MMA on Tap Top 10 - February 15, 2008


B.J. Penn has moved up in MMA on Tap’s Top 10 rankings after defeating Joe Stevenson to win the vacant UFC lightweight title at UFC 80: Rapid Fire. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Here are the latest MMA on Tap Top 10 fighter rankings. We will be updating these pretty much whenever an adjustment is needed, like after a major event, for example.

The rankings break down into 6 different lists of 10, each of them by division. If you ever want to compare these with your own or just take a look at the latest update, you can find them under the Top 10 category in our features section. The fighter’s previous ranking is listed in parenthesis after the notes on the fighter.

The rankings were tabulated by Bill and myself. Feel free to chime in with your own lists or any adjustments that can be recommended. 

Heavyweight

1. Fedor Emelianenko - The world’s top pound-for-pound fighter and the perennial top heavyweight is hanging on to the top spot by a thread. Emelianenko submitted Hong Man Choi on New Year’s Eve and in the process added yet another sub-par fighter to the list of opponents he has faced over the past two years. Will a potential fight against Randy Couture solidify the Russian’s elite status? Only time will tell. Previous ranking: (1)

2. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira - Nogueira became the first mixed martial artist in history to hold championship gold inside the confines of both the Ultimate Fighting Championship and the PRIDE Fighting Championships as he submitted former two-time champion Tim Sylvia to win the interim UFC heavyweight belt at UFC 81: Breaking Point earlier this month. He also receives a boost in the rankings because of his win. Previous ranking: (3)

3. Randy Couture - Couture drops down a spot with Nogueira’s big win. “The Natural” is currently on a hiatus while he waits to find out whether or not he will be able to take on Emelianenko once the remainder of his UFC contract runs out in October. UFC President Dana White claims that Couture will now be fighting Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira later this year yet recently helped file a lawsuit against him. Should White even hold his breath? Previous ranking: (2)

4. Andrei Arlovski - “The Belarusian” as Mike Goldberg likes to call him has not fought since decisioning Fabricio Werdum in a rather uninspiring effort at UFC 70. Arlovski is now slated to take on undefeated Jake O’Brien at UFC 82: Pride of a Champion next month. The fight is slated to be a preliminary bout, hinting that the bout will most likely be Arlovski’s last with the promotion. Arlovski moves up with Sylvia’s loss. Previous ranking: (5)

5. Fabricio Werdum - Werdum scored a big win when he stopped fellow top ten heavyweight Gabriel Gonzaga last month. The win was his second career victory over Gonzaga. Werdum now finds himself in line for a title shot in a division without many clear cut contenders. Previous ranking: (7)

6. Josh Barnett - After the demise of PRIDE, Barnett decided that he would be better off exchanging barbs with the UFC rather than signing with the promotion where he won championship gold in 2002. “The Babyface Assassin” has now signed on with World Victory Road and will fight for the first time in over a year against Japanese legend Hidehiko Yoshida in the main event of the promotion’s inaugural show. Previous ranking: (6)

7. Tim Sylvia -  Sylvia plummets after being blowing an early two round lead to end up being submitted by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 81: Breaking Point earlier this month in his second straight bid to regain the heavyweight title that he has held on to on two separate occasions in his career. The fight was also Sylvia’s second straight loss as well. Previous ranking: (4)

8. Gabriel Gonzaga - Gonzaga suffered a second straight devastating loss to arch rival Fabricio Werdum at UFC 80: Rapid Fire last month. With the recent additions of Paulo Filho and Thiago Silva to Gonzaga’s Team Link, it’s only safe to assume that the Brazilian’s game will be improving in order for him to make another run at the heavyweight title. Previous ranking: (8)

9. Mirko Filipovic - To say that “Cro Cop” fell hard in 2007 is putting things lightly. After winning his UFC debut against Eddie Sanchez in February, he has gone on to be knocked out by Gabriel Gonzaga and lose a unanimous decision to a non-wrestler in Cheick Kongo. The Croatian has now left the ranks of the UFC and joined the newly formed DREAM, where he will likely compete in March. Previous ranking: (9)

10. Aleksander Emelianenko - The younger brother of Fedor went undefeated in 2007, dispatching of Jessie Gibson, Dan Bobish, and Eric Pele along the way. While these aren’t the kind of opponents Emelianenko should be facing, the struggles of Brandon Vera and the not yet solidified rise of Cheick Kongo allow him to retain the final spot in the top ten. Previous ranking: (10)

Light Heavyweight

1. Quinton Jackson - After a remarkable 2007, “Rampage” finds himself among the candidates for “Fighter of the Year”. While a hand injury prevented Jackson from competing at the end of the year, his break from fighting will last a bit longer as he will wait until the end of the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter to defend his title against fellow coach and former Ultimate Fighter competitor Forrest Griffin. Previous ranking: (1)

2. Mauricio Rua - While “Shogun” failed to win his UFC debut against Forrest Griffin, the Brazilian stays in the second spot due to the influx of fighters at light heavyweight that were not previously ranked. Rua will now take on former champion Chuck Liddell in June, his first fight since undergoing knee surgery. Previous ranking: (2)

3. Chuck Liddell - After losing consecutive fights for the first time in his career this past year, Liddell looks to have rebounded with his huge win over Wanderlei Silav and erased the ugly memories of being beaten at his own game by Quinton Jackson and Keith Jardine. Liddell will now face off against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua this summer. Previous ranking: (3)

4. Wanderlei Silva - Counting the loss to Chuck Liddell at UFC 79, Silva has now lost three fights in a row, a series of events that was simply unthinkable during his six-year run as PRIDE Middleweight Champion. Despite his failures of late and just like his former Chute Boxe teammate, Silva remains in the top half of the rankings due to the influx of fighters that were not previously ranked. Previous ranking: (4)

5. Keith Jardine - “The Dean of Mean” capped off an up and down ‘07 with a decision over former champion Chuck Liddell. Jardine used constant leg kicks and an aggressive approach to confuse Liddell and earn him a unanimous decision. Jardine has been idle since September but a brewing fight is will likely be on his agenda for the summer. Previous ranking: (5)

6. Forrest Griffin - A surprising upset of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 76 has earned Griffin a shot at Quinton Jackson’s light heavyweight title. But first Griffin must attempt to defeat Jackson when he coaches against him during the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter. Griffin will receive his shot at Jackson when the show is finished airing in the summer. Previous ranking: (6)

7. Lyoto Machida - The newly nicknamed “Dragon” has remained undefeated after stopping Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou at UFC 79. With four straight wins inside the confines of the UFC, one can only assume that Machida will soon find himself in a fight that will make him or break him when it comes to getting a shot at the title anytime soon. That has already happened in the form of Tito Ortiz, whom Machida will likely challenge in May. Previous ranking: (7)

8. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou - Sokoudjou’s amazing run in 2007 came to an abrupt halt when he was submitted by Lyoto Machida at UFC 79. While surprising knockouts of Ricardo Arona and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira allowed him to enter the top ten, it’s going to be interesting to see if the Team Quest member can keep it up inside the relatively new walls of the UFC. Previous ranking: (8)

9. Ricardo Arona - Arona hasn’t fought since suffering a brutal knockout loss to Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou at PRIDE 34 in the spring. Since then Arona has been nowhere to be found. Originally schedule to compete in this year’s ADCC only to pull out due to illness, Arona was last seen helping Paulo Filho prepare for his title defense against Chael Sonnen. Arona was rumored to be fighting at Yarennoka! but it never came to fruition. Previous ranking: (9)

10. Rashad Evans - After rethinking our inclusion of Vladimir Matyushenko in our past sets of rankings, we’ve decided to replace him with “Sugar” Rashad Evans. Evans has certainly earned his spot as he has yet to lose in his professional career yet alone the UFC. Evans’ future is relatively cloudy since being training partners with Keith Jardine prevents the two from fighting each other but the standout wrestler will likely go up against Chute Boxe’s Thiago Silva in May. Previous ranking: (10)

Middleweight

1. Anderson Silva - Silva continued his remarkable run in the middleweight division with his second straight stoppage win over former champ Rich Franklin at UFC 77. Couple those victories with a separate win over fellow top ten fighter Nate Marquardt and it’s no surprise that you find “The Spider” atop the rankings at 185 lbs. Silva will now face his biggest test to date when he is challenged by Dan Henderson in March. Previous ranking: (1)

2. Dan Henderson - Henderson will attempt to rebound from a unification loss to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 75 by dropping down to middleweight and facing off against UFC title holder Anderson Silva in another title for title match-up. Henderson has not fought at 185 lbs since losing to Kazuo Misaki at PRIDE Bushido 12. Previous ranking: (2)

3. Matt Lindland - “The Law” only fought once at middleweight in ‘07, submitting Carlos Newton at an IFL event. Lindland then moved up two weight classes to heavyweight in order to take on Fedor Emelianenko but ended up being submitted in the first round of a controversial bout. Inactive since then, Lindland’s main focus has been coaching the Portland Wolfpack of the IFL but recent reports have Lindland in on and off talks with UFC President Dana White concerning a possible return. Previous ranking: (3)

4. Paulo Filho - Filho overcame an awkward first round by nearly breaking Chael Sonnen’s arm during his first title defense at WEC 31 earlier this month. Despite the fight ending in controversial fashion, Filho remains undefeated. The big question is whether or not the WEC will be able to bring in the type of talent that will keep Filho in the top half of the rankings for next year. First comes a rematch with Sonnen in March. Previous ranking: (4)

5. Rich Franklin - Franklin’s nose was broken for the second straight time when he was stopped by Anderson Silva at UFC 77 in his hometown of Cincinnati. Franklin will now go back to the drawing board in hopes of revamping a career that once saw him at the top of the world. Despite suffering a torn meniscus that was expected to keep him out of action until at least June, Franklin will now battle Travis Lutter in April. Previous ranking: (5)

6. Nate Marquardt - Marquardt failed to live up to the expectations of many this past June when his style of fighting failed to keep him from losing to Anderson Silva. With a brand new UFC contract in hand, Marquardt dominated veteran Jeremy Horn before submitting him at UFC 81: Breaking Point earlier this month. Previous ranking: (6)

7. Robbie Lawler - Lawler was forced to pull out a scheduled bout against Kala Kolohe Hose due to an injury for the second time this year. Lawler’s rise to the top ten of the middleweight division occurred earlier this year when he provided two straight knockouts of Murilo Rua and Frank Trigg. The Miletich Fighting Systems product was recently stripped of his ICON Sport middleweight strap due to inactivity. Previous ranking: (7)

8. Kazuo Misaki - Misaki, who has signed with the brand new World Victory Road promotion, climbs back into the rankings and replaces Yoshihiro Akiyama who originally replaced him and who Misaki brutally knocked out at Yarennoka! on New Year’s Eve. While a high amount of activity in the lower spots has allowed Misaki back in the top ten, he is going to have to do away with his infamous inconsistency if he wants to remain. Previous ranking: (8)

9. Yoshihiro Akiyama - Akiyama put Denis Kang to sleep with a spectacular knockout in October only to be highlight reeled himself at the hands of Kazuo Misaki at Yarennoka! on New Year’s Eve. Despite being blacklisted in Japan for oiling up before a bout with native hero Kazushi Sakuraba, Akiyama has certainly showed that he has the skills to deserve his top ten ranking. Previous ranking: (9)

10. Denis Kang - Kang is hanging on by a thread after being knocked out by Yoshihiro Akiyama at a K-1 event in October. Unfortunately for Kang, potential showdowns against fellow K-1 middleweights such as Melvin Manhoef await the former PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix runner-up. Previous ranking: (10)

Welterweight

1. Georges St. Pierre - After being upset by Matt Serra in April, St. Pierre refocused himself mentally and has torn through Josh Koscheck and now former champion Matt Hughes for the second straight time at UFC 79. A rematch to combine the UFC welterweight titles between St. Pierre and Serra is now set for the UFC’s debut in Canada in April. Previous ranking: (1)

2. Matt Hughes - While Hughes has now lost two out of his last three fights, he remains one of the top welterweights in the world and capable to beat anyone in the UFC’s 170 lb division. Hughes has stated that he will now take some time off to think about whether or not he wants to continue fighting. If he chooses to stay active, a possible showdown with Matt Serra is very likely if Serra loses to St. Pierre. Previous ranking: (2)

3. Matt Serra - A scheduled title defense against nemesis Matt Hughes was cancelled after Serra suffered multiple herniated discs in his lower back. Serra will now return in April to rematch Georges St. Pierre in an attempt to crown an undisputed welterweight champion. Previous ranking: (3)

4. Karo Parisyan - After putting together yet another string of victories, Parisyan is still yearning for the title shot that he once earned but had to give up due to injury. Parisyan is now coming off of a recent win over newcomer Ryo Chonan at UFC 78 in November. The Judo expert will now face fellow top contender Thiago Alves at UFC Fight Night 13 in April. Previous ranking: (4)

