Rankings: St. Pierre’s biggest challenge

Georges St. Pierre has often stated his goal is to be remembered as the greatest mixed martial artist who ever lived.

The 30-year old UFC welterweight champion already has secured his spot on the short list of the sport’s all-time greats. But it becomes clearer with each passing month that if St. Pierre wishes to achieve his ultimate goal, he’s going to have to fight and defeat UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva.

St. Pierre and Silva have taken turns in the No. 1 spot in Yahoo! Sports’ pound-for-pound rankings over the past several years. In 2011, though, Silva has not only asserted his place at the top, but begun to lap the field.

[video Video: Georges St. Pierre reveals unusual training secret]

The verdict is starkly reflected in this month’s rankings, as for the first time in the poll’s four-year history, there are unanimous choices for both Nos. 1 and 2. Silva took all 20 first-place votes this month, St. Pierre all 20 seconds. The only other time there was ever a unanimous No. 1 was during the poll’s infancy, when Fedor Emelianenko claimed all of the first-place votes from July-Sept. 2007. And that was when there were roughly half as many pollsters as there are today.

One can only conjecture as to why Silva has stepped up his already considerable game: Was it the near-loss of his title to Chael Sonnen last summer, in which he took a beating for four rounds before rallying for a fifth-round submission win? Did the criticism from lackluster performances against the likes of Demian Maia sink in?

Whatever the reason, Silva has looked like a man among boys this year, first with his ridiculous front-kick knockout of Vitor Belfort, then in breaking the will of one of the mentally toughest fighters in the sport in Yushin Okami.

[video Video: UFC star shows off his special fight training routine]

So the question St. Pierre has to ask himself is, how much does being remembered as the greatest fighter ever really mean to him? It’s not like he is in a bad position. He’s the undisputed greatest welterweight fighter ever, he is endorsed by big names like Gatorade and Under Armour, and he’s viewed as one of the sport’s greatest ambassadors.

But Silva is staking his claim as the greatest MMA fighter of all-time. And if St. Pierre is serious about wresting away that title, there’s only one thing he can do: defeat Nick Diaz on Oct. 29, announce he is taking some time off to add the weight necessary to move up, and challenge Silva for the No. 1 vs. No. 2 fight that most MMA fans have long wanted to see.

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; Brad McCray, freelance; 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 who are 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. This currently applies to Chael Sonnen, who has not fought since losing a middleweight title bout to Anderson Silva last August.


T-9. Gray Maynard
Points: 32
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: lightweight
Hometown: Las Vegas
Record: 10-0-1, 1 no-contest (draw in previous fight)
Last month’s ranking: 10
Most recent result: vs. Frankie Edgar, majority draw, Jan. 1

The Edge ElementFrom the “Easier-Said-Than-Done” department: Simply needs to figure out a way to finish Frankie Edgar.


T-9. Gilbert Melendez
Points: 32
Affiliation: Strikeforce (lightweight champion)
Weight class: lightweight
Hometown: San Francisco
Record: 19-2 (won past five)
Last month’s ranking: 9
Most recent result: def. Tatsuya Kawajiri, R1 TKO, April 9

The Edge ElementStill waiting on his next Strikeforce title defense.


8. Jon Fitch
Points: 34
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

The Edge ElementRecently received medical clearance to resume all-out training as he works on his return from shoulder surgery.


7. Cain Velasquez
Points: 71
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

The Edge ElementFaces a formidable task on Nov. 19, as he has been out for a year and will return to meet Junior Dos Santos, who just might have slightly better boxing defense than Brock Lesnar.


6. Dominick Cruz
Points: 105
Affiliation: UFC (bantamweight champion)
Weight class: bantamweight
Hometown: San Diego
Record: 17-1 (won past seven)
Last month’s ranking: 6
Most recent result: def. Urijah Faber, unanimous decision, July 2

The Edge ElementCruz can’t sleep on his next opponent, Demetrious Johnson, who has made quality foes like “Kid” Yamamoto and Miguel Torres look bad.


5. Frankie Edgar
Points: 114
Affiliation: UFC (lightweight champion)
Weight class: lightweight
Hometown: Toms River, N.J.
Record: 13-1-1 (draw in previous fight)
Last month’s ranking: 5
Most recent result: split draw vs. Gray Maynard, Jan. 1

The Edge ElementWill Edgar’s ability to stick, move and score points be as effective as he comes off a back injury?


4. Jon Jones
Points: 145
Affiliation: UFC (light heavyweight champion)
Weight class: light heavyweight
Hometown: Endicott, N.Y.
Record: 13-1 (won previous four)
Last month’s ranking: 4
Most recent result: def. Mauricio Rua, R3 TKO, March 19

The Edge ElementQuinton Jackson appears to be trying to get into Jones’ head as they wind toward their Sept. 24 bout. Will it work?


3. Jose Aldo
Points: 150
Affiliation: UFC (featherweight champion)
Weight class: featherweight
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro
Record: 18-1 (won past 11)
Last month’s ranking: 3
Most recent result: def. Mark Hominick, unanimous decision, April 30

The Edge ElementOctober bout against Kenny Florian a real test of whether Aldo really deserves such a high ranking.

St. Pierre

2. Georges St. Pierre
Points: 180
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

The Edge ElementNeither St. Pierre nor Diaz have lost since 2007 for a combined 19 victories.


1. Anderson Silva
Points: 200 (20 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

The Edge ElementEarned the right to celebrate his unprecedented fifth anniversary as UFC champ with his convincing win over Okami in Rio.


• Votes for others: Jake Shields 19; Rashad Evans 11; Nick Diaz, B.J. Penn 5; Dan Henderson 4; Mauricio Rua 3; Junior Dos Santos, Lyoto Machida 2.

• Upcoming matches for ranked fighters: No. 4 Jon Jones vs. Quinton Jackson, Sept. 24, Denver.< /a>

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Dave Doyle is the boxing/MMA editor for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter.
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Updated Thursday, Sep 1, 2011