Sherdog's Official Mixed Martial Arts Rankings
1. Fedor Emelianenko (26-1-0, 1 NC)
After a profile free-agent sweepstakes, "The Last Emperor" and his handlers have opted for MMA's top heavyweight to become the face of M-1 Global. With the bulk of quality heavyweights elsewhere, the obvious issue is Emelianenko's ability to retain his top status if he is facing inferior heavyweight opposition. That trend continues with Emelianenko fighting mammoth Korean Hong-Man Choi on New Year's Eve in Tokyo.
2. Randy Couture (16-8-0)
Just when it seemed Couture couldn't capture any more headlines in 2007 after his underdog demolitions of Tim Sylvia (Pictures) and Gabriel Gonzaga (Pictures), "The Natural" resigned from the UFC. The Couture-Emelianenko fight now seems but impossible. If anything, Couture's next battle will be a legal one, as he attempts to get out of his contract with Zuffa.
3. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (30-4-1, 1 NC)
Nogueira will have only competed once in 2007, taking an unnecessary but almost disastrous third win over Heath Herring (Pictures) in July. Thankfully, with the UFC title picture now up in the air, a bout with former champion Tim Sylvia (Pictures) could be in order for early '08, which is exactly the kind of matchup fans were looking for when this whole UFC-PRIDE thing went down.
4. Tim Sylvia (24-3-0)
After his domination at the hands of Randy Couture (Pictures) in March, Sylvia underwent successful back surgery and took apart rising contender Brandon Vera (Pictures) last month. A win over a borderline top-10 heavyweight and the relative stagnancy of the rest of the division sees the former UFC champion rise to the fourth spot in these rankings. With a potential bout against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures) looming, "The Maine-iac" may be poised to move even further up the list.
5. Josh Barnett (20-5-0)
After an incredibly active 2006 in which he fought seven times, Barnett has not competed in 2007. The next action for "The Babyface Assassin" will be in December, where he has both a pro-wrestling match in Antonio Inoki's IGF and a catch-wrestling bout against Hikaru Sato (Pictures) in Pancrase. Given that Barnett is one of the few elite-level heavyweight competitors the sport has, such excursions are frustrating to say the least.
6. Gabriel Gonzaga (8-2-0)
Gonzaga flirted with championship glory but was brought back to earth against a more experienced foe in Randy Couture (Pictures). The 28-year-old Brazilian will begin his journey to another chance at being champion on Jan. 19, when he looks to avenge his first career loss to countryman Fabricio Werdum (Pictures).
7. Andrei Arlovski (11-5-0)
The former UFC champion has one fight left on his deal with Zuffa and won't be seeing action until he re-signs or gets out of the deal. Worse yet, his bargaining power is hampered by his losses to Tim Sylvia (Pictures) and his lackluster effort against Fabricio Werdum (Pictures) in April. The last thing MMA needs is another top heavyweight not competing.
8. Fabricio Werdum (9-3-1)
After a dismal UFC debut in April against Andrei Arlovski (Pictures), Werdum will head back to England in January for another tall task in former foe Gabriel Gonzaga (Pictures). Werdum handed "Napao" the first loss of his pro career in September 2003 in their native Brazil, and he will need to replicate his effort to maintain his standing as a top heavyweight.
9. Cheick Kongo (11-3-1)
Speaking to the power of a win over a name opponent, Kongo, who is still fairly limited as a mixed martial artist, finds himself ranked after his impressive decision victory on Sept. 8 over Mirko Filipovic (Pictures). The tall, powerful striker is a danger for anyone on the feet, but quality grapplers may still have their way with the Frenchman.
10. Mirko Filipovic (22-6-2)
After losing to Kongo, "Cro Cop" is just 1-2 since joining the UFC ranks after winning the 2006 PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix. Filipovic needs time off and a serious re-evaluation of his career if he's going to approach top-five status again.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (205-185)
1. Quinton Jackson (28-6-0)
"Rampage" has worked past the troubles that haunted him after a tough series of fights in PRIDE, the last of which saw him go down in defeat to "Shogun" Rua. The exciting and flamboyant UFC light heavyweight put himself on the map by blasting out Chuck Liddell (Pictures) in less than two minutes. He followed that with a hard-fought victory over Dan Henderson (Pictures) on Sept. 8. With an injured hand, Jackson likely won't fight until next spring. "Rampage" takes the No. 1 spot with Rua's loss.
2. Dan Henderson (22-6-0)
Undersized for the division, Dan Henderson (Pictures) is not a known name amongst many casual MMA fans. A scrappy former Olympic wrestler who's worked hard to integrate a dangerous striking game punctuated by one of the best right hands in the sport, Henderson has continually defied the odds against heavier opposition. His 25-minute war against Jackson is indicative of how tough the 37-year-old Henderson can be. Henderson slides up two spots. News of a fight with Anderson Silva at 185 pounds would suggest that Henderson will focus on the middleweight division, where he was previously ranked and subsequently dropped because of inactivity.
3. Wanderlei Silva (31-7-1, 1 NC)
Finally, after setback after setback ad nauseam, a clash between Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) and Chuck Liddell (Pictures) will happen Dec. 29. It isn't the fight it would've been at one time, but at the end of the day, it is still a clash between enduring top fighters in one of MMA's strongest weight classes. Not a bad Christmas gift at all.
4. Keith Jardine (13-3-1)
Proof that a good game plan and a quality fight camp can get you far in MMA, Keith Jardine (Pictures) enjoyed the benefits of both on Sept. 22 in out-pointing former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell (Pictures). Like Liddell, "The Dean of Mean" was returning to the ring for the first time since suffering a brutal knockout loss, but Jardine showed no ill effects in winning.
5. Forrest Griffin (15-4-0)
Tough. To be so is an important trait for a fighter, but alone it's usually not enough to find someone ranked amongst the elite. Griffin has taken his toughness and added to it over the years. That hard work, done recently in Randy Couture (Pictures)'s gym in Las Vegas, paid huge dividends on Sept. 22 when the unranked "The Ultimate Fighter 1" winner submitted Mauricio Rua (Pictures), who topped most rating lists at 205 pounds.
6. Mauricio Rua (16-3-0)
Rua had nothing for the previously unranked Griffin in their Sept. 22 UFC fight. Following the choke-out loss, Rua falls from No. 1 to 6. The Brazilian earned his reputation by winning in Japan, where he demolished current UFC champion Quinton Jackson (Pictures) and captured the prestigious PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix. With his exciting fighting style and world-class skill, the Chute Boxe fighter was poised to become a star in the United States. At just 25 years of age, he can rebound from the Griffin defeat, but it will take excellent performances for him to find the top spot anytime soon.
7. Chuck Liddell (20-5)
Although his dismal decision loss to Keith Jardine (Pictures) in September shouldn't earn him any favors, Liddell will get his longtime wish Dec. 29 when he will finally meet Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) in the cage. If Liddell was looking for a way to erase his back-to-back disappointments this year, this is it.
8. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (4-1-0)
Africa's top mixed martial artist exploded upon the world stage in 2007 with early knockouts of then top-10 light heavyweights Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Pictures) and Ricardo Arona (Pictures). The accomplished judoka has relied on his hands, but he's also paid the price for slugging it out, suffering a stoppage loss in October 2006 to Glover Teixeira (Pictures), a training partner of Chuck Liddell (Pictures). Finally Sokoudjou has signed with an organization and will make his UFC debut Dec. 29 versus Lyoto Machida (Pictures).
9. Rashad Evans (11-0-1)
"Sugar" Rashad returns to the Sherdog top-10 after his tight decision win over Michael Bisping (Pictures) at UFC 78. On the heels of a draw versus Tito Ortiz (Pictures), which Evans would have lost had Ortiz not grabbed the cage fencing and suffered a point deduction, a destructive KO over Sean Salmon (Pictures) and, most impressively, a dominating stoppage of Jason Lambert (Pictures), "The Ultimate Fighter 2" heavyweight winner moves into the ninth spot.
