J.G.’s Dirty Dozen: A Pound-for-Pound MMA Ranking

Dirty Dozen

By Josh Gross Mar 28, 2006
Plenty has happened in the ring since we released the initial Dirty Dozen in November of ’05. As mixed martial arts heads into the second quarter of 2006 difficult choices had to be made for this list to be assembled, and in the end significant changes were made to the pound-for-pound rankings.

Is Fedor still No. 1 or does he have company? Whose efforts in the past four months have propelled them up the rankings? Which fighters fell out of the top 12 and why? How did injuries impact the list?

In rating the mixed martial artists I ask two questions: “How skilled a fighter are we talking about?” and “What’s he done inside his own division?”

Let the debate begin:

12) Norifumi Yamamoto (Pictures) (13-1-0, 1 NC) — While Takanori Gomi (Pictures), Hayato Sakurai (Pictures) and Caol Uno (Pictures) are Japanese stars whose names resonate with American fans, “Kid” has not received the same sort of attention — he should. Wins over Royler Gracie (Pictures), Caol Uno (Pictures), and Genki Sudo (Pictures) highlight his ledger. When it comes to Yamamoto, his skill and talent are what people talk about. Explosive hands, top-notch wrestling and a mean streak have many saying “Kid” deserves to be right at the top of any P4P list.

11) Mauricio Rua (Pictures) (12-2-0) — If 2005 was Shogun’s year, 2006 sure started off on the wrong foot. Making the jump from 205 to heavyweight, Rua faced veteran Mark Coleman (Pictures), whom many figured would provide a difficult though not terribly dangerous introduction into the heavyweight division. Coleman, a former UFC heavyweight and PRIDE Grand Prix champion, had other ideas. The result? Rua badly injured his right arm and the subsequent surgery will keep him out of the ring for at least half a year. Considering his age (24), the exciting Brazilian can reestablish a successful career. But can he still be a superstar? Recovery time and smart matchmaking will help.

10) Georges St. Pierre (Pictures) (12-1-0) — Before beating B.J. Penn (Pictures) the young Quebecer had shot up the charts with wins over Frank Trigg (Pictures) and Sean Sherk (Pictures). Writing about St. Pierre, who was listed in the “On The Verge” group, I indicated that another solid win would propel him into the Dirty Dozen. In fact it helped “Rush” ease into the top 10. In the distance looms a huge rematch against Matt Hughes (Pictures), a fight St. Pierre has earned and one many will pick him to win.

9) Dan Henderson (Pictures) (19-4-0) — The first PRIDE champion at 183 pounds, Henderson has long been a favorite of lists like this. A close split decision win over Murilo Bustamante (Pictures) earned Henderson the belt on New Year’s Eve. Though his performance was not terribly impressive, it was classic Henderson. Outside of a bout against Rich Franklin (Pictures), there are few major fights at the weight. Regardless, it remains doubtful that the world’s best fighters would be able to battle outside the confines of their promotions. Henderson’s next bout comes April 2 against Kazuo Misaki (Pictures).

8) Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Pictures) (11-2-0) — One of the rare Dirty Dozen to have been out of action since the list first ran, Lil’ Nogueira works in the considerable shadow of his big brother Rodrigo. While his résumé has expanded to include boxing, Nogueira’s strength remains his ground game. He has the tools to be the world’s best 205-pound mixed martial artist — and 2006 should be a year in which we find out if potential hits its mark.

7) Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures) (26-3-1, 1 NC) — If it wasn’t for Fedor, one could make a serious argument in favor of putting “Minotauro” atop the list of all-time great MMA heavyweights. Known for his elegance on the canvas, Nogueira hasn’t lost to anyone not named Fedor since 2000. Buoying his offensive ability is the note that, if he must, the man can take a beating. Brutal fights with Bob Sapp (Pictures) and later “Cro Cop,” as well as the trilogy against Fedor, bear that out. Nogueira’s last win, which did nothing to push him up the list, came against an overmatched Kiyoshi Tamura (Pictures).

6) Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) (30-5-1, 1 NC) — Ninety days after Ricardo Arona (Pictures) defeated Silva in the semifinals of 2005’s PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix, Sherdog.com released these rankings. Because it was the Brazilian’s first middleweight loss since April 2000, his ranking fell into the bottom half from the familiar high-rent district. With increased effort over August’s opening chapter the champion showed his caliber, winning a split decision against Arona in a New Year’s Eve rematch. Now offered a momentary reprieve, Silva still faces a gauntlet of dangerous PRIDE 205-lb. fighters. For the Chute Boxe product to get back into the top 5, he needs to find the ferocity that once made him the most-feared fighter on the planet.
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