MMA on Tap Top 10 - January 3, 2008

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 in the world and the perennial top heavyweight is hanging on to the top spot by a thread. Emelianenko submitted Hong Man Choi this past weekend 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. Randy Couture - “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 be fighting the winner of Tim Sylvia and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira later this year. Should White even hold his breath? Previous ranking: (2)

3. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira - After defeating Heath Herring at UFC 73 in July, Nogueira now finds himself as the number one contender for the UFC heavyweight belt. “Minotauro” will now take on former champ Tim Sylvia at UFC 81: Breaking Point in February for the interim title in yet another fight that will settle one of many disputes between fans of UFC and PRIDE. Previous ranking: (3)

4. Tim Sylvia - The former two-time champ jumps up a couple of spots due to Josh Barnett’s free-fall. Sylvia fended off the side-effects of back surgery earlier this year to hand Brandon Vera his first professional loss at UFC 77 in October. Despite being taken to task by Couture this past March, Sylvia finds himself with yet another title opportunity against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira next month. Previous ranking: (6)

5. Andrei Arlovski - “The Belarusian” as Mike Goldberg likes to call him has not fought since decisioning Fabricio Werdum is a rather uninspiring effort at UFC 70. Arlovski only has one fight left on his UFC contract and won’t be stepping back into the cage anytime soon in the UFC unless he is able to come to terms on a new deal. Dana White has said multiple times over the past few months that Arlovski will be competing again “soon.” We’ve yet to see anything. Previous ranking: (5)

6. Josh Barnett - Barnett falls two spots down after failing to fight at all in 2007. 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. Since then there has been no indication of Barnett’s future plans. “The Babyface Assassin” competed in a catch-wrestling bout against Hikaru Sato two weeks ago, winning by submission. Previous ranking: (4)

7. Fabricio Werdum - Werdum will try to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Andrei Arlovski in his UFC debut when he faces Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 80: Rapid Fire later this month. Despite having almost nine months in between bouts, Werdum has been able to remain one of the constants in our heavyweight rankings due to surprising changes throughout the division in ‘07. Previous ranking: (7)

8. Gabriel Gonzaga - Just like his opponent at UFC 80 (Fabricio Werdum), Gonzaga will try to back on the winning track after suffering a brutal TKO loss to Randy Couture in August.  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. It’s been rumored that Filipovic has “beefed up” in order to better compete with those in the heavyweight division. Wouldn’t learning how to wrestle be more important at this point? 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. It looks like Rua will return to action some time in the spring, after he is fully recovered from recent knee surgery. Previous ranking: (2)

3. Chuck Liddell - Liddell jumps up four spots in the rankings after defeating long-time rival Wanderlei Silva in what may have been the biggest fight in the history of mixed martial arts. After losing consecutive fights for the first time in his career this past year, Liddell looks to have rebounded and erased the ugly memories of being beaten at his own game by Quinton Jackson and Keith Jardine. Previous ranking: (7)

4. Wanderlei Silva - Counting the loss to Chuck Liddell at UFC 79 last weekend, 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: (3)

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 against fellow top contender Lyoto Machida looks to be on the horizon. Previous ranking: (4)

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: (5)

7. Lyoto Machida - The newly nicknamed “Dragon” has remained undefeated after stopping Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou at UFC 79 this past weekend. 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. Previous ranking: (9)

8. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou - Sokoudjou’s amazing run in 2007 came to an abrupt halt when he was submitted by Lyoto Machida this past weekend 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: (7)

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: (8)

10. Rashad Evans - After rethinking our inclusion of Vladimir Matyushenko in our last set 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. Previous ranking: (NR)

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. 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. A proposed fight against Travis Lutter in March was scrapped after Franklin suffered a torn meniscus that will keep him out of action until at least June. 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 will return to action when he goes up against slick grappler Thales Leites in February. 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. Previous ranking: (7)

