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Rankings: Fitch finds a way

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Workmanlike. Determined. Dependable. Come up with any blue-collar adjective you can find, and it probably applies to Jon Fitch.

Fitch has stepped into the UFC Octagon 14 times since 2005. Thirteen times he's emerged a winner. The only time his hand wasn't raised was when he fought Georges St. Pierre, a loss that should hardly cause one to feel shame.

Mixed martial arts is a business, one in which a fighter's ability to hype fights and sell tickets seems to be prized nearly as much as their skills in the cage. But Fitch is as concrete of a reminder as any that MMA is, in fact, a sport.

Fitch doesn't fill notebooks with outrageous quotes or make attention-seeking boasts and threats. He simply goes out, fights hard, and wins. And if you win often enough, eventually you'll get your due.

After spending most of the past year just on the outside of the Top 10 looking in, Fitch debuts this month at No. 10. He finished one point ahead of B.J. Penn, who Fitch will meet in the main event of UFC 127 in Australia in February. If Fitch emerges from that fight a winner, the UFC will have run out of reasons to deny him a welterweight title shot.

Fitch isn't the only fighter who debuts in this month's poll. Undefeated Cain Velasquez made short work of Brock Lesnar and debuts at No. 7. Both Lesnar and Lyoto Machida, after a hard-luck, split-decision loss to Quinton Jackson, dropped out of the top 10.


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; 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: 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 drugs of abuse are ineligible to be considered for the duration of their suspensions (including Chael Sonnen, who appeals his test results in front of the California State Athletic Commission on Dec. 2); fighters who have been inactive for more than 12 months are ineligible for consideration until after the completion of their next fight.

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Fitch

10. Jon Fitch
Points: 23
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Welterweight
Hometown: San Jose, Calif.
Record: 23-3, 1 no-contest (won past five)
Last month's ranking: unranked
Most recent result: Def. Thiago Alves, unanimous decision, Aug. 7
Analysis: Would a finish here and there instead of one decision win after another help perception of Fitch? Sure. But there's no denying his results.

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Shields

9. Jake Shields
Points: 35
Affiliation: UFC
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: Didn't help himself with a listless performance in his UFC debut.

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Emelianenko

8. Fedor Emelianenko
Points: 51
Affiliation: Strikeforce/M-1
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Stary Oskol, Russia
Record: 31-2, one no-contest (lost last one)
Last month's ranking: T-6
Most recent result: Lost to Fabricio Werdum, R1 submission, June 26
Analysis: Emelianenko is a year removed from his most recent victory and has no next fight in sight.

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Velasquez

7. Cain Velasquez
Points: 64
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Heavyweight (UFC heavyweight champion)
Hometown: Salinas, Calif.
Record: 9-0 (won past nine)
Last month's ranking: unranked
Most recent result: def. Brock Lesnar, R1 TKO, Oct. 23
Analysis: Has passed every test with flying colors. Next up: Junior dos Santos and his nasty striking.

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Cruz

6. Dominick Cruz
Points: 73
Affiliation: WEC
Weight class: Bantamweight (WEC bantamweight champion)
Hometown: San Diego
Record: 16-1 (has won past seven)
Last month's ranking: T-6
Most recent result: Def. Joseph Benavidez, split decision, Aug. 18
Analysis: Has to get past the underrated Scott Jorgensen on Dec. 16 before he officially can become the first UFC 135-pound champ.

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Edgar

5. Frank Edgar
Points: 111
Affiliation: UFC
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: Has the chance to avenge the only blemish on his record when he meets Gray Maynard on New Year's evening.

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Rua

4. Mauricio Rua
Points: 118
Affiliation: UFC
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: Most recent rumors have his return from knee surgery pegged for a Match Abu Dhabi date with Rashad Evans.

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Aldo

3. Jose Aldo
Points: 156
Affiliation: WEC
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: Had to pull out of Jan. 1 fight with Josh Grispi due to a compressed vertebrae.

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Silva

2. Anderson Silva
Points: 186 (9 first-place votes)
Affiliation: UFC
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: Super Bowl weekend showdown with Vitor Belfort looms.

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St. Pierre

1. Georges St. Pierre
Points: 191 (11 first-place votes)
Affiliation: UFC
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: Some fighters look to avenge losses. St. Pierre's bar is set so high, he'll be looking to avenge the guy who last won a round against him three years ago in Josh Koscheck.

More

• Votes for others: B.J. Penn 22; Rashad Evans 17; Gilbert Melendez 13; Lyoto Machida 8; Jon Jones 7; Joe Benavidez, Gray Maynard 3; Urijah Faber 2.

• Upcoming matches for top 10 fighters: No. 1 Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck, Dec. 11; No. 6 Dominick Cruz vs. Scott Jorgensen, Dec. 16

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