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MMA Top 10 Pound-for-Pound: Jose Aldo Inches Closer to the Top

Jose AldoHeading into Jose Aldo's Thursday night fight with Manny Gamburyan at WEC 51, the most interesting question was not whether Aldo would win -- just about everyone who follows MMA agreed that he would -- but whether he would put on the kind of performance that had everyone talking about him as the single best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Aldo delivered a great performance, one that certainly has him in the conversation for greatest in the world status, along with Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva. Whether you have Aldo, St. Pierre or Silva at the top of your list is as much about personal preference as anything else.

What I love about Aldo is his killer instinct: After he landed a one-two combination that appeared to stun Gamburyan, he knew exactly what he had to do to finish the fight: From there Aldo threw a hard uppercut that connected to Gamburyan's chin and knocked him down (a great punch to throw against a shorter opponent who's been dazed), and then finished him with 10 punches in a row on the ground, picking his spots beautifully to avoid Gamburyan's arms and connect to his head.

See where Aldo fits in with the best of the best in MMA below.

MMA Top 10 Pound-for-Pound

(Number in parentheses is the fighter's rank in the last pound-for-pound list)

1. Georges St-Pierre (1): I'm sticking with St. Pierre, just slightly ahead of Aldo in the top spot, but he'll need to dominate for the eighth straight time on Dec. 11 against Josh Koscheck to stay No. 1. The best fighter in the world is getting plenty of exposure these days, with a profile in the Style section of the New York Times, of all places, and his season of coaching The Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV.

2. Jose Aldo (2): The biggest question is whether the WEC can find worthy opponents for Aldo. I assume the next opponent will be either Josh Grispi or Chad Mendes, both of whom have fights scheduled for the Nov. 11 WEC 52 card. I'd like to see one of the top Japanese featherweights, Hatsu Hioki or Michihiro Omigawa, sign with the WEC and get a chance at Aldo. But whoever they sign, I don't see Aldo losing his belt any time soon.

3. Anderson Silva (3): Chael Sonnen's positive steroid test will significantly change the way Silva's 2011 looks. Instead of getting the year started with a Sonnen rematch, Silva will fight Vitor Belfort next, and then, if he beats Belfort, probably take on the winner of the UFC 122 fight between Nate Marquardt and Yushin Okami. Those are much more favorable match-ups for Silva than a Sonnen rematch, which gives Silva an awfully good chance of holding onto his belt for another year.

4. Shogun Rua (4): The light heavyweight division is the marquee weight class in MMA, and there are several potentially great title for Shogun. So it's a little frustrating that Rua's knee injury means he's in the middle of a period of almost two years in which the only opponent he'll fight is Lyoto Machida. But once Rua is at 100 percent, his expected title defense against Rashad Evans will be worth the wait.

5. Frank Edgar (5): He'll defend the lightweight belt against the only man who's beaten him, Gray Maynard, on January 1 at UFC 125. If he avenges his only loss in impressive fashion, it may be time to start talking about Edgar as a fighter who could be No. 1 on the pound-for-pound lists.

6. Dominick Cruz (6): Cruz's fights haven't exactly been barn burners, but his title defense against Scott Jorgensen on December 16 should be a very good fight, and there are a number of interesting bantamweight challengers for Cruz if he can get past Jorgensen, including Miguel Torres and the winners of a pair of WEC 52 bantamweight fights, Urijah Faber vs. Takeya Mizugaki and Brian Bowles vs. Wagnney Fabiano.

7. Lyoto Machida (7): It's going to be interesting to see how Machida, who was KO'd by Shogun in May, bounces back from his first career loss. I think he's going to bounce back quite nicely against Rampage Jackson in November.

8. Rashad Evans (8): I wish Evans would have taken another fight while waiting for Shogun's knee to heal, but I can't blame him for wanting to hold off and get ready for a chance at re-taking the light heavyweight title. Shogun vs. Evans is one of the great fights we have to look forward to in 2011.

9. Joseph Benavidez (9): One of the major disappointments of American MMA that there's no viable flyweight class, which means guys like Benavidez, who should be fighting at 125 pounds, has no choice but to take on bigger opponents at 135. Here's hoping we soon get to see Benavidez fighting guys his own size.

10. Gray Maynard (10): The new year will start off with a bang, with two of the world's top 10 fighters in the Octagon together when Maynard fights Edgar. The sports books have installed Maynard as an early favorite to beat Edgar and win the lightweight belt.

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