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Top spot in MMA poll is a three-horse race

Yahoo Sports

Fedor Emelianenko has long been considered the world's top mixed martial artist.

The 31-year-old Russian heavyweight was the unanimous No. 1 pick for the first Yahoo! Sports pound-for-pound top 10 list in August.

But heading into November, Emelianenko has a tenuous hold on the top spot, as matters both inside the cage and out had a major impact on this month's rankings.

Inside the octagon, Anderson Silva, the UFC middleweight champ, put on a show in defeating Rich Franklin via TKO in Franklin's hometown of Cincinnati. Silva used state-of-the-art defense to parry Franklin's spirited charge in the first round, then used an awe-inspiring array of strikes to finish the fight in the second.

Away from the action, Emelianenko walked away from millions of dollars offered by UFC to sign with the Mix-1 Fight promotion. Emelianenko has not faced a top-notch heavyweight in two years, and by signing with the unproven M-1, he gives the appearance he is no longer interested in testing himself against the world's best competition. The announcement, in part, prompted Randy Couture's surprise split with UFC.

Emelianenko finished with 114 points to Anderson Silva's 109 and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's 104.

A breakdown of the voting for the top three: Emelianenko received six first-place votes, two seconds, three thirds and two fourths. Silva received four firsts, six seconds, and two fourths, as well as one 10th-place vote that likely kept him out of the hunt for first. Jackson had three first-place votes, two seconds, five thirds, one fifth and two sixths.

Another factor that impacted this month's poll results: There have been some changes to the voting panel. Sam Caplan is no longer part of the poll. Caplan, who is one of the sharpest reporters on the MMA scene, has taken a job with Pro Elite, EliteXC's parent company. As a matter of policy we do not give ballots to reporters who get their paychecks from promoters, which is why UFC.com's Tom Gerbasi, another solid writer, is not a part of the panel. We wish Sam all the best in his new gig.

Joining the poll this month are several worthy reporters: Mike Chiappetta of NBCSports.com; Todd Martin of CBSSports.com; and Franklin McNeil of the Newark Star-Ledger. For links to our pollsters’ sites, go here.

One more note: With the official dissolution of PRIDE, we are no longer listing the defunct company's titleholders in the rankings. For the record, the final PRIDE champions were Emelianenko (heavyweight); Jackson (light heavyweight); Dan Henderson (welterweight) and Takanori Gomi (lightweight).

10. Gilbert Melendez
Points: 20
Affiliation: Strikeforce
Weight class: Lightweight (Strikeforce lightweight champion)
Hometown: Concord, Calif.
Record: 13-0
Last month's ranking: 10
2007 results: def. Tetsuji Kato, unanimous decision, Sept. 29
Analysis: Melendez returned to action with a workman-like win over the tough Kato on Sept. 29. Melendez was working with a broken hand, but pushed the action and was never in serious trouble. Melendez has a money match-up building with Josh "The Punk" Thomson. Now it is up to Strikeforce to make the match.

9. Matt Hughes
Points: 32
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Welterweight
Hometown: Hillsboro, Ill.
Record: 41-5
Last month's ranking: 9
2007 results: def. Chris Lytle, unanimous decision, March 3
Analysis: Barring unforeseen changes, expect the two-time former UFC welterweight champ to settle into this spot until he challenges Matt Serra for the title on Dec. 29.

8. B.J. Penn
Points: 43
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Lightweight/welterweight
Hometown: Hilo, Hawaii
Record: 11-4-1
Last month's ranking: 7
2007 results: def. Jens Pulver, Round 2 TKO, June 23.
Analysis: UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk's appeal of his steroid suspension will be heard before the California State Athletic Commission on Oct. 31. In theory, this means that by this time next month, we should know whom Penn will fight for the title and on what date.

7. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Points: 44
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Vitoria da Conquista, Brazil
Record: 30-4-1
Last month's ranking: 8
2007 results: def. Heath Herring, unanimous decision, July 7.
Analysis: Big Nog got enough love from the new pollsters to nudge him ahead of Penn into the seventh spot. With Couture's abrupt departure from the UFC, Nogueira looks like the odds-on favorite to claim the crown.

