The pound-for-pound debate continues

October, 4, 2010
10/04/10
6:28
AM ET
Rossen By Jake Rossen
ESPN.com
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Jose Aldo making an ER patient out of Manny Gamburyan last Thursday reignited the most inexhaustible conversation in this sport: who can be called the best "pound-for-pound" fighter around. (The idea being of, if weight were no issue, who possesses the best set of skills -- though skills can often depend on one's weight/physicality. My head is already hurting.)


Aldo is a terror in the featherweight division, no question. He's taken eight straight in the WEC and holds an 18-1 record overall. But the men he's defeated (save for Urijah Faber) don't have the same depth of accomplishments as fighters in higher weight divisions. Aldo is up there, but the real argument comes when you begin comparing Georges St. Pierre to Anderson Silva.

St. Pierre is the more complete fighter: He can strike, wrestle and submit. Silva is sensational off his back and on his feet, but has little ability to force fights where he wants them. He also looked lethargic against Demian Maia, Thales Leites and Patrick Cote; St. Pierre played very conservative games against Jon Fitch and Dan Hardy. If you wanted to explain the appeal of either man to a friend, it's not likely you'd show them any of that footage.

St. Pierre, though he holds two losses in the UFC, has beaten every man he's ever faced. (Defeats to Matt Serra and Matt Hughes were later avenged.) Silva has gone 12-0 in an equally competitive division, with only one rematch (Rich Franklin); St. Pierre has fought Hughes three times, Serra twice, B.J. Penn twice, and has a second fight with Josh Koscheck pending. Variety is not exactly the guy's forte. St. Pierre has finished eight of his 14 wins; Silva, nine of 12. (Ten, if you count Patrick Cote TKOing himself with a leg injury.)

It's the kind of math you can argue about on the back of a trading card, but here's what really matters: in the most competitive fight league in the world, Silva has gone 12-0, an astounding stretch of success unmatched by anyone else in the Octagon. He finished most of those fights, including KOing Chris Leben for the first time in Leben's career, submitting Dan Henderson for the first time in Henderson's natural weight class, TKOing Nate Marquardt for the first and only time in Marquardt's career, and moving up to 205 pounds twice -- both knockouts, including one win against former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin.

To not make a fatal mistake in 12 bouts is a very, very difficult thing to pull off. (St. Pierre couldn't -- Serra knocked him down and out of their fight.) I don't think the debate is much of a debate anymore. Until someone figures out how to handle Anderson Silva, he's the best fighter currently working.

Jake Rossen is a contributor to ESPN.com. His byline has appeared in the New York Times, Wired.com, and numerous other outlets. He began covering mixed martial arts in 1998.

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