10. Lyoto Machida (11-0-0)
While the enigmatic Machida's fight style and consequent low finishing rate tend to polarize fans' opinions of him, the 29-year-old Brazilian has gone from a hardcore fan's curiosity to a bonafide contender over the course of 2007. His undefeated record is fortified by his back-to-back dismantlings of then-undefeated David Heath (Pictures) and the respectable Kazuhiro Nakamura (Pictures). With his recent wins, and the lack of performance from Arona and Nogueira, Machida moves into the 205 ranks. Machida will have a golden opportunity to climb the rankings, and to answer his detractors, when he meets fellow breakout light heavyweight Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (Pictures) on Dec. 29.
1. Anderson Silva
You expected someone else? Silva repeated his October 2006 whipping of Rich Franklin (Pictures) with an October 2007 whipping of "Ace" in front of his hometown Cincinnati crowd. Yet another high-level win has even further solidified Silva's stature atop the division. While many are waiting for the other shoe to drop for "The Spider," they may have to wait a bit longer yet: The UFC's 185-pound title picture is anything but clear-cut.
2. Paulo Filho (16-0-0)
The good: Filho knocked off a very solid and worthy opponent in his Dec. 12 WEC title defense in Chael Sonnen (Pictures). The bad: He looked positively awful doing it, and the fight's finish came amid considerable controversy. The ugly: The fight has led to many fans and pundits alike questioning whether Filho is nearly as talented as his beefy record says. It's a question that will only get answered in time.
3. Matt Lindland (20-5-0)
Unquestionably one of the toughest and gamest guys in the sport, the real problem for Matt Lindland (Pictures) has been that he hasn't fought much relevant competition at 185 pounds. If "The Law" climbs in with some quality middleweight opposition in 2008, he'll almost certainly improve his stock in the division.
4. Rich Franklin (22-3-0, 1 NC)
Following another destruction at the hands of Anderson Silva, Franklin's next move is unclear. He is still a quality competitor in a relatively shallow division, but he is left with very few options given the nature of his debasing losses to "The Spider."
5. Nathan Marquardt (25-7-2)
Marquardt found himself overwhelmed by UFC champion Anderson Silva in July. Though many thought Marquardt provided a bad style match for Silva, his chin failed to hold up against the champion's strikes. "Nate the Great" will be in action come Super Bowl weekend against once-beaten Brazilian Thales Leites (Pictures).
6. Robbie Lawler (16-4-0)
Injury again nixed a proposed Dec. 15 bout in ICON Sport with Hawaiian banger Kala Kolohe Hose (Pictures). Here's hoping that third time is the charm for getting this fight done and that one of ProElite's only top talents can stay healthy for action in the new year.
7. Yushin Okami (21-4-0)
Following his domination of Jason MacDonald (Pictures) in October, rumors immediately surfaced that Okami was done in the UFC and that Zuffa had no interest in re-signing him. That talk was quickly quashed as Okami and his camp renegotiated a new deal for the Japanese standout that will put him back in the Octagon in early 2008.
8. Yoshihiro Akiyama (10-1-0, 1 NC)
After spending almost 11 months on the shelf after his slippery situation with Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures), Akiyama may wind up having a very respectable 2007. After his brutal KO of Denis Kang (Pictures) in front of a partisan Seoul crowd in October, the native Korean will square off with former PRIDE Grand Prix winner Kazuo Misaki (Pictures) in a highly intriguing bout that will be part of the Dec. 31 Yarennoka! bill.
9. Denis Kang (27-9-1, 1 NC)
After a broken hand had kept him out for most of 2007, Kang got a rude welcome back to competition when an Akiyama uppercut sent him to sleep with his eyes wide open. One of the division's most gifted athletes, Kang has had to deal with injury and visa woes this year that have limited and hampered his in-ring performance.
