It’s truly amazing to see how fast the landscape can change in a sport that continues to grow as rapidly as MMA does. It’s been 5 years since 2007, which in this sport is practically a generation bordering on an eternity. And yet without fail, our surroundings are once again drastically different from what they were.
Jon Jones, Jose Aldo, Dominick Cruz, Frankie Edgar and Ben Henderson are all newly prominent parts of the p4p picture, the UFC has struck long-term deals with both Fox Sports and EA games, Pride, Affliction and Strikeforce have either been purchased, defeated or dissolved, and The Ultimate Fighter is now LIVE while also expanding to multiple countries and new markets. But with all that’s changed outside of the octagon, let’s take a retrospective look at what has happened to those who were dominating their opponents five years ago. We’ll have Sherdog.com Pound-for-Pound rankings as an example:
|Current Sherdog.com MMA Rankings||2007 Sherdog.com MMA Rankings|
|1. Anderson Silva (31-4)||1. Fedor Emelianenko (26-1)|
|2. Georges St. Pierre (22-2)||2. Mauricio Rua (16-2)|
|3. Jon Jones (15-1)||3. Gilbert Melendez (12-0)|
|4. Jose Aldo (20-1)||4. Dan Henderson (22-5)|
|5. Dan Henderson (29-8)||5. Anderson Silva (19-4)|
|6. Dominick Cruz (19-1)||6. Quinton Jackson (27-6)|
|7. Benson Henderson (16-2)||7. Takanori Gomi (27-3)|
|8. Frankie Edgar (14-2-1)||8. Shinya Aoki (11-2)|
|9. Gilbert Melendez (20-2)||9. Sean Sherk (32-2)|
|10. Carlos Condit (28-5)||10. Norifumi Yamamoto (15-1)|
Interestingly enough, there are a total of seven fighters (6 active and 1 inactive) who were ranked in the top 10 p4p five years ago, but have since fell off the radar. Let’s take a look at each of these fighters. Who was ranked where, why and where are they now?
Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko (Ranked 1st in 2007)
I’m sure the very first thing the majority of you will notice is Fedor’s name at the very top of the list. And rightfully so, seeing as how he was seven years into his ten-year unbeaten streak against the very best heavyweights that the world had to offer. Now I’m not about to get into a debate with all of the haters, but I will say that he should be respected due to the fact that it would be difficult to stay undefeated against random 250lb men off of the street for ten years, let alone trained, professional and much larger, heavyweight mixed martial artists. It gets even crazier when you factor in the potential for injuries, sickness, off days and so on. But after three recent consecutive losses against two above average heavyweight opponents and an elite middleweight, Fedor has now been taken out of the p4p conversation. Many of the Fedor naysayers will claim he was never quite as good as his praise, but I will continue to politely disagree and chalk it up to age, strategy and the evolution of the sport. Fedor is amazingly well rounded and had a tenacious/aggressive attack that not many opponents could handle even in today’s UFC. But at the end of the day the body slows down, the mind loses focus, motivations change and ambitions begin to diminish. Although he’s recently established a little winning streak with back-to-back victories over Judo Gold Medalist Satoshi Ishii and MMA Journeyman Jeff Monson, he faces Pedro Rizzo next in what could potentially be the final fight of his career. His time is coming and soon he’ll be able to ride off into the sunset as the greatest, most ferocious fighter to ever compete in the sport of MMA, and the one man who will be fittingly remembered as “The Last Emperor”.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (Ranked 2nd in 2007)
Shogun dominated the 205lb division of the Pride circuit for about four years straight. With the exception of a freak accident which dislocated his elbow and led to his bout with Mark Coleman being designated as a TKO loss, Shogun shares a huge accomplishment with Fedor in that he is one of the only fighters to go completely undefeated while competing in the Pride organization. His resume includes finishing some of the greatest, most feared fighters, that a few of which were considered at the time to be un-finishable. With the inconsistency of both his health and training/motivation however, Shogun has been unable to establish the kind of streak he once carved for himself years ago in Pride, and with the rise of and loss to Jon Jones, he has since dropped off the p4p radar and will most likely never return. Interestingly enough he fell off of this list immediately when he lost to Forrest Griffin in his UFC debut the very next month. Shogun now faces an uphill battle to get back into the Light-Heavyweight division’s roster of elite fighters. Strangely enough his next fight will be against Brandon Vera which will either leave him with a useless Victory or a crushing and humiliating defeat. Either way it’s a lose/lose situation for Shogun.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (Ranked 6th in 2007)
In the summer of 2007 Jackson had just made the move to the UFC, knocking out both Marvin Eastman and then UFC favorite Chuck Liddell, capping off a 5-fight win streak and capturing the Light-Heavyweight Championship in the process, which he then defended with a Unanimous Decision win over Dan Henderson, ultimately unifying the Pride Middleweight and UFC Light-Heavyweight titles. The “Rampage” ended when he was upset by Forrest Griffin, losing the belt and ultimately beginning his transformation into the one-dimensional, head-hunting, less aggressive, constantly complaining Quinton Jackson that you know today. Unable to find a consistent streak of victories and unwilling to become a more dynamic and well-rounded fighter, Jackson has since dropped off the p4p radar with back-to-back losses to Jon Jones/Ryan Bader and will most likely never return to prominence given his unhappiness with the UFC, the one fight left on his contract and his recently announced acting ambitions. (Did you know that his actual middle name is “Ramone”??)
“The Fireball Kid” Takanori Gomi (Ranked 7th in 2007)
Gomi is one of those fighters, who unlike Fedor can actually be considered a tad overrated. At the time of these rankings he had gathered 27 victories in his first 30 professional bouts including a no contest over Nick Diaz. This is an impressive stat, but the problem lies in the fact that (with the exception of Jens Pulver) all of his wins were against relatively unknown, unproven or semi-irrelevant competition. YES he was winning the majority of his fights, YES he was finishing most of his opponents, but ultimately who were they? In the grand scheme of things Gomi was a great fighter, with some solid skills and a very exciting fight style. But he’s currently at 2-3 in the UFC, with all three losses coming by way of submission against solid fighters like Kenny Florian, Clay Guida and Nate Diaz. At 33, if Gomi doesn’t make some drastic changes in his training and round his game out to adapt to the elite UFC fighters of today, then I’m afraid his time will be up and his best days will have passed him.
Shinya Aoki (Ranked 8th in 2007)
Shinya Aoki is without a doubt the most one dimensional fighter on this list. In 2007 he held a 13-2 record via eight submission victories, with some truly amazing highlight reel finishes, including four armbars, a flying triangle choke and a standing arm lock. However Aoki’s wins are plagued by the same irrelevant unknown Japanese opponents that Gomi was defeating with ease. Aoki eventually found himself on the winning end of bouts against some great fighters like Caol Uno and Eddie Alvarez, but once his opponents began to figure out that his striking was well below average, they negated his blatantly obvious fight strategy and the more well-rounded fighters began to defeat him with relative ease, in some cases via embarrassing fashion. With a record of 30-6 and at the prime age of 29, Aoki still has what it takes to be much more than he’s proving. But if he continues to use his one trick, (even though he may be one of the very best at it) then the only victories he’ll be finding are the ones he continues to rack up against sub-par/mediocre opponents. After suffering a quick and effortless loss to Eddie Alvarez recently, Aoki should look to change his training drastically and pursue