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Rankings: Battling bantams

Yahoo Sports

Editor's note: Rankings will be updated during the week following UFC 111.

Was Brian Bowles' WEC bantamweight title-winning knockout of Miguel Torres on Aug. 9 a fluke or a true changing of the guard?

Opinion has been mixed on Bowles' shocking one-sided beatdown of Torres, as has been reflected by the rankings. One, of course, can make the valid argument that Bowles' victory over Torres is proof enough that he should be ranked ahead of the man he defeated. Yet the duo have flipped-flopped above and below each other on a seemingly monthly basis since their summer showdown, despite the fact neither has fought since, an indication that many still believe Bowles simply caught the veteran Torres on a bad night.

This month, Bowles pulled ahead of Torres with 36 points, tying him with Mauricio Rua for seventh place, one point ahead of Torres.

Bowles and Torres return to action on March 6, when the WEC puts on a card that shows off the depth of the 135-pound class. But that still might not be enough to settle matters, as they both take on competition capable of throwing a monkey wrench into an anticipated rematch.

Bowles, who has won all eight of his career fights by finish and has proven equally adept on his feet as on the ground, defends his title against the methodical Dominick Cruz, whose only career loss in 15 fights was to Urijah Faber at featherweight. And Torres, who won 17 fights in a row before his title loss, has a tough challenge of his own as he meets the Faber-trained Joe Benavidez, who enters with an 11-1 career record.

The March 6 card kicks off a frenetic spring season of MMA action. Between the WEC event and the Lyoto Machida-Mauricio Rua rematch on May 8, the entire top 10, with the exception of Fedor Emelianenko, is scheduled to fight. That means the list you see below could be changed dramatically come Memorial Day.

This month's Yahoo! Sports Top 10 poll features 19 top mixed martial arts reporters from leading sports web sites, newspapers, wire services and blogs. Fighters receive 10 points for a first-place vote, nine for a second, etc., down to one point for a 10th-place vote. Fighters who have not fought for 12 months are ineligible for consideration until after their next fight (thus, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson will be ineligible starting with next month's ballot) and fighters under suspension for banned substances are ineligible for the duration of their suspensions.

The panel: Carlos Arias, The Orange County Register; Denny Burkholder, CBSSports.com; Elias Cepeda, Inside Fighting; Mike Chiappetta MMAFighting.com and Fight! Magazine; Steve Cofield, Cage Writer and ESPN Radio 1100 in Las Vegas; Dave Doyle Yahoo! Sports; Ben Fowlkes SportsIllustrated.com. and Cage Potato; Josh Gross SportsIllustrated.com; Ariel Helwani Versus.com and MMAFighting.com; Kevin Iole Yahoo! Sports; 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.

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Henderson

10. Dan Henderson
Points: 21
Affiliation: Strikeforce
Weight class: Middleweight/Light heavyweight
Hometown: Murrieta, Calif.
Record: 25-7 (won past three)
Last month's ranking: unranked
Most recent result: def. Michael Bisping, R2 KO, July 11
Analysis: All but confirmed for an intriguing April match against Jake Shields in his Strikeforce debut.

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Torres

9. Miguel Angel Torres
Points: 35
Affiliation: WEC
Weight class: Bantamweight
Hometown: East Chicago, Ind.
Record: 36-2 (lost last one)
Last month's ranking: 8
Most recent result: lost to Brian Bowles, R1 TKO, Aug. 9
Analysis:Torres is a notoriously intense competitor and has been chewing on his loss for six months, which could be bad news for Benavidez.

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Rua

7t. Mauricio Rua
Points: 36
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Light heavyweight
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 18-4 (lost last one)
Last month's ranking: 7
Most recent result: lost to Lyoto Machida, unanimous decision, Oct. 24
Analysis: One has to figure Rua is cooking up something to complement the ruthless leg kicks that slowly wore Machida down in their first fight.

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Bowles

7t. Brian Bowles
Points: 36
Affiliation: WEC
Weight class: Bantamweight (WEC bantamweight champion)
Hometown: Athens, Ga.
Record: 8-0
Last month's ranking: 9
Most recent result: def. Miguel Torres, R1 TKO, Aug. 9
Analysis: Fair or not, likely to face questions until he meets Torres again.

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Aldo

6. Jose Aldo
Points: 70
Affiliation: WEC
Weight class: Featherweight (WEC featherweight champion)
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Record: 16-1 (won last nine)
Last month's ranking: 6
Most recent result: def. Mike Brown, R2 TKO, Nov. 18
Analysis: No one can say the new champ is getting an easy road, as he faces a motivated Urijah Faber in Faber's hometown of Sacramento on April 24.

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Machida

5. Lyoto Machida
Points: 107
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Light heavyweight (UFC light heavyweight champion)
Hometown: Belem, Brazil
Record: 16-0 (won last 16)
Last month's ranking: 5
Most recent result: def. Mauricio Rua, unanimous decision, Oct. 24
Analysis: Machida isn't likely to get two straight razor-thin decisions after the controversy his first fight against Rua caused. Will that be enough to push him out of his stylistic comfort zone?

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Penn

4. B.J. Penn
Points: 126 (one first-place vote)
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Lightweight (UFC lightweight champion)
Hometown: Hilo, Hawaii
Record: 15-5-1 (won last two)
Last month's ranking: 4
Most recent result: def. Diego Sanchez, R5 TKO, Dec. 12
Analysis: Penn will be the prohibitive favorite against Frank Edgar on April 10, but then, Tyson Griffin and Sean Sherk were also expected to roll over Edgar.

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St. Pierre

2t. Georges St. Pierre
Points: 158 (4 first-place votes)
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Welterweight (UFC welterweight champion)
Hometown: Saint-Isidore, Quebec
Record: 19-2 (won last six)
Last month's ranking: 2
Most recent result: def. Thiago Alves, unanimous decision, July 11
Analysis:Does anyone out there actually believe Dan Hardy is going to mount a serious threat to GSP?

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Emelianenko

2t. Fedor Emelianenko
Points: 158 (6 first-place votes)
Affiliation: Strikeforce/M-1 (never lost PRIDE title)
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Stary Oskol, Russia
Record: 31-1, one no-contest (won last 11)
Last month's ranking: 3
Most recent result: def. Brett Rogers, R2 KO, Nov. 7
Analysis: As of this writing, at least, Fedor does not have an opponent on the docket. That puts him at one fight in the past 13 months and counting. With the UFC heavyweight division heating up, that's a long time for Emelianenko to stay out of the spotlight.

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Silva

1. Anderson Silva
Points: 167 (8 first-place votes)
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Middleweight (UFC middleweight champion)
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 24-4 (won last 10)
Last month's ranking: 1
Most recent result: def. Forrest Griffin, R1 KO, Aug. 8
Analysis: Matchup with Demian Maia is underwhelming, but you can't blame Silva or the UFC for this one, since Vitor Belfort had to pull out of their scheduled April 10 fight with an injury and Maia was the best available option.

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Votes for others: Gegard Mousasi 17; Quinton Jackson, Brock Lesnar 8; Urijah Faber 7; Cain Velasquez 5; Shinya Aoki, Mike Brown, Rashad Evans, Jon Fitch 4; Jake Shields 2.

Upcoming matches for ranked fighters: No. 9 Miguel Torres vs. Joe Benavidez, March 6, Columbus; No. 7t Brian Bowles vs. Dominick Cruz, March 6, Columbus; No. 2t. Georges St. Pierre vs. Dan Hardy, March 27, Newark, N.J.

Last month's rankings

MMAWeekly's divisional rankings

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