10. Frank Trigg (16-6-0)
Not the most poignant victory in the world, but "Twinkle Toes" made easy work of Edwin Dewees (Pictures) on the Dec. 15 HDNet Fights card. What's more important is that Jason "Mayhem" Miller knocked off Tim Kennedy (Pictures), setting up a quality rematch between the two fighters early next year. Their first encounter was the bout that brought Trigg back to prominence, as he literally stomped out MMA's cult hero in December 2006.
1. Matt Serra (9-4-0)
Even though he became a part of MMA fans' weekly television watching, it's been seven long months since "The Terror" shocked the world, running roughshod over Georges St. Pierre (Pictures). In a year full of solid performances from the likes of Randy Couture (Pictures), Quinton Jackson (Pictures) and Anderson Silva, Serra had the chance to entrench himself as 2007's most outstanding fighter and validate himself in the eyes of nonbelievers against Matt Hughes (Pictures) on Dec. 29. However, an injury on Thanksgiving week forced Serra to the sidelines, where he'll watch the No. 2 and 3 welterweights battle for an interim title.
2. Georges St. Pierre (14-2-0)
An incredible two-year run saw the French Canadian capture the UFC welterweight belt while defeating the likes of Jason Miller, Frank Trigg (Pictures), Sean Sherk (Pictures), B.J. Penn (Pictures) and Matt Hughes (Pictures). No one gave Matt Serra (Pictures) a chance of beating GSP when the two met in April, yet Serra blasted out the champ to take the coveted UFC crown. St. Pierre got back on track at UFC 74 with a resounding decision win over Josh Koscheck (Pictures). GSP is slotted in to fight Hughes for the UFC welterweight interim belt on Dec. 29.
3. Matt Hughes(41-5-0)
While Hughes' team took a beating on the latest season of "The Ultimate Fighter," the former two-time UFC welterweight champion thought he was going for his third title against TUF 6 adversary Matt Serra (Pictures) on Dec. 29. However, Serra's back injury prompted St. Pierre to fill in, making the year-ending fight a chance for Hughes to take a two fights to one edge over the French Canadian. A trilogy-winning performance from Hughes puts him back in line to fight his rival from New York.
4. Jon Fitch (15-2-0, 1 NC)
With his impressive decision victory over Diego Sanchez (Pictures) on Sept. 22, Fitch moved to 7-0 in the UFC and up two spots in the Sherdog rankings. The impressive wrestler turned mixed martial artist showed an array of skills, including an amazing ability to avoid submissions. Fitch has come out of the shadows the right way, winning tough fights that helped him grow as a fighter -- and as a known commodity among MMA fans.
5. Josh Koscheck (9-2-0)
A last-second loss to Drew Fickett (Pictures) is no longer the only blemish on the powerful wrestler's ledger. Koscheck was dominated during his 15-minute clash with former UFC champion Georges St. Pierre (Pictures). Perhaps most surprising: He was outwrestled and forced to fight from the bottom for most of the fight. Training with Jon Fitch (Pictures) at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., should only help Koscheck's progression.
6. Diego Sanchez (17-2-0)
Undefeated before losing by decision to Koscheck in one of his worst efforts as a pro, Sanchez redeemed himself even in losing to Jon Fitch (Pictures) on Sept. 22. "The Ultimate Fighter 1" star aggressively attacked Fitch with submissions, but he failed to find one due to his foe's incredible defense. Sanchez recently left his childhood home of Albuquerque, N.M., and longtime trainer Greg Jackson to be with his child in San Diego, Calif. The move to work with Rob Garcia regularly didn't appear to hurt Sanchez, who might consider a move down to lightweight following his second loss in a row.
7. Karo Parisyan (18-4-0)
Parisyan was once promised a title shot before the UFC's 170-pound title picture went haywire. However, he has done his job as a prizefighter, continuously facing quality opposition and, apart from his classic with Diego Sanchez (Pictures), winning. The high amplitude-minded Armenian continued his march towards a title shot by outlasting former DEEP champion and PRIDE veteran Ryo Chonan (Pictures) at UFC 78.
