MMA Rankings: Midsummer Edition (Divisional and Pound-for-Pound)
Huge shake-ups in the Heavyweight division have taken place this summer. Werdum's and Lesnar's submission victories have turned the division upside down and created interesting rankings problems.
There was also quite a bit of action in June that involved unranked fighters moving up into the Top 15 in their weight-classes, but not many ranked fighters facing each other.
There is going to be plenty of debating about rankings in the next few weeks, and my own rankings are based on the idea of a reflection of current, relevant accomplishments at this moment, not giving too much weight to past success or future potential.
There is a bit of dead period in July, in which the only notable card is Dream 15 on July 10th. This is just the quiet before an outstanding August, which is full of UFC, WEC and possibly Strikeforce cards.
1. Brock Lesnar (5-1) UFC Champion (pictured)
This may not be popular, but to any MMA fan who is able to be honest with themselves, Lesnar is the No. 1 Heavyweight at this point in time. He is the only Heavyweight with two top 10 wins in his last two fights.
To those upset about Lesnar being ranked No. 1, relax. Veasquez is likely going to take over this spot in a few months.
2. Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1)
Fabricio has likely reached his peak as a MMA fighter with this #2 ranking. He has the best Jiu Jitsu in the heavyweight division and is the most technical heavyweight on the ground. His shocking submission of Fedor will live on in MMA history. While he likely should take the fight with Overeem, M-1 is pushing for the rematch with Fedor. His total lack of striking makes it unlikely he will repeat the upset, but Werdum's skills on the ground are a danger to any heavyweight.
3. Fedor Emelianenko (31-2, 1 NC)
The Russian powerhouse suffered his first loss in 7 years, and what made it most shocking was the fact that Fedor, a very accomplished Judo and Sambo fighter, made rudimentary grappling errors. Fedor is pushing for a rematch with Werdum, but somehow a title match with Overeem is still on the table, reportedly.
4. Cain Velasquez (8-0)
The next challenger for Brock Lesnar, and likely the most dangerous fighter in the Heavyweight division to the current UFC Champion. Velasquez has equal, if not superior wrestling, and has very crisp and powerful boxing. At age 27, Velasquez seems poised to take over the division.
5. Junior dos Santos (11-1)
This Team Blackhouse prospect represents the other great heavyweight in the making in UFC. Dos Santos has powerful and lighting quick hands and is close to earning his black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Even younger than Cain at 25 years old, it's possible dos Santos-Velasquez could be a great UFC heavyweight rivalry.
6. Shane Carwin (12-1)
MMA fans finally got to see Carwin go into the second round, and all those cardio questions came home to roost. Carwin showed off powerful striking in his challenge to Brock Lesnar, but he seemed to forget his wrestling and never even attempted to control Lesnar on the ground. When put on his back, Carwin had very little. Carwin has a place as a relevant KO artist, but at 35 years old, he likely only has one more run at a title his future.
7. Alistair Overeem (33-11, 1 NC) Strikeforce Champion
After finally defending his Strikeforce belt after 3 years of fighting anywhere but the US, Overeem has announced he is taking time off from MMA. He is looking to enter this summer's K-1 Tournament in Japan, and we may be lucky to see him fight again this year.
8. Frank Mir (13-5)
The former UFC champion appears to be on the decline. The mobility and agility that made him such a threat on the ground seems all but gone as he has bulked up. Mir certainly has the skill, athleticism and experience to challenge any Top 10 heavyweight, he just needs to go back to his Jiu Jitsu.
9. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (32-6-1, 1 NC)
This former Pride FC and UFC champion is in full decline and is far more likely to be full time coaching in a year than in the title picture. An all-time great, Nog is likely to get a fairwell tour and then retire in the next year or two.
10. Antonio Silva (14-2)
Silva is the odd man out in the Strikeforce title picture, possibly ready to challenge for the title. There just doesn't appear to be anyone for him to fight. Werdum and Fedor want to rematch and Overeem wants to play kick-boxer in Japan.
Josh Barnett, Roy Nelson, Brett Rogers, Andrei Arlovski, Ben Rothwell
Light Heavyweight Division
1. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (19-4) UFC Champion pictured
The UFC LHW Champion has been sidelined by another knee injury until March of 2011. This raises serious questions about his reign, and we will likely see an interim champion match in the meantime.
2. Lyoto Machida (16-1)
Machida is now recovering from the first official loss of his career and the first time he has been KOed. Machida has all the skills to be a Top five LHW for as long as he wants. I think Machida started reading his own press clippings about being the 'Karate Kid,' and he forgot that it was his cross training in several martial arts that got him the belt. I think he goes back to training in places other than his jungle retreat and is back in top form soon.