5. Josh Koscheck - The powerhouse wrestler will look to get back to his winning ways when he faces Dustin Hazelett in March at UFC 82. Koscheck seemed primed for a possible title shot until he ran into Georges St. Pierre who beat the former All-American wrestler at his own game and controlled him for three consecutive rounds at UFC 74 this past summer. Previous ranking: (5)

6. Jon Fitch - Fitch has yet to lose inside the Octagon and it doesn’t look like his first loss is going to come anytime soon. Like other homegrown talent, it seems that Fitch is being forced to take the high road in his quest for the welterweight belt. A fight against Chris Wilson in March is next for the American Kickboxing Academy star. Previous ranking: (6)

7. Jake Shields - Shields continued to impress at EliteXC: Renegade in November, submitting Xtreme Couture head trainer Mike Pyle with a rear naked choke. Instead of trying out free agency, Shields opted to sign a long-time deal with the Pro Elite owned promotion. He will now compete for the vacant EliteXC welterweight title against veteran Drew Fickett in late March. Previous ranking: (7)

8.; Diego Sanchez - “The Nightmare” literally had a nightmare 2007. After winning his first 17 fights to start his career, Sanchez lost consecutive decisions to Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch. Both fighters come from the same camp and obviously had a gameplan to defeat Sanchez. Sanchez will now take on UFC newcomer David Bielkheden in one of five preliminary fights at UFC 82. Previous ranking: (8)

9. Hayato Sakurai - Sakurai moves to the welterweight division in our rankings after serving a couple of months as the top lightweight. All signs are pointing to Sakurai staying at welterweight and he kicked things off by defeating Hidehiko Hasegawa by unanimous decision. Sakurai has now signed with DREAM after the demise of PRIDE. Previous ranking: (9)

10. Carlos Condit - After submitting top contender Brock Larson at WEC 29 in August and then avenging his first career loss to Carlo Prater by beating Prater earlier this week, Condit remains the top welterweight in a small but developing division inside the confines of the WEC. Is an eventual move to the UFC in Condit’s future? Previous ranking: (10)

Lightweight

1. Takanori Gomi - “The Fireball Kid’s” loss to Nick Diaz earlier this year was erased once the fight was changed to a no contest, moving back to the top spot back in our January rankings. Gomi will now fight for the first time in a long time when he takes on dangerous striker and former K-1 kickboxing standout Duane “Bang” Ludwig at World Victory Road’s “Sengoku” event in March. Previous ranking: (1)

2. B.J. Penn - Penn submitted former Ultimate Fighter contestant Joe Stevenson with a rear naked choke iat UFC 80: Rapid Fire to claim the vacant UFC lightweight title and become the second fighter in history along with current heavyweight champ Randy Couture to win championship gold in two different weight classes. A showdown with Sean Sherk now awaits. Previous ranking: (3)

3. Sean Sherk - Despite his attempts to get his positive steroids test reversed by the California State Athletic Commission and being stripped of his UFC lightweight title, Sherk remains in the second spot in the rankings. Sherk is now on a collision course with current champion B.J. Penn in a bad blood-filled fight later this year. Previous ranking: (2)

4. Shinya Aoki - Aoki’s moves from welterweight to the lightweight division following his return to the lower weight class at Yarennoka! Aoki defeated former Olympic judo medalist Bu Kyung Jung at the event by unanimous decision. Aoki will now face Gesias-Calvancanti in March. Previous ranking: (4)

5. Gilbert Melendez - Melendez suffered the first loss of his career at Yarennoka! when he lost a decision to Mitsuhiro Ishida. While Melendez looked impressive throughout the course of the fight, his opponent turned out to be the better wrestler and put Melendez in many dangerous positions over two rounds. Melendez is now expected to compete in DREAM’s lightweight grand prix in March. Previous ranking: (5)

6. Gesias Calvancanti - Calvancante capped off a tremendous 2007 by becoming the K-1 Lightweight Grand Prix champion for the second year in a row. While Calvancante has only failed to win two of his 16 bouts so far, many are questioning whether or not he will be able to face decent enough competition under the K-1 banner. An anticipated bout against Shinya Aoki awaits him. Previous ranking: (6)

