Before we start, here's a brief disclaimer:
These rankings are based on a plethora of factors: win-loss record, method of victory, competition the fighter is facing, and the push given to them by the UFC matchmakers. I try to picture each weight class in the same way that Joe Silva or Dana White would, which means I factor in marketability and other things that rankings typically don't account for. These are completely different than skill-only rankings.
They are wholly my opinion and should be treated as such. Champions are given top billing because they are champions and regarded as the best in their division by the company, regardless of the skills or overall record. If a weight class has an interim champion, that fighter will assume the second position, with everyone else following.
These fighter rankings are published on Inside Fights and my Houston Chronicle UFC blog.
1. Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera (Interim Champion)
2. Brock Lesnar (Champion)
3. Randy Couture
4. Gabriel Gonzaga
5. Frank Mir
6. Shane Carwin
7. Cain Velasquez
8. Junior De Los Santos
9. Cheick Kongo
10. Heath Herring
This division easily sees the biggest movement of the month, as Brock Lesnar defeats Randy Couture to win the UFC Heavyweight championship in only his fourth professional fight. I typically give champions automatic billing over interim champions, but this is a special case.
There is no doubt that Brock Lesnar is a special talent and perhaps the most athletic heavyweight of all time and in roughly a year, he's going to be impossible to beat. His win over Randy Couture would certainly elevate him to the top in normal circumstances. I cannot rank him over Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera, however, but thankfully we won't have to wait too long to see those two guys fight.
And yes, I'm already looking past the Frank Mir fight, as I cannot see any way that Mir will beat Minotauro... Gabriel Gonzaga leaps over Frank Mir by virtue of his dominating win over Josh Hendricks. Gonzaga is clearly a contender again and could very well face the winner of the title tournament in 2009, especially if Couture drops to light heavyweight as many expect him to do.
Fights against both Lesnar and Noguiera would be highly anticipated...Fabricio Werdum drops from these rankings due to being cut from the company... Heath Herring moves back into the top ten, mostly by virtue of there being no other viable options. His dominating loss to Lesnar in August looks significantly better for him after Lesnar's defeat of Couture.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (186-205)
Zero movement in this division, but once again it's the calm before the storm, as two major light heavyweight fights headline The Ultimate 2008 card in December: Forrest Griffin defends his title against Rashad Evans, and Wanderlei Silva and Rampage Jackson will square off for the third time. Dan Henderson and Rich Franklin will fight in January, and Anderson Silva and Chuck Liddell will face off in February, so this division could be turned upside down before the mid-point of 2009.
1. Anderson Silva (Champion)
2. Dan Henderson
3. Michael Bisping
4. Yushin Okami
5. Demian Maia
6. Nate Marquardt
7. Patrick Cote
8. Jason MacDonald
9. Thales Leites
10. Martin Kampmann
Demian Maia creates the most movement in the division with his stellar and dominating submission victory over Nate Quarry at UFC 91. Maia, who remains undefeated in MMA competition, revealed at the post-show press conference that he'd like to fight Anderson Silva next, but Dana White quickly put the kibosh on that one. There is a good chance that Maia could end up fighting Okami or even Michael Bisping next, and a victory over either of those guys would surely grant him a middleweight title shot.
1. Georges St. Pierre (Champion)
2. Thiago Alves
3. Jon Fitch
4. Josh Koscheck
5. Matt Serra
6. Matt Hughes
7. Diego Sanchez
8. Marcus Davis
9. Karo Parisyan
Dustin Hazelett enters the top ten with his submission victory over Tamdan McRory. Hazelett has improved by leaps and bounds in every single fight he's had, and he's considered one of the top welterweight prospects in the company.
1. BJ Penn (Champion)
2. Kenny Florian
3. Sean Sherk
4. Tyson Griffin
5. Roger Huerta
6. Clay Guida
7. Nate Diaz
8. Joe Stevenson
9. Frankie Edgar
Kenny Florian is certainly the indisputed number one contender for BJ Penn's lightweight title at this point. He disposed of Joe Stevenson in stunningly easy fashion, and he'll likely wait until May for his next fight...Joe Stevenson drops to 8th after his loss, with Clay Guida and Nate Diaz jumping over him in the rankings.
POUND FOR POUND
1. Anderson Silva (Middleweight Champion)
2. Georges St. Pierre (Welterweight Champion)
3. BJ Penn (Lightweight Champion)
4. Forrest Griffin (Light Heavyweight Champion)
5. Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera (Interim Heavyweight Champion)
6. Quinton Jackson
7. Lyoto Machida
8. Thiago Alves
9. Kenny Florian
10. Brock Lesnar (Heavyweight Champion)
NOTES: Brock Lesnar knocks Randy Couture out of the rankings and enters at the ten spot. I debated considerably before putting Lesnar here because of the stir I know it will create, but I felt like a dominating win over Randy Couture (previously ranked No. 5) simply HAD to count for something.
Jeremy Botter is the editor-in-chief of Inside Fights, a blog title covering the world of mixed martial arts and boxing. He serves on the rankings committee for the World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts.