Top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world

NEIL SPRINGER -- SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

So you’re new to mixed martial arts and the UFC. You’ve heard some of the big names, like Chuck Liddell, Quinton Jackson or Randy Couture, but you’re not sure who a lot of these other guys are.

Well in order to guide you on your newly found MMA quest, here are my top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

5. (The Prodigy) B.J. Penn – Lightweight

Fight record: 11 wins – 4 losses – 1 draw

Penn could soon be only the second person in UFC history to hold championships in two different weight classes. Regardless of the outcome of Sean Sherk’s steroid appeal, he is the top contender for the next title shot.

Perhaps the most naturally gifted fighter in MMA, Penn sports some of the best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu around. Though his stand-up isn’t as good as his ground game, he has shown in the past that he can hang with almost anyone.

Once the bell rings, Penn brings a super-aggressive and intense style that few can keep up with.

He’s been criticized in the past for not being in good enough shape to go the distance, but that was when he competed in the welterweight division. Penn is at his absolute best when competing at 155 lbs. – he looked phenomenal against Jens Pulver and has the potential to rule the lightweight division with an iron fist.

4. Anderson (The Spider) Silva – Middleweight

Fight record: 19-4-0

Since debuting in the UFC, Silva has been a one-man wrecking crew. He’s knocked out Chris Leben, Rich Franklin, Nate Marquardt and submitted Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Travis Lutter.

The funny thing is, UFC fans have still yet to see everything Silva has to offer. We all know he has nasty and devastating Muay Thai strikes, but with the exception of Lutter, he’s hasn’t truly shown why he is also a BJJ black belt.

To make matters even worse for other fighters, Silva is a very long opponent. This means it’s very hard to get inside his striking range to land your own shots or shoot to take him down.

The current UFC middleweight division is full of great fighters, but if Silva continues fighting the way he has been in his other performances, I can’t imagine anyone taking the title from him anytime soon.

3. Georges (Rush) St. Pierre – Welterweight

Fight record: 13-2-0

GSP has come under a lot of fire lately.

Before his fight with Matt Serra everyone was hailing him as the future of the sport and one of its classiest competitors. After his loss, GSP said he wasn’t mentally and physically ready before the fight, but he wasn’t concerned at the time because he was only facing Serra.

Soon after, his name was mud and everyone, including Dana White, was saying GSP wasn’t mentally tough.

Even his UFC 74 opponent, Josh Koscheck, jumped on the bandwagon calling his heart and chin weak. While we can’t exactly expect class from Kos, I’m surprised how quickly everyone forgets GSP’s track record.

Let’s see, he dominated Matt Hughes in their last fight, destroyed current UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk and, after taking a beating in the first round, mounted a comeback to secure a split decision victory of B.J. Penn.

To date, Koscheck’s biggest achievement is winning a staring contest with Diego Sanchez.

GSP is a true mixed-martial artist – he’s got great striking and an amazing ground game. He bounced back after his loss to Hughes at UFC 50 and he will bounce back from his loss to Serra. Just watch.

2. Mauricio (Shogun) Rua – Light-heavyweight

Fight record: 16-2-0

Rua is considered by many hardcore MMA fans to be the best fighter in the world at 205 lbs. He was a major player in Pride Fighting Championships and is one of only two people to knock out UFC Light-heavyweight Champion Quinton Jackson – the other being Wanderlei Silva.

In 2005, he won the Pride Middleweight Grand Prix, knocking out both Alistair Overeem and Ricardo Arona in the same night.

His only two defeats are a submission loss to Renato Sobral early in his career and by TKO to Mark Coleman after he freakishly broke his arm seconds into the fight.

He’s aggressive, incredibly well-rounded and sure to be a top contender in the light-heavyweight division. Forrest Griffin’s got one hell of a challenge ahead of him.

1. Fedor Emelianenko – Heavyweight

Fight record: 26-1-0

New UFC fans have no doubt heard his name, but many have yet to see him in action.

Fedor Emelianenko is without a doubt the top fighter in the world, and perhaps, the best combatant ever in the sport of MMA.

He is the current Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight champion, having held the title since March of 2003. His list of wins is literally a who’s who of MMA – Mirko Cro Cop, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mark Hunt, Mark Coleman, Ricardo Arona, the list goes on.

Though Fedor is known as being a submission beast – 13 of his 26 wins have come by tapout – he also has incredible knockout power, heart and can definitely take a hit.

In one of the most famous endings in Pride, Fedor was lifted high up into the air and dropped right on his head by Kevin Randleman. Though some have criticized Randleman for not raining in with strikes afterwards, Fedor was still able to turn it around and earn a submission victory with a kimura only seconds later.

His only loss came in 2000 against Tsuyoshi Kohsaka. Seconds into the fight Fedor was caught by an illegal elbow that cut him badly, preventing him from continuing. Normally, Kohsaka would have been disqualified, but because it was a tournament and they needed an opponent for Randy Couture, he was awarded the TKO victory.

He would have his revenge though, as the two met again in 2005. After this first round, the ring doctor determined that Kohsaka couldn’t continue, awarding a TKO win to Fedor.

Rumours have been circulating that UFC is trying to sign him, but the two sides haven’t been able to agree to terms yet. It will be a tragedy if he never graces the octagon.


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