UFC 127 Aftermath: Power Ranking the Top 25 Pound-for-Pound Fighters in MMA
With two of the best fighters in the world having met last night, it seems like a perfect time to update the pound-for-pound rankings.
Jon Fitch and B.J. Penn fought to a disputed draw in the main event of UFC 127 in Sydney, Australia. The first two rounds were close, but Fitch really poured it on in the final frame.
Will we ever see Penn at the top of the sport again? Has Fitch made enough of an impression to be considered one of MMA's greats?
To see where both Fitch and Penn end up in the grand scale after last night, and in the elite of MMA, read on.
Because the heavyweight champion of the world is supposed to be the most unbeatable man on the planet as is, I have left out the heavyweights on this list. Tell me what you think.
25. Urijah Faber
You can argue Urijah Faber's place on this list since he has gone 3-3 in his last six fights, and it is a valid point. But, there are two things you can't ignore.
One, that he was on a 13-fight win-streak going into those six fights. And two, that each of his last two losses came against the No. 1 fighter in the division at the time of the bout.
Most recently, he rebounded from a five-round decision loss to Jose Aldo by moving down to bantamweight and choking out Takeya Mizugaki in the first round.
Faber is sure to make some noise at 135 pounds, and a rematch with current champion Dominick Cruz seems to be imminent. First, Faber will have to get past Eddie Wineland at UFC 128 in March.
24. Ronaldo Souza
After submitting Robbie Lawler in the second round to start 2011, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza can now call himself a defending champion.
It was his first fight since winning the vacant Strikeforce middleweight title last August with a five-round unanimous decision over Tim Kennedy. Prior to that, Souza bested Joey Villasenor and Matt Lindland, also under the Strikeforce banner.
Having gone five rounds is not something every fighter can claim, and that should be worth something. The problem now is there aren't too many top middleweights for Souza face in Strikeforce.
A third fight with Jason Miller is probably inevitable at this point, thought Souza would prefer a new challenge.
23. Yushin Okami
Since entering the UFC, Yushin Okami has compiled a record of 10-2, most recently scoring wins over Mark Munoz and Nate Marquardt.
The win over Marquardt at UFC 122 was a title eliminator to determine who got the next shot at middleweight champion Anderson Silva. However, the UFC is now hoping to set up a super fight between Silva and welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre, so Okami will likely get the shaft.
Whether it is the Silva fight or not, Okami's next fight will be against a name opponent, possibly Michael Bisping.
22. Eddie Alvarez
Going into his fight with Eddie Alvarez last year, Josh Neer had only been stopped twice in his seven-year career. Alvarez dominated him, and submitting him in the second round.
Going into his fight with Alvarez last year, Roger Huerta had never been stopped in his seven-year career. Alvarez brutally beat him up and made him quit after two rounds.
Now, the Bellator lightweight champ Alvarez will defend his title against season two tournament winner Pat Curran on April 2. It will be the first defense of the title Alvarez won by winning Bellator's inaugural lightweight tournament.
With a win there, it will be hard to argue that Alvarez isn't one of the three best lightweights in the world, along with Gilbert Melendez and Frankie Edgar.
21. Chael Sonnen
2010 is not a year Chael Sonnen is going to forget anytime soon.
Sonnen started the year by upsetting Nate Marquardt at UFC 109 to win a chance at middleweight champ Anderson Silva.
After creating a media hailstorm leading into his championship fight, Sonnen dominated Silva for four and a half rounds, before getting caught in a triangle choke and tapping out with two minutes left in the fight.
Following the heartbreaking loss, Sonnen's pre-fight drug test showed high levels of testosterone and Sonnen was immediately suspended. Though Sonnen did provide proof of being diagnosed with hypogonadism, which was the reason for testosterone injections. The California State Athletic Commission decided to reduce his suspension from one year to six months, because he failed to properly disclose this before his fight.
Sonnen was then scheduled to make his comeback in March of 2011, but was convicted for money laundering. He agreed to cooperate with the investigation and will only face two years of probation, a $10,000 fine, and a revocation of his realtor license.
20. Lyoto Machida
Former light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida's career has fallen on tough times since he won the title in May of 2009.
