MMA Top 10 Pound-for-Pound: What Does It Take for a Heavyweight?

Cain VelasquezMy rankings of the Top 10 pound-for-pound fighters have, for the last year, always featured a heavyweight at the top of the list: Fedor Emelianenko convinced me of his status as the No. 1 fighter with his victory over Andrei Arlovski in January of 2009 (I had Anderson Silva on top before that), and I haven't changed my mind since.

But it's fairly unusual for a heavyweight to be the top pound-for-pound fighter. In fact, most of the early pound-for-pound rankings in boxing actually excluded heavyweights. I was asked recently what Cain Velasquez would need to do to be considered a Top 10 pound-for-pound fighter, and that got me thinking about how we stack up heavyweights in the pound-for-pound rankings.

Part of what makes Fedor great is that he has dominated much larger heavyweights like Brett Rogers and Tim Sylvia. At 230 pounds he's at a disadvantage when fighting guys who balloon up to 280 between fights and have to cut down to the 265-pound limit. But Fedor beats them anyway.

On the other side of the heavyweight spectrum is Brock Lesnar. I have Lesnar No. 2 on my heavyweight rankings, but I would have an awfully tough time ranking Lesnar in my Top 10 pound-for-pound fighters. Even if Lesnar were to beat Fedor, would that really make Lesnar a Top 10 pound-for-pound fighter? Or would it simply indicate that Lesnar, who dehydrates down to 265 for weigh-ins and then steps into the Octagon at around 280, simply has a size advantage too great for Fedor to overcome?

That brings me to Velasquez. If I could see another heavyweight, in addition to Fedor, making it to the Top 10 pound-for-pound rankings, it would have to be Velasquez. People sometimes talk about Velasquez like he's some kind of physical monster, but he really isn't all that big by heavyweight standards: He weighted in at 242 pounds for UFC 110, making him significantly smaller than Lesnar, and also quite a big smaller than Frank Mir or Shane Carwin. If Velasquez becomes the UFC heavyweight champion over those bigger opponents, he'd have a very good case for being one of the Top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

But he's not on the list yet. Here's my Top 10:

(Editor's note: The individual fighter's ranking the last time we did pound-for-pound are in parentheses.)

1. Fedor Emelianenko (1): Still no word on when we'll see him next, but likely in April.

2. Anderson Silva (2): We know we'll see the Spider in April, defending his middleweight belt against Demian Maia.

3. Georges St. Pierre (3): March 27 is the date for St. Pierre to defend his title against Dan Hardy.

4. B.J. Penn (4): How often do two of the top four fighters in the world appear on the same card? UFC 112 will feature Penn (defending his lightweight belt against Frankie Edgar) and Silva sharing the marquee for the second time in nine months.

5. Lyoto Machida (5): Gives Shogun Rua his rematch on May 8.

6. Jose Aldo (6): The world featherweight champion will defend his belt against Urijah Faber in the main event of the WEC's first pay-per-view show on April 24.

7. Brian Bowles (7): The next Top 10 fighter to step into the cage, Bowles will meet Dominick Cruz on March 6.

8. Shogun Rua (8): His battle with Machida will be a rare opportunity to see a rematch between two Top 10 pound-for-pound fighters, in their primes.

9. Rashad Evans (9): Finally gets his shot at Rampage Jackson in May.

10. Mike Brown (NR): Takes on Manny Gamburyan in a very good fight on the Aldo-Faber undercard.

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