Mark it down: 38 months.
That is how long Anderson Silva’s reign atop the Sherdog.com pound-for-pound rankings lasted. In October 2007, “The Spider” assumed the throne from Fedor Emelianenko, on the back of the Russian’s sagging competition and Silva’s crushing middleweight dominance, punctuated by his second violent stoppage win over former UFC champion Rich Franklin.
Now, Georges St. Pierre takes the mantle in a similar situation.
It’s been a curious 2010 campaign for Silva, who turned in a polarizing performance against Demian Maia in April that made many question his dedication to the sport. In August, with a rib injury, he pulled out a miraculous, thrilling victory over rival Chael Sonnen in the fifth round of their middleweight classic, but even in victory, the dominance he’d exhibited over the last four years was called into question.
The year has been kinder to St. Pierre. Though he, like Silva, is not immune to criticism -- St. Pierre's cautious, tactical approach and four decision wins in his last five outings have caused considerable rancour -- Canada's MMA hero continues to thrash elite foes in one of MMA's deepest weight classes with startling efficiency. St. Pierre hasn't approached losing a round in over three years, since his first fight with Josh Koscheck in August 2007. When they rematched at UFC 124 on Dec. 11, St. Pierre destroyed Koscheck, almost with his jab alone, and perhaps cemented his status as the greatest welterweight ever.
Heading into 2011, the major question isn't whether it's St. Pierre or Silva that's No. 1, but simply whether or not we'll ever get them in the Octagon against one another in a once-in-a-lifetime match-up.
1. Georges St. Pierre (21-2)
St. Pierre's welterweight title reign has earned him some flak for being conservative and safety-first, not showing the shocking dynamism that marked, for instance, his second encounter with Matt Hughes. However, in the last three-and-a-half years since his major misstep against Matt Serra, St. Pierre has positively crushed every opponent in his way, whether or not the judges were needed. He has beaten three fighters -- Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn and Thiago Alves -- who have appeared on this very list in that timespan. Better still, he has done it while pitching a complete shutout against those fighters. St. Pierre's level of consummate domination of fighters in a division as great as welterweight is shocking, if not thrilling. Wilder still, he has the chance to expand on that resume heading into 2011, as his next welterweight defense will come against another pound-for-pound entrant on this list, Jake Shields.
2. Anderson Silva (27-4)
Undeniably the UFC’s greatest middleweight and arguably its most dominant champion of all-time, Silva has notched an unprecedented seven consecutive defenses of his 185-pound crown. In his latest, at UFC 117, “The Spider” pulled out an almost inconceivable come-from-behind win, submitting Chael Sonnen with a triangle armbar after four and a half rounds of being dominated by the wrestler. On the mend from a rib injury, which he carried into that bout, the Brazilian already has a pair of challengers queued up for his return. On Feb. 5, Silva will meet countryman Vitor Belfort at UFC 126. Should that defense prove successful, he would next face Yushin Okami in a rematch of their infamous 2006 bout, which the Japanese fighter won by disqualification.
3. Jose Aldo (18-1)
Aldo has quickly cemented himself as the sport's premiere featherweight. He would've had the chance to consolidate that rep further on Jan. 1 at UFC 125, where he was scheduled to take on fast-rising prospect Josh Grispi. However, an ongoing back injury forced Aldo out of the fight, and into rehab. When Aldo returns in the second quarter of 2011, he may return to a richer, more opportunistic 145-pound class in which to build his resume, as the division's young prospects continue to emerge and more established 155-pounders now eye the lighter division after its import into the UFC.
4. Frankie Edgar (13-1)
On Aug. 28 in Boston, Edgar proved that no matter the controversy surrounding his April UFC title win against B.J. Penn, he is definitely the sport’s top lightweight. For five rounds, Edgar was the superior fighter, ahead of “The Prodigy” every step of the way, standing and on the ground. However, in spite of two massive wins, fans are unlikely to be too taken with Edgar’s accomplishments until he gets through his next challenger -- Gray Maynard. The only man to beat Edgar, Maynard outpointed “The Answer” in April 2008.
5. Jon Fitch (23-3, 1 NC)
While not one to cause a stir with outrageous interviews or in-cage performance, Fitch has proven a polarizing figure due to his wrestling-based, results-oriented style of fighting. The former Purdue Boilermaker’s resume speaks for itself, however, with 13 wins and only one defeat inside the UFC’s incredibly deep, super-competitive 170-pound division. The American Kickboxing Academy standout’s path will not get any easier in February, as he faces former two-division UFC champion B.J. Penn at UFC 127 in Sydney, Australia.
6. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (19-4)
Rua is long removed from his extraordinary banner year in 2005, where he stampeded over four top-10 fighters in a matter of months. Yet, with a crushing knockout of Lyoto Machida in May, "Shogun" is on the road to rebuilding his resume. Now having overcome yet another injury -- his ongoing nemesis -- Rua is scheduled to make his first UFC light heavyweight title defense on March 19 at UFC 128. Better still, it's against former champion Rashad Evans -- another entrant on this list -- a bout that of high relevance and merit that would be another major addition to his hit list.
7. Jake Shields (26-4-1)
Over the last five years, Shields has taken out elite opposition in two weight classes, emerging as a top-five fighter at both 170 and 185 pounds. In spite of an often straightforward, nuts-and-bolts style of top-position grappling, Shields has emerged as one of the sport's most accomplished competitors in recent memory. However, he has the chance to improve his already outstanding résumé in an even more dramatic way: with Georges St. Pierre's Dec. 11 triumph over Josh Koscheck, Shields is now set for a showdown with "Rush" in 2011, offering him a chance at potential welterweight immortality.
8. Rashad Evans (15-1-1)
A star standout in one of the historically richest divisions in MMA, Evans is a great light heavyweight, but not the greatest. He'll finally have the chance to rectify that situation and regain the UFC 205-pound title on March 19 at UFC 128 in Newark, N.J., when he finally gets to take on "Shogun" for 205-pound supremacy. Quite simply, with or without a title on the line, any time there's a chance to beat another pound-for-pound entrant; it's a high stakes affair with major legacial upside.
9. Gilbert Melendez (18-2)
Melendez was holding out hope of a New Year's Eve rematch with Shinya Aoki, Japan's preeminent lightweight who Melendez dominated from bell-to-bell in the Strikeforce cage this past April. With an Aoki bout for Dec. 31 failing to materialize, Melendez is in no clear direction heading into 2011, though Strikeforce still has a respectable contingent of lightweight opponents. However, Melendez, not unlike his teammate Nick Diaz, has already started eyeing scale-shifting superfights, recently calling out welterweight thriller Paul Daley and angling for a potential 165-pound catch-weight bout against the standout welterweight next year.
10. Dominick Cruz (17-1)
Cruz's Dec. 16 performance against a tough, rock solid challenger like Scott Jorgensen was simply masterful. Cruz knocked off his third consensus top-five bantamweight of 2010, showing a more evolved version of his hyperactive combination punching and fantastic takedowns. However, Cruz's biggest test -- and his biggest chance to gain ground in the pound-for-pound world -- will come in 2011 if a bout with former featherweight ruler Urijah Faber materializes. The bout represents not only Cruz's biggest test to date, but given the division's relocation to the UFC and Faber's star power, the biggest 135-pound bout MMA has seen thus far.
• Sherdog.com Official Divisional Rankings: Top 10s from 125-265 pounds.