3. Rashad Evans (15-1-1)
Evans is coming off two unanimous victories. Many where questioning Evan's cardio since his dropping down to LHW, and for the first time, Evans looked fresh in the 3rd round. But the question about Evan's chin remains, for the third straight fight he was rocked badly enough to be finished.
With the champion out until next year, Rashad could possibly face an unlikely young blood LHW in an interim championship match to get some fresh match-up possibilities into this slowly stagnating division.
4. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (30-8)
Jackson is looking to rebound after his loss to Evans and get his name back in the title picture. Rumored is a match with Little Nog, which makes sense, as does a match with former champ Machida.
5. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (19-3)
Nog is looking to rebound after a poor showing, rumored are both matches with Forrest Griffin and 'Ramage' Jackson.
6. Forrest Griffin (17-6)
Injury took him out of action, but look for the UFC to put him back in against Little Nog after his shoulder has healed up. I think the MMA world will be a little more optimistic about his chances this time around.
7. Thiago Silva (14-2)
Silva has recovered from surgery and returns to action against UFC veteran Tim Boetsch at UFC 117.
8. Muhammed Lawal (7-0) Strikeforce Champion
The confident and brash "King Mo" dominated Gegard Mousasi with his excellent wrestling. Lawal showed he can indeed return to his roots and grind his way to wins rather than stand and swing, but his cardio and guard-passing are areas of concern coming out of his win.
9. Jon Jones (10-1)
Jones has an interesting matchup with Matyeshenko coming up, where we will likely get a look at the young prospect's defensive wrestling and game off his back.
10. Gegard Mousasi (28-3-1)
This former elite middleweight was cruising in his transition to LHW, but clearly he took King Mo's wrestling lightly. Mousasi has the talents to be an elite fighter but he needs to re-examine his training to get back into MMA fan's good graces. He is set to fight a garbage match at Dream 15 that will have zero effect on his career unless he losses.
Ryan Bader, Rich Franklin, Randy Couture, Vladimir Matyushenko, Phil Davis
1. Anderson Silva (26-4) UFC Champion (pictured left)
While his antics at UFC 112 didn't win him any fans, they did retain his title. Silva's takedown defense is very underrated; he stuffed every takedown, trip and throw Maia could come up with. Silva is so much better than every other middleweight, it's just silly.
2. Chael Sonnen (24-10-1) (pictured right)
A pound-for-pound elite when it comes to talking, Sonnen is getting his shot at a truly elite fighter later this summer with a title shot. I think Sonnen's chances have something to do with snowballs and hell, but it should be a great lead-up.
3. Nate Marquardt (29-9-2)
One of the most well-rounded middleweights, Marquardt was rolling to another title shot, but he just didn't have an answer for Sonnen's takedowns and couldn't secure either of his chokes. As a result, Marquardt is now looking to start another streak, starting at UFC 118 against Rousimar Palhares.
4. Jake Shields (25-4-1) Strikeforce Champion
Jake Shields is really a welterweight. He shouldn't be fighting at 185 lbs, and Dan Henderson was going to show Jake Shields why they have weight classes. But then Shields dominated Henderson, showing a good chin, good heart, and amazing technique. Jake Shields is likely going to the UFC and look for him to move back to 170 lbs.
5. Demian Maia (12-2)
He was embarrassed, beaten, and demeaned by Silva in the cage at UFC 112, but Maia showed great guts and pride when he threw caution to the wind in the final two rounds and went straight at Anderson Silva, who looked so surprised he didn't know how to respond. Maia certainly won over fans with his show of guts.
6. Vitor Belfort (19-8)
It's starting too look like Belfort could stay on the shelf until Silva is ready to remake their broken date.
7. Dan Henderson (25-8)
After looking like the No. 2 middleweight in the world in Round One, he looked like a 39-year-old man for the next four rounds. Strikeforce is in a serious bind with Henderson. What's next for a guy that looks like he shouldn't be fighting much longer?
8. Yushin Okami (24-5)
Okami rededicated himself to training after his loss to Sonnen, came to the US and trained with Sonnen at Team Quest, and at UFN 21 he looked like a completely different fighter. Crisp on the feet and dominant on the ground, Okami finished a fighter for the first time in two years.
9. Jorge Santiago (22-8)
Largely an afterthought to US fans, this American Top Team product has been on a tear since his short run with the UFC in 2006 and he could save the Strikeforce middleweight division if Jake Shields jumps to the UFC.
10. Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza (12-2)
Jacare Souza is easily the best grappler in MMA, if Roger Gracie decides to go back to teaching in England, but what really sets Souza apart is his athleticism. Souza is just a freak who has been learning the striking game very easily and has been adding excellent wrestling to his already dangerous BJJ and Judo. Anderson Silva has said that in a year Souza will be at the top of this list, and I'm starting to agree.
Alan Belcher, Wanderlei Silva, Michael Bisping, Rousimar Palhares, Chris Leben
1. Georges St. Pierre (20-2) UFC Champion pictured
GSP is the most well-rounded fighter in MMA. There is nothing left for him to prove, and at 170 lbs, he is the best welterweight ever. Enjoy it.
2. Jon Fitch (22-3, 1 NC)
Fitch is cementing a legacy as a truly fantastic grappler, but to be remembered as a great fighter he needs to win a title. While its unlikely he can beat GSP, his UFC 117 match up with Thiago Alves provides the key his title shot.
3. Thiago Alves (16-6)
After what was likely a life saving detection of a brain abnormality, Alves is heading into his fight against Jon Fitch, looking to avenge previous defeat at the hands of the former Prudue wrestling captain.
4. Josh Koscheck (15-4)
Josh Koscheck earned his way back into the TUF house, as a coach this time around with his 3 round dismissal of Paul Daley. Kos gets his title shot and his big moment in the spot light.
5. Martin Kampmann (16-3)
Kampmann turned in a fantastic performance against Paulo Thiago, beating him in every aspect. Kampmann has thrown his name back into contender-ship but needs at minimum another big win to be considered for a title shot.
6. Nick Diaz (22-7, 1 ND) Strikeforce Champion
Nick Diaz's effortless arm bar of Hayato Sakurai didn't do much to move him up the rankings, but it kept him busy.
7. Paulo Thiago (13-2)
Thiago was completely outclassed in his UFC 115 match with Kampmann. Thiago has a bright future in the UFC, but likely needs to quit his day job of Police Special Forces if he wants to be a more consistent threat.
8. Dan Hardy (23-7, 1 NC)
Hardy is the most technical striker in the welterweight division but needs to add some defensive wrestling to compete with the elite of the 170 division.
9. Carlos Condit (25-5)
Condit turned in a classic Carlos Condit performance at UFC 115, showing great heart and killer instinct when he bounced back from losing the first two rounds before crushing Rory MacDonald's will to fight in the third round.
10. Ben Askren (6-0)
Askren won the Bellator Season 2 Welterweight Tournament with a dominating performance over Dan Hornbuckle. Askern looked every bit the Olympic-level free style wrestler with a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu. Askren will likely be a heavy favorite over Lyman Good to become Bellator Champion and could develop into a feared MMA fighter.
Paul Daley, Mike Swick, Jay Hieron, Dan Hornbuckle, Matt Hughes
1. Frankie Edgar (12-1) UFC Champion pictured
Frankie Edgar proved to have "The Answer" to B.J. Penn and flew back to Jersey with the lightweight title. Agree with the decision or not (which I don't), to not reflect the official outcome in rankings opens the door to revising every single decision in MMA history.
2. B.J. Penn (15-6-1)
Nobody knows if it was jet lag, sinus infection, or an off night, but something was just off about "The Prodigy" the night of UFC 112. Penn seemed flatter than a pancake, with none of his normal emotion and passion. And yet again we find ourselves wondering how B.J. Penn will rebound from a less-than-inspired performance.
3. Gilbert Melendez (18-2) Strikeforce Champion
Nobody is sure what is next for Melendez, he is on suspension for his role in the Nashville brawl and Strikeforce doesn't seem to have a true challenger for him yet. Rumors fly of a possible co-promotion with Bellator and match with Alvarez.
4. Kenny Florian (13-4)
Florian is heading into a contender elimination match that he should walk away from the victor. Florian has a skill set that can defeat any Lightweight with the exception of B.J. Penn. Florian has superior striking to Gray Maynard and while Maynard is a strong wrestler, I'd give the edge to Florian on the ground.
5. Shinya Aoki (23-5, 1 NC) Dream Champion
A legend in Japan, Aoki returns to Dream to defend his title against Tatsuya Kawajiri after his loss to Melendez. Aoki is an outstanding BJJ player and has a very dangerous guard and submission game, any fighter who takes him to the ground is taking a serious risk.
