Major changes in the Y! Sports rankings

Major changes in the Y! Sports rankings
By Dave Doyle, Yahoo Sports
January 4, 2008

Dave Doyle
Yahoo Sports
Sunday editor's note: New rankings will be posted by the end of the week.

The last days of 2007 just may go down as the time in which Fedor Emelianenko's reputation was sealed.

Two days before the former world No. 1 competed in Japan, UFC 79 on Dec. 29 featured two top matches in which all four competitors had as much to lose as they had to gain.

Neither Chuck Liddell nor Wanderlei Silva backed down from the challenge of facing each other. Both were coming off two-fight losing streaks, and had knowledge that a bad showing could bump them out of main events permanently.

Matt Hughes wasn't afraid to accept Georges St. Pierre as a replacement in an interim welterweight title match, even though St. Pierre was a far greater threat than Hughes' original opponent, champion Matt Serra. St. Pierre had handily beaten Hughes last time the two fought. St. Pierre, meanwhile, wasn't afraid to take the fight on short notice, even knowing that he could have waited to fight in his hometown of Montreal instead down the road.

Meanwhile, two days later, Emelianenko, the guy long considered the top fighter in the world, fought someone named Hong Man-Choi in Saitama, Japan. Choi had one career MMA match. Choi was not cleared to compete in California last summer because of a tumor in his pituitary gland.

So Emelianenko got his quick, easy, win over Choi, with a first-round armbar, less then 48 hours after four of the top stars of the modern era put it all on the line. That capped a year in which his only other match was a match against a middleweight, Matt Lindland, who had him on the run before Emelianenko won.

And the voters have responded.

Emelianenko, who had been the only No. 1 the Y! Sports monthly poll since its August debut, dropped to No. 4 this month. He took the top spot in the August and September polls unanimously, but only received two first-place votes this time.

UFC middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva, who has been nipping at Emelianenko's heels for months, took over the top spot with nine of 14 first-place votes. St. Pierre vaulted from fourth to second on the strength of his dominant win over Hughes; and UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson dropped from two to three through no fault of his own.

Exiting the poll were Hughes, who was ranked ninth, and Gilbert Melendez. Melendez, who was ranked 10th, took on the tough challenge of Mitsuhiro Ishida on Ishida's home turf, but lost via decision in Saitama. The talented youngster will no doubt be back.

Entering the poll at No. 8 is WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, who had been ranked as high as No. 2, reappears in the poll at No. 10.

We have one new addition to the poll this month, as Brad McCray from The Oregonian in Portland joins the fray. McCray's writings on local Team Quest fighters going back years just might have been the first regular MMA coverage in a major newspaper. For links to our pollsters' sites, click here.

10. Mauricio Rua
Points: 9
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Light heavyweight
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil.
Record: 16-3
Last month's ranking: unranked
Most recent result: lost to Forrest Griffin, submission, Sept. 22
Analysis: Shogun sat at No. 11 since his loss to Griffin, when he dropped all the way from the No. 2 spot. But with Matt Hughes and Gilbert Melendez out, and Faber vaulting up, Shogun nudged back into the Top 10. He's presently rehabbing after knee surgery.

9. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Points: 33
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Vitoria da Conquista, Brazil
Record: 30-4-1
Last month's ranking: 8
Most recent result: def. Heath Herring, unanimous decision, July 7.
Analysis: Nogueira already established himself with UFC fans when he rallied from a nasty high kick against Herring and scored the win. Now he has a chance to be the saving grace of a heavyweight division with no Emelianenko, no Randy Couture, and a fan base that doesn't want a third Tim Sylvia title reign. Nogueira faces Sylvia for the interim title at UFC 81.

8. Urijah Faber
Points: 38
Affiliation: WEC
Weight class: Featherweight (WEC featherweight champion)
Hometown: Sacramento, Calif.
Record: 20-1
Last month's ranking: unranked
Most recent result: def. Jeff Curran, submission R2, Dec. 12
Analysis: It became impossible to deny the WEC featherweight champion his spot after his live, nationally televised win over Jeff Curran on Dec. 12. Faber used world-class defense to fend off a bad situation in the first round, then showed his trademark inventiveness en route to submitting a BJJ black belt for his 12th consecutive win.

