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Who Is The Pound for Pound King?

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January was quite possibly the busiest month in MMA history. I could be exaggerating a bit, but in one month we saw three of mixed martial art’s consensus top pound for pound fighters attempt to stake their claim for supremacy. While dream matches and all out wars also completed the menu. Look at the names that were apart of not one, not two, not three, but four big events taking place in the span of three weeks: Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, Mark Coleman, Denis Kang, Vitor Belfort, Matt Lindland, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral, Josh Barnett, Andrei Arlovski, Fedor Emelianenko, Urijah Faber, Jens Pulver, Jamie Varner, Donald Cerrone, Lyoto Machida, BJ Penn, and Georges St. Pierre. Whew, that’s almost like Who’s Who of MMA right there. As the dust has settled from each epic event let’s get to one of the biggest talking points of all of these:

Who is the pound for pound king in MMA?

To me, this is a question that is hard to answer. Simply, there are several reasons, several fighters can be considered for this accolade.  You can take into account their wins and level of competition.  You can take into account the method in which they’ve been able to accumulate their wins.  You can even take into account their ‘trophy case’ of belts or tournaments won.  With all that taken into consideration, after this month of historic battles, three names immediately come to mind, two of which competed within weeks of each other.  Those names being:  Fedor Emelianenko, Georges St. Pierre, and Anderson Silva. 

Let’s take a look at all three.

It’d take me pages to do a composite history of each of these fighters, so I’ll keep it brief and current with them.  Fedor Emelianenko, since Pride’s demise, is a flawless 3-0 beating Hong Man Choi, Tim Sylvia, and Andrei Arlovski.  If you add up the time he defeated each of these formidable foes, you’d barely have filled one five minute round.  Yes, the Last Emperor, has dismantled, destroyed, and dominated everyone that has recently been put in his way.  It’s really hard to make arguments against him.  Sure personal bias’ may influence some of us to conjure up reasons why he isn’t (*cough* Dana White *cough*) but with each bout he’s placed in it become harder and harder to do.  The only reason you could potentially have reserves about placing the Sambo champ ahead of the rest of the pack is his long layoffs between fights and his long stretch of non-competitive opponents.  In my opinion, those should be taken with a grain of salt when considering he’s beaten four former UFC champions handily in his career, all by stoppage or submission.

The hype for Saturday’s mega-fight truly eclipsed the actual fight that took place at UFC 94.  Two fighters highly revered as pound for pound best, BJ Penn and Georges St. Pierre had the internet and several other media outlets ablaze in the days and weeks leading up to their clash.  However, when they entered the cage, it looked more like a MMA instructional video with how one-sided the outcome was.  Each of the four rounds, GSP raised his stock steadily with one of the most masterful performances put on by an MMA fighter in a long, long time.  The win not only solidifies him as one of the current greats but becomes his third dominant victory in a row.  In his last three fights against Matt Serra, Jon Fitch, and BJ Penn respectively, you’d be hard pressed to find one round of the combined twelve he’s been through in those three fights where Georges was in any trouble.  In my book, that’s twelve rounds that GSP has won in a row against top quality opposition.  There’s always been the mental factor that has kept some weary of placing the 27-year old French Canadian atop Mount MMA, but that factor should be erased after his nearly flawless performances in ’08 and the beginning of ’09.  And yes, he’s only 27, so he hasn’t even really peaked in the sport yet.  Having avenged all of his losses and beaten the crème of the crop in the welterweight division, it’ll be hard not to call him the king of this sport at the moment.

Finally, the consensus pound for pound fighter as of now:  Anderson Silva.  Is the Muay Thai wrecking machine flawless?  Well, so far in the UFC he has been.  Is he hole proof?  Not at all, as we’ve seen guys like Travis Lutter and Dan Henderson expose glaring weaknesses in Anderson’s game.  Can he be beaten?  That’s the question that’s so hard to answer.  Even though Anderson has shown weaknesses and short comings in his career, it’s his ability to ‘weather the storm’ and rally back that has made him so feared.  He, unlike the other aforementioned contenders, embodies the term ‘pound for pound’ as he’s fought at several different weight classes and found some success in all.  Within the UFC, he has stopped every opponent he’s been faced with.  Even guys with iron chins such as Dan Henderson and Chris Leben have crumpled under the power of Anderson.  The bizarre thing about ‘The Spider’ however is, even when he seems bored inside the octagon he is notches above his competition.  His last three bouts have been fought at both middleweight and light heavyweight, defeating the aforementioned Henderson, LHW James Irvin, and Patrick Cote.  While many questioned his antics in his last outing with Cote, Silva just seemed like a lion playing with his victim right before he pounces and devours them.  Although he’s yet to have made an appearance in ’09, his next fight is against jiu-jitsu specialist Thales Lietes, but hardly a motivating fight for Anderson.

In the end, with all three fighters seeming to be at their very best, we’ll have to wait until further along in their careers to put the final stamp on where they stand.  Each has numerous reasons why they should be and very few reasons against them.  If it was a do or die situation and I had to make my personal choice of the best pound for pound fighter right now, I’d have to go with a razor-thin pick of Georges St. Pierre.  Few fighters get to face the very best in their division on a continual basis and GSP has and has risen to the occasion each and every time.  Unlike Fedor, he hasn’t been matched up in freak show matches with the likes of Zuluzinho, Hong Man Choi, or Matt Lindland.  Unlike Anderson, he has a division where the next guy down the ladder is just as dangerous as the one above him.  Only time will tell and in this sport, you’re only as relevant as your last fight, so as long as these guys keep winning, we’ll keep having these discussions.  As always, feel free to comment on your opinions on this topic.