6. Eddie Alvarez (20-2) Bellator Champion
Alvarez is to defend his Bellator title against Jeff Curran and then is rumored to be fighting Melendez. Alvarez has outstanding boxing and wrestling, and his submission game is evolving, he could very soon be considered a top 3 lightweight.
7. Gray Maynard (9-0, 1 NC)
A dominating wrestler, Maynard is looking for his first title shot, if he can get by Kenny Florian.
8. Tatsuya Kawajiri (26-5-2)
Is finally getting his shot at the Dream title at Dream 15 against Aoki, his well-rounded skills could pose problems for the Champion.
9. George Sotiropoulos (13-2)
The Aussie is one fight away from a title shot by all accounts. With 6 straight wins since joining the UFC, Sotiropoulos has shown off both great grappling and striking skills. He is hitting his stride and will be a stiff test for any fighter on this list.
10. Evan Dunham (11-0)
Dunham impressed a lot of people with his dominating win over Tyson Griffin. Dunham has blended his wrestling with a Black Belt in Jiu Jitsu to a threatening array of grappling. His striking leaves something to be desired and I'd expect another developmental bout before he gets tossed in to the cage with a contender.
Honorable Mentions: Ben Henderson, Jim Miller, Mizuto Hirota, Sean Sherk, Tyson Griffin
1. Jose Aldo (17-1) WEC Champion
Aldo looked like Anderson Silva when he was at the top of his game. Aldo just ate Faber alive! I think if he has another title defense like that the drum really starts beating for him to move up to 155 lbs in the UFC.
2. Marlon Sandro (17-1) Sengoku Champion pictured
This kid could be the hardest puncher in all of MMA, his last two opponents were finished with single, clean punches and had to be taken out on stretchers. He has outstanding Jiu Jitsu to go with his amazing power in his hands. He is a wrecking machine, but sadly his friendship with training partner Jose Aldo is stopping Zuffa from even bringing him into the WEC, due to their refusal to face each other.
3. Bibiano Fernandes (8-2) Dream Champion
Fernades is coming off back-to-back split decisions, and is currently the DREAM featherweight champion after his win over Joachim Hansen.
4. Manny Gamburyan (11-4)
Gamburyan's natural power has blossomed since his drop to 145 lbs, which Mike Thomas Brown found out when he got melted by a right hand. Gamburyan looks to be Aldo's next challenger.
5. Urijah Faber (23-4)
Faber, while still a fantastic wrestler, had no answer for Jose Aldo. While still an elite featherweight, his title days at this weight are over. Look for him to drop down to bantamweight to challenge for a title there.
6. Mike Thomas Brown (23-6)
Since winning the WEC Championship Brown is 3-2, with both his losses being TKOs. Brown has talent and heart, but he has to get back to his grappling if he wants a shot at the title.
7. Michihiro Omigawa (10-8-1)
I know what you're thinking: How can a nearly .500 fighter be in the Top 10? Well the majority of those losses came at lightweight. He is 6-2-1 at featherweight and his win over highly-touted American Micah Miller this Sunday cements his place in the Top 10.
8. Josh Grispi (14-1)
Grispi returned to action from injury with a quick and efficient submission of LC Davis. Grispi was thought to be a real challenger in the making and with his health returned he can get back on track.
9. Hatsu Hioki (21-4-2)
A Shooto veteran and BJJ brown belt, Hioki has dominated the Sengoku until his highly controversial split-decision loss to Omigawa.
10. Diego Nunes (14-1)
Diego Nunes rebounded from a loss to LC Davis with a split decision win over Raphael Assuncao at WEC 49.
Honorable Mentions: .Masanori Kanehara, Raphael Assuncao, L.C. Davis, Joe Soto, Deividas Taurosevicius.
1. Dominick Cruz (15-1) WEC Champion pictured
Defensive striking fundamentals helped Cruz capture the bantamweight crown. His first defense has yet to be scheduled but Scott Jorgensen has made a strong case.
2. Joseph Benavidez (12-1)
He took the current champion to the wire less than one year ago and followed it up with impressive finishes of other top bantamweights Rani Yahya and Miguel Torres. He should be the No. 1 contender but likely Zuffa will build his hype more before rematching him with Cruz.
3. Brian Bowles (8-1)
The former champion has very well-rounded skills, but his casual withdrawal from his first defense has some questioning his resolve and heart. Those questions will be impossible to answer until Bowles heals up and gets back in the cage.
