After a weekend in which the two best athletes in mixed martial arts both had impressive wins, there's a fierce debate going on about which of them is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Below, I provide my answer to that question -- as well as rankings of 23 other fighters, for my inaugural FanHouse Top 25.
1. Anderson Silva, UFC middleweight/light heavyweight
What makes Silva better than Fedor? From my perspective, it's the way he has cleared out the field in the middleweight class. Silva's dominance in the UFC has exceeded even Fedor's dominance in Pride.
2. Fedor Emelianenko, Affliction heavyweight
The Fedor-Silva question is close -- and if Fedor were to fight and beat Randy Couture, he'd have a very good case for moving up to No. 1. Picking the order of the top two is hard, but picking the top two is easy.
3. Georges St. Pierre, UFC welterweight
His title defense against Jon Fitch at UFC 87 will be the best welterweight fight of the year.
4. B.J. Penn, UFC lightweight
Penn showed against Sean Sherk that he's the world's best lightweight; now the question is whether he'll stay at lightweight or take on a bigger challenge by moving up to welterweight for a rematch with St. Pierre.
5. Urijah Faber, WEC featherweight
Faber is the biggest star and best fighter in the WEC, and his dominant unanimous decision victory against Jens Pulver was one of the best performances any MMA fighter has had this year.
6. Miguel Torres, WEC bantamweight
If Zuffa ever decides to put WEC on pay-per-view, having Torres gain 10 pounds to fight Faber would be the way to do it.
7. Randy Couture, unaffiliated heavyweight
It's absolutely amazing that Couture is still able to be a great fighter into his mid-40s, and it would be a real shame if contractual issues robbed him of the chance to end his career on his own terms. Everyone wants to see Couture fight Fedor, but I worry that it won't happen.
8. Eddie Alvarez, Dream lightweight
I believe Alvarez would have won the Dream Lightweight Grand Prix if his eye injury hadn't forced him out of the finale. He's likely to get back into the ring with Joachim Hansen, who replaced him in the finale, this year. If Penn moves up to welterweight, the Alvarez-Hansen winner will deserve to be called the best lightweight in the world.
9. Lyoto Machida, UFC light heavyweight
With all due respect to champion Forrest Griffin, I believe Machida is the best fighter in the UFC's light heavyweight division. The problem for Machida is that a lot of fans don't like his cautious, defense-oriented style, so UFC is hesitant to give him a title shot. He'll fight his fellow undefeated Brazilian Thiago Silva at UFC 89.
10. Forrest Griffin, UFC light heavyweight
Beating Shogun Rua and Rampage Jackson in back to back fights is awfully impressive, but I still sense that as popular as Griffin is, UFC fans have some lingering doubts about whether Griffin is one of the sport's elite fighters. Those doubts should disappear if he successfully defends his title.
11. Rampage Jackson, UFC light heavyweight
After losing his title belt to Griffin, he now needs to get his personal life straightened out.
12. Joachim Hansen, Dream lightweight
Hansen, who needed less than seven minutes, total, to defeat both Kultar Gill and Shinya Aoki on Monday, has promised that he'll give Eddie Alvarez his first title defense. I think he'll lose to Alvarez again.
13. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, UFC heavyweight
Nogueira is a bit overlooked because heavyweight is UFC's weakest division, but he'll get a lot of attention this fall as one of the coaches on The Ultimate Fighter, and he defends his title against Frank Mir in November or December.
14. Chuck Liddell, UFC light heavyweight
The UFC's most popular fighter faces Rashad Evans in September, and if he wins he's likely to get a title shot against Griffin in late 2008 or early 2009.
15. Shinya Aoki, Dream lightweight
Aoki is the most creative submission artist in the world, but his striking leaves a lot to be desired. If he had won the Dream Lightweight Grand Prix I would have been set to put him in the top 10, but I can't say that after his loss to Hansen.
16. Kid Yamamoto, Dream featherweight
Yamamoto is a great talent, but a torn ACL kept him out of Dream.5 and will keep him out for at least six months. That means the entire year of 2008 will go by without Yamamoto ever setting foot in the ring.
17. Matt Lindland, Affliction middleweight
I have mixed feelings about Lindland. I wasn't all that impressed with his unanimous decision victory against Fabio Negao Saturday night, and that was his first fight in more than a year. But his only losses in his last dozen fights are against Fedor and Rampage, and when he's at his best he's outstanding.
18. Dan Henderson, UFC middleweight/light heavyweight
Henderson has been somewhat forgotten recently, having fought only twice in the last 16 months, losing to Rampage Jackson and Anderson Silva. But when he takes on Rousimar Palhares at UFC 88, I think he'll show that he is still the same guy who was a Pride champion in two weight classes, and the same guy who beat Wanderlei Silva a year and a half ago.
19. Paulo Filho, WEC middleweight
The undefeated Filho is a great talent, but he has had drug problems that threaten to derail his career. He'll fight for the first time in 2008 at WEC 36 on September 10.
20. Robbie Lawler, EliteXC middleweight
I've seen some deride Lawler as a UFC washout, but he's a much better fighter now than he was in 2004, when he fought twice for UFC and lost both times. His rematch against Scott Smith is the main event in this weekend's CBS show.
21. Jon Fitch, UFC welterweight
Fitch is on an eight-fight winning streak, which is tied with Royce Gracie for the longest in UFC history. If he makes it nine in a row against Georges St. Pierre next month, he'll move into the Top 10.
22. Thiago Alves, UFC welterweight
The one issue with Alves is whether he's really a welterweight -- he couldn't make weight for his most recent fight, against Matt Hughes. But if he can actually weigh in at 170 and win a fight, he deserves a title shot against the Fitch/St. Pierre winner.
23. Mike Brown, WEC featherweight
Not many people know Brown right now, but if he can beat Faber at WEC 36, he'll move into the Top 10 of a lot of pound-for-pound rankings.
24. Takanori Gomi, World Victory Road lightweight
Most people would have Gomi higher than this, but I like to see activity, and Gomi fought only once in 2007 (a loss to Nick Diaz that was later changed to a no contest when Diaz failed a drug test) and once so far in 2008 (a TKO win over Duane Ludwig). He's slated to fight again at Sengoku 4. He needs to start putting together more impressive victories against more talented opponents.
25. Jake Shields, EliteXC welterweight
His current nine-fight winning streak includes decisions over Carlos Condit and Yushin Okami, and in 2007 he went 4-0, winning all four fights in the first round. On Saturday he takes on Nick Thompson in his first fight of 2008.
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