No. 1 Lyoto Machida
The top pound-for-pound spot is always a hotly contested debate. A concise, fair argument could be made for several world class fighters. Yet, I have Machida atop the standings as of right now.
After seven fights in the UFC, the elusive and enigmatic fighter has yet to lose a round. At no point has he been truly threatened and he has dispatched top notch competition with relative ease.
The karate-based fighter continues to improve with each fight, and has yet to meet an opponent that has forced him into a battle. If this sort of dominance continues, Machida may find himself entrenched as one of the best fighters of all time.
No. 2 Georges St. Pierre
GSP is without question the most complete fighter the sport has ever seen. He seamlessly fuses boxing, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and many other disciplines and is considered the prototype athlete for the new breed of MMA fighters.
Currently on a five-fight win streak, GSP has thoroughly dominated some of the top-ten welterweights in the world. In what was billed as one of the biggest fights in MMA history, GSP dismantled B.J. Penn through four rounds before the fight was stopped.
If he performs as admirably against the always-dangerous Thiago Alves, then a proposed superfight with Anderson Silva may become a reality and give him the opportunity to elevate his reputation to legendary status.
No. 3 Fedor Emelianenko
"The Last Emperor" is the most revered fighter in the sport and arguably the greatest of all-time. With a nearly unblemished record and scores of victories over heavyweight elites, there is no denying his skills.
While many pundits have anointed Emelianenko MMA’s kingpin, I have relegated him to third. Talent-wise, he may still be the best fighter in the world. However, with his string of lackluster opponents, infrequent fights and his unsteady performance against Andrei Arlovski, his star power has been slightly diminished.
Still, an impressive victory over Josh Barnett at Affliction "Trilogy" would once again solidify his place as the top dog among his peers.
No. 4 Anderson Silva
Another fighter who deserves first-place consideration, Silva has taken the UFC by storm. Having reeled off nine straight victories inside the octagon, Silva has brutalized established stars in vicious fashion.
But his last three opponents have been undeserving, and frankly unspectacular. Against Patrick Cote and Thales Leites, Silva underachieved and was content coasting to victory. Despite utilizing an efficient strategy, he looked lackadaisical and disinterested in his previous two bouts.
If he wants to reclaim some of his past allure and instill the same kind of fear as years past, he needs to make a statement against Forrest Griffin in his next fight.
No. 5 B.J. Penn
Penn’s achievements as a fighter have been marred as of late by his incessant "grease gate" complaints and emphatic loss to GSP. But don’t be fooled, Penn had looked unstoppable before his last bout, dominating lightweight stalwarts like Sean Sherk and Joe Stevenson.
Unfortunately, Penn may never live up this his moniker as “The Prodigy.” As physically gifted a fighter as we have seen, Penn must make the most of his opportunity at greatness before his window closes. In order to re-establish his reputation as arguably the world’s best, he needs to put on a clinic against tough-as-nails Kenny Florian.
Coming just short of making a prediction, Penn seems truly flustered by his loss to GSP and a changing of the guard in the UFC’s lightweight division may be upon us.
No. 6 Miguel Torres
There is no denying this 135-pounder's skills or heart. My problem with him being ranked in the top five is that every one of his fights is a war. To me, elite fighters must not only win matches against top opposition, but do so in dominating fashion. They must rise to the occasion and look and fight noticeably better than their opponents.
Torres is resilient, tough and talented, but all of his bouts result in narrow victories. In order for me to truly appreciate him, I need to see him thoroughly destroy a top contender, and only then will I elevate his status.
No. 7 Rampage Jackson
Rampage is one of the most recognizable figures in the sport. At times, his boisterous personality and outlandish ring attire is more noticeable than his fighting. That is, until he knocks you out.
The wolf-howling Jackson has come a long way since his days in Pride. His entire skill-set has evolved and he has transitioned from a one-dimensional striker, into a lethal, well-rounded machine. With knockout power in both hands, outstanding strength for his weight class and quality takedown defense, he shows flashes of a new age Chuck Liddell.
Although he lost a close decision to Forrest Griffin, Jackson has bounced back with solid performances over Keith Jardine and Wanderlei Silva. When Rampage is focused, he is one of the most dangerous fighters in the world.
No. 8 Rashad Evans
Despite being the world champ, Evans entered his first title defense against Machida as an underdog. And after the shellacking he took, the line proved to be an accurate one.
But don’t sleep on Evans. He is still growing as a fighter and has displayed an array of different talents. First and foremost, Evans is a quality wrestler with a good defense combined with nasty takedowns. Secondly, Evans has some of the quickest hands in the division. The explosion he exhibited against Liddell and Griffin was scary. And lastly, he has some of the best footwork in the sport.
Given all these positives, Evans should be a mainstay in the division for years to come and provide a difficult challenge for any competitor.
No. 9 Mike Brown
Soft spoken, humble and polite, you won’t find Mike Brown at the center of controversy. The American Top Team product has never sought the limelight, but after years of fighting, his performances have thrust him into the limelight.
Coming off of his 10th straight victory—two of which came at the expense of the seemingly indestructible Urijah Faber—Brown has made a career out of grinding opponents down and beating people up. It has taken a long time, but he is now getting the respect he deserves.
In spite of being only 5’6", Brown can bang with the best of them. He claims to enjoy sparring with teammate Thiago Alves and has proven he can strike and wrestle. After another dominating performance, it’s become clear that Brown has a stranglehold on the featherweight division.
No. 10 Kenny Florian
I’ll be honest, deciding on who the 10th best fighter was my hardest decision. I’ve always been a Florian skeptic and placing him amongst the world’s best was a difficult decision. I thought fighters like Thiago Alves, Urijah Faber, Shinya Aoki and even Dan Henderson deserved consideration above Florian.
But then I began re-watching his fights. I started with his destruction at the hands of Diego Sanchez and didn’t stop until I witnessed him embarrass Joe Stevenson. Fact is, this guy has improved dramatically in all facets of the fight game. His striking is lethal. He takes angles, employs precise footwork, and uses kicks, elbows, knees and punches. There's no doubt his stand-up has become the total package.
The dedication to his wrestling is also noticeable. Since his loss to Sean Sherk, he has been incredibly difficult to take down and has actually made a habit of throwing his opponents off guard by utilizing good shots. He can also fight off his back and slap on submissions.
Simply put, Kenny Florian has become one of the most well rounded fighters in his division. After six straight convincing wins, Florian has shown me he is ready to make his mark as one of the best in the world.