MMA's 10 best pound-for-pound fighters
ESPN has ranked the top 10 fighters in the world regardless of weight class. The voting panel for these rankings consists of ESPN.com writers Josh Gross, Franklin McNeil and Brett Okamoto, "MMA Live" host Jon Anik and ESPN.com editor Darius Ortiz. Each member of the panel submitted his top 10, with a point value was awarded to each fighter on his list. Check out the list below to see how things shook out. Make sure to come back as these lists will update monthly. Then compile your own rankings with our SportsNation rank 'em list and discuss the list with your peers.
1. ANDERSON SILVA (28-4)
UFC middleweight champion
Hits: There is no debate as to who is the best fighter in the world. One is impressed by watching Georges St. Pierre and Jose Aldo; one is amazed watching Silva. He's so fluid in every aspect of the game. There are few fighters in the sport who can entertain simply by hitting the heavy bag. Silva is one of them. His movement in the cage seems almost choreographed and, when he wants to be, he's a proven finisher.
Misses: Split personalities. His bizarre performance against Demian Maia is still unexplainable. When he gets comfortable in the Octagon, he's aggressive and doesn't usually take long to finish a fight. When he has trouble reading his opponent early on and finding his range, he seems to get frustrated and resorts to mind games.
2. GEORGES ST. PIERRE (21-2)
UFC welterweight champion
Hits: Georges St. Pierre fights the man ranked No. 9 on this list, Jake Shields, in April, and most books list him as a better than 4-to-1 favorite. That shows how dominant St. Pierre has been the past four years. We already knew he possessed a takedown that apparently no man weighing 170 pounds can stop; now he's added a devastating jab to his standup, which he picked up from Freddie Roach (the same Freddie Roach who trains boxer Manny Pacquiao).
Misses: If Anderson Silva didn't exist, there would be no debate as to who the best in the world is. Thing is, Silva does exist and even St. Pierre admits he believes the Brazilian is tops right now. More finishes for St. Pierre also wouldn't hurt, either.
3. JOSÉ ALDO (18-1)
UFC featherweight champion
Hits: Perhaps no other mixed martial artist in the world throws as hard as Jose Aldo does while still maintaining his speed -- including fellow Brazilian Anderson Silva. Aldo's knockout rate shows he has incredible power in his kicks, knees and punches, but he doesn't have to load up like a typical knockout guy to throw them. Basically, Aldo is throwing devastating strikes at the same speed other guys are throwing jabs. That's scary.
Misses: Injury. Considering Aldo is just 24, it's a little discerning he's been sidelined since September due to a compacted vertebrae. If it was a broken hand or a cut over the eye, fine. But neck and back problems this early in a career? Less than desirable.
4. FRANKIE EDGAR (13-1-1)
UFC lightweight champion
Hits: If this were a fantasy league, Frankie Edgar would represent the five-tool guy. His boxing is beautiful to watch from a technical standpoint, he's a top-notch wrestler and, as we saw in his last fight, he might have one of the biggest hearts in the sport. And let's not forget he's probably fighting outside his ideal weight class; 145 pounds likely wouldn't be a difficult cut for him.
Misses: Lack of finishes. Since joining the UFC in February 2007, Edgar has recorded six decision wins, two stoppage wins, a decision loss and a draw. A submission or knockout will always trump even a dominant decision win. Edgar has too many of the latter, not enough of the former.
5. MAURICIO RUA (19-4)
UFC light heavyweight champion
Hits: Once again king of the light heavyweight rankings, Mauricio Rua is finishing fights in arguably the strongest division in mixed martial arts. He's considered an underdog to Jon Jones at UFC 128 later this month, but we'll see how that works out, as Rua is much different than any opponent Jones has faced. Plus, Rua has already shown a knack for cracking unsolved puzzles. Just ask Lyoto Machida.
Misses: Overrated. It sounds crazy, but consider Rua's recent wins. He defeated Machida, who then subsequently lost to Quinton Jackson. Before that, he knocked out Chuck Liddell, who is now retired. And he defeated Mark Coleman, who should retire. He's 3-2 in his past five fights and is coming off his second lengthy layoff in three years. All of a sudden, "overrated" doesn't sound too crazy, does it?
6. Dominick Cruz (17-1)
UFC bantamweight champion
Hits: Dominick Cruz likes to admit that when people see him working in the gym and don't know who he is, they sometimes wonder if he even knows what he's doing. He's so unorthodox, it's no surprise some mistake him for an overeager beginner. It's also no surprise many opponents find him impossible to hit. Add a very underrated wrestling game and never-ending cardio to his standup, and you end up with a guy who might hang on to the 135-pound belt for a long time.
Misses: Urijah Faber. It's hard to find a hole in Cruz's game, so we had to find one in his record. Faber remains the only man to beat Cruz, submitting him in the first round of a fight back in 2007. Stylistically, it would be interesting to see if Faber could impose his will on Cruz and shut down his movement by getting inside. It would also be interesting to see how Cruz performs in a fight he'd be highly emotionally invested in.
7. CAIN VELASQUEZ (9-0)
UFC heavyweight champion
Hits: Cain Velasquez is an agile fighter in a non-agile division. It takes about 10 seconds of a Velasquez fight to realize this guy doesn't move like your average heavyweight. And yet, that advantage in speed doesn't translate to a weakness against bigger guys because Velasquez is one of the best wrestlers in the division. So, how do you beat a heavyweight that moves better than everyone else but can also outwrestle everyone else? So far, no one seems to have an answer for that.
Misses: Hands. How in the world can a man's weakness be his hands when eight of his nine pro wins have come by way of knockout? Maybe it's a "me" thing, but I can't get over Velasquez's fight against Cheick Kongo, during which he was blatantly overwhelmed on his feet. He knocked out his next three opponents, but none of them (Ben Rothwell, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Brock Lesnar) are known for particularly terrific standup. If he runs into a Junior dos Santos type and can't get the fight to the ground, things could get interesting.
8. JON JONES (12-1)
UFC light heavyweight
Hits: Physically, Jon Jones is about as gifted as they come. His reach is 84.5 inches. That's seven feet, dude. You can prepare and prepare and prepare for that, and still not be prepared when you actually see it in the cage. And Jones isn't the uncoordinated 7-footer on the court who can't make a layup. He seems to create strikes on the fly and he's thrown proven wrestlers like Matt Hamill and Vladimir Matyushenko around like flyweights. On top of all that, he has a serious work ethic, so you can bet he'll be better every time he competes.
Misses: Experience. You knew that was coming. As amazing as Jones is, it has to be noted he hasn't trained mixed martial arts his entire life and, through 13 pro fights, hasn't yet had to fight his way out of deep water. Because he's been so terrific, he's getting the benefit of the doubt. Maybe everyone will see how Jones performs under pressure this month against Rua.
9. JAKE SHIELDS
Hits: At some point in the midst of the beating Shields absorbed from Dan Henderson in the first round of their Strikeforce middleweight title fight in 2010, everyone gave up on him to win. Shields, however, refused to give up and went on to dominate the next four rounds. When speaking on sports in general, there are some athletes who are just born winners. The common person understands it's impossible to win 100 percent of the time. These particular athletes, however, don't. Regardless of how hopeless things get, they believe they will find a way to prevail. Shields is one of them.
Misses: All fights start standing. While the Henderson win may have proven how big a heart Shields has and how superb a wrestler he is, it also hinted at how vulnerable his standup is. Shields has defeated some of the best strikers in the sport, but only because he was able to get them off their feet. When he runs into the complete package like, for example, St. Pierre, the holes in his standup might become apparent.
10. GRAY MAYNARD (10-0-1)
Hits: Wrestling-wise, there are only a handful of mixed martial artists who rank above Gray Maynard. And while some accuse him of relying on that base too much, consider this: Don't confuse relying on wrestling with creating a game plan and sticking to it. Maynard comes from a game-plan mentality at Xtreme Couture and, with few exceptions, he does a tremendous job of executing it.
Misses: Maynard might have something to say about being ranked No. 10 when a fighter he's defeated and fought to a draw, Edgar, is ranked No. 4. Reason being, Maynard is still a little raw in certain areas and, despite being a top-10 guy, hasn't shown a strong ability to finish. Although his failure to finish Edgar in the first round at UFC 125 was looked at more as a display of Edgar's heart than Maynard's lack of finishing skills, the truth probably has a little to do with both.
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