Penn, Torres and Faber move up the ranks
After over six months on the sidelines, Fedor Emelianenko climbs back into the cage in July. Where does the heavyweight powerhouse stand in this month's pound-for-pound rankings -- and can we expect to see him back one month from now?
Originally Published: June 26, 2008By Sherdog.com
July 19 will put the essence of pound-for-pound on display when Anderson Silva moves up to 205 pounds to fight James Irvin. The bout may be the first step of a new competitive odyssey for the sport's top fighter.However, this last stretch of fights has further put the sport's premiere smaller standouts on display. B.J. Penn's domination of Sean Sherk validated claims that the Hawaiian is the sport's premiere lightweight. A week later, Urijah Faber and Miguel Torres fought and put MMA's little men on the map. But where do they stack up in the pound-for pound world? Furthermore, after time away from serious competition, the likes of Fedor Emelianenko, Takanori Gomi and Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto are ready to get back into the saddle this summer. What prospects do these standouts have of meeting top opponents and securing their spot among the sport's best?
1. Anderson Silva (21-4-0)
It's no surprise that "The Spider" reigns as the sport's top dog. However, what is most pertinent is that Silva has at least temporarily given up on his pugilistic pipe dream of meeting Roy Jones Jr. in a boxing match, and there may be serious pound-for-pound impact in the future for the UFC's middleweight king. July 19 will mark Silva's foray into the light heavyweight division when he takes on James Irvin. Furthermore, Silva is likely looking at an autumn title defense against former foe Yushin Okami in an elite-level middleweight scrap. It is important to remember that Silva began his career as a top welterweight; between continued 185-pound dominance and possible preeminence at 205 pounds, Silva has the potential to solidify himself as an elite fighter across three weights classes in his career, which would be an enormous achievement.
2. Quinton Jackson (29-6-0)
With only the final bout left in the books for the seventh season of "The Ultimate Fighter," fans' full attention will now turn to Jackson's July 5 clash with Forrest Griffin, the second defense of his UFC light heavyweight crown. The MMA populace has always thought "Rampage" had all the tools in and out of the cage to be a star, and an impressive performance against the beloved Griffin may solidify the 205-pound champ's celebrity status. More importantly, superstar status for Jackson may be good for the sport in general, as the light heavyweight division may be MMA's historically greatest division, rich with both stars and young up-and-comers. When the best fights are the biggest tickets, the sport is in a good place.
3. Georges St. Pierre (16-2-0)
With the entire Matt Serra saga behind him, St. Pierre now shares similar prospects with "Rampage." A talented champion with transcendental charisma, GSP also reigns over MMA's other historically rich class. While 170 pounds may lack some of the stardom that 205 traditionally has enjoyed, there are numerous legitimate major fights for the welterweight champ. The first of what may be many comes Aug. 9, when St. Pierre takes on Jon Fitch in what should be a fantastic 170-pound scrap. The line behind Fitch seems near limitless with emerging contenders such as Thiago Alves and Mike Swick, top fighters who continue to improve their game such as Diego Sanchez and Josh Koscheck, and the introduction of quality international prospects such as Yoshiyuki Yoshida and Dong Hyun Kim.
4. Fedor Emelianenko (27-1-0, 1 NC)
It is refreshing to know that a legitimate heavyweight contest is around the corner for Emelianenko when he meets Tim Sylvia on July 19. Although an Emelianenko-Randy Couture bout is the big heavyweight ticket at this point in time, between the dearth of heavyweight talent, the fracturing of that scarce talent pool and Emelianenko's recent run against non-elite heavyweights, the clash with Sylvia is more than welcomed. The operative question, however, is if Emelianenko conquers Sylvia, whether or not there are further great heavyweight bouts which can be made in the near future for the Russian.
5. B.J. Penn (13-4-1)
After finally claiming the UFC lightweight crown with his destruction of Sean Sherk in May, the world's most talented lightweight is now certifiably the best, rising from ninth to fifth in the Sherdog pound-for-pound rankings. Aug. 9 should give us our next challenger to the lightweight kingpin, as Roger Huerta and Kenny Florian square off in a presumptive 155-pound title eliminator. Despite the UFC's lightweight class being rich with young up-and-comers, many fans have already declared Penn unbeatable within the division, and are already looking forward to Penn moving up in weight to rematch Georges St. Pierre. Although it may be preferable for Zuffa if Penn were to reign and give their historically troubled lightweight division some stability, it is hard to refute the allure of a five-round rematch between two of the sports pound-for-pound stars.
6. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (31-4-1, 1 NC)
The unfortunate reality for Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is that while he's undoubtedly one of the greatest and most accomplished fighters this sport has seen thus far, he is still and perhaps will always be known as the No. 2 heavyweight behind Fedor Emelianenko. It appeared as though Nogueira's move to the UFC could afford him the opportunity to face the best heavies in the game and reemerge as the sport's heavyweight king (especially considering the fact that Emelianko wasn't facing the best talent). Now, with the departures of fighters like Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, Mirko "CroCop" Filipovic, and the deep pockets willing to stage fights for Emelianenko, the tables may have turned. Furthermore, with the rise of B.J. Penn, Nogueira slips one spot in these rankings to No. 6. However, the upcoming season of "The Ultimate Fighter 8," on which Nogueira will coach against former UFC champ Frank Mir, should raise the profile of "Minotauro" to an audience his Russian rival has yet to reach.
7. Urijah Faber (21-1-0)
Although the ascent of B.J. Penn sees Faber slip in these rankings from sixth to seventh, Faber has become the first real sub-lightweight star in North American MMA, a thought that once seemed inconceivable in years past, when many thought that even the lightweights couldn't catch on with fans. In his Sacramento homecoming against Jens Pulver on June 1, "The California Kid" effortlessly played the superstar role. Faber was not only able to galvanize the audience, but in the biggest featherweight fight this sport has seen thus far, he dominated Pulver from bell-to-bell in a commanding performance that showed off his matured striking game. More importantly, more and more featherweight talent continues to pour into the WEC, which should allow Faber to have both a future full of top competition and outstanding fights.
8. Miguel Torres (33-1-0)
After turning in a champion's performance in what may wind up as 2008's fight of the year, MMA's mulleted Mexican-American fighter raises his pound-for-pound stock, climbing from 10th to eighth. Torres' June 1 bout with Pancrase star Yoshiro Maeda was a perfect example of why hardcore fans have championed MMA's smaller weight classes for so long, and why these weight classes are being put on the big stage with the help of Zuffa and the WEC. What's even better is that like Urijah Faber, with WEC emerging as the big ticket for MMA's smaller fighters, Torres will have no shortage of quality opponents, especially as the promotion sees more international competitors enter the cage for a crack at him.
9. Takanori Gomi (28-3, 1 NC)
With the likes of Penn, Faber and Torres putting on defining performances in major fights, Gomi sees his pound-for-pound stature slip, falling from seventh to ninth. With the majority of former Pride Bushido lightweights now in Dream, the question regarding Gomi has been whether or not the longtime lightweight king can manage to secure fights with accomplished, talented lightweights while fighting in World Victory Road's Sengoku. Even though a more fitting environment would be the UFC's Octagon or Dream's lightweight grand prix, things may not be so grim for Gomi, competitively speaking. "The Fireball Kid" will return to action on Aug. 24's Sengoku card, which will also see an eight-man lightweight tournament with some high quality (if not unknown lightweights) such as Rodrigo Damm, Satoru Kitaoka and Eiji Mitsuoka. The tournament's winner will then go on to challenge Gomi in a scenario which isn't the "ultimate" or "dreamy," but isn't too shabby either.
10. Norifumi Yamamoto (17-1, 1 NC)
As we lie in wait for Yamamoto's return to the ring, the bad boy of Japanese MMA slips from eighth to 10th for Sherdog's pound-for-pound purposes. Thankfully, "Kid" will make his return soon enough on Dream's July 21 card in Osaka, where he'll meet undefeated Urijah Faber pupil Joseph Benavidez. Although it is not nearly as important as the dream match with featherweight ruler Urijah Faber, it is great to see Dream's parent company, Fighting and Entertainment Group, finally create a featherweight class, giving Yamamoto a true divisional home rather than having him float between contract weights, or fight far beyond his means at 154 pounds. The creation of Dream's featherweight class should lead to attracting high quality international featherweights, which means that "Kid" should get the chance to face the elite level competitors befitting his talent.