Rankings: Mayweather-style MMA
Call them the “Stick ‘n’ Move Kids,” the “Dart and Dash Duo,” or whatever nicknames of various wit levels you can conjure. Just make sure you also call Dominick Cruz and Frankie Edgar “champ,” as the practitioners of what one might call “Mayweather MMA” cemented their holds on their respective titles with a pair of decision victories in August.
Cruz, in his first defense of the WEC bantamweight title, scored a split-decision victory in a rematch over Joseph Benavidez. The tightly contested match turned on Cruz’s ability to keep Benavidez from scoring major damage, while also landing enough takedowns to sway two wrestling-happy judges.
Edgar, meanwhile, flustered B.J. Penn at UFC 118, solidifying his claim to the UFC lightweight title. By the start of the third round, Penn, who dropped out of the Top 10 for the first time in the poll’s three-year history, looked like a beaten man, and Edgar cruised his way in and out of range en route to a unanimous decision.
Whether this is good for the sport is up for debate. Who came out of August with more buzz: Chael Sonnen, who dominated Anderson Silva for four rounds before making a mistake and losing? Or Edgar and Cruz? And of the three, who do you think the fans are most likely to plunk down $50 to watch next time out?
But there’s no denying that what either fighter does is effective. The duo is a combined 29-2. Cruz has never been beaten in his weight class and Edgar will face the only man who has defeated him, Gray Maynard, in his next title defense.
Of course, the media is always quick to declare MMA’s next big wave. Lyoto Machida’s counterstriking style was supposed to revolutionize the game, but Mauricio Rua came along with the antidote. Whether “Mayweather MMA” is here to stay or is simply 2010’s answer to 2009’s Machida Era remains to be seen.
This month’s voting panel: Denny Burkholder, CBSSports.com; Elias Cepeda, Inside Fighting; Steve Cofield, Cagewriter and ESPN Radio 1100 Las Vegas; Neil Davidson Yahoo! Sports; 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. Brock Lesnar
Weight class: Heavyweight (UFC heavyweight champion)
Hometown: Webster, S.D.
Record: 5-1 (won past four)
Last month’s ranking: unranked
Most recent result: def. Shane Carwin, R2 TKO, July 3
Analysis: On paper, Lesnar’s next opponent, Cain Velasquez, is undersized. But that hasn’t deterred Velasquez up to this point.
9. Jake Shields
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: Will Shields be the next non-UFC Top 10 fighter to flop, or will he justify the hype next month in his debut against Martin Kampmann?
8. Lyoto Machida
Weight class: Light heavyweight
Hometown: Belem, Brazil
Record: 16-1 (lost previous fight)
Last month’s ranking: 8
Most recent result: lost to Mauricio Rua, R1 TKO, May 8
Analysis: It’s always interesting to see how a fighter rebounds from his first knockout, and in Quinton Jackson, Machida will be facing a man with heavy hands.
7. Dominick Cruz
Weight class: Bantamweight (WEC bantamweight champion)
Hometown: San Diego
Record: 16-1 (has won past seven)
Last month’s ranking: 10
Most recent result: def. Joseph Benavidez, split decision, Aug. 18
Analysis: Is going to hold the bantamweight belt until someone literally catches him.
6. Fedor Emelianenko
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Stary Oskol, Russia
Record: 31-2, one no-contest (lost past 1)
Last month’s ranking: 5
Most recent result: lost to Fabricio Werdum, R1 submission, June 26
Analysis: Stop us if you’ve heard this before: “The Last Emperor” has matchup on his horizon.
5. Frank Edgar
Weight class: Lightweight (UFC lightweight champion)
Hometown: Toms River, N.J.
Record: 13-1 (has won past five)
Last month’s ranking: 6
Most recent result: def. B.J. Penn, unanimous decision, August 28
Analysis: If nothing else, Edgar-Maynard could prove MMA’s version of the irresistible force vs. the immovable object.
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: Still on the shelf with a knee injury.
3. Jose Aldo
Weight class: Featherweight (WEC featherweight champion)
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro
Record: 17-1 (has won past 10)
Last month’s ranking: 3
Most recent result: def. Urijah Faber, unanimous decision, April 24
Analysis: Manny Gamburyan is fearless and likes to throw; if nothing else, Aldo-Gamburyan should be an entertaining scrap while it lasts.
2. Anderson Silva
Points: 175 (7 first-place votes)
Weight class: Middleweight (UFC middleweight champion)
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 27-4 (has won past 12)
Last month’s ranking: 2
Most recent result: def. Chael Sonnen, R5 submission, Aug. 7
Analysis: Appears to be headed toward a Sonnen rematch.
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: 1
Most recent result: def. Dan Hardy, unanimous decision, March 27
Analysis: December title defense against Josh Koscheck will be in Montreal, near St. Pierre’s hometown, adding to his already considerable advantages.
• Votes for others: Jon Fitch 25, B.J. Penn 11, Gilbert Melendez 8, Rashad Evans 6, Chael Sonnen, Cain Velasquez 4, Gray Maynard 3, Jon Jones, Joseph Benavidez 2, Nick Diaz 1.
• Upcoming matches for Top 10 fighters: No. 3 Jose Aldo vs. Manny Gamburyan, Sept. 30.