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5 Oz. of Pain World Rankings Updated for February

The busy fight month of January is now over and it was time for me to update’s rankings from top to bottom. You can click here to see the updated rankings in their entirety.

January saw top ranked middleweights Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson go head-to-head; top ranked heavyweights Fedor Emelianenko and Andrei Arlovski square off; and top five pound-for-pound fighters Georges St. Pierre and B.J. Penn matched up in an epic clash. Additionally, we saw scores of other top ten caliber fighters involved in high-profile fights.

There were several major changes in the rankings, starting with my pound-for-pound rankings. One change was obvious and the other will cause a great deal of debate. The first major change was the need to move Penn down in my pound-for-pound rankings. St. Pierre was already ranked ahead of him at number three but I felt compelled to create more separation between the two because their bout at UFC 94 was not close.

However, it should be noted that the decision to move Penn down wasn’t based on his performance alone because in order to move someone down, it means I have to move someone up. But Lyoto Machida showed Saturday night that he was worthy of moving up. In defeating the previously undefeated Thiago Silva, Machida improved to 14-0 and added yet another big win to his resume.

Where the controversy will come in is the fact that the UFC’s light heavyweight champion, Rashad Evans, is now ranked behind a fighter that does not hold a major singles title. While I believe titles are important and should count for a lot, I don’t believe a belt should automatically make a fighter ranked number one. I am also prepared to receive an onslaught of comments claiming that I am disrespecting Evans even though that’s not the case.

Evans is a great fighter whose skills are overlooked by many in the fight game. As such, my decision to move Machida ahead of him is not an indictment of Evans’ accomplishments. The decision to move Machida ahead of him is based on the fact that I simply consider Machida to be the better fighter at this point and if the two met head-to-head, I believe Machida would win the fight in decisive fashion. So let me be clear: there’s nothing wrong Rashad Evans; I just believe that Machida is better.

I believe the point of a top pound-for-pound list is to rank the best overall fighters regardless of weight from one-to-ten. It’s not about ranking title holders or ranking resumes. Based on that logic, I felt I needed to be consistent in my view and move Urijah Faber back into the top ten. Mike Thomas Brown holds a win over him and now owns the WEC featherweight title once held by Faber but I believe Faber is the better fighter and that when the two have their rematch that Faber will avenge his previous loss.

Many changes were also made to my rankings is the individual weight classes. At heavyweight, Josh Barnett’s win at “Day of Reckoning” coupled with Arlovski’s loss on the same show prompted me to swap the two fighters. Barnett is now my number two ranked heavyweight in the world with Arlovski falling to three.

At light heavyweight, Machida is now my number one ranked 205 pound fighter with Evans falling to two. With his win at 205 at UFC 93 earlier this month, I believe that Henderson must once again be viewed as a top ten light heavyweight and I now have him ranked as the seventh best in the world in the weight class. With Henderson’s addition, Keith Jardine falls out of the top ten… for now. A win over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in March would easily justify moving him back up. With his loss at UFC 94, Thiago Silva also falls from seven to ten.

At middleweight, Henderson moves out of the top ten as I now view him as a light heavyweight fighter until he competes at 185 pounds again. Even though Rich Franklin’s last two fights have occurred at light heavyweight, I still consider him the number two ranked middleweight in the world. However, if he doesn’t get a win at 185 in the next few months, he will be in jeopardy of falling behind Robbie Lawler and Gegard Mousasi. Two other significant changes are the debuts in my top ten at 185 by both Vitor Belfort and Demian Maia. Maia’s addition is long overdue and Belfort’s win over Matt Lindland at “Day of Reckoning” was enough in my mind to move him into the top ten. While it’s only been two wins for Belfort at 185, a win over a top ten fighter means a lot. Prior to the loss, Lindland had been a consensus top ten middleweight and the impressive victory against him by Belfort justifies what essentially amounts to a swap.

At welterweight, the only change made was Jake Shields dropping from number two all the way to five. Because Shields is not in the UFC, he’s not able to fight the best in his weight class. He compensated for that by fighting frequently and dominating his competition. Caught in a state of purgatory, Shields has been unable to remain active and it’s really hurt his stock with fighters such as Thiago Alves, Jon Fitch, and Josh Koscheck all having recorded wins since he last fought.

There were no changes at lightweight, as Penn’s loss occured at welterweight and nobody behind him won a major fight. As disappointing as Saturday’s performance was, I still believe he’s the best lightweight fighter in the world until proven otherwise.

Finally, at featherweight, I felt compelled to move Faber back up following his dominant victory against Jens Pulver at WEC 38. Again, Mike Thomas Brown has a head-to-head win over Faber and holds the most prestigious 145 pound title in the world, but I still consider Faber to be the better fighter.

Again, CLICK HERE to see the updated rankings in their entirety.

  • seth b says:

    “I simply consider Machida to be the better fighter at this point and if the two met head-to-head, I believe Machida would win the fight in decisive fashion.”

