to lightweight for payday purposes. Along the way he happened to become a superstar in Japan, where he picked up some solid wins. Now, following his failed bid to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games, Yamamoto is back in MMA. With Fight Entertainment Group looking to create a featherweight division with Yamamoto in mind, the future would seem bright for the 30-year-old, who may finally realize his incredible potential against some of the division's top competitors.
10. Randy Couture (16-8-0)
It was a team effort for "The Natural" to fill the final spot. Couture's disciple Forrest Griffin completed the enormous task of knocking off high-standing pound-for-pounder Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in the Brazilian's UFC debut. As a result, Couture's two fantastic wins over Gabriel Gonzaga and Tim Sylvia see him slide in the back door of the list. At the age of 44, Couture won't be able to climb the pound-for-pound ranks for long, especially as he sits on the sidelines battling the UFC.