Strikeforce gains ground in latest heavyweight MMA rankings
Fedor Emelianenko's loss last month turned out to be Strikeforce's overall gain in the ranks of heavyweights in mixed martial arts.
Strikeforce lost its hold on the No. 1 for big men when Fabricio Werdum submitted Emelianenko on June 26, followed by Brock Lesnar's win over Shane Carwin the following week in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The latest edition of the USA TODAY/SB Nation consensus rankings now has Lesnar at No. 1, followed by Emelianenko at No. 2 for the first time since the start of the monthly list, which distills ratings from several prominent MMA websites and journalists.
But beating the longtime No. 1 vaulted Werdum into a tie for No. 3 with Cain Velasquez. Werdum was No. 9 last month, while Velasquez occupied the No. 4 spot, where he remains. That gives Strikeforce two of the top four heavyweights for the first time.
UFC has always had strong competition at the top of the heavyweight division. Before Affliction Entertainment exited the fight promotion business, it occupied three of the five leading spots at one point. For the majority of the 2000s, Pride Fighting Championships had mixed martial arts' deepest roster of big men.
Keep in mind the usual caveat: the formula that we use reflects the MMA community's overall view of fighters' standings relative to each other, but the community might be wrong.
There's a good case to be made for a list that has Lesnar at No. 1 and Junior Dos Santos at No. 2, followed by Werdum and Emelianenko to round out the top four. Dos Santos, who remains No. 6 although he has yet to lose in UFC, knocked out Werdum in October 2008, recent enough for that win to still carry plenty of weight.
Carwin slid to No. 5 from No. 3 after losing to Lesnar.
The top-10 in other six divisions remained mostly unchanged from last month, since few of those fighters competed over the past month. The only major move saw George Sotiropoulos rise to No. 9 from No. 15 among lightweights, following his July 3 win over Kurt Pellegrino, who stayed in the No. 19 spot.
Just think of the past 30 days as a momentary pause. August could send ripples throughout the rankings, with top-10 fighters in action almost every week:
â€¢ Dos Santos takes on No. 18 Roy Nelson on Sunday in the co-main event of UFC on Versus 2, with the winner hoping for the chance to challenge the promotion's heavyweight champion. Title shot or not, Nelson has a good chance of leapfrogging into the top-10 if he can manage a convincing win over Dos Santos.
â€¢ The Versus card includes No. 8 middleweight Yushin Okami in an extremely dangerous tussle with unranked Mark Munoz. A loss to Munoz could permanently derail the championship hopes of Okami, who has lost both times he has been near a UFC title shot.
â€¢ No. 1 middleweight Anderson Silva defends his UFC title against No. 2 Chael Sonnen on Aug. 7 at UFC 117.
â€¢ WEC 50 on Aug. 18 could be a seismic card for 135-pounders, with three of the top-5 bantamweights in action. No. 1 Dominick Cruz's first title defense puts him in a rematch with No. 3 Joseph Benavidez. No. 5 Scott Jorgensen faces No. 15 Brad Pickett.
â€¢ Strikeforce's 205-pound champion Muhammed Lawal, No. 8 among light heavyweights, will tumble if he suffers an upset loss on Aug. 21 to Rafael Cavalcante.
â€¢ Also on the Houston show, No. 11 middleweight Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza faces No. 24 Tim Kennedy for Strikeforce's vacant 185-pound title. Souza should find himself in the top 10 with decisive defeat of Kennedy, who has been on a tear over the past year.
â€¢ What WEC 50 is for bantamweights, UFC 118 on Aug. 28 is for lightweights. No. 1 Frankie Edgar defends his UFC belt at UFC 118 in Boston against the man he took it from, No. 2 BJ Penn. No. 4 Kenny Florian will trying to douse No. 7 Gray Maynard's title hopes.
â€¢ The Boston card also has implications for middleweights. No. 23 Rousimar Palhares can send his stock soaring if he can get past No. 3 Nate Marquardt.