8. Kazuo Misaki - Misaki climbs back into the rankings and replaces Yoshihiro Akiyama who originally replaced him and who Misaki brutally knocked out at Yarennoka! this past weekend. 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: (NR)

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 this past weekend. 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: (8)

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: (9)

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 this past weekend at UFC 79. A rematch to combine the UFC welterweight titles between St. Pierre and Serra is now being discussed 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 for next year. 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. The injury is expected to keep Serra out of action until the spring when he will then 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 recovering from a broken left hand that he suffered during a recent win over newcomer Ryo Chonan at UFC 78 in November. Ironically for Parisyan, the injury may have yet again cost him a shot at championship gold as he was rumored to be a potential replacement for Matt Serra against Matt Hughes at UFC 79. 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 rumored fight against Akihiro Gono could be 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. It’s pretty much a lock that Shields’ next fight will have EliteXC’s welterweight belt being contested. Against who? Who knows at this point? 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 is now contemplating a move to 155 lbs but hasn’t given any definitive indication as to what his plans are. 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 is another fighter that is still a free agent after the demise of PRIDE. Previous ranking: (NR)

10. Carlos Condit - After submitting top contender Brock Larson at WEC 29 in August, Condit remains the top welterweight in a small but developing division. The WEC Welterweight Champion is unofficially scheduled to defend his title against Carlo Prater at the WEC’s next event in February. Previous ranking: (10)

Lightweight

1. Takanori Gomi - Gomi returns to the top spot at lightweight due to the departure of Hayato Sakurai to the welterweight division. However his reign at the top may be short lived. “The Fireball Kid’s” loss to Nick Diaz earlier this year was erased once the fight was changed to a no contest but Gomi hasn’t fought since and it doesn’t look like he’s going to be fighting anytime soon either. He needs to sign on with a promotion or he will drop. Previous ranking: (3)

2. 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 moves up in the rankings because of Sakurai’s departure. With his suspension reduced, Sherk will now meet the winner of B.J. Penn and Joe Stevenson later this year. Previous ranking: (4)

3. B.J. Penn - Another benefactor of Sakurai leaving, Penn finds himself with an opportunity to move up even higher if he defeats Joe Stevenson and becomes the UFC lightweight champion in two weeks at UFC 80: Rapid Fire. Previous ranking: (5)

4. Shinya Aoki - Aoki’s moves from welterweight to the lightweight division following his return to the lower weight class this past weekend at Yarennoka! Aoki defeated former Olympic judo medalist Bu Kyung Jung at the event by unanimous decision. Aoki is expected to compete at another Dream Stage Entertainment promoted event in March. Previous ranking: (NR)

5. Gilbert Melendez - Melendez suffered the first loss of his career this past weekend 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 expected to defend his Strikeforce lightweight title against Josh Thomson this spring. Previous ranking: (2)

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. Previous ranking: (6)

7. Tatsuya Kawajiri - Kawajiri’s time off ended this past weekend 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: (NR)

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: (8)

10. Joe Stevenson - Stevenson makes his second straight appearance in the top ten now that he has become the co-number one contender to the UFC lightweight title. He will get his opportunity to put the belt around his waist when he takes on B.J. Penn at UFC 80: Rapid Fire later this month. 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 most likely exchange in the third of the series of fights against his rival Inoue. 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? Most likely the third fight between him and Tamura at some point early this year. 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 earlier this month. 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 to 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: (5)

5. Hiroyuki Takaya - Takaya made a huge impact when he returned to 145 lbs last year, stopping Jarrod Card and Antonio Carvalho in consecutive fights. Takaya now ventures to the ranks of the WEC where a debut bout against exciting former UFC lightweight Leonard Garcia awaits him. Previous ranking: (6)

6. Jeff Curran - “The Big Frog’s” disappointing loss to Urijah Faber earlier this month causes him to fall down a couple of spots. 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: (4)

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 will need to rebound in 2008 if he is going to remain in the top ten. While he began the year 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 during it. Previous ranking: (10)

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