8. Jake Shields (20-4-1)
With free agency looming, Shields inked a long-term deal with ProElite and then went out and quickly dispatched of a quality opponent in Mike Pyle (Pictures). The next stop for Shields would seemingly be an EliteXC title match. The real question, however, is whom Gary Shaw and company can find to face Shields that will offer him any sort of challenge.
9. Shinya Aoki (11-2-0)
Aoki slides a spot in the rankings to No. 9 due to his obvious inactivity. Aoki offers another reason to keep fans excited on New Year's Eve, when the Japanese submission artist fights lightweight star Gesias Calvancante (Pictures) in Tokyo.
10. Carlos Condit (21-4-0)
The young fighter from Albuquerque, N.M., has compiled quite a record, most recently defending his WEC title by submitting Brock Larson (Pictures) in the opening round. Condit's participation in last year's Rumble on the Rock tournament put him on the map, though he ended the event losing to Shields. A bad defeat against Pat Healy (Pictures) followed, but the 23-year-old fighter has reeled off six wins in a row to squeak into the final slot at 170 pounds. To get any higher, he needs to hope WEC brings in serious competition.
1. Takanori Gomi (27-3-0, 1 ND)
With the rest of the lightweight division soldiering on, "The Fireball Kid" sits on the sidelines. Former DSE employee turned Yarennoka! exec Keiichi Sasahara says that the brain trust behind the event have been unsuccessful in convincing Gomi to compete on the New Year's Eve event alongside Melendez, Calvancante, Kawajiri, Ishida and Aoki.
2. Gilbert Melendez (13-0-0)
Just when it looked like we'd only get one in-ring visit from "El Niño" this year, it was announced that Melendez would be hopping into the ring on New Year's Eve with another top-10 fighter in Mitsuhiro Ishida (Pictures). With a showdown against Josh Thomson (Pictures) penciled in for March, Melendez has the chance to really put his stamp on the division.
3. Gesias Calvancante (14-1-1)
After a great year that saw him capture the HERO'S 154-pound tournament again, "JZ" signed on for a New Year's Eve clash with Shinya Aoki (Pictures) on the Yarennoka! bill. It is a considerably better matchup than watching him fight Andy Ologun (Pictures) on K-1 Premium 2007 Dynamite!!
4. Tatsuya Kawajiri (19-4-2)
A victim of Zuffa's buyout of PRIDE, Kawajiri will finally see action on the last day of the year. More importantly, it's a pretty good fight, as the "Crusher" will take on Brazilian whirlwind Luiz Azeredo (Pictures).
5. Vitor Ribeiro (19-2)
"Shaolin" had successful eye surgery in September following his destruction at the hands of Gesias Calvancante (Pictures). For Ribeiro, recovery likely can't come fast enough to allow him to erase the memories of his dreadful performance in the HERO'S semifinal.
6. Sean Sherk (32-2-1)
After the tumultuous saga of his CSAC steroids appeal, Sherk's suspension was reduced to six months at his Dec. 4 hearing, and he was subsequently stripped of the UFC lightweight title. While the larger statements that the Sherk trial makes about MMA are up for debate, "The Muscle Shark" will be back in action in the first half of 2008 against the winner of the Joe Stevenson-B.J. Penn (Pictures) clash.
7. Mitsuhiro Ishida (14-3-1)
Like his partner in crime Tatsuya Kawajiri (Pictures), Ishida was a victim of PRIDE's demise. However, Ishida will also get the chance to climb back into the ring for Yarennoka! on Dec. 31. Going up against Gilbert Melendez (Pictures), Ishida faces an enormous assignment -- an uphill battle to prove he belongs among the top 155-pounders in a rapidly transforming division.
8. B.J. Penn (11-4-1)
Six years since he seemed poised to be the fighter to bring the 155-pounders to the masses, the 29-year-old "Prodigy" will take on Joe Stevenson for the UFC lightweight crown Jan. 19 in Newcastle, England. Indications are that the winner will face Sean Sherk (Pictures) later in the year. That's a schedule fans can get behind.