    While it is nice to see you placing Evans on the list at all, I must say that it is also disappointing. It is disappointing because you said the same thing before ortiz-evens, you said the same thing before lidell-evans, and you said the same thing before griffin-evans. As you may recall, evans won all three.

    “So let me be clear: there’s nothing wrong Rashad Evans; I just believe that Machida is better.”

    I don’t recall ever reading anything on this site that was complimentary towards evans, and even this is a backward compliment. I don’t put a lot of faith in any rankings system in MMA done by anyone, so I am not really concerned with where anyone is located on your list. I am just disappointed because you found a way to slight evans (yet again) when he had nothing to do with any action taking place this month (or next).

    I look forward to reading your entry upon evans defeat of machida, but I already have a pretty good idea of how it will go….

    Editor’s Note” You clearly missed the point that I spent a lot of words trying to convey. Again, my decision to move Machida ahead in the rankings is not an indictment of Evans’ skills. And Seth, you need to read the site more often. In recent months we’ve been very complimentary of Evans. The assertions you make in your post simply are not accurate. The confrontational tone in your post is also simply unwarranted. Someone has a different opinion than you — accept it. Feel free to argue the merits of the opinion expressed but there’s no need to try and make things personal.

  • neijia says:

    Of course rankings are subjective so no one has to agree, but as they go, I tend to agree with Sam’s. Evans is impressive (and I don’t see any slighting here), but the way Machida wins is just incredibly impressive. He delivers damage while taking none. He controls all the distance, timing, and pace. He knows his opponents, but his opponents don’t know him. Isn’t that the definition of martial arts mastery? Isn’t that a big reason we rank Silva, Fedor, and GSP so high?

    If we wanted to watch fighters “in the pocket” exchanging blow for blow (pretty entertaining, really), we could watch boxing or replays of great slugfests like Griffin-Bonnar, but if we’re trying to rank fighters, it’s a different matter.

    Speaking of rankings, Jon Jones is going to make this list in the near future.

  • seth b says:

    Thanks for your note Sam. Sorry if I came off confrontational, but I was just trying to adress the specific statements you made in the post. You state that you believe that machida would beat evans. That is fine, it is your opinion. Heck, I like Machida too. I just wanted to point out that you always seem to pick against evans. That is all. Show me one time where you personally have picked evans before a fight and I will recant.

    I have nothing personal against you, after all you said yourself that you are prepared to receive an onslaught of comments claiming that you are disrespecting evans. I feel that if either of us is trying to make it personal it is you with your someone has a different opinion than you – accept it comment. Talk about unwarranted.

    I subscribe to your site and read faithfully. I have seen several site upgrades and exploding readership. You offer insight, commentary, and behind the scenes information that I have come to enjoy. Your partnership with CBS is helping push the sport into the national spotlight and I applaud you for it. Now those are compliments, all of them personal, and all of them deserved.

    Editor’s Note: Why do I have to “pick” Evans to win a fight in order to have to prove I respect him?

  • Stan says:

    After Fedor, I think I disagree with every one of the HW rankings. Sylvia’s still in there? He has one win since 2006 and it was against Brandon Vera. That’s all it takes for someone to get into the top 10 Heavyweight MMA fighers in the world? Lesner and Couture both have far more impressive victories in that time. Sylvia was talking up a fight with Ken Shamrock so things are not exactly looking good for the guy.

    And I don’t see how Mir is not #2 if you compare Mir’s victory over Nogeira (who had been in the top 10 overall p4p) and Barnett’s victory over Yvel. Mir dominated Nogeira, Barnett was not nearly as impressive against lesser competition.

  • Hartnell says:

    Other than the impressive victory over Nog, Mir has basically been a slug since he came back from his injury. I like Mir and I’m glad he beat Lesnar but beating a fighter with one fight under his belt shouldn’t do much for a fighters rankings. As for Barnett, since Mir’s return, he’s won both his fights with Affliction and made it to the finals of the Pride Open Weight GP.

  • seth b says:

    I think that you are missing my point. Previous to your new rankings evans was in the top spot in his division. You moved Machida above of him because he beat evans in a fight which has not even occurred. Furthermore, you have a history of always picking against evans so of course machida wins in your fantasy fight.

    I am of the thinking that you have to beat the man to be the man, evans did, and that is why they have these fights in the first place. What other title belt holder has been removed from the top spot in your rankings, by another fighter in his organization, without losing a fight? I say simply leave him at the top until he gets knocked off the top. Anything less is disrespectful and unappreciative of his past accomplishments.

    I appreciate the openess with which you have continued to respond and applaud you for continuing in a conversation which you could have avoided or ignored. Keep up the good work.

  • Stan says:

    Fair enough, but Mir beat 2 people on the top 10 HW list in 2008, the only other person to do that is Fedor. The victory over Lesner obviously comes with the caveats about Lesner’s inexperience and the fact Lesner was pounding the crap out of Mir before the submission.