6. Randy Couture
Points: 48
Affiliation:Under contract to UFC
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Gresham, Ore.
Record: 16-8
Last month's ranking: 5
2007 results: def. Tim Sylvia, unanimous decision, March 3; def. Gabriel Gonzaga, Round 3 TKO, Aug. 25
Analysis: Couture has earned his spot in the top 10 due to his tremendous performances this year. But did you notice the audience's reaction when Stephan Bonnar and Tim Sylvia mentioned Couture in their post-fight interviews at UFC 77? You could all but hear crickets chirping. The way his departure has been handled makes one wonder if his managers are the same people who came up with New Coke.

5. Dan Henderson
Points: 65
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Light heavyweight
Hometown: Victorville, Calif.
Record: 22-6
Last month's ranking: 3
2007 results: def. Wanderlei Silva, Round 3 KO, Feb. 24; lost to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, decision, Sept. 8
Analysis: I've had confirmation that UFC boss Dana White checks in with these rankings, so Dana, here's a personal request from me to you: Please pony up enough cash to convince Henderson to drop back to middleweight and fight Anderson Silva. Not only does this have the potential to be 2008's match of the year, but you have no one left at 185 pounds whom MMA fans believe have a prayer of beating "The Spider."

4. Georges St. Pierre
Points: 82
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Welterweight
Hometown: Ste. Isidore, Quebec
Record: 14-2
Last month's ranking: 3
2007 results: lost to Matt Serra, Round 1 TKO, April 7; def. Josh Koscheck, decision, Aug. 25
Analysis: Silva's awesome performance against Franklin nudged the middleweight champ ahead of GSP in the standings. St. Pierre is not expected to fight again until he faces the Hughes-Serra winner in 2008.

3. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
Points: 104 (3 first-place votes)
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Light heavyweight (UFC lt. heavyweight champion)
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.
Record: 28-6
Last month's ranking: 4
2007 results: def. Marvin Eastman, Round 2 TKO, Feb. 3; def. Chuck Liddell, Round 1 TKO, May 26; def. Dan Henderson, decision, Sept. 8
Analysis: One could make solid cases that either Rampage, Silva or Couture are the fighters of the year in 2007. In Jackson's case, he excelled while fighting under the pressure of two of the biggest media spotlights in MMA history: First in beating Chuck Liddell for the light heavyweight title, then in defeating Henderson for the unified title.

2. Anderson "Spider" Silva
Points: 109 (4 first-place votes)
Affiliation: UFC
Weight class: Middleweight (UFC middleweight champion)
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
Record: 20-4
Last month's ranking: 4
2007 results: def. Travis Lutter, Round 2 TKO, Feb 3; def. Nate Marquardt, Round 1 TKO, July 7; def. Rich Franklin, Round 2 TKO, Oct. 20
Analysis: What's there to add about Silva that hasn't already been said? How about the awesome ensemble of strikes he unleashed to finish the fight against Franklin? Most fighters, when they sense the kill, tend to lock in and unleash the same type of strikes over and over until the fight is stopped. But Silva mixed up lethal kicks, punches, elbows and knees with ruthless precision from a stand-up position.That's going to be difficult for anyone at his weight class to counter.

1. Fedor Emelianenko
Points: 114 (6 first-place votes)
Affiliation: M-1
Weight class: Heavyweight
Hometown: Stary Oskol, Russia
Record: 26-1 (1 no-contest)
Last month's ranking: 1
2007 results: Defeated Matt Lindland, round 1 submission, April 14
Analysis: By signing with the upstart M-1 promotion, Emelianenko has guaranteed that several more months will pass before he fights again. And when his next fight does occur, there is no guarantee it will be against a top-rated heavyweight. While Fedor deserves respect for the body of work in his career, there are enough doubts about his future commitment to fighting the world's best that seven of the 13 pollsters decided against giving him the top spot.

More

  • Votes for others: Mauricio "Shogun" Rua 14; Urijah Faber 8; Robbie Lawler 7; Kid Yamamoto 7; Takanori Gomi 5; Forrest Griffin 4; Matt Serra 4; Paulo Filho 3; Jon Fitch 1; J.Z. Calvan 1.
  • Ranked fighters competing in November: None.

That's what we think. Now hit us with your opinion. Go to the Yahoo! Sports MMA/Boxing blog and tell us your Top 10.

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