7. B.J. Penn
Points: 46
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Lightweight
Hometown: Hilo, Hawaii
Record: 11-4-1
Last month's ranking: 8
Most recent result: def. Jens Pulver, Round 2 TKO, June 23.
Analysis: With Sean Sherk's steroid situation resolved, the lightweight title is finally off ice. Penn, a former UFC welterweight champ, will look to join the short list of multiple weight class champions when he faces Joe Stevenson for the vacant title on Jan. 19.

6. Dan Henderson
Points: 62
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Light heavyweight/middleweight (final PRIDE 183 lb. champion)
Hometown: Victorville, Calif.
Record: 22-6
Last month's ranking: 5
Most recent result: lost to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, decision, Sept. 8
Analysis: Even with a bunch of strong cards on the horizon, Henderson's March 1 matchup against Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight title stands out as one to circle on the calendar.

5. Randy Couture
Points: 64
Affiliation: Under contract to UFC
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Gresham, Ore.
Record: 16-8
Last month's ranking: 6
Most recent resuls: def. Gabriel Gonzaga, Round 3 TKO, Aug. 25
Analysis: Randy won't be fighting again anytime soon, which will eventually affect his eligibility, as fighters cannot be considered if they go a full year without fighting until they compete again. But the fact Couture moved up a spot in spite of his inactivity is a testament to the respect he holds for his tremendous accomplishments inside the octagon.

4. Fedor Emelianenko
Points: 102 (2 first-place votes)
Affiliation: M-1
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Stary Oskol, Russia
Record: 27-1 (1 no-contest)
Last month's ranking: 1
Most recent result: Defeated Hong Man-Choi, Round 1 submission, Dec. 31.
Analysis: The more Emelianenko sullies his reputation by fighting cream puffs, the less his long-awaited showdown with Couture will mean, regardless of which promotion hosts the event, if it ever happens. A match with Josh Barnett, the only world-class caliber free agent heavyweight, is the only match that could turn around opinion at this point.

3. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
Points: 105 (1 first-place vote)
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Light heavyweight (UFC lt. heavyweight champion)
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.
Record: 28-6
Last month's ranking: 2
Most recent result: def. Dan Henderson, decision, Sept. 8
Analysis: Since the last poll, it was announced that Rampage would serve as a coach on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter, opposite Forrest Griffin. This all but assures Rampage will defend the title against Griffin sometime over the summer, and also will give Jackson a chance to heal nagging injuries.

2. Georges St. Pierre
Points: 118 (2)
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Welterweight (interim welterweight champion)
Hometown: Ste. Isidore, Quebec
Record: 15-2
Last month's ranking: 4
Most recent result: Def. Matt Hughes, Round 2 submission, Dec. 29.
Analysis: If GSP hadn't lost to Matt Serra last year, he could very well hold the top spot right now. If he does beat Serra, in a match that could take place in Montreal on April 19 if the ailing champion can return from injury in time, voters are going to face a very tough choice on their No. 1.

1. Anderson "Spider" Silva
Points: 131 (9 first-place votes)
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Middleweight (UFC middleweight champion)
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 20-4
Last month's ranking: 2
Most recent result: def. Rich Franklin, Round 2 TKO, Oct. 20
Analysis: Does Silva deserve the top spot? We know one thing: He's not going to back down from the toughest challenges out there. He already took on Rich Franklin in Franklin's hometown, and now he's preparing to take on Henderson, the No. 6 fighter in the poll.


  • Votes for others: Forrest Griffin, Chuck Liddell 7; Kid Yamamoto, J.Z. Calvan 6; Lyoto Machida, Jon Fitch, Paulo Filho 5; Takanori Gomi 4; Matt Serra, Wanderlei Silva 2; Gilbert Melendez, Robbie Lawler 1.

  • Upcoming matches for Top 10 fighters: No. 1 Anderson Silva vs. No. 6 Dan Henderson, March 1, Columbus; No. 7 B.J. Penn vs. Joe Stevenson, Jan. 19, Newcastle, England; No. 8 Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Tim Sylvia, Feb. 2, Las Vegas.

  • Last month's rankings

  • Looking for division-by-division Top 10s? Then check out's rankings.

    That's what we think. Now hit us with your opinion. Go to the Yahoo! Sports MMA/Boxing blog and tell us your Top 10.

    Dave Doyle is the boxing/MMA editor for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter.
    Send Dave a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

    Updated on Friday, Jan 4, 2008 6:30 pm, EST

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