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MMA Top 10 Heavyweights: Fedor's Fall Continues

Antonio Silva defeats Fedor Emelianenko in the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix.From 2003 to 2009, Fedor Emelianenko was the No. 1 heavyweight in mixed martial arts. In 2010, he finally fell from the top spot.

In 2011, Fedor is only a marginal member of the Top 10.

On a two-fight losing streak, with neither of those fights even being competitive, Fedor has fallen a long, long way. That's not surprising: Fedor is, after all, a man in his mid-30s. Athletes in all sports decline in their mid-30s, and MMA is no different. And Fedor trains in seclusion, which means that as the sport grows and other fighters get better, Fedor isn't improving along with them.

So as we look at the Top 10 heavyweights in mixed martial arts, we'll see Fedor in a place we're not accustomed to seeing him.

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

1. Cain Velasquez (1): The UFC champ stays No. 1 as he continues to rehabilitate his surgically repaired shoulder. The big question is whether he can get back into the Octagon quickly enough to stay on top, or whether the division will pass him by and the Strikeforce tournament winner will emerge as the sport's No. 1 heavyweight.

2. Junior dos Santos (2): The hardest hitter in the heavyweight division will gain exposure to a big audience as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter, and he'll get his biggest fight yet when he takes on Brock Lesnar in June. Big things are coming for Cigano in 2011.

Brock Lesnar (3): Can Lesnar bounce back from his loss to Velasquez? I'm skeptical of his chances against dos Santos but impressed that he's agreed to take on such a dangerous opponent. He'll have to significantly improve his striking defense to beat dos Santos.

4. Shane Carwin (4): At age 36 and coming off back surgery, it's tough to see Carwin remaining a wrecking machine for much longer. But he's still 12-1 and has wrecked everyone he's faced in the first round, even if he couldn't quite finish the task of wrecking Lesnar.

5. Fabricio Werdum (5): With wins over Fedor, Antonio Silva and Alistair Overeem, Werdum certainly deserves to be viewed as the No. 1 heavyweight in Strikeforce. The problem for him, and for Strikeforce, is that dos Santos knocked Werdum right out of the UFC. So don't expect Werdum to leapfrog dos Santos in the rankings.

6. Antonio Silva (10): Bigfoot simply dominated Fedor in a way no one else ever has: I gave Bigfoot the first round 10-9 and the second round 10-8 before the doctor ruled that Fedor couldn't fight in the third. Part of the difference between them was the enormous size advantage Silva had, but don't overlook how much more technically proficient Silva was in the Brazilian jiu jitsu game. Unlike Fedor, Silva is constantly improving by training with world-class fighters. It showed in the cage.

7. Alistair Overeem (7): The Strikeforce heavyweight champion is the favorite to win the whole tournament. Reaching the final would entail wins over both Werdum and Silva, and that alone would be enough to put him in the conversation for No. 1 heavyweight in MMA, although I'd have a tough time putting him ahead of Velasquez or the dos Santos/Lesnar winner.

8. Frank Mir (8): Mir's upcoming bout with Roy Nelson will determine who's next in the UFC's heavyweight division after the Big 4 of Velasquez, dos Santos, Lesnar and Carwin. It's tough to see Mir beating any of those four, but he's the gatekeeper for heavyweights who want to get to that level.

9. Fedor Emelianenko (6): It feels strange to put Fedor so far down the list, but that's what happens when you go 0-2 over a 15-month stretch, as Fedor has done over the last 15 months. When the folks at Strikeforce signed Fedor in the summer of 2009, I don't think they would have believed it if you had told them that in 2011, Fedor would be 1-2 in the Strikeforce cage, with a win over Brett Rogers and losses to Werdum and Bigfoot. This sport changes quickly.

10. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (9): The heavyweight division is thin enough, and Nogueira has accomplished enough, that I'll keep him in the Top 10 for now even though he hasn't fought in a year and has only won once in three years. Soon Nogueira will need to be replaced, although it's a pretty thin herd of heavyweights below him: Maybe the winner of the March fight between Brendan Schaub and Mirko Cro Cop will move into the Top 10, or maybe the winner of the April fight between Josh Barnett and Brett Rogers, or maybe Nelson will beat Mir and earn a Top 10 spot. But at the moment, Nogueira remains Top 10 by default.

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