After knocking out Rashad Evans to become champion, Evans barely won a controversial decision over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, which most observers felt he clearly lost. Things like that are out of the fighters hands, but they always get cast in a negative light when someone benefits from a mistake.
In the rematch with Shogun, Machida was knocked out in the first round, losing for the first time in his career.
In his comeback fight against fellow former champ Quinton Jackson at UFC 123, Machida lost a controversial decision that many thought he deserved to win.
Quite a fall from being ranked in the top five on this list in 2009.
Next, Machida will face all-time great Randy Couture at UFC 129. Machida is a heavy early favorite, but you can never count Couture out of a fight.
19. Dan Henderson
The former Pride middleweight and light heavyweight champ (welterweight and middleweight in Japan) Dan Henderson rebounded from a five-round decision loss to Jake Shields in his Strikeforce debut to stop Renato "Babalu" Sobral in the first round in December.
The win set up a Strikeforce light heavyweight title shot for Henderson against champion Rafael Cavalcante, Saturday on Showtime.
Before the loss to Shields, Henderson had won three straight in the UFC, most notably knocking out Michael Bisping at UFC 100.
If Henderson can win next weekend, look for him to rise on this list.
18. Miguel Torres
After suffering back-to-back upset losses in the WEC, former bantamweight champion Miguel Torres switched training camps and has now won two in a row.
Most recently, Torres won his UFC debut against Antonio Banuelos, using some of the best boxing I have ever seen in the sport. Torres received some criticism for the fight lacking action, but I couldn't disagree more. Torres beautifully tattooed Banuelos with jabs and straight right hands throughout the fight, but Banuelos proved his toughness by lasting with a broken nose.
If it was up to me, this is the performance I would like to see from Torres every time he fights.
The bantamweight division is really heating up with Urijah Faber, Torres, and Dominick Cruz leading the way.
Next for Torres is a fight with Brad Picket at UFC 130. That fight should be very compelling.
17. Quinton Jackson
Following a 14-month absence from the sport to film The A-Team movie, former UFC champ Quinton "Rampage" Jackson returned for his much anticipated showdown with Rashad Evans at UFC 114.
The bout, however, did not match the buildup to the fight from an entertainment perspective, and Jackson lost a very lackluster unanimous decision.
In Jackson's last appearance, he took on former champ Lyoto Machida and won a decision that many didn't think he deserved. No matter how you scored the fight, Jackson was completely dominated in the final round.
Jackson was scheduled to face Thiago Silva at UFC 130, but Silva was forced to pull out due to a possible bad drug test. It's a shame, because that would have been a great fight. Jackson will now face Matt Hamill in a bout that doesn't promise anywhere near the excitement.
16. Joseph Benavidez
After submitting former champ Miguel Torres, Joseph Benavidez was awarded with a title shot against Dominick Cruz in the WEC.
Benavidez went on to lose an entertaining decision to Cruz for the second time, but still looked formidable in doing so.
Less than three months later, Benavidez returned to submit Wagnney Fabiano in the second round of WEC 52.
Now, the talented bantamweight will make his UFC debut against Ian Loveland at UFC 128. If only the UFC would make a flyweight division, Benavidez could really excel.
15. Shinya Aoki
After losing a five-round decision to Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez, Japanese star Shinya Aoki returned to his homeland to submit the talented Tatsuya Kawajiri in the first round.
Since then, Aoki has added two more victories to his resume, most notably a unanimous decision over UFC and Pride vet Marcus Aurelio.
After a rematch with Melendez fell through at Dynamite!! 2010, Aoki took a fight with K-1 kickboxer Yuichiro "Jienotsu" Nagashima in a special rules exhibition bout.
Aoki repeatedly broke the rules they had agreed upon and eventually dove into a flying knee and was knocked out. The fight, however, was an exhibition, so it did not go on his record.
14. B.J. Penn
After employing a very sharp game-plan in the opening round of his main event fight with Jon Fitch last night, B.J. Penn was given a brutal beating in the third.
Somehow he escaped with a draw and will likely face Fitch again.
If the nod would have gone to Fitch, Penn likely would have retired. Now, he has one more chance to keep his UFC aspirations alive.