7. Tatsuya Kawajiri - Kawajiri’s time off ended when he competed at Yarennoka! It marked the first time that Japan native was in the ring since PRIDE Shockwave 2006. Kawajiri handled Luiz Azeredo en route to a unanimous decision. Previous ranking: (7)

8. Mitsuhiro Ishida - Anyone that had any doubts about Ishida after taking exactly one year off between fights quickly had those doubts brushed aside during Ishida’s decision win over lightweight phenom Gilbert Melendez. The performance pushed him back in to the top ten. Previous ranking: (8)

9. Vitor Riberio - Riberio is coming off the worst loss of his career, a brutal stoppage at the hands of Gesias Calvancante during the second round of the K-1 Hero’s Lightweight Tournament. Riberio hasn’t seen action since and is currently recovering from recent eye surgery that will prevent him from returning until the spring. Previous ranking: (9)

10. Joe Stevenson - Despite being bloodied and submitted at the hands of B.J. Penn in a lightweight title bout at last month’s UFC 80: Rapid Fire, Stevenson remains in the top ten due to a lack of viable contenders below him. Time will tell what is next for the former reality show contestant.  Previous ranking: (10)

Featherweight

1. Akitoshi Tamura - Tamura had a huge 2007 where he took out Tenkei Fujimiya and Takeshi Inoue to garner the number one spot in our rankings and avenging two of his past losses in the process. Tamura will now exchange in the third of the series of fights against his rival Inoue in March. Previous ranking: (1)

2. Takeshi Inoue – While his winning streak was snapped by Akitoshi Tamura in May, the Shooto veteran rebounded with impressive victories over Marc Duncan and Katsuya Toida. What’s up next for Inoue? the third fight between him and Tamura at a Shooto event in March. Previous ranking: (2)

3. Urijah Faber - “The California Kid” continues to shoot up the rankings. His latest impressive performance was a submission win over Jeff Curran at WEC 31 in December. Up next is a showdown against former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver, who remains undefeated at 145 lbs in his career. Previous ranking: (3)

4. Masakazu Imanari - Imanari takes advantage of Curran’s loss to Faber and moves up the list, still remaining in the fourth spot. Imanari had a rather dull 2007. While he went undefeated, wins over opponents like Robbie Oliver and Hiroyuki Abe overshadowed an impressive performance against upstart Jong Man Kim. Previous ranking: (4)

5. Jeff Curran - “The Big Frog’s” disappointing loss to Urijah Faber earlier this month caused him to fall down a couple of spots but he now moves up with Hiroyuki Takaya’s recent loss. While Curran’s next match-up isn’t set in stone at all, one has to expect that a potential fight against Cub Swanson will at least be considered by Zuffa officials. Previous ranking: (6)

6. Hiroyuki Takaya - Takaya’s sensational return to the featherweight division was grounded after being dropped and stopped by lightweight convert Leonard Garcia at WEC 32 earlier this week. Takaya made a huge impact when he returned to 145 lbs last year, stopping Jarrod Card and Antonio Carvalho in consecutive fights.  Previous ranking: (5)

7. Antonio Carvalho - While Carvalho has been relatively inconsistent in recent years, he has still managed to pull out solid wins that keep him in the top ten. His last fight was a TKO loss at the hands of Hiroyuki Takaya. Don’t expect Carvalho to be fighting any time soon though. Reports have him taking time off and not returning to Shooto. Previous ranking: (7)

8. Yoshiro Maeda – The Pancrase veteran did not lose in 2007. Wins over Johnny Frachey, Manabu Inoue and Danny Batten were coupled with a draw against Jong Man Kim a few days before Christmas during DEEP: Protect Impact in Osaka. Previous ranking: (8)

9. Tenkei Fujimiya - A big time 2006 transferred into a poor ’07 for Fujimiya. Akitoshi Tamura avenged his previous knockout loss to Fujimiya by decisioning him in February. Fujimiya then lost a close split decision to Bao Quach at Shooto’s debut in the United States in August. Previous ranking: (9)

10. Hatsu Hioki - Hioki grabbed a much needed win over Katsuya Toida at a Shooto event in January. While he began 2007 with a majority decision over Mark Hominick, the win was overshadowed by surprising losses to Antonio Carvalho and Jong Man Kim. Hioki finished out the year with a win over Brian Geraghty but looked unimpressive in doing it. Previous ranking: (10)

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