MMA's 10 best pound-for-pound fighters

Originally Published: April 23, 2009

In MMA's pound-for-pound world, there's Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre and Fedor Emelianenko. Then there's everybody else.

Unfortunately for those seeking clarity as to who MMA's greatest fighter is, UFC 97 did very little to resolve debate. Incumbent pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva added to his résumé with his unanimous decision over Thales Leites, but his reputation soured some among fans and pundits alike.

Still, after another dominant victory over a top-10 fighter, Silva remains the sport's pound-for-pound alpha dog. The contents of his performance were hardly those that the world has come to expect from the often offensively brilliant Silva, who has been less than thrilling in his last two middleweight title defenses. Whether he'll continue to hold the pound-for-pound mantle as St. Pierre and Emelianenko head into potential high-stakes summer affairs remains to be seen.

UFC middleweight champion
Record: 24-4

There is not much more to be said of Silva's victory over Thales Leites. Objectively, however, the victory adds yet another top-10 middleweight to Silva's résumé. The decision over Leites gave him his 10th win in a row -- a streak that includes the likes of perennial standouts Rich Franklin, Nate Marquardt and Dan Henderson. Silva's last two performances will continue to engender debate over his enthusiasm for the sport. Fortunately, his standing means that whether it's at 185 or 205, his next bout will be against elite-level opposition.

UFC welterweight champion
Record: 18-2

Given the debate over the sport's preeminent pound-for-pounder created by Anderson Silva's performance against Thales Leites, St. Pierre's pound-for-pound clash with Thiago Alves looms large for UFC 100 on July 11. Though the specter of his loss to Matt Serra still remains in pound-for-pound arguments, a victory over the outstanding Alves would cast serious doubt over whether any 170-pounder in the world can challenge GSP.

Affliction heavyweight champion
Record: 30-1, 1 NC

No MMA fighter has enjoyed the long-running success that Emelianenko has had. The only thing preventing him from topping this list is that over the last three years, he has not faced many of his most outstanding contemporaries. This trend has been changing, though, as the last year has seen Emelianenko flatten two former UFC champions in Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski. The summer should provide another strong opponent for Emelianenko -- perhaps Josh Barnett -- should Affliction stage its third event.

WEC bantamweight champion
Record: 35-1

Few fighters have done more for themselves in the last 18 months. As the star of MMA's emerging bantamweight class, Torres has shown championship poise and all the traits that are associated with the sport's 135-pounders. After taking a thrilling five-round decision over top-five opponent Takeya Mizugaki on April 5, Torres' focus now turns to his next WEC bantamweight title defense, likely against undefeated Georgia native Brian Bowles come August.

UFC lightweight champion
Record: 13-6-1

Penn has long been thought of as arguably the sport's most talented competitor. However, with this tag, he has sought many fruitless challenges above the 155-pound division where it seemed he could always reign. Penn will finally make the second defense of his UFC lightweight title on Aug. 8, when he squares off with red-hot challenger Kenny Florian in the marquee bout of UFC 101.

UFC light heavyweight champion
Record: 13-0-1

Evans has continued to be scrutinized by fans and pundits alike who wonder if the Greg Jackson disciple is in fact the sport's top 205-pounder and a legitimate pound-for-pound entrant. Fortunately for him, Evans' pound-for-pound fate is in his own hands: He'll take on undefeated Lyoto Machida at UFC 98 on May 23. A victory over the seemingly untouchable Machida would not only bolster Evans' résumé but also set up a high-profile clash with former UFC champion Quinton Jackson later this year.

UFC light heavyweight
Record: 30-7
Rampage added yet another top-10 notch to his belt by earning a hard-fought decision in March over Keith Jardine. With a win over nemesis Wanderlei Silva as well, Jackson's loss to Forrest Griffin in July seems ages ago. However, Jackson's path back to the top of the light heavyweight division will run through an undefeated fighter, as he awaits the winner of the May 23 clash between Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans.

WEC featherweight champion
Record: 21-4

Three years ago, the idea of an unassuming Brown emerging as a pound-for-pound entrant would have seemed bizarre if not laughable. The powerhouse featherweight's massive improvement has shown in the cage, though, as he's wiped out three consecutive top-10 featherweights with increasing dominance. On June 7, Brown could cement himself atop the 145-pound division if he replicates his first victory over divisional poster boy Urijah Faber when the two rematch at WEC 41.

UFC light heavyweight
Record: 16-5

After winning the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter," few would have pegged Griffin for pound-for-pound success. However, Griffin's improvement led him to the top of the 205-pound division, taking pound-for-pound quality victories over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Coming off his loss to Rashad Evans in December, Griffin's road back to the top will run through once-beaten Brazilian Thiago Silva, whom Griffin meets at UFC 101 on Aug. 8.

UFC welterweight
Record: 16-3

Few if any fighters had a more successful 2008 than Alves. In a sport where a single top-10 win can rapidly propel a fighter, he strung together three in a row, besting Karo Parisyan, Matt Hughes and Josh Koscheck. Alves' sensational run has earned him a massive pound-for-pound matchup when he faces UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 100 on July 11.