Despite his loss to Fabricio Werdum in June 2010, Fedor Emelianenko was still a consensus top heavyweight in the world. However, after losing to Antonio Silva in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, Emelianenko may be in danger of dropping out of many people's top heavyweight rankings.
While Emelianenko's stock is dropping, Silva and Sergei Kharitonov put on career defining performances at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva. With his first round knockout of Andrei Arlovski, Kharitonov became everyone's upset pick to win the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament Additionally, Kharitonov may have earned his way into the conversation of the top heavyweights in the world.
It is about time Kharitonov received some recognition for his accomplishments. Kharitonov has now defeated a solid list of fighters including Andrei Arlovski, Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum. If it weren't for a loss to Jeff Monson in 2009, Kharitonov might have made this top ten list.
Overeem's current nine fight winning streak began with a win over Paul Buentello. It continued with wins over Mark Hunt and Gary Goodridge, fighters who are riding losing streaks of six and eight respectively. Overeem's most recent wins came against opponents, Brett Rogers and Todd Duffee, who are still unproven against top competition. Overeem has potential to climb these rankings quickly, but he will have to beat top-flight competition before he does. That climb could begin by avenging a loss against Fabricio Werdum.
Barnett has an argument for a position in the top ten as well. However, Barnett has not exactly fought any elite heavyweights on his current winning streak. The last times he did, Barnett lost to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.
After his last win over Gabriel Gonzaga, Schaub is a somewhat surprising addition to this conversation. After being knocked out by Roy Nelson at The Ultimate Finale 10, few would have thought that Schaub would come this far. Still, given Gonzaga's decline since his win over Filipovic, Schaub still has some work to do before he breaks his way into the top ten.
Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic
Filipovic's most recent losses have come against excellent fighters in Frank Mir and Junior Dos Santos. It is Filipovic's lack of wins against noteworthy opponents that has him on the outside of the top ten looking in, though. Filipovic's last win over a top heavyweight came against Barnett more than four years ago.
After undergoing knee and hip surgery, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira has been inactive for almost one year. Nogueira has expressed his interest in fighting at the Ultimate Fighting Championship's return to Brazil in August 2011.
Nogueira's recent knockout losses to Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir don't help his case for being a top heavyweight in the world. However, wins in the last five years over Randy Couture, a then-motivated Tim Sylvia, Josh Barnett, and Fabricio Werdum don't hurt.
At the time, Roy Nelson's knockout win over Brendan Schaub wasn't all that impressive from a rankings standpoint. However, that win has continued to grow in significance as Schaub has climbed his was up the UFC heavyweight ladder.
Since joining the UFC, Nelson has looked more focused on fighting than ever. In August 2010, Nelson became the first UFC fighter to go to a decision with Junior Dos Santos. Although he lost the fight, Nelson showed that he can scrap with the best heavyweights in the world.
Because a knockout loss to Andrei Arlovski and a controversial, if not incorrect decision loss to Jeff Monson are still weighing down his record, Nelson could easy drop out of these rankings after his next fight. However, Nelson is scheduled to fight another top heavyweight in Frank Mir at UFC 130, so a win could solidify "Big Country" as an elite heavyweight.
For the first time in his career, Fedor Emelianenko has lost two consecutive fights. Before fans jump to conclusions about these two losses, they should take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
In his fight with Fabricio Werdum, Emelianenko had his opponent badly hurt. If it were not for the poor decision making of following Werdum to the ground, Emelianenko may have gone on to win that fight.
Emelianenko's loss to Antonio Silva might not be as damaging as it looked at first glance either. On two judges' scorecards Emelianenko won the first round. Despite being dominated for most of the second round, two judges only awarded Silva the round by a score of 10-9, while the third judge scored the round 10-8 for Silva. Considering these scores, it is conceivable that a strong third round could have sent Emelianenko into the second round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Not to say that Emelianenko would have won that third round or that Silva did not deserve the victory, but there was a definite possibility that Emelianenko could have still pulled off a victory. Before we go writing off Emelianenko as finished, we should realize that he wasn't as far away from continuing his decade-long winning streak through these latest two fights as it may have seemed.
Although Frank Mir defeated Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic in his last fight with a devastating knockout, he has been treated like a fighter who lost. Because of the lack of action preceding the knockout, Dana White and MMA fans were unhappy with Mir's performance.
In the past four years, Mir's only losses have come against heavyweight behemoths Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin. In his next fight, Mir will meet Roy Nelson at UFC 130 in May 2011.
The Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix could provide Antonio Silva a career-defining year in 2011. After well-documented wins over Andrei Arlovski and Mike Kyle in 2010, Silva got the new year started off right with an upset win over Fedor Emelianenko.
Now, Silva will await the winner of a fight between Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum. A match-up with Werdum would allow Silva the chance to avenge a November 2009 loss. If Silva is able to continue on and win this tournament, he could cement himself as one of the top heavyweights in the sport today.
It sounds oxymoronic, but since leaving the UFC, Fabricio Werdum has made quite a name for himself. In his three fights with Strikeforce, Werdum has defeated Mike Kyle, Antonio Silva, and Fedor Emelianenko. Now, Werdum will have the chance to beat one of the only other remaining big-name heavyweights outside of the UFC, Alistair Overeem.
Werdum is scheduled to meet Overeem in the quarterfinal round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix in April 2011. With a win, Werdum would meet Silva in a semifinal fight where he would likely be a favorite to move onto the finals.
In his first fight with the UFC, Junior Dos Santos earned an upset victory over the aforementioned Fabricio Werdum. Since then, all Dos Santos has done is destroy the fighters that the UFC has put in front of him.
With his most recent win over Roy Nelson, Dos Santos was named the top contender and would await a championship fight with the winner of a fight between Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez. Unfortunately, Velasquez, the eventual winner of that fight, was injured and was forced into surgery.
Rather than wait for his shot at the belt a la Rashad Evans, Dos Santos chose to remain active. Currently, Dos Santos is coaching The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13. At the conclusion of the show, Dos Santos will fight Lesnar to determine the top heavyweight contender in the UFC.
After dominating the first round of a championship fight with Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin had nothing left in the take for the second round and was eventually submitted. The loss was the first of Carwin's career and the first time that he was unable to win a fight in the first round.
Carwin had been scheduled to fight Roy Nelson in January 2011, but was forced out of that fight in order to attend to a back injury. Carwin is not expected to fight Cheick Kongo in June 2011, which would be nearly one year after his loss to Lesnar.
After losing his heavyweight title to Cain Velasquez, reports ran rampant that Lesnar was considering retirement from MMA. Now that it has been announced that Lesnar will fight Junior Dos Santos for a chance at becoming the top heavyweight contender once again, it is clear that Lesnar is far from calling it quits on his UFC career.
Because of his 5-2 record, Lesnar certainly has his doubters. Although, Lesnar deserved the accolades he has received with wins over Randy Couture, Frank Mir, Shane Carwin, and Heath Herring. Lesnar will once again have a chance to prove his doubters wrong if he is able to defeat Dos Santos.
In becoming the UFC Heavyweight Champion with a win over Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez suffered a torn rotator cuff. The injury required surgery and is likely to be out of action until Fall of 2011.
When he returns, Velasquez will more than likely face the winner of a fight between The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13 coaches Lesnar and Junior Dos Santos. Velasquez is now 9-0 for his career with seven of those wins coming inside the Octagon.
Sean Smith has been a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA since October 2010. For the latest insight and updates on everything MMA, you can follow Sean on Twitter @BR_Sean_Smith.