Some would prefer to see Penn challenge for the lightweight title again at some point, as long as Edgar isn't still the champion, but Penn's days certainly seem numbered at the top of the sport.
He is one of the all-time great fighters and remains a dangerous match for anyone but, for him, if he isn't at the top, he's not interested. Still, he fought very competitive with the second-best welterweight in the world.
13. Jon Jones
At UFC 126, Jon Jones was matched up against undefeated rising light heavyweight Ryan Bader. In what was supposed to be the toughest test of his young career to date, Jones controlled Bader throughout and submitted him in the second round.
After the fight, Jones was offered a title shot at champ Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, due to challenger Rashad Evans pulling out with an injury. Despite the bout being offered on just six-weeks notice, Jones accepted the opportunity.
Surprisingly, Jones is already a 2-1 favorite to become the new champ at UFC 128. If he can win, he will catapult himself to the top ten of this list.
12. Rashad Evans
Since losing his title to Lyoto Machida at UFC 98, Rashad Evans has put together two quality wins, even if they haven't been the most exciting performances.
In his first fight back following the knockout loss to Machida, Evans out-wrestled Thiago Silva at UFC 108 and, despite getting rocked in the third round, won a clear unanimous decision.
His next bout came against TUF rival Quinton Jackson at UFC 114. In another dull decision win, Evans out-wrestled Jackson, and once again was rocked badly in the final round.
Nonetheless, the ends justified the means and Evans received his much desired title shot. However, after waiting for champion Mauricio Rua to recover from knee surgery, Evans injured his own knee and was forced to pull out of the fight.
11. Gray Maynard
After besting Kenny Florian via unanimous decision at UFC 118, undefeated Gray Maynard earned himself a title shot against his former foe Frankie Edgar.
Edgar's sole loss came against Maynard in 2008, so many were picking him to capture Edgar's title.
The two met at UFC 125 on New Year's Day. In the first round, Maynard rocked Edgar badly and had him wobbling all over the octagon. Edgar showed his championship spirit in surviving, and in the next round, it looked like Edgar was totally recovered.
I scored every round after the first for Edgar, but the judges saw it differently and ruled it a draw. It was a tremendous performance on both fighter's parts in what turned out to be the first draw in UFC title fight history.
Next for both fighters is a rematch at UFC 130.
10. Nick Diaz
Having only lost once in his last 15 fights—a controversial doctor stoppage due to cuts—Nick Diaz has now entered the top ten of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world.
To start 2010, Diaz won the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title by knocking out Marius Zaromskis in the first round. He followed that up with a fight in Japan against accomplished veteran Hayato Sakurai, which Diaz won by first-round armbar.
In the first defense of his title, Diaz faced the last man to beat him, K.J. Noons. The two traded punches in a thrilling five-round affair, with Diaz getting the best of the action and winning a unanimous decision.
Diaz got an early start in 2011, already defending his title against Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos, winning by second-round armbar.
There are rumors that Diaz may defend his title again on April 9, but nothing is confirmed.
9. Dominick Cruz
The new UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz has yet to even fight in the organization, but did defend his WEC title twice in 2010.
Going 3-0 in 2010 over Brian Bowles, Joseph Benavidez, and Scott Jorgenson, Cruz is now being considered one of the best fighters in the world.
With a style that hints at the great moves of Muhammad Ali, Cruz has proven himself to be a puzzle that nobody has yet figured out how to crack.
The UFC awarded him with their title after his dominant decision win over Jorgenson, but a much needed hand surgery will keep him out of the Octagon for the immediate future. When he does return, there are plenty of great matchups waiting for him with Urijah Faber and Miguel Torres.
8. Gilbert Melendez
The Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert melendez has been out of action since April of last year, but is rumored to be returning on April 9 to defend his title.
His last outing was a five-round unanimous decision over then No. 2 lightweight Shinya Aoki. The two were headed for a rematch in Japan to end 2010, but negotiations fell through.
Tatsuya Kawajiri will likely be Melendez's next opponent, but nothing has been confirmed.
Melendez has only lost twice in his career, and has avenged both of his defeats. He can now say that he has beat everyone he has ever stepped in the cage with.
