Rankings: One down, one to go
By Dave Doyle, Yahoo Sports
December 31, 2008
The first month of a two-month span in which most of the best fighters in the world compete is complete. They may as well have been grappling for position in the rankings, given all the comings and goings. To wit:
• Rashad Evans enters the poll at No. 6 following his impressive win over Forrest Griffin for the UFC light heavyweight title on Dec. 27. Evans never seemed to get his due on his way up, perhaps because he didn't exactly set the world on fire in his first two marquee matches – a draw against Tito Ortiz and a split decision over Michael Bisping. Since then, though, Evans has come into his own, with a versatile approach that includes one of the most effective counter-striking games in the sport.
• From the "wow, tough crowd" file: Griffin fell out of the Top 10, finishing 11th. This is still the same guy who finished Mauricio Rua and Quinton Jackson back to back, and won the first two rounds against Evans before losing to his unbeaten foe in the third.
• Welterweight Thiago Alves, who finished 11th last month, eased into the 10 spot without fighting.
Alves, of course, is expected to meet the winner of the Jan. 31 megafight between UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn and welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. The match between No. 4 Penn and No. 3 St. Pierre highlights a month that also includes No. 2 Fedor Emelianenko against former UFC heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski, No. 7 Lyoto Machida vs. unbeaten Thiago Silva, and No. 9 Urijah Faber against Jens Pulver.
This month, we welcome new pollster Michael David Smith of AOL.com. For info on the entire Y! Sports MMA Top 10 panel, go here.
Note: This month's poll was compiled before Shinya Aoki's win over Eddie Alvarez in Japan on Dec. 31 and thus the poll does not reflect the result.
10. Thiago Alves
Weight class: Welterweight
Hometown: Fortzleza, Brazil
Record: 16 (won last seven)
Last month's ranking: unranked
Recent results: def. Josh Koscehck, unanimous decision, Oct. 25
Analysis: Seven straight victories and the most complete Muay Thai game this side of Anderson Silva makes Alves a dangerous foe for the fighter who comes out of the Georges St. Pierre-B.J. Penn match with welterweight gold.
9. Urijah Faber
Weight class: Featherweight
Hometown: Sacramento, Calif.
Record: 21-2 (lost last one)
Last month's ranking: 8
Most recent result: lost to Mike Brown, R1 TKO, Nov. 10
Analysis: Faber faces Jens Pulver on Jan. 25 in a rematch with little upside. The former featherweight champ already handled Pulver in their June meeting. A loss or poor showing against Pulver, who has lost four of his past five matches, will only serve to drop his stock.
8. Lyoto Machida
Weight class: Light heavyweight
Hometown: Belem, Brazil
Last month's ranking: 10
Most recent results: def. Tito Ortiz, unanimous decision, May 24
Analysis: Machida might not be the biggest ticket seller, but an impressive win over fellow unbeaten Thiago Silva in January will make it very hard to deny "The Dragon" a light heavyweight title shot.
7. Quinton Jackson
Weight class: Light heavyweight
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.
Record: 29-7 (won last one)
Last month's ranking: 9
Most recent result: def. Wanderlei Silva, KO R1, Dec. 27
Analysis: Just to review, "Rampage" has won seven of his past eight fights; beaten the likes of Matt Lindland, Chuck Liddell, Dan Henderson and Wanderlei Silva; and his only loss in that span was a coin flip of a decision against Forrest Griffin. Jackson's résumé over the past three years holds up against everyone ranked ahead of him.
6. Rashad Evans
Weight class: Light heavyweight (UFC light heavyweight champion)
Hometown: Lansing, Mich.
Record: 13-0-1 (won past three)
Last month's ranking: unranked
Most recent result: def. Forrest Griffin, R3 TKO, Dec. 27
Analysis: Evans was doubted by fans and media alike throughout his rise to the top. But the tremendous counter-striker, whose success may be the biggest testament to Greg Jackson's training style, has both the gold and the last laugh.
5. Miguel Angel Torres
Weight class: Bantamweight (WEC bantamweight champion)
Hometown: East Chicago, Ind.
Record: 35-1 (won past 16)
Last month's ranking: 6
Most recent result: def. Manny Tapia, TKO R2, Dec. 3
Analysis: How good is Torres? He beat Tapia using just his standup – Tapia's strength – simply to prove he could. Word on the street has Torres' next title defense, against Brian Bowles, taking place in Chicago in the spring.
4. B.J. Penn
Points: 128 (one first-place vote)
Weight class: Lightweight (UFC lightweight champion)
Hometown: Hilo, Hawaii
Record: 13-4-1 (won past three)
Last month's ranking: 4
Most recent result: def. Sean Sherk, R3 TKO, May 24
Analysis: The Jan. 31 megafight between Penn and St. Pierre marks just the second time two top-five fighters have met since the Y! poll began. The first was in September 2007, when then-No. 4 Jackson defeated then-No. 3 Dan Henderson.
3. Georges St. Pierre
Weight class: Welterweight (UFC welterweight champion)
Hometown: Saint-Isidore, Quebec
Record: 17-2 (won past four)
Last month's ranking: 3
Most recent result: def. Jon Fitch, unanimous decision, Aug. 9
Analysis: When St. Pierre and Penn met last at UFC 59, Penn tagged GSP early and won the first round, forcing St. Pierre to rally. The welterweight champ has rarely allowed himself to be put in such a position since.
2. Fedor Emelianenko
Points: 135 (4 first-place votes)
Affiliation: Affliction/M-1 (WAMMA heavyweight champion)
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Stary Oskol, Russia
Record: 28-1, one no-contest (won past nine)
Last month's ranking: 2
Most recent result: def. Tim Sylvia, R1 submission, July 19
Analysis: After losing in the world sambo championships a couple months back, Emelianenko decided to skip the media hype for his upcoming match so he could regain his focus. That could be very bad news for Andrei Arlovski come Jan. 24.
1. Anderson Silva
Points: 154 (11 first-place votes)
Weight class: Middleweight (UFC middleweight champion)
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 23-4 (won past nine)
Last month's ranking: 1
Most recent result: def. Patrick Cote, R3 TKO, Oct. 25
Analysis: Silva is at his motivated best when he's challenged by elite competition. Thales Leites, his rumored next foe, doesn't quite fit the bill.
• Votes for others: Forrest Griffin 15; Brock Lesnar 10; Eddie Alvarez 6; Frank Mir, Dan Henderson 5; Shinya Aoki 4; Mike Brown, Carlos Condit 3; Jon Fitch, Andrei Arlovski 2; Randy Couture, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira 1
• Upcoming matches for ranked fighters: No. 2 Fedor Emelianenko vs. Andrei Arlovski, Jan. 24, Anaheim; No. 3 Georges St. Pierre vs. No. 4 B.J. Penn, Jan. 31, Las Vegas; No. 7 Lyoto Machida vs. Thiago Silva, Jan. 31, Las Vegas; No. 9 Urijah Faber vs. Jens Pulver, Jan. 25, San Diego.
Updated on Wednesday, Dec 31, 2008 2:03 pm, EST