Rankings: The great Edgar debate

After Frankie Edgar’s stirring knockout victory over Gray Maynard in Houston at UFC 136, Dana White praised the lightweight champion with a level of excitement the company boss usually only displays after he’s stomped out a promotional rival.

“He’s the Arturo Gatti of MMA,” White said at the post-fight news conference. “I have so much respect for him. I’m going to say it here tonight and I don’t care who disagrees, you’re wrong and I’m right. … He’s the No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world.”

White went on to argue, with some merit, that Edgar is small by the current standards of the lightweight division and that if you’re looking at the phrase “pound-for-pound” in a strict sense, then Edgar’s size has to be taken into account.

But the UFC boss’ words didn’t make an impression with voters in the Yahoo! Sports poll, as for the third straight month, Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre were unanimous choices at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Edgar, for his part, moved up one spot to No. 4 after his win.

While there is no denying the New Jersey native has as much heart as anyone in the fight business, he still has a ways to go before his résumé matches the three fighters ahead of him.

At No. 1, of course, is Silva, who has won 14 consecutive fights and on Oct. 14 becomes the first fighter in UFC history to hit his fifth anniversary as champion. St. Pierre, at No. 2, has only lost once in the past seven years and has won 33 of his past 35 rounds.

[Related: Will Silva-Jones superfight happen? ]

Jon Jones, at No. 3, has demolished high-level opposition in a way that Edgar simply hasn’t. During the same time frame that Edgar drew with Maynard, then had to rally to defeat the same foe, Jones destroyed a pair of former light heavyweight champions in Mauricio Rua and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, the first of which came just six weeks after Jones beat Ryan Bader.

That’s not to say Edgar can’t develop into a top-two fighter. Anyone with the moxie to survive Maynard’s brutal first-round assaults in both of this year’s bouts and remain champion is clearly a special breed. And if Edgar develops into a long-term champion in what is widely regarded as the company’s deepest division, his stock will continue to rise. But as of Oct. 2011, the fighters ahead of him simply have stronger claims to their spots.

Edgar’s victory also dropped Maynard out of the top 10. Maynard was tied with Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez for ninth last month, but ended up at 11 after his first career loss. In his place is former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, who re-enters at No. 10.


10. Rashad Evans
Points: 17
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Light heavyweight
Hometown: Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Record: 16-1-1, 1 no-contest
Last month’s ranking: T-9
Most recent result: Def. Tito Ortiz, R2 TKO, Aug. 6
Analysis: At the rate things are going, Evans will meet Jones sometime around UFC 250. The latest setback is Evans’ lingering hand injury.


T-8. Gilbert Melendez
Points: 37
Affiliation: Strikeforce (lightweight champion)
Weight class: Lightweight
Hometown: San Francisco
Record: 19-2 (won past five)
Last month’s ranking: Unranked
Most recent result: Def. Tatsuya Kawajiri, R1 TKO, April 9
Analysis: A win over Jorge Masvidal in his Dec. 17 Strikeforce swan song should set up what promises to be one of 2012’s best bouts: Edgar vs. Melendez.


T-8. Jon Fitch
Points: 37
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Welterweight
Hometown: San Jose, Calif.
Record: 23-3-1, 1 no-contest (draw in previous fight)
Last month’s ranking: 8
Most recent result: Majority draw vs. B.J. Penn, Feb. 21
Analysis: Finally returns to the cage on Dec. 30, where he’ll meet 11-1 Johny Hendricks.


7. Cain Velasquez
Points: 77
Affiliation: UFC (heavyweight champion)
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Salinas, Calif.
Record: 9-0 (won past nine)
Last month’s ranking: 7
Most recent result: Def. Brock Lesnar, R1 TKO, Oct. 23
Analysis: Has more to gain, and more to lose, than any other top 10 fighter when he headlines the first UFC on Fox event Nov. 12.


6. Dominick Cruz
Points: 112
Affiliation: UFC (bantamweight champion)
Weight class: Bantamweight
Hometown: San Diego
Record: 18-1 (won past eight)
Last month’s ranking: 6
Most recent result: Def. Demetrious Johnson, unanimous decision, Oct. 1
Analysis: Stayed put in the rankings after an impressive, but by no means dominant, victory over undersized Demetrious Johnson.


