Rankings: Flip-flop at the top
You can follow Dave Doyle on Twitter at @yahoodoyle.
Anderson Silva’s memorable victory over Chael Sonnen at UFC 117 was the talk of the sporting world. In running his UFC record win streak to 12 with a fifth-round submission, Silva became the first defending champion in company history to win a title fight in the final frame after dropping each of the first four rounds.
But the finish wasn’t enough to keep Silva in the top spot in Yahoo! Sports poll. Four pollsters switched their first-place votes from Silva to Georges St. Pierre after the UFC middleweight champ absorbed a 22-minute beating from Sonnen, and that was enough to erase Silva’s thin lead and shift St. Pierre back into the top spot.
The UFC welterweight champion was named first on 11 of 19 ballots (down from 20 participants in July) and claimed eight-second place votes for 182 points. Silva took the remaining eight firsts and a mix of second-, third- and fourth-place votes for a total of 171.
A few notes about this month’s results:
• Last month, Brock Lesnar moved WEC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz out of the No. 10 spot by virtue of Lesnar’s win over Shane Carwin. This month, though, Cruz, who defends his title on Aug. 18 against Joe Benavidez, took back No. 10.
• Sonnen proved that you can win by losing. The Oregonian had never previously claimed a top-10 vote, but placed 15th with seven points after dominating Silva in four of the five rounds. Considering that his UFC 117 performance came after consecutive wins over Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt, Sonnen has earned his spot as the world’s No. 2 middleweight (no disrespect to Vitor Belfort, who has not yet fought often enough at 185 to merit that tag).
• Where to rank Jon Fitch? He placed 12th this month with 26 points after defeating Thiago Alves on Aug. 7. Twenty-one of those points came from a third, a fourth and a fifth-place vote, but 13 pollsters didn’t name Fitch at all. On one hand, the only time Fitch ever fought a ranked fighter (St. Pierre), he suffered a 50-43 beatdown. On the other hand, he’s 21-1 in his past 22 fights. Barring unforeseen circumstances, with Fitch on the sideline waiting to see how St. Pierre’s December fight with Josh Koscheck pans out, he’s likely to remain on the outside looking in.
• Trivia note: This month marks the third anniversary of the Y! Sports poll. The inaugural rankings: 1. Fedor Emelianenko; 2. Mauricio Rua; 3. Quinton Jackson; 4. Dan Henderson; 5. Anderson Silva; 6. St. Pierre; 7. Chuck Liddell; 8 (tie). Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira; 8 (tie) B.J. Penn; 10. Randy Couture. Emelianenko, St. Pierre and Silva are the only fighters to claim the top spot in that time; those three, plus Penn, are the only fighters who have remained in the top 10 without dropping out since 2007.
This month’s voting panel: Denny Burkholder, CBSSports.com; Elias Cepeda, Inside Fighting; Mike Chiappetta, MMAFighting.com and Fight! Magazine; Steve Cofield, Cagewriter and ESPN Radio 1100 in Las Vegas; Dave Doyle Yahoo! Sports; Ben Fowlkes, SportsIllustrated.com and MMAFighting.com; Josh Gross, SportsIllustrated.com; Ariel Helwani, Versus.com and MMAFighting.com; Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports; Damon Martin, MMAWeekly.com; Todd Martin, freelance; John Morgan, MMAjunkie.com; Franklin McNeil, ESPN.com; Brad McCray, freelance; Dave Meltzer, Yahoo! Sports; and The Wrestling Observer; Brett Okamoto, The Las Vegas Sun; Ken Pishna, MMAWeekly.com; Michael David Smith, MMAFighting.com; Dann Stupp, MMAjunkie.com; and The Dayton Daily News.
Scoring: 10 points for a first-place vote, nine points for second, etc., down to 1 point for a 10th-place vote. Fighters who are under suspension for usage of performance-enhancing substances or drugs of abuse 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 after the completion of their next fight.
