While smoking, I remembered one of my favorite years in MMA - 2005. Figured to Google the rankings back then and compare how they fair in the current landscape of our beloved sport.
I used Sherdog's ranking.
J.G.’s Dirty Dozen — A Pound-for-Pound MMA Ranking as of 11/29/05
12. Mirko Filipovic (17-3-2)
When you talk about scary fighters, he tops the list. If he doesn’t get bored and if PRIDE doesn’t burn him out with a non-stop fight schedule, this man could still be the one who dethrones Fedor.
Admit it, this made you smile - Crocop is the zenith of nostalgia. We were all salivating at the idea of Mirko dominating the UFC and taking the belt from Couture. Since that dreadful day when Mirko got brutally KOed by a head kick, we have been waiting for the revival of the once feared beloved striker. Don't worry fellas, we have another chance for a miserable disappointment at UFC 128.
11. Rich Franklin (19-1-0)
Combine the most natural talent in his division with a work ethic that would make Jerry Rice beg for two weeks in Cancun and you have a fighter on the verge of something special
I was never a Franklin fan, but after KOing Quarry - it just felt right that Rich would dominate the UFC MW division for atleast 10 more years. Most MW stars were residing with Pride and with a very shallow division; there was really no foreseeable contender until the signing of one named Anderson Silva. After the 2nd nose job from Silva's knees, Franklin's career never had any clear direction. Moving to LHW to Franklinweight and back to LHW, fighting former champions that always had the air of used to be.
10. Dan Henderson (18-4-0)
A longtime favorite of any pound-for-pound list, Henderson is finally fighting at his natural weight (185 lbs.) for first time in his career. Competing a division above this weight at 205, Henderson still enjoyed major successes, but an extended stay at 185 could let us all see how great a fighter he actually is
Hendo have been fighting MMA professionally since '97. This 40 year old fighter always seems to loom around the rankings and championship in his entire career even up to this point. The highlight of his career was carrying two Pride belts and now still hunting for another championship. When you are about just to write off Hollywood Dan, he either responds with a KO of the year or the slightly controversial jump from UFC to SF. Henderson, imo, is an undervalued legend of this sport - and ill give him 2 more years of a relevant fighting career.
9. BJ Penn (10-2-1)
Here’s where it gets tricky. Why is a man who submitted the No. 2 and 3 fighters on this list stuck at No. 9? Two uninspired decisions at 185 over Rodrigo and Renzo Gracie (Pictures) and a horrible performance at 205 in decision loss to Ryoto Machida (Pictures), that’s why. A recent return to the UFC means he’s going to fight to 170 pounds — by far his best weight — and could regain the form that had many calling him the best in the world in Jan. 2004 after wins over Gomi and Hughes. The Hawaiian is special. He has all the tools that make Fedor and Gomi great, but has shown a lack of interest. How bad does he want to be the best? We should find out in 2006 with potential bouts versus Georges St. Pierre (Pictures) and Hughes.
5 + years later - it seems like we are back with the same Penn. After two losses against Edgar (still shrugging at this), BJ is looking to reestablish his career at WW by defeating Fitch. BJ's impact to the MMA world has decreased since those losses to Edgar - but I have a good feeling that the community will be praising Penn again as one of its very elites.
8. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (11-2-0)
Lost somewhere in the shadow of his big brother Rodrigo, Lil’ Nogueira has enjoyed a productive 2005, scoring a decision over Alistair Overeem (Pictures) and submission of Dan Henderson (Pictures). His only loss in ’05 came in a war against Shogun
Now that his brother's shadow is almost gone, Lil Nog seems to have faded with it as well. After a lackluster win over Brilz and a loss to Bader - Rogerio has alot to prove to regain any sign of contendership status that he once had. Still very dangerous to any LHW opponent, but being pitted against Ortiz - who hasn’t won a fight since '06, I sincerely hope Lil Nog is not on his permanent way to the senior circuit or a stepping stone for all up and comers.
7. Wanderlei Silva 29-5-1
Wanderlei Silva’s 29 wins had ended before the bell.Despite being criticized throughout his PRIDE 205-pound title reign (he still holds the PRIDE middleweight belt) as a fighter who padded his record against weak Japanese opposition, Silva’s reputation as a killer is well deserved. The Brazilian Chute Boxe fighter is as aggressive as they come, and though he lost to Arona, who offered the worst possible style match-up for a man of Silva’s knock-your-head-off style, Silva still ranks ahead of the Brazilian Top Team fighter.
Mirko's head kick and Hendo's KO probably should have notified the Wandy fanboy in all of us should have expected that the murderer act was about to end. Now on his way to reestablishing his career in the MW division, all of us are just a bunch of hopefuls who try to logically explain the success the Silva will regain. But with Okami, Maia, Marquardt, Sonnen playing the division's contender carousel - we know that Silva will not be a glorious champion he once was. Oh man, atleast he won his last fight - and to make it sweeter, it was against Bisping. Hey Fate, just give us the Belfort / Wanderlei rematch and we can call it even.
6) Chuck Liddell (17-3-0)
The UFC light heavyweight champion has won four in row by stoppage: Jeremy Horn (TKO), Randy Couture (KO), Vernon White (KO), and Tito Ortiz (KO). In case you weren’t sure, The Iceman has explosive hands.