5. Jose Aldo
Points: 140
Affiliation: UFC (featherweight champion)
Weight class: Featherweight
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro
Record: 20-1 (won past 13)
Last month’s ranking: 4
Most recent result: def. Kenny Florian, unanimous decision, Oct. 8
Analysis: A methodical victory over Florian wasn’t enough to stop his slow slide down the rankings.


4. Frankie Edgar
Points: 152
Affiliation: UFC (lightweight champion)
Weight class: Lightweight
Hometown: Toms River, N.J.
Record: 14-1-1 (won past one)
Last month’s ranking: 5
Most recent result: Def. Gray Maynard, R4 KO, Oct. 8
Analysis: Edgar’s vote breakdown: 10 third-place ballots; five fourths; four fifths; two sixths and a seventh.


3. Jon Jones
Points: 160
Affiliation: UFC (light heavyweight champion)
Weight class: Light heavyweight
Hometown: Endicott, N.Y.
Record: 14-1 (won previous five)
Last month’s ranking: 3
Most recent result: Def. Quinton Jackson, R4 submission, Sept. 24
Analysis: Will fight his third consecutive former light heavyweight champion when he meets Lyoto Machida on Dec. 10.

St. Pierre

2. Georges St. Pierre
Points: 198
Affiliation: UFC (welterweight champion)
Weight class: Welterweight
Hometown: Saint-Isidore, Quebec
Record: 22-2 (won past nine)
Last month’s ranking: 2
Most recent result: Def. Jake Shields, unanimous decision, April 30
Analysis: Was White’s “Edgar is No. 2” rant designed to light a fire under St. Pierre, who has fought conservatively in recent years and is known to take criticism to heart?


1. Anderson Silva
Points: 220 (22 first-place votes)
Affiliation: UFC (middleweight champion)
Weight class: Middleweight
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 29-4 (won past 14)
Last month’s ranking: 1
Most recent result: Def. Yushin Okami, R2 TKO, Aug. 27
Analysis: Happy fifth anniversary to the champ, who likely has another bout with Chael Sonnen on the way.

• Votes for others: Gray Maynard 13; Mauricio Rua 9, Dan Henderson 8; Nick Diaz 7; Jake Shields 6; Junior Dos Santos 5; B.J. Penn 5; Chael Sonnen 4; Lyoto Machida 2.

This month’s voting panel: Denny Burkholder, CBSSports.com; Elias Cepeda, Fight! Magazine; Mike Chiappetta MMAFighting.com and Fight! Magazine; Steve Cofield, Cagewriter and ESPN Radio 1100 Las Vegas; Neil Davidson The Canadian Press; Dave Doyle Yahoo! Sports; CTV Sportsnet;Ben Fowlkes, SportsIllustrated.com and MMAFighting.com; Josh Gross, ESPN.com; Ariel Helwani, Versus.com and MMAFighting.com; Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports; Damon Martin, MMAWeekly.com; Todd Martin, freelance; Franklin McNeil, ESPN.com; Steven Marrocco, SportsIllustrated.com and MMAjunkie.com; Dave Meltzer, Yahoo! Sports and The Wrestling Observer; John Morgan, MMAjunkie.com; Ken Pishna, MMAWeekly.com; Michael David Smith, MMAFighting.com; Mike Straka, Tapout TV; Dann Stupp, MMAjunkie.com and The Dayton Daily News;Jeff Wagenheim, SI.com.

Scoring: Ten points for a first-place vote, nine points for second, etc., down to one point for a 10th-place vote. Fighters under suspension for use of performance-enhancing substances or abuse of drugs are ineligible to be considered for the duration of their suspensions. Fighters who have been inactive for more than 12 months are ineligible for consideration until the completion of their next fight.

• Upcoming matches for ranked fighters: No. 2 Georges St. Pierre vs. Carlos Condit, Oct. 29; No. 7 Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos, Nov. 12.

MMAWeekly.com’s divisional rankings

Check out last month’s rankings

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Dave Doyle is the boxing/MMA editor for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter.
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Updated Thursday, Oct 13, 2011