    What Barnett did in 2006 was great, although he did lose to the same Nogueira that Mir just dismantled. From my perspective though, he didn’t do nearly as much in 2008 as Mir did to justify a second-to-Fedor ranking. That’s not his fault, as Affliction was giving him beatable opponents to set up a fight with Fedor down the road. But still, when you have a guy like Mir showing dominating striking and knocking out the guy that probably topped everyone’s “Cannot be Knocked Out” list… and striking isn’t even his strong suit… you’d have to see some pretty impressive performances from Barnett to keep pace. In my opinion, he hasn’t done that.

    Barnett has beaten 2 people on the HW list, a split decision over Nogueira (which Nog later avenged) and the juiced win over Couture in 2002. I just wonder who exactly Barnett beat that made him worthy of his spot?

  • screwface says:

    seth b is 100% right, sam i love ya, i love your site, and we have differing opinions a lot. but youve never been a rashad fan and all your articles in the past has shown this. and thats cool your entitled to your opinion. but after rashad beats machida in what i believe to be a paint drying fashion, because both fighters are counter masters. rashad isnt gonna be dumb enough to chase after machida like his past opponents. so this is gonna be pure chess and a possible 5 round decision. but with rashad squeaking out the win. this is just a bad matchup as far as fans are concerned. but after this happens, we cant keep doing this same dance :p leave rashad at #1 till somebody manages to beat him pls. hes an intelligent fighter who knows how to adjust his game to win on the fly. sometimes it aint pretty, but its always a win. and yes same can be said about machida. difference is machida counts on fighters chasing him. you want the belt you gotta bring it, not expect it to come to you. rashad is too smart for that.

    Editor’s Note: The second sentence in your comment is not accurate. Again, my articles concerning Evans in recent months have been extremely favorable. You either are not reading them or are being very selective in what you reference. Either way, the statement is not accurate.

  • Rich S. says:

    First off,
    guys, in the past, i suppose we’ve had reason to believe that Sam didn’t like Rashad, or maybe didn’t feel he was the real deal.. But you MUST admit that since about the time he KO’d Liddell, all comments on Rashad from these articles have been positive and respectful..

    No disrespect to Alves, Fitch, or Kos but i think Shields should be 2nd to GSP..
    Also maybe Lawler and Mousousi should switch because Robbie doesn’t seem to be active right now.. And Condit and Swick should definitely be above Hughes, not only has Hughes been inactive for a while, but he’s coming off a loss, and neither Condit nor Swick have lost in 2 years.. I think Florian, Thomson, and Hansen should all be above JZ.. I’m not sure why JZ’s #4 in the ranks when his last two bouts were a NC and a loss.. I agree with the FW ranks, i think Faber’s still the best.. the HW ranks look good but i really am amazed that Lesnar and Couture are below GG and Sylvia.. that puzzles me.. Lesnar, inexperienced as he may be, is the HW champ..

    And finally,
    I can’t really disagree with the top 3 in the p4p rankings because, when i try to think of a reason why GSP should be above Fedor, i can’t..
    Spider, Fedor, and GSP are just soooo close in ability [don’t take that the wrong way] that it’s really hard to pick their places in that top 3..

  • t says:

    Rashad is overrated.

  • DamonO says:

    Just so everyone knows, Sam has not been against Rashad since he KO’d Liddell. I went through all of the articles in the previous months that mentioned Rashad Evans’ name and written by Sam himself. I remember the articles before that Sam had written but there has been a good amount of time since then. I shared the same opinion as did many people that Rashad would not win against Chuck and again against Forrest. He overcame both and I believe that Sam is now a believer that Rashad does have what it takes to be in that #1 LHW spot. I don’t agree that Lyoto Machida has taken his place but it’s all personal opinion and I have mine as well. For instance, I believe that GSP should be current #2 pound for pound considering he took out BJ is very good fashion. We’ll soon see I guess. And yes I know that they fought before but BJ did not, at that time, have the elite placement that he has today.

  • Dr.Stoppage says:

    1)GSP-for the most recent win over the toughest competitor.
    2)Fedor – for the second most recent win over the second toughest.
    3)Silva – Re evaluate him after his next fight.

  • Hydroxycut says:

    Evans is a great fighter whose skills are overlooked by many in the fight game. As such, my decision to move Machida ahead of him is not an indictment of Evans’ accomplishments.

  • M B says:

    Sam… can you clarify the reason you didn’t even explain why no UFC heavyweight fighters are in the top 10? I’m not arguging that they should be in the list, but I’d like a rationale statement of why you didn’t even mention them.

    Editor’s Note: I am not sure what you’re talking about. Mir, Nogueira, Gonzaga, Couture, and Lesnar are all ranked in the heavyweight top 10 and all are on the UFC roster. If you’re talking about the pound-for-pound top ten, Emelianenko is the only heavyweight I feel is worthy of the top ten pound-for-pound list.

  • dan says:

    i agree with most of the rankings. though the lightweight one is hard to call, i would rank kenny florian higher.

    also i think brock lesnar would knock arlovski, nogeira and gonzaga out and should be higher up that list.

    i dont think gsp v penn should have affected the p4p because we havent seen gsp fight penn at lightweight, which would be a totally different fight.


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