4 out of his last 6 fights - he was knocked out to oblivion that no one among us wouldn't dare to experience. Out of this whole list, Liddell is the only retiree. A sad truth for the once biggest star of the sport. There is really nothing much to say about Liddell's fall except for that nobody wanted it to end this way.
5) Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (25-3-1) 1 NC
If it wasn’t for Fedor, we’d all be trying to figure where "Minotauro" ranks amongst the all-time great MMA heavyweights. Known for an elegant ability to grapple unlike any other heavyweight in the world, Nogueira hasn’t lost to anyone outside of Fedor since 2000 and avenged the only other loss of his career (to Dan Henderson ( in RINGS) in 2003.
If I could choose a fighter to represent the essence of the sport - it will be Big Nog. If you were following MMA at this time - you were a Nogueira fan, in the same level when everybody was a Royce Gracie fan back in the 90's. The 2nd Fedor fight gave me a wicked hope that Nog can regain his status and the best HW alive. Everybody was eager in waiting for Rodrigo to reclaim, as a fictional hero in flesh., was seemed to be rightfully his, the Pride HW championship. We respected Fedor, but we all loved Nogueira. Its been a year since he last fought, that devastating KO by Velasquez. Now, deep down - we all just want him to retire. It is just the right thing to do. I don't even have a prospestorous longing for another run at the title - he is like your ex wife, anything less than moving on would be disastrous.
4) Mauricio Rua (12-1)
The Brazilian’s only loss came against his countryman Renato Sobral in Sept. 2003. This year the young striker is 5-0, holding impressive victories over Ricardo Arona , Alistair Overeem , Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Quinton Jackson . There’s no other way to put it except to say that Shogun has exploded in the 205-pound division this year, and his combination of Muay Thai and wrestling skills, as well as an understanding of how to submit and stay out of submissions have this 24-year-old Chute Boxe product the favorite to win Sherdog.com’s Fighter Of The Year honors.
Epic year for a 24 fucking year old fighter. He just blasted out of now where and stole the division from Chuck Liddell - Icefuckingman. His sudden rise using his skill and charisma reminded me of that 19 year old Vitor Belfort. Simply phenomenal. Rua, one of the very few Pride fighters that fanboys(yes im looking at you) are holding on for a continuous success in the UFC. He is about to face this decade's Phenom - as much as I like Jones, the PRIDE NEVER DIES in me wishes for a Shogun win.
3) Matt Hughes (38-4-0)
Sporting just one loss since the spring of 2001 (a submission defeat versus B.J. Penn , Hughes has basically cleaned out the UFC 170-pound division. With the Penn loss hanging over his head, he armbarred Georges St. Pierre in Oct. 2004.. Pound-for-pound the strongest fighter in MMA.
After the 2nd loss to GSP, it was apparent to all that the once ultra dominant champion of our time will never regain the crown again. I personally like the fights the Matt have chosen recently - I am happy that a legend of his status is somewhat enjoying the tail end of his fighting career. Imo, this should be the way legends end their careers.
2)Takanori Gomi (22-2-0)
Undefeated since losing to B.J. Penn in Oct. 2003, the Japanese lightweight has wins over Jens Pulver , Luiz Azeredo and Tatsuya Kawajiri . More than winning, Gomi has taken his game to a new level in 2005 and is poised to win the Bushido 160-lb. Grand Prix on New Years Eve. He fights without fear and can dominate from any position. It’s his tenacity on the feet combined with a world-class submission wrestling background that sets Gomi apart from virtually every other fighter on the planet. If he’s impressive in taking out Hayato Sakurai on Dec. 31, Gomi could challenge Fedor for the top spot on this list.
2005 was Gomi's best year some may even say better than Shogun's. There was no fucking doubt that Gomi was the best LW living by this time. For the past 2 years, Gomi's only 3-3. Gomi's reign at the top of the LW division is obviously done. I fear that Gomi will be used by the UFC as a stepping stone for their contenders up to the last drop it has. He won't have the same luxury as Hughes - he will be fed to LW's future contenders. It will be a sad end of a fighter that at one time threatened to claim the #1 spot.
1)Fedor Emelianenko(22-1-0) 1 NC
The Russian PRIDE heavyweight champion and reigning PRIDE Heavyweight Grand Prix champion is the most complete fighter this sport has ever seen. Bold statement? I don’t think so. He is undefeated in last 20 fights (if you include the No Contest) and decisively avenged the only loss of his career. His victory over Mirko Filipovic in August showed how intelligent he is in the ring, and it also displayed what kind of toughness the champ brings with him. With the exception of Sergei Kharitonov , Fedor’s beaten every worthy heavyweight PRIDE has to offer, which means he’s beaten nearly all the heavyweights in the world worth fighting. Questions linger about a Fedor-Andrei Arlovski contest. At this point, I don’t see anything that prevents Fedor from dominating that bout. He is the best fighter in the world.
After the shocking loss to Werdum, the SF's HW tournament is the redemption road for arguably the best fighter of this sport (save your debate for GSP & Silva). He is an enigma that still lingers over the sport. Sure, we are all interested in seeing Overeem's progress through this tournament. But the bigger story still relies on the Last Emperor. We are all waiting for a gigantic rise or definite end of an empire that have shadowed this sport for a decade. You can call it a gigantic wet dream if he wins the epic tourney and call quits at a career that will probably outlast even the sport, with or without the UFC.