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Anderson Silva comes in at number two on SLAM!'s first pound-for-pound top 10 ranking, one spot...

Anderson Silva comes in at number two on SLAM!'s first pound-for-pound top 10 ranking, one spot behind Fedor Emelianenko. (UFC Photo)

NEIL SPRINGER -- SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 3:22 PM ET

Fans of mixed martial arts, like those who follow other sports, endlessly debate who is the top competitor in the world.

One of the biggest arguments in MMA is which fighter is the best, pound for pound. In other words, throw out any obvious size differences and try to pick who is the better fighter.

At the risk of making a sweeping generalization, you can almost split MMA fans into two groups – those who feel only UFC fighters are worthy of mention and, well, everyone else.

However you choose to look at it though, competition is stiff in MMA at the moment and there is a slew of spectacular athletes out there. Georges St. Pierre’s popularity in Canada is likely unsurpassed but does that make him the pound for pound best? Not necessarily.

So, with that in mind, here is my attempt to make sense of it all. Argue amongst yourselves.

(Note: This list will be updated whenever there is movement in the top 10.)

10. Miguel Torres (37-2)

A firm fixture in the top five for the last year, Torres suffered a devastating knockout at the hands of Brian Bowles last weekend at WEC 42. The loss marked the end of a 17-fight win streak and cost him his bantamweight championship.

However, prior to the bout, Torres was a wrecking machine.

A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt under Carlson Gracie, Torres also sports strong Muay Thai striking skills. Over the course of his career, he has submitted 22 opponents and knocked out another nine, earning only six of his 37 wins by decision.

9. Brian Bowles (8-0)

This past weekend at WEC 42, Bowles shocked the MMA world with his first-round knockout of Torres.

Torres appeared to have Bowles hurt with a straight right and began to charge at him with punches. Bowles put his hands up and retreated backwards to weather the storm. As Torres continued his flurry, Bowles countered with a well-placed right hand, dropping the bantamweight champion. He then the followed it up with some nasty ground-and-pound to earn the biggest win of his career.

Though Bowles only has eight wins under his belt, none of those fights have gone the distance.

8. Dan Henderson (25-7)

One of the toughest competitors in MMA history, Henderson has a chin of granite and hands of stone. After 32 professional bouts, he’s never been knocked out and has only been submitted three times – the similarly-named Nogueira brothers, Antonio Rodrigo and Antonio Rogerio, and Anderson Silva hold the honour.

In his first bout back in the UFC following a lengthy run in PRIDE – where he simultaneously held the welterweight (183-pound) and middleweight (205-pound) titles – Henderson fought Quinton Jackson in a 25-minute war, losing a close decision.

Henderson is currently on a three-fight winning streak, which includes a split decision over former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin and a brutal knockout of Michael Bisping.

7. Quinton Jackson (30-7)

Since debuting in the UFC, Jackson has cemented himself as one of the top light-heavyweights in the world.

In his second fight with the organization, he ended Chuck Liddell’s title reign in less than two minutes. He also earned a measure of revenge over long-time rival Wanderlei Silva, knocking him out in just over three minutes.

Jackson’s only loss in the UFC came against Forrest Griffin in a fight that should have been ruled a draw.

6. Mike Thomas Brown (22-4)

Going into his WEC 36 bout with featherweight champion Urijah Faber, Brown was considered a heavy underdog. In a stunning upset, Brown countered a spinning-elbow attempt with a nasty right hook, dropping Faber. Brown followed it up with strikes on the ground to capture the title.

Brown then proved that lightning can strike twice, when he earned a unanimous decision in a rematch with Faber at WEC 41.

Currently riding a 10-fight win streak, Brown has won 12 of his career fights by submission.

5. B.J. Penn (14-5-1)

Perhaps the most naturally-gifted fighter in MMA history, there was a time when Penn didn’t have to train properly to reach the top. However, now that he’s taking his career more seriously, he has the potential to beat any lightweight in the world.

At UFC 101, Penn dominated Kenny Florian before earning the submission victory in the fourth round.

His wins reads like a who’s who of MMA – Matt Hughes, Sean Sherk, Renzo Gracie, Takanori Gomi and Caol Uno.

His only recent loss came at the hands of St. Pierre, the welterweight champion, at UFC 94. However, moving up a weight class and losing to one of the best in the world isn’t justification for bumping him from the top five.

4. Lyoto Machida (15-0)

A crafty and elusive fighter, Machida has finally reached the top of the UFC mountain. Not only is he one of the most skilled competitors today, he’s also one of the most unique and unorthodox – utilizing Shotokan karate as his base and adapting it for MMA competition.

But, he’s more than just a stand-up fighter, owning a black belt in BJJ.

Machida’s style used to elicit boos from fans during his earlier UFC bouts. An exciting, unanimous-decision victory over former light-heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz turned the tide somewhat. Following a vicious knockout of Thiago Silva at UFC 94, Machida has become a fan favourite.

At UFC 98, Machida became the first man to not only beat Evans, but to knock him unconscious.

3. Georges St. Pierre (19-2)

One of the most dynamic competitors in MMA, St. Pierre has beaten all the best welterweight competitors.

If you break down his skill set, there isn’t one element at which he doesn’t excel. His wrestling ability is possibly the best in MMA; he’s a striker with excellent hands and kicks; he can submit anyone and has recently earned his black belt in BJJ; his conditioning is second to none; and his ground-and-pound is nasty.

To make matters worse – for his opponents that is – he seamlessly blends everything together. His transitions are spectacular.

This skill set makes St. Pierre a fighter who can neutralize anyone he steps into the cage with.

2. Anderson Silva (25-4)

While it’s one thing to neutralize an opponent, it’s something completely different to humiliate him.

Enter Anderson Silva.

Though he received harsh criticism for his performances against Thales Leites and Patrick Cote, at UFC 101 he redeemed himself at the expense of former light-heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin.

In the bout, the middleweight champion dodged his head around Griffin’s punches like he was Neo in The Matrix. In the first round alone, he dropped Griffin three times – the third signaling the end of the bout.

Needless to say, when Silva is motivated and lets his hands go, he has the potential to finish anyone in MMA.

1. Fedor Emelianenko (30-1)

Though Emelianenko has come under fire for his more casual fight schedule, he remains a puzzle no one has been able to solve.

His sole loss was the result of a cut from an accidental head butt from Tsuyoshi Kohsaka. At PRIDE Bushido 6, he avenged the loss in brutal fashion.

Emelianenko possesses heavy hands, a ferocious ground-and-pound game and top-notch submissions. But he also excels at reading the tempo of a fight and adjusting accordingly to prevent his opponent from executing his game plan.

Emelianenko has also found himself in tons of trouble in the past – this includes being slammed on his head by Kevin Randleman – but he always remains composed and turns the fight around.

Look at the tough spots Emelianenko has successfully worked his way out of during his career. None of the other fighters in the top five even come close.

His skills and fight record, combined with his guts and determination, earns him the top spot as the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter – a position he will hold until he loses or retires.


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