MMA's 10 best pound-for-pound fighters
While the list saw no movement of late, Jose Aldo and Jake Shields affirmed their positions among the pound-for-pound best that mixed martial arts has to offer.
On Sept. 30, Aldo furthered his reputation as the top 145-pounder in the world by defending his World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight title against Manny Gamburyan at WEC 51. Previously unbeaten in the division, Gamburyan ultimately proved no match for the dynamic Brazilian's fearsome firepower, winding up on the business end of a second-round knockout. Up next for the champion: an early 2011 title defense against a challenger to be determined.
Meanwhile, 25 pounds up the scale, Shields -- a man who could be seen as Aldo's stylistic opposite -- earned his most recent win the hard way. The Cesar Gracie product needed all three rounds to best Martin Kampmann, earning a hotly contested split decision over the Dane in Shields' UFC debut at UFC 121. The win pushes Shields to the front of the line for a shot at the UFC welterweight title.
1. ANDERSON SILVA (27-4)
UFC middleweight champion
If great champions need signature moments, Silva may have excelled himself in Oakland, Calif., on Aug. 7. The brash and bombastic Chael Sonnen bombed on a hapless Silva for 23 minutes before a sudden triangle armbar earned "The Spider" the come-from-behind victory. In spite of his win and the rib injury he reportedly carried into the bout, postfight discussion has focused on Silva's waning dominance and increasing fragility. The Curitiba, Brazil, native was set to rematch Sonnen in 2011, before it was revealed that the Team Quest veteran had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in their first encounter. Silva will instead meet countryman Vitor Belfort at UFC 126.
2. GEORGES ST. PIERRE (20-2)
UFC welterweight champion
When St. Pierre and Josh Koscheck met for the first time in August 2007, St. Pierre walked away with a unanimous decision. When they collide in a UFC title rematch three-plus years later at UFC 124, it will be on the heels of the 12th season of "The Ultimate Fighter," which figures to build the second fight with an easy and obvious face-heel dynamic. That dynamic will only be reinforced by the fact that their Dec. 11 clash will go down at the Bell Centre in St. Pierre's hometown of Montreal.
3. JOSE ALDO (18-1)
WEC featherweight champion
Though Alexandre Franca Nogueira was perhaps the first dominant featherweight during the division's embryonic stages, it is his countryman, Aldo, who is now situated as the first truly great 145-pounder. After a second-round knockout over top contender Manny Gamburyan on Sept. 30, the Nova Uniao product looks toward his next title defense in early 2011, most likely against Mark Hominick or Josh Grispi.
4. FRANKIE EDGAR (13-1)
UFC lightweight champion
On Aug. 28 in Boston, Edgar proved that, no matter the controversy surrounding his April UFC title win against B.J. Penn, he is definitely the sport's top lightweight. For five rounds, Edgar was the superior fighter, ahead of "The Prodigy" every step of the way, standing and on the ground. However, in spite of two massive wins, fans are unlikely to be too taken with Edgar's accomplishments until he gets through his next challenger -- Gray Maynard. The only man to beat Edgar, Maynard outpointed "The Answer" in April 2008.
5. JON FITCH (23-3, 1 NC)
Love him or hate him, Fitch was in his element at UFC 117, where he duplicated his June 2006 win over Thiago Alves with a commanding, one-sided unanimous decision. While it appears Fitch will have to queue up for another shot at the UFC welterweight title, the former Purdue Boilermaker has entrenched himself as the hands-down second-best fighter in one of MMA's historically rich weight classes. His grinding fight style will continue to make him a polarizing figure among fans, but Fitch absolutely meets the most pivotal requirement of this list -- consistently beating great fighters.
6. MAURICIO RUA (19-4)
UFC light heavyweight champion
"Shogun" Rua's current résumé remains a far cry from where it was in 2005, when he tore through four top-10 opponents in half a year. Though he now has the UFC title in one of the sport's deepest divisions, his problem remains the catastrophic knee injuries he seems to suffer with regularity. Coming off his May knockout of Lyoto Machida, Shogun's third serious knee surgery in three years has postponed a fight with former champion Rashad Evans until 2011.
7. JAKE SHIELDS (26-4-1)
There was a time just a few short years ago when Shields was reviled for being one of MMA's most loathsome fighters to watch. During the past five years, the Cesar Gracie protégé has transformed himself from a drab, peripheral contender to one of the sport's elite fighters. Shields won his long-awaited UFC debut on Oct. 23, though not without some controversy. Nonetheless, the win -- a razor-thin split decision over Martin Kampmann -- entitles the former Strikeforce middleweight champion to a shot at the winner of December's Georges St. Pierre-Josh Koscheck 170-pound title bout.
8. LYOTO MACHIDA (16-1)
UFC light heavyweight
"The Machida Era" lasted less than a year, as Rua brutally plunked MMA's proudest karateka in Montreal on May 8, taking the UFC light heavyweight title and 205-pound supremacy. However, Machida still enjoys considerable stature in MMA with high-quality wins in a star-laden weight class. Though it will not restore him to the lofty status he enjoyed as champion, Machida will have the chance to build on his resume at UFC 123 on Nov. 20 in Auburn Hills, Mich., where he will meet fellow former titleholder Quinton "Rampage" Jackson.
9. RASHAD EVANS (15-1-1)
UFC light heavyweight
Evans' May 29 win over rival Quinton Jackson did not exactly set the world on fire, though he walked away with a unanimous decision. "Suga" will have the chance to take his résumé from strong to exceptional in the near future, as his win over Jackson installed him as the UFC's top 205-pound contender. The real issue for the former champion is simply inactivity, as champion Rua's most recent knee injury has pushed their clash back into 2011.
10. GILBERT MELENDEZ (18-2)
Strikeforce lightweight champion
In the biggest lightweight bout that could have been made outside of the UFC, Melendez thumped on Dream champion Shinya Aoki for five lopsided rounds on April 17, earning the most significant and outstanding win of his career. The major challenge going forward for the 28-year-old Cesar Gracie student is going to be securing major fights within the confines of Strikeforce. To that end, "El Nino" could be looking at a rubber match against former sparring partner Josh Thomson next, though rumors of a rematch with Aoki in Japan also persist.
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