10. Dominick Cruz
Weight class: Bantamweight (WEC bantamweight champion)
Hometown: San Diego
Record: 15-1 (has won past six)
Last month’s ranking: unranked
Most recent result: def. Brian Bowles, R2 TKO, March 6
Analysis: No one has been able to solve Cruz since he dropped to 135 pounds.
9. Jake Shields
Affiliation: Free agent
Weight class: Welterweight (never lost Strikeforce middleweight title)
Hometown: San Francisco
Record: 25-4-1 (has won past 14)
Last month’s ranking: 9
Most recent result: def. Dan Henderson, unanimous decision, April 17
Analysis: An intriguing UFC debut against Martin Kampmann should determine his spot in the UFC welterweight pecking order.
8. Lyoto Machida
Weight class: Light heavyweight
Hometown: Belem, Brazil
Record: 16-1 (lost previous fight)
Last month’s ranking: 7
Most recent result: lost to Mauricio Rua, R1 TKO, May 8
Analysis: A November matchup against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will go a long way toward determining the light heavyweight title scene in 2011.
7. B.J. Penn
Weight class: Lightweight
Hometown: Hilo, Hawaii
Record: 15-6-1 (lost previous fight)
Last month’s ranking: 6
Most recent result: lost to Frank Edgar, unanimous decision, April 10
Analysis: Has his chance to prove razor-thin loss to Edgar was a fluke.
6. Frank Edgar
Weight class: Lightweight (UFC lightweight champion)
Hometown: Toms River, N.J.
Record: 12-1 (has won past four)
Last month’s ranking: 5
Most recent result: def. B.J. Penn, unanimous decision, April 10
Analysis: Has his loss to prove razor-thin win over Penn wasn’t a fluke.
5. Fedor Emelianenko
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Stary Oskol, Russia
Record: 31-2, one no-contest (lost past 1)
Last month’s ranking: 8
Most recent result: lost to Fabricio Werdum, R1 submission, June 26
Analysis: Dropped to eighth last month after just one loss. Clearly some voters re-evaluated and felt the greatest heavyweight of all time fell too far.
4. Mauricio Rua
Weight class: Light heavyweight (UFC light heavyweight champion)
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 19-4 (won previous fight)
Last month’s ranking: 4
Most recent result: def. Lyoto Machida, R1 TKO, May 8
Analysis: Knee surgery is expected to keep the new champ out until at least March.
3. Jose Aldo
Weight class: Featherweight (WEC featherweight champion)
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro
Record: 17-1 (has won past 10)
Last month’s ranking: 4
Most recent result: def. Urijah Faber, unanimous decision, April 24
Analysis: With Silva’s narrow escape, one could argue Aldo has the most definitive unbeatable aura of any weight-class champ.
2. Anderson Silva
Points: 171 (8 first-place votes)
Weight class: Middleweight (UFC middleweight champion)
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 27-4 (has won past 12)
Last month’s ranking: 1
Most recent result: def. Chael Sonnen, R5 submission, Aug. 7
Analysis: Was Silva’s struggle against Sonnen the product of a rib injury, or is he finally slowing down at 35? Time will tell.
1. Georges St. Pierre
Points: 182 (11 first-place votes)
Weight class: Welterweight (UFC welterweight champion)
Hometown: Saint-Isidore, Quebec
Record: 20-2 (has won past seven)
Last month’s ranking: 2
Most recent result: def. Dan Hardy, unanimous decision, March 27
Analysis: On hold until “The Ultimate Fighter” runs its course.
• Votes for others: Brock Lesnar 28, Jon Fitch 26, Rashad Evans 12, Gilbert Melendez 8, Chael Sonnen 7, Jon Jones 4, Cain Velasquez 3; Joe Benavidez, Kenny Florian, Nick Diaz 2.
• Upcoming matches for Top 10 fighters: No. 10 Dominick Cruz vs. Joe Benavidez, Aug. 18, Las Vegas; No. 6 Frank Edgar vs. No. 7 B.J. Penn, Aug. 28, Boston.