The Spyder sits atop the list for first time (through January 20th, 2008)...
1. Anderson Silva
What a ride Silva has been on since joining the UFC. He is currently 5-0 in the organization and 3-0 in 2007. En-route to that UFC record, Silva has beaten Rich Franklin (one of the best middleweights in the world) twice in brutal fashion as well as highly regarded Nate Marquardt. Despite the impressive record, it is the ease in which Silva has won that earns him the number one spot. Silva’s dynamic striking is what makes him so dangerous, and his Muay Thai clinch has proved fatal for both Franklin (whose nose Silva broke in the clinch) and Chris Leben (who took several knees). His number one status will be solidified if he manages to get past top contender Dan Henderson which is being touted as one of the biggest fights of 2008.
2. Georges St. Pierre
GSP is arguably the most gifted athlete to ever grace the UFC. He is a new breed of fighter, well versed in all areas with seemingly no weaknesses. Ever since his upset loss in his first title defense against Matt Serra, GSP has looked focused and invincible. He dominated Josh Koscheck by out wrestling the former collegiate stand-out in August and recently dispensed of former champ Matt Hughes in impressive fashion, by avoiding take downs and submitting him. When GSP is mentally prepared, it is uncertain whether he can be beat. A big fight with Jon Fitch seems inevitable and could help to cement his dominance at 170 pounds.
Mixed Martial Arts most consistently voted as, pound for pound best, falls out of the top two positions due to inactivity and lack of tough competition. Despite his recent defeat over huge but unspectacular Hong-Man Choi, Fedor has not fought a serious contender in years and only fought twice in 2007. In a recent meeting with Randy Couture to promote the Affliction clothing line, Fedor looked pudgy and soft. Skills wise, Fedor is one of the best of all time. He has great submissions, crisp and heavy striking, highlight reel throws, and an array of other skills. But if he wants to continue being considered the best, he must challenge himself with stronger fights (currently heavyweight Josh Barnett is a free-agent and Andrei Arlovski of the UFC, has one fight left on his contract, both would be mega-fights).
4. Quinton Rampage Jackson
In a year filled with shocking upset after upset, Jackson consistently beat top contenders and looked good doing so. Since joining the UFC, Rampage has looked very comfortable in the octagon and has clearly improved his skills since leaving PRIDE. Rampage knocked out long-time UFC champ Chuck Liddell and followed it up by winning the final three rounds of his defense against Dan Henderson. In the Liddell fight, Rampage used good foot work to close the distance and knocked him out with a clean punch. His wrestling is much improved which he displayed against Henderson and he is one of the strongest in the division. Rampages continued development makes him difficult for anybody and his next fight will come against Forrest Griffin.
5. Randy Couture
Although the current UFC heavyweight champions’ future remains in doubt because of his feud with Dana White, his incredible performances of 2007 proved the 44-year-old still has the skills and desire to continue fighting. Couture is one of the best in the business at using a strategic game plan aimed at his opponent’s weakness and following it precisely during a fight. He is methodical and calm in the ring and thoroughly beat both Tim Sylvia and Gabriel Gonzaga. Sylvia, who is a top heavyweight and although lamented as a boring fighter has beaten top talents, was beaten in all five rounds of his fight with Couture. The only fight left that Couture feels is meaningful is against Fedor and we as fans can only hope it somehow comes to fruition.
6. B.J. Penn
Nicknamed “The Prodigy,” Penn skill wise, has always been one of the best fighters around. But with intense training and seemingly renewed vigor, he is becoming a complete fighter. With dominating back to back wins, Penn looks poised to make a run as the number one fighter in the world. Jens Pulver and Joe Stevenson were unable to put Penn in danger at any point during their fights and the well rounded fighter is determined to gain a rematch with Georges St. Pierre whom he lost a close split decision to in early 2006.
7. Dan Henderson
Although Henderson lost a competitive fight to Quinton Jackson, his performance warranted a stay in the top 10 rankings. Henderson is an elite wrestler who can control opponents on the ground. He also likes to strike and has dangerous power in his right hand. Against Jackson he looked tentative and seemed content to try and win the fight by throwing erroneous right hands instead of putting together combinations. The PRIDE middleweight champion will drop back down in weight to challenge Anderson Silva and unify the UFC and PRIDE belts. Henderson holds impressive victories over Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort, Renzo Gracie, Renato Sobral, and Carlos Newton amongst others.
8. Sean Sherk
Sherk had been a successful welterweight contender for years and in 2006 cut weight to fight at lightweight. His prescience was felt immediately, as he persevered in a tough fight against Kenny Florian and then proceeded to trounce Hermes Franca. While Sherk may not be the most talented and his name has been tainted by the steroid allegations, he has none the less shown he is a force at 155 pounds. Sherk takes enormous pride in his cardio and is a work out warrior, he is stronger and more well conditioned then most fighters in his weight class. This combination of speed, power, and conditioning earns him a spot in the top ten and also makes him hard to beat. To beat Sherk at this weight will take quite a lot and I foresee him being a force in this division for a long time to come.
9. Urijah Faber
The WEC featherweight champion is on a 12-fight win streak and hasn’t lost since 2005. Faber, who is very well conditioned, loves to exchange and is relentless in his pursuit. He excels at wrestling but has shown capable striking. In his last fight he fought established jiu-jitsu artist Jeff Curran. Faber showed great resiliency in the fight when Curran had his back for over two minutes and was unable to finish the fight. Faber fought himself out of trouble and ended up submitting the black belt. A fight with Jens Pulver looms but regardless of the outcome Faber has made a name for himself in MMA and has a fan friendly fighting style.
10. Maurico Shogun Rua
While Rua is coming off a disappointing loss to Forrest Griffin, his past accomplishments and promising future keep him in the top ten. Despite being only 26-years-old, Rua has wins over Ricardo Arona, Allstair Overeem, Antonio Rogiero Nogueira, Kevin Randelman, and a crushing defeat over Quinton Jackson. Rua is a Muay Thai specialist and is an exciting, dynamic fighter. In his loss against Griffin he looked out of shape and seemed to exhaust himself by the middle of the second round. With a wide variety of leg kicks, strikes, and knees Rua should be a welcomed edition to the UFC and needs to show improved conditioning in his next fight.