7. Jon Fitch
Going into the last round of last night's main event at UFC 127 against B.J. Penn, Jon Fitch knew he needed to win it. Most everyone has the fight scored one round a piece and it would come down to the final frame.
In the last round, Fitch battered Penn from the opening bell to the final seconds continuously. It was the most dominant round I can remember seeing in any recent fights. If there was ever a 10-8 round, this was it.
Nevertheless, the judges scored the fight a draw and everyone was left befuddled.
Fitch will now likely fight Penn again and it is unclear what will happen with the welterweight title.
Fitch's record in the UFC is now 13-1-1, with his only loss being a five-round unanimous decision loss to Georges St. Pierre.
6. Jake Shields
The former Strikeforce middleweight champ and EliteXC welterweight champ, Jake Shields, will get the opportunity to add UFC champion to his credentials when he takes on Georges St. Pierre at UFC 129 in April.
Currently on a 15-fight win-streak, Shields is coming off of a tough UFC debut against Martin Kampmann, which he won by split-decision. Before that, he upset Dan Henderson in Strikeforce, before vacating his title to move to the UFC.
Though he will be a tremendous underdog against St. Pierre, there are few in the world with the grappling skill-set of Shields, and it is hard to imagine him being an easy win for anyone.
If he wins, he will be the only fighter to hold titles in both Strikeforce and the UFC.
5. Mauricio Rua
After a disappointing start in his UFC debut against Forrest Griffin, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua has reeled off four impressive performances and is now the light heavyweight champion.
In his last bout, Shogun knocked out Lyoto Machida in the first round to take the title. However, following the fight he was forced to undergo a third knee surgery and sit out for the rest of 2010.
Upon his return, Shogun was set to face former champ Rashad Evans for the first defense of his title, but Evan hurt his knee and pulled out of the fight.
Now, Jon Jones will take Evans' place in a much tougher bout at UFC 128. Rua will be the underdog against Jones, but you can never count him out of a challenge.
4. Jose Aldo
UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo was set to make his debut in the promotion at UFC 125, but was forced out of the show with a neck injury.
In his last outing, he defended his WEC featherweight crown by knocking out Manny Gamburyan in the second round.
Next, Aldo will face the best striker of his career when he defends his title against Mark Hominick at UFC 129, in what is sure to be a thrilling fight.
3. Frankie Edgar
Nobody gave Frankie Edgar a chance to win the lightweight championship against B.J. Penn last year, but he showed everyone that he is truly one of the best fighters on the planet by beating him twice.
The second bout with Penn was particularly impressive, as Edgar clearly won every round.
On New Year's Day, Edgar met the only man to have defeated him in Gray Maynard at UFC 125. After Edgar was badly rocked in the first round, he showed why he is a champion by coming back in the next round and controlling the rest of the fight.
However, the judges scored the fight a draw and the two will now fight for a third time at UFC 130. Still, a draw is a defense and I count it.
2. Anderson Silva
The UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva continues to set records as he is now 13-0 in the UFC, with eight consecutive title defenses. Both of those are records that will likely not be broken anytime soon.
In his last defense, Silva knocked out veteran Vitor Belfort with a stunning front-kick to the chin. It was yet another shocking highlight finish in a career full of them for Silva.
Silva's next opponent is not certain, but a major fight with Georges St. Pierre is likely not far off if neither fighter loses in the immediate future.
Yushin Okami was supposed to get a shot at Silva, but the UFC should probably not risk anything getting in the way of their super-fight.
1. Georges St. Pierre
Has a fighter ever cleaned out a division the way that Georges St. Pierre is currently doing right now at welterweight?
Maybe Anderson Silva at middleweight. So, what better match is there than for the two of them to face each other?
There isn't a better match in the sport. Let's just pray it happens.
For that bout with Silva to take place, St. Pierre has to put the finishing touches on his welterweight destruction by besting the formidable Jake Shields at UFC 129. If St. Pierre wins there, then a permanent move to middleweight is imminent.
In his last bout, St. Pierre jabbed Josh Koscheck eye into a gruesome mess, defending his title for the fifth time.