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Sherdog.com’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10

The end of the year is always one of the liveliest times for mixed martial arts, and 2008 was no different, as the pound-for-pound rankings were re-sculpted in the last week on the calendar.

UFC 92 saw the fall of two pound-for-pounders. Forrest Griffin -- who had broken into the sport’s upper echelon with his victories over Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson -- had his belt taken by force, as fellow “The Ultimate Fighter” winner Rashad Evans pounded him out to take light heavyweight supremacy. Meanwhile, after another season of the Spike TV reality series came to an end, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, the sport’s perennial number two heavyweight and nearly a career-long pound-for-pounder was summarily smashed by Frank Mir, who has resuscitated a flagging career in miraculous fashion.

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The event was not all about upsets for its pound-for-pounders. Despite professional and legal woes in recent months, Jackson got back on track toward regaining his UFC light heavyweight title by exorcising perhaps the most nagging demon of his past, as he clobbered arch nemesis Wanderlei Silva in a little more than three minutes.

Despite a sensational 2008 campaign, the year ended on a bitter note for breakout lightweight Eddie Alvarez. Despite wins over Tatsuya Kawajiri and Joachim Hansen on the year, the power-punching Philadelphian was done in just 92 seconds against grappling wunderkind Shinya Aoki, courtesy of a nasty heel hook that ousted him from these rankings.

1. Anderson Silva (22-4)
Silva’s year will begin at UFC 97 in April, when he’ll likely defend his UFC middleweight crown for fifth time against fellow Brazilian Thales Leites. Should the sport’s pound-for-pound king emerge victorious, 2009 should see “The Spider” meet challenges both at 185 and at 205 pounds, which would give Silva the chance to further cement his status as the sport’s finest competitor.

2. Georges St. Pierre (17-2)
Of any fighter in MMA, St. Pierre may be faced with the most daunting 2009. At UFC 94 on Jan. 31, St. Pierre will renew his rivalry with B.J. Penn in a mega bout, and should he win, the French Canadian has to look forward to defending his UFC welterweight crown against the red-hot Thiago Alves later in the year. There’s little room for error.

3. Fedor Emelianenko (28-1, 1 NC)
It could be temporary, but Affliction will give MMA’s greatest heavyweight the opportunity to meet some of the division’s best opposition. Emelianenko will finish his acting work on a forthcoming action movie in Thailand this month and then set about training for his Jan. 24 showdown with former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski at Affliction “Day of Reckoning.”

4. B.J. Penn (13-4-1)
UFC 94 will give Penn the chance to remove from his mouth the sour taste of his March 2006 split decision loss to St. Pierre and secure the biggest win of his career. Win or lose, however, Penn will have no shortage of attractive opponents between the combined excellence of the UFC’s welterweight and lightweight divisions.

Photo by Sherdog.com

Pound-for-pound, Miguel
Torres is as good as any
fighter on this list.
5. Miguel Torres (35-1)
After bringing the bantamweight division to the masses throughout 2008, Torres punctuated the year stylishly, brutalizing previously undefeated Manny Tapia in his second WEC title defense. In early 2009, Torres figures to fight in his most prominent bout to date when he risks his title and bantamweight supremacy against undefeated upstart Brian Bowles.

6. Rashad Evans (13-0-1)
After his positively brutal knockout of Chuck Liddell in September, Evans was given the chance to challenge fellow TUF star Forrest Griffin at UFC 92 in December. He again came through with a stirring stoppage and became the UFC’s light heavyweight champion and 205-pound king. However, with challengers like Jackson and Lyoto Machida looming large in 2009, more impressive performances will be needed out of Evans.

7. Forrest Griffin (16-5)
After two back-to-back wins over Jackson and Rua, Griffin’s surprising run as the sport’s 205-pound king came to a halt at UFC 92. Despite looking every bit the champion through 10 minutes, Griffin was savagely beaten in the third stanza, as Evans took his title by force. Fortunately, there will be plenty of high-profile challenges for Griffin in the outstanding light heavyweight division during the next 12 months.

8. Quinton Jackson (29-7)
After a brutal couple of months following his July UFC title loss and ensuing energy drink-fueled road rage, Jackson made major strides in exorcising the demons of his past by putting a brutal knockout on longtime nemesis Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92. Now, Jackson may have the chance to regain his UFC crown by squaring off with Evans in the coming months.

9. Thiago Alves (16-3)
As the UFC’s top welterweight contender, Alves will have keen eyes on the Jan. 31 showdown between St. Pierre and Penn at UFC 94. In a sterling 2008, the 25-year-old dynamo took three wins over top 10 opponents Karo Parisyan, Matt Hughes and Josh Koscheck and has more than earned his crack at the 170-pound throne in the first half of 2009.

10. Mike Thomas Brown (20-4)
For years, Brown was known largely for his mouthful of a name and his forgettable one-off appearance in the UFC. Now, he has won 11 of his last 12 bouts, including back-to-back handlings of elite-level featherweights Jeff Curran and Urijah Faber. Brown will have the chance to solidify his status as the 145-pound kingpin in March, when he’s likely to tangle with the surging Leonard Garcia in his own adopted backyard in Florida.
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