Rankings: Year of change
In his 2010 year in review, my colleague Dave Meltzer postulated that the past 12 months featured a changing of the guard.
A look back at the final Yahoo! Sports Top 10 poll of 2009 confirms Meltzer’s theory. Half of last year’s top 10 are no longer ranked, some of whom are so far off the radar it is almost tough to imagine they were even ranked. Here’s a look at where they stand now:
1. Anderson Silva: The UFC middleweight champ is still on the same win streak he was a year ago. But his questionable performance in April against Demian Maia cost him just enough support in a tight race to lose the top spot.
2. Georges St. Pierre: Took the top spot in April and solidified it with his Dec. 11 shutout win over Josh Koscheck.
3. Fedor Emelianenko: Had just one appearance in 2010 – a quick loss to Fabricio Werdum – and as such is on a slow slide down the rankings.
4. B.J. Penn: Back-to-back losses to Frank Edgar dropped him out of consideration, but a win over Jon Fitch would likely put him back in.
5. Lyoto Machida: A crushing title loss to Mauricio Rua and a tough split decision against Quinton Jackson has Machida on the outside looking in.
6. Jose Aldo: Was a relative newcomer to the rankings at the time. Now, he seems the heir apparent to the No. 1 spot should St. Pierre and Silva trip up.
7. Mauricio Rua: Only fought once in 2010, but that win was his stunning knockout of Machida.
8. Brian Bowles: Yeah, he was actually ranked Top 10.
9. Miguel Angel Torres: Former WEC bantamweight champ got the benefit of the doubt after being knocked out by Bowles, but a subsequent loss to Joe Benavidez dropped him out.
10. Dan Henderson: A recent win over Renato Sobral couldn’t erase memories of a one-sided loss to Jake Shields.
Will 2011 bring as much change as 2010? Only time well tell. With that, the results of 2010’s final poll.
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 Las Vegas; Neil Davidson The Canadian Press; Dave Doyle Yahoo! Sports; 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; John Morgan, MMAjunkie.com; Franklin McNeil, ESPN.com; Brad McCray, freelance; Dave Meltzer, Yahoo! Sports; and The Wrestling Observer; Ken Pishna, MMAWeekly.com; Michael David Smith, MMAFighting.com; Dann Stupp, MMAjunkie.com; and The Dayton Daily News.
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 usage 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 after the completion of their next fight.
10. Jon Fitch
Weight class: Welterweight
Hometown: San Jose, Calif.
Record: 23-3, 1 no-contest (won past five)
Last month’s ranking: 10
Most recent result: Def. Thiago Alves, unanimous decision, Aug. 7
Analysis: Fitch recently said he felt he deserved a shot at St. Pierre’s title ahead of Jake Shields. He has a chance to go out and prove he deserves it when he meets B.J. Penn in February.
9. Jake Shields
Weight class: Welterweight (never lost Strikeforce middleweight title)
Hometown: San Francisco
Record: 26-4-1 (has won past 15)
Last month’s ranking: 9
Most recent result: Def. Martin Kampmann, split decision, Oct. 23
Analysis: Appears on track for the next shot at GSP’s title.
8. Fedor Emelianenko
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Stary Oskol, Russia
Record: 31-2, one no-contest (lost last one)
Last month’s ranking: 8
Most recent result: Lost to Fabricio Werdum, R1 submission, June 26
Analysis: The Russian legend has only had his hand raised once in the past 24 months. As such, Emelianenko received votes from just nine of this month’s 19 voters.
7. Cain Velasquez
Weight class: Heavyweight (UFC heavyweight champion)
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: Buzz is his next title defense, against Junior dos Santos, could come on the hotly anticipated April 30 Rogers Centre card in Toronto.
6. Dominick Cruz
Weight class: Bantamweight (UFC bantamweight champion)
Hometown: San Diego
Record: 16-1 (has won past seven)
Last month’s ranking: 6
Most recent result: Def. Scott Jorgensen, unanimous decision, Dec. 16
Analysis: Cruz isn’t likely to rise any higher unless someone in the top five loses, but he justified his current spot with a workmanlike victory over Jorgensen.
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: 5
Most recent result: Def. B.J. Penn, unanimous decision, Aug. 28
Analysis: Edgar can atone for the only blemish on his record when he kicks off the New Year with a match against Gray Maynard.
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: Finally returns to action in March when he defends his title against Rashad Evans in Newark.
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. Manny Gamburyan, R2 TKO, Sept. 20
Analysis: Still recovering after suffering a compressed vertebrae in training.
2. Anderson Silva
Points: 176 (8 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: Was Silva’s performance against Chael Sonnen in August a matter of Sonnen’s PED usage, or an indication the 35-year-old Silva is slipping? His February defense against Vitor Belfort should give an indication as to which.
1. Georges St. Pierre
Points: 183 (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. Josh Koscheck, unanimous decision, Dec. 11
Analysis: 30 consecutive round victories. ‘Nuff said.
• Votes for others: B.J. Penn 20; Rashad Evans, Gilbert Melendez 11; Lyoto Machida 7; Jon Jones 4; Joe Benavidez, Gray Maynard 3; Urijah Faber 1.
• Upcoming matches for top 10 fighters: No. 5 Frank Edgar vs. Gray Maynard, Jan. 1