4. Scott Jorgensen (10-3)
Jorgensen has been on a steady rise since his split-decision loss to Antonio Banuelos in 2009, and Jorgensen put an exclamation point on that by avenging that loss last Saturday. Jorgensen is reaching his potential as a fighter and is primed for a title shot.
5. Miguel Torres (37-3)
The most decorated bantamweight in MMA history, Migeul Torres went from elite champion to being possibly left behind in a past era very quickly. After five years where Torres knew only victory, back-to-back losses via TKO and submission have put his career in a minor tailspin. Torres needs to make a statement with his next fight to avoid slipping further down.
6. Takeya Mizugaki (13-4-2)
Mizuagki is in no man's land in the WEC; his win over Rani Yahya proves he is legit, but his losses to Miguel Torres and Scott Jorgensen put him towards the back of the line. If a Faber vs. Torres fight doesn't happen, he could get a rematch with Torres.
7. Damacio Page (15-4)
A victim in 2008 of a Brain Bowles submission, Page has been working his way back up the rankings towards a title shot with a pair of first-round finish victories.
8. Shuichiro Katsumura (11-7-3)
Katsumura won the Shooto championship with an unlikely submission victory over Masakatsu Ueda.
9. Masakatsu Ueda (10-1-2)
This very decorated Shooto champion took his challenger in Kasumura a little too lightly and was caught in a Brabo Choke. Look for Ueda to get a rematch and reclaim his title.
10. Cole Escovedo (16-4)
He turned in an absolute highlight of a head kick on Yoshiro Maeda in his Dream debut. Cole was sidelined from 2006-2009 by a serious staph infection that almost paralyzed him. Before that he had fought in the WEC at featherweight with a 4-2 record.
Honorable Mention: Rani Yahya, Wagnney Fabiano, Charlie Valencia, Eddie Wineland
1. Georges St. Pierre (20-2) UFC Welterweight Champion, pictured
Possibly the most well rounded fighter in MMA, he is dominating the deepest division and making it look easy. GSP is currently filming a season of The Ultimate Fighter against his future challenger Josh Koscheck.
2. Anderson Silva (26-4) UFC Middleweight Champion
Silva has been losing fans at an amazing rate, but his match up with the mouthy Chael Sonnen promises fireworks. Silva has the best striking in the entire sport and is a legitimate BJJ black belt. A focused, determined Anderson Silva is likely the best fighter in the history of the sport, but its been about a while since we've seen that at 185 lbs.
3. Jose Aldo (17-1) WEC Featherweight Champion
A devastating striker with a Jiu Jitsu game to match, Jose Aldo combines blinding speed, technique and devastating power. Aldo is just 23 years old and could easily grow into a dominate Lightweight Champion in the UFC.
4. Frankie Edgar (12-1) UFC Lightweight Champion
Frankie Edgar was written off as too small to hang with the likes of BJ Penn and his move to featherweight was touted as the correct career move for The Answer. But this natural featherweight now holds the UFC lightweight title, which deserves some serious pound-for-pound attention.
5. B.J. Penn (15-6-1)
Another head-scratching loss for BJ, who look flat and uninspired. Penn gets some benefit of the doubt because he has looked so dominated his last two defenses and I look forward to his rematch with Edgar.
6. Jon Fitch (22-3, 1 NC)
With a ridiculous 12-1 record in the UFC, Jon Fitch is becoming hard to ignore. He is one of the best ground fighters and likely the best defensive grappler in MMA. He has excellent ground-and-pound, but his standing striking is a work in progress. As it stands, the only man on the planet who can beat Fitch at 170 is GSP.
7. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (19-4) UFC Light Heavyweight Champion
A former pound-for-pound elite, Rua has scratched and clawed his way back into the Top 10. His staying power has yet to be seen and his recent knee injury is a cause for concern.
8. Jake Shields (25-4-1) Strikeforce Middleweight Champion
Like Frankie Edgar, Jake Shields was written off as too small to last with the larger, stronger, and more powerful Dan Henderson. And then Shields dominated Hendo, and now eyes a return to his natural weight at 170 lbs in the UFC.
9. Fedor Emelianenko (31-2, 1 NC)
While he was defeated by Werdum, Fedor's amazing success at Heavyweight while being smaller than almost every opponent he has ever defeated has to be respected.
10. Lyoto Machida (16-1)
Bouncing back from his first loss, Machida is still a huge challenge for any Light Heavyweight. If Machida returns to being an MMA fighter and not the standard bearer of Karate he could regain his lost title.
Honorable Mentions: Gilbert Melendez, Thiago Alves, Rashad Evans, Kenny Florian, Dominick Cruz