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Thursday, July 1, 2010
MMA's 10 best pound-for-pound fighters


For 7½ years, Fedor Emelianenko was a fixture in the rarefied air of pound-for-pound lists. Not anymore.

Emelianenko's shocking June 26 loss to Fabricio Werdum radically resculpted the face of the heavyweight division and the pound-for-pound list. For the first time since its inception,'s P4P rankings features no heavyweights. Perhaps none too surprisingly, the vast majority of the list now represents MMA's deepest and most competitive weight classes. In fact, six of the 10 entrants are fixtures at 155, 170 or 205 pounds. Furthermore, middleweights Anderson Silva and Jake Shields can claim recent accomplishments at 205 and 170 pounds, respectively.

And although July will be a quiet month, August won't be. Half the pound-for-pound top 10 will see August action, including Silva defending the P4P mantle when he meets Chael Sonnen, Jon Fitch renewing his rivalry with Thiago Alves in a high-stakes welterweight rematch, and lightweight entrants B.J. Penn and Frankie Edgar settling their score -- with the UFC lightweight title on the line.

UFC middleweight champion
Record: 26-4

A month after the fact, the hysteria that surrounded Silva after his dubious domination of Demian Maia has subsided. Attention has now turned to the next fight for the middleweight kingpin: "The Spider" will risk his 185-pound mantle against the outspoken Chael Sonnen at UFC 117 on Aug. 7 in Oakland, Calif. With his recent string of victories over Dan Miller, Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt, Sonnen has emerged as an accomplished, deserving challenger. But the biggest factor in making the fight a blockbuster will be Sonnen's infamous trash-talking and whether it can inspire Silva to fight from bell to bell.

UFC welterweight champion
Record: 20-2

The story remains the same for St. Pierre: Coming off a dominant title performance against Dan Hardy in March, he has been positioned for a rematch with yet another elite welterweight in Josh Koscheck, courtesy of the former NCAA national wrestling champion's May 8 win over Paul Daley. St. Pierre and Koscheck met previously in August 2007, with St. Pierre winning a unanimous decision. Now, when they collide three-plus years later, it will be on the heels of the 12th season of "The Ultimate Fighter," which figures to build the second GSP-Koscheck bout with an easy and obvious face/heel dynamic.

WEC featherweight champion
Record: 17-1

Although Alexandre Franca Nogueira was perhaps the first dominant featherweight during the division's embryonic stages, it is his countryman Aldo who is now situated as the first truly great 145-pounder. Coming off a brutal blowout of divisional poster boy Urijah Faber in April, Aldo figures to return to action in the early fall to make his second title defense. Whether that title shot goes to veteran Manny Gamburyan or young upstart Josh Grispi, the real issue for the WEC going forward will be making challengers seem credible against the dynamic, destructive Aldo.

UFC lightweight champion
Record: 12-1

At UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Edgar scored one of the most significant wins of 2010, dethroning lightweight kingpin B.J. Penn and taking the UFC's 155-pound title. Although it wasn't exactly a popular decision, Edgar took all three judges' scorecards on the back of his aggressive combination punching and stellar movement. However, the surprise champion will have to replicate his feat to earn unanimous consideration as the sport's top lightweight; he has signed on for an August rematch with Penn in Boston.

UFC lightweight
Record: 15-6-1

Moving from one controversy to another, Penn lost his UFC lightweight title and MMA's 155-pound mantle on April 12 in a shocking upset by Frankie Edgar. Although debate still rages over the bout's outcome, Penn has started a book tour to promote his eye-opening biography. The book has drawn the particular ire of UFC president Dana White over its anecdotes on the Hawaiian's past dealings with the company. Brouhahas notwithstanding, "The Prodigy" will get his chance at redemption and the opportunity to regain top status at 155 pounds in August, when he meets Edgar again at UFC 118 in Boston.

UFC welterweight
Record: 22-3, 1 NC

With a straightforward and prosaic fighting style, Fitch doesn't appear to be as close to another crack at the UFC welterweight title as he'd like to be. But the former Purdue wrestling captain still sports a staggering 12-1 record in the UFC, having compiled it in one of MMA's greatest divisions. Unfortunately, Fitch's rematch with Thiago Alves has been canceled twice already, and the third iteration of the bout has been hit with another delay. Zuffa pushed the date from UFC 115 on June 12 to UFC 117 on Aug. 7 to ensure Alves' full health. Let's hope it happens this time: Holding the title of the undisputed second banana at 170 pounds remains a great MMA accomplishment.

UFC light heavyweight champion
Record: 19-4

Rua's current résumé remains a far cry from where it was in 2005, when he tore through four top-10 opponents in half a year. Still, assuming his recovery from a third knee surgery goes swimmingly, the Curitiba, Brazil, native will have plenty of opportunities to carve out more outstanding, pound-for-pound-quality wins in a talent-rich 205-pound division. First on deck for "Shogun" postrecovery will be former champion Rashad Evans in an alluring clash of premier fighters in one of MMA's premier divisions.

Strikeforce middleweight champion
Record: 25-4-1

There was a time just a few short years ago when Shields was reviled for being one of MMA's most loathsome fighters to watch. During the past five years, the Cesar Gracie protégé has transformed himself from a drab, peripheral contender into one of the sport's elite fighters. With his dominant April 17 upset over Dan Henderson, the Strikeforce middleweight champion now boasts a 14-bout winning streak and top-five credentials in two separate divisions. With it seeming more and more likely that Shields is UFC-bound, he'll have ample opportunity to expand on his résumé inside the Octagon, regardless of whether it's at 170 or 185 pounds.

UFC light heavyweight
Record: 16-1

The majority of the MMA world believed that Mauricio "Shogun" Rua was the better man in his first meeting with Machida in October. In their May 8 rematch, Machida certainly looked to be the lesser man. The Belem, Brazil, native was polished off in less than four minutes -- a far cry from the supposedly untouchable fighter who took the title from Rashad Evans just a year ago. But criticisms at this point seem too sharp. Lost in the postfight absolutes was that it wasn't long ago that Machida blew away strong competition in a deep division, crushing both Evans and Thiago Silva in his 2009 campaign.

UFC light heavyweight
Record: 15-1-1

Evans' May 29 win over rival Quinton "Rampage" Jackson didn't exactly set the world on fire. Evans walked away with a unanimous decision win, though, giving him yet another high-quality victory in a division that historically has been MMA's strongest and most star-laden. Better still, Evans will have the chance to boost his résumé from "very strong" to "exceptional" in the near future, as his win over Jackson installed him as the UFC's top 205-pound contender. Whenever Mauricio "Shogun" Rua is recovered from knee surgery, Evans will have the chance to regain the UFC light heavyweight title and even loftier pound-for-pound status.

With his June 26 loss to Fabricio Werdum, previously third-ranked Fedor Emelianenko falls from the pound-for-pound top 10.