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MMA Top 10 Pound-for-Pound: Cain Velasquez Belongs

<! mediaid=3502155 Jae C. Hong/AP: img align="right" src="" alt="" />When it comes to pound-for-pound rankings, the biggest question is always how to deal with heavyweights. Some people think a pound-for-pound list should never include any heavyweight champions at all. Others say if you're the heavyweight champ, you belong in the Top 10, just as the champions at bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight and light heavyweight belong.

When Fedor Emelianenko was the heavyweight king, I always had him on my pound-for-pound list. But when Brock Lesnar took Fedor's place as the sport's top heavyweight, I didn't list Lesnar. My feeling was that Lesnar's greatness was much more about size and strength than skill, and therefore Lesnar wasn't really suited to being in the pound-for-pound Top 10.

Now that Cain Velasquez is the heavyweight champion of the world, I'm back to having a heavyweight in my Top 10. Find out where and why below.

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

Top 10 Pound for Pound Fighters in MMA
1. Georges St. Pierre (1): I know a lot of MMA fans think The Ultimate Fighter has grown stale, but I think it's been interesting this season to see how GSP imparts his knowledge on young prospects. Particularly interesting has been St. Pierre's sincere explanation of why he won't engage in the trash talk that Josh Koscheck is goading him into: St. Pierre, like most of the sport's best fighters, believes in keeping an even keel at all times.

2. Jose Aldo (2): Beating the very talented Josh Grispi at UFC 125 won't be easy, but if he does it Aldo gets to trade in his WEC featherweight belt for a UFC featherweight belt, and he gets to make the case that he's the best fighter in the sport in front of the biggest audience that's ever seen him fight.

3. Anderson Silva (3): The middleweight champ hasn't looked particularly impressive in any of his last four middleweight title defenses. He'll try to change that in February against Vitor Belfort.

4. Shogun Rua (4): The light heavyweight king is still recovering from knee surgery and doesn't have a title defense scheduled, so he may soon start to drop on some of the pound-for-pound lists. I'm not ready to drop him yet, but I hope we get to see him soon.

5. Frank Edgar (5): He'll look to avenge the only loss of his career when he takes on Gray Maynard at UFC 125, a great card that features two of the five best pound-for-pound fighters in the world defending their belts.

6. Dominick Cruz (6): Cruz takes on Scott Jorgensen in December in the final WEC bantamweight title fight; if he wins that he gets to defend his title in the first UFC bantamweight title fight next year.

7. Lyoto Machida (7): I've always thought Machida's elusive style makes him perfect to pick someone like Rampage Jackson apart, and we'll get to see that at UFC 123. If he beats Rampage, Machida will be firmly entrenched as the No. 2 light heavyweight in the world, although he probably needs at another win or two before he'd get a rubber match with Shogun.

8. Cain Velasquez (NR): Ultimately, the question on a pound-for-pound list boils down to this: If all these guys were the same size, who would be the best based solely on his skill? Velasquez has size and strength, but he's more than an enormous and powerful force like Lesnar: He's also a very well-rounded fighter who complements his great amateur wrestling background with striking that has dramatically improved with each fight. He's both the best fighter in the heavyweight division and the most well-rounded mixed martial artist above 205 pounds.

9. Rashad Evans (8): I'd prefer to see Evans step back into the Octagon again soon, but instead he'll patiently wait for Shogun to get healthy and try to get the light heavyweight title back. He'll be a heavy underdog when that fight finally happens, but I actually think Evans' superior wrestling gives him a very good chance of grinding out a 25-minute decision with Shogun.

10. Joseph Benavidez (9): One of the things I love about Benavidez (who's tiny even by the standards of the bantamweight class) is that he wants to fight the toughest opponents, any time, any place. MMA fans first learned that about Benavidez in 2008, when he signed on to travel to Japan and face Kid Yamamoto, who at the time was considered Japan's top fighter and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. That fight would be canceled when Yamamoto got hurt, but that's been Benavidez's approach throughout his career, and the most recent example is his upcoming fight with Wagnney Fabiano at WEC 52. Fabiano is just a dangerous enough opponent that he's capable of beating anyone in the world at 135 pounds, but he's not very well known because most of his fights haven't been televised, so beating him won't do a lot for Benavidez's reputation. But when Brian Bowles got hurt and there was an opening to fight Fabiano, Benavidez jumped at the chance and took the fight on short notice. That's what great fighters do.

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