9. Joe Stevenson (28-7-0)
Riding a four-fight winning streak since returning to the lightweight class, Stevenson is now faced with the largest task of his career: B.J. Penn (Pictures) for the UFC's 155-pound championship. Should he emerge victorious, Sean Sherk (Pictures) is likely on the horizon. Needless to say, things are fixing to pick up for "Joe Daddy."
10. Frank Edgar (8-0-0)
One of the most pleasant surprises of 2007, Edgar burst onto the scene in February with his instant classic and fight-of-the-year candidate against then-undefeated Tyson Griffin. In continuing an undefeated streak against solid competition, Edgar dominated well-regarded Miletich product Spencer Fisher (Pictures) from bell to bell in front of a hometown New Jersey crowd. "The Answer" debuts in the rankings at No. 10 and further illustrates the changing of the lightweight guard.
1. Urijah Faber (20-1-0)
For a while, Urijah Faber (Pictures) was seen as the world's top featherweight based on talent and visibility rather than knocking off top competitors. "The California Kid" finally got the chance to validate his hype, and he passed the test with flying colors as he choked out Jeff Curran (Pictures) in the second round of his Dec. 12 WEC title defense. With the victory, Faber finally earns the top spot in the rankings. However, heavy is the head that wears the crown, and with the likes of a rejuvenated Jens Pulver (Pictures) and relocated Hiroyuki Takaya (Pictures) in the cage, Faber will have no shortage of challenges.
2. Akitoshi Tamura (11-5-2)
Enjoying a tremendous breakout year, the Shooto world champion falls from first to second with the ascension of Faber to the top of the list. However, if Tamura is no flash in the pan and his 2007 success is an indication of true improvement, he may not be quite done with knocking off top-10 opponents in 2008. His next fight will likely be a rubber match with Lion Takeshi.
3. Takeshi Inoue (14-2-0)
In a thoroughly entertaining but ultimately one-sided affair earlier last month, Lion Takeshi showed the form that made him Shooto world champion in dominating tricky veteran Katsuya Toida (Pictures) for the meaningless Shooto 143-pound Pacific Rim title. In the current climate of pro Shooto, the potent-punching Yokohama native seems bound for a world title rubber match with Akitoshi Tamura (Pictures) in '08.
4. Jeff Curran (28-9-1)
"The Big Frog" had a great first round but ultimately fell prey to Urijah Faber (Pictures) in their Dec. 12 WEC title bout. A highly skilled vet at only 30 years old, Curran is nowhere near the end of the road as a fighter, but the miles ahead may be much harder with the influx of talent into the WEC.
5. Hiroyuki Takaya (9-4-1)
Takaya has looked sensational in his return to the featherweight division, icing Jarrod Card (Pictures) and Antonio Carvalho (Pictures). What's more is that Takaya recently signed a deal with Zuffa to compete in the WEC, which will make for some exciting, high-stakes matchups in the cage.
6. Antonio Carvalho (10-3-0)
Carvalho came out the loser in his toe-to-toe war with Takaya. What's next for the Canadian is unknown. He plans on heading home to Toronto after spending the year living and training in Tokyo, and his strained relationship with Shooto authorities has likely signaled his end there.
7. Masakazu Imanari (13-5-1)
In one of the year's most absurd bouts, Imanari aimlessly sidekicked journeyman Hiroyuki Abe for almost 14 minutes on Oct. 9 while Abe stood like a statue and employed the ancient hourglass karate stance. Thankfully the "Ashikan Judan" lived up to his moniker and finally got the bout to the mat, where he quickly ankle locked Abe. Hopefully I, manari's next outing, whether in Cage Rage or Deep, has a little more substance.
8. Yoshiro Maeda (22-4-1)
The Pancrase poster boy has looked solid in his 2007 campaign, running his record to 3-0 with a September stamping of Frenchman Johnny Frachey (Pictures). Now he'll head back to his hometown of Osaka for Deep's Dec. 22 card, where he'll meet suddenly relevant South Korean slugger Jong Man Kim (Pictures). Maeda's career has been characterized by his flaky failures in the ring, which should provide some extra drama in taking on the live underdog in Kim.
9. Jong Man Kim (3-2-1, 1 NC)
After his shocking win over Hatsu Hioki (Pictures) in October, it was unclear what Jong Man Kim (Pictures)'s future would be. Shigeru Saeki was on the ball and has lined up a great little fight for Deep's Dec. 22 card in Osaka. Taking on Pancrase featherweight king Yoshiro Maeda (Pictures) in his backyard, will Kim be able to spoil another top-10 , ,, fe, ather, weight's homecomi,, , ng?
10. Hatsu Hioki (13-3-1)
Hioki got back into the win column late last month in his native Nagoya with a blowout decision over TUF 5 alum Brian Geraghty (Pictures). He will look to put his recent woes even farther behind him as he takes on quirky vet Katsuya Toida (Pictures) as part of the Jan. 26 Shooto bill at Korakuen Hall.
1. Akitoshi Hokazono (6-0-2)
The king of Shooto's 132-pound class, Hokazono remains one of MMA's largest enigmas. In effortless back-to-back thrashings of Marcos Louro and Kenji Osawa (Pictures) to capture the vacant Shooto crown, Hokazono looked like a pound-for-pound king. Yet he only fights once or twice a year, and he insists MMA is a hobby for him. Worse yet, his much-anticipated July title clash with former champ Ryota Matsune (Pictures) was cancelled after the oft-injured Matsune suffered a torn bicep and a broken rib. American promoters would be smart to nab the 30-year-old Osakan and give him a stage to let his potential shine through.
2. Koetsu Okazaki (5-0-1)
After an 18-month layoff, Okazaki returned in June 2006 and has rattled off successive wins over Hiroyuki Tanaka (Pictures), So Tazawa (Pictures) and Atsushi Yamamoto (Pictures). The well-rounded pupil of Dokonjonosuke Mishima (Pictures) is perhaps the best-kept secret in Shooto's 132-pound division. Another solid win may make him the most worthy challenger to Hokazono's title.
3. Atsushi Yamamoto (11-4-1)
Yamamoto's decision to leave Pancrase, where the smallest weight class is 141 pounds, for pro Shooto, where he can compete at his more natural weight of 132 pounds, continues to pay dividends. The "Kid" Yamamoto disciple took a dominant unanimous decision over standout grappler "Hadairo" Tetsu Suzuki (Pictures) on Sept. 22 and solidified his spot in the upper echelon of Shooto's 132-pound division.
4. Brian Bowles (4-0-0)
Bowles went from "Who is this kid?" after his June submission win over vet Charlie Valencia (Pictures) to "This kid is serious" after his Dec. 12 steamrolling of the well-traveled and well-accomplished Marcos "Louro" Galvao. With the win, Bowles notched the most significant victory to date for a North American bantamweight against international competition and also cemented himself as a worthy adversary to the likes of Chase Beebe (Pictures) and Miguel Torres (Pictures).
5. Marcos Galvao (6-2-0)
After years of competing in Shooto, "Louro" got a golden opportunity to showcase his skills in the WEC, which has quickly become the big stage for talent below 155 pounds. The result? Galvao got absolutely destroyed by upstart Brian Bowles (Pictures), who tore him apart on the feet en route to a second-round stoppage. With the shellacking, Galvao falls from second to fifth in the rankings.
6. Daniel Lima (8-2-2)
The Australia-based Brazilian has enjoyed a solid 2007 campaign. He moved his mark to 3-0 on the year with an exciting split-decision victory over Kenji Osawa (Pictures) in September. The next action for "Little Devil" will likely come in his adopted homeland.
7. Kenji Osawa (13-7-1)
The charismatic Wajyutsu product came out on the wrong end of a split decision in his rematch with Daniel Lima (Pictures). How his two losses in a row will affect his desire to compete stateside is unknown, but thankfully Osawa's self-professed desire to face the best fighters in the world should see him remain in relevant competition.
8. Takeya Mizugaki (8-2-2)
The 2005 Shooto rookie MVP notched another dominant victory in the cage with a spanking of journeyman Seiji Otsuka (Pictures) on Cage Force's Dec. 1 bill. Here's hoping the potent 24-year-old fighter will find better and more meaningful action in the Shooto ring early next year.
9. Miguel Torres (19-1-0)
For most mixed martial arts fans, Torres' Sept. 5 win in the WEC against Jeff Bedard (Pictures) was the first opportunity to see the lanky bantamweight from Chicago. His combination of striking and submissions make him an incredibly difficult fight for anyone in the division. With the success of the WEC, the ultra-talented Torres will finally have the chance to fight accomplished bantamweight opponents in 2008.
10. Chase Beebe (11-1-0)
A big fish in a small but developing pond, the WEC's 135-pound champ looked fantastic in his grueling 25-minute title win over Eddie Wineland (Pictures) in March. He also looked excellent in his first defense on Sept. 5 against world champion submission grappler Rani Yahya (Pictures), which was also a five-round war. Beebe's rank, like Miguel Torres (Pictures)', certainly does not reflect his immense talent. With the road ahead being lined with more accomplished foes, he's a sure bet to climb these rankings.
1. Shinichi Kojima (8-2-4)
A miserable year for the Shooto world champion got even worse at Shooto's super-card at Yoyogi in November. BJ said it was his dream to hold both the Shooto world 123-pound and 132-pound titles. He tried to take his first step toward that goal against 18-year-old Brazilian prodigy Eduardo "Dudu" Dantas in his 132-pound debut. The young Andre Pederneiras pupil was a step ahead of BJ, who has looked dreadful since leaving Hiroyuki Abe's AACC and linking up with Shuichiro Katsumura (Pictures) and his Katsumura Dojo. With his next 123-pound title defense in the upcoming months, something drastic will have to happen, or BJ will likely be beltless.
2. Yasuhiro Urushitani (14-3-5)
A rough year got rougher for Urushitani this month, when he got a much tougher-than-expected tune-up against Guamanian import Jesse Taitano (Pictures). Though he controlled most of the bout, a knockdown seemingly swayed the judges who ruled the bout a majority draw, with only one card going to the deserving Urushitani. Thankfully, it appears Urushitani will get his opportunity to take the belt he should already own against BJ Kojima in the Shooto ring in '08.
3. Mamoru Yamaguchi (18-4-3)
The longtime ruler of the 123-pounders wasn't able to repeat his December 2003 win over Urushitani. He will need to work his way back up the ladder to earn another shot at BJ or Urushitani. However, the positive for Mamoru is that while BJ and Urushitani may offer difficult tests for him, he is still head and shoulders above the rest of the weight class.
4. Yuki Shoujou (7-3-2)
Having one of the best 2007 campaigns of any pro Shootor, Shoujou ran his record to 3-0 this year with a commanding decision victory over ever-tough veteran Junji Ikoma (Pictures) last month. The always-exciting Shoujou is now in the thick of things in Shooto's 123-pound division and should provide fantastic scraps for years to come.
5. Rambaa Somdet (4-2)
Surreal to say the least, former Thai stadium standout Rambaa "M-16" Somdet, after nearly five years away from MMA, returned to the ring earlier this year. First he demolished 115-pounder Takehiro Harusaki (Pictures) effortlessly in July. Then this month he destroyed a streaking Masaaki Sugawara (Pictures), threatening with both submission attempts and vicious strikes before forcing a doctor's stoppage after the second round. While it's unclear if Somdet will continue campaigning at 115 or 123 pounds, the colorful and unorthodox fighter has commanded the attention of fans with his last two wins.
Last edited by dipl0mat125; 12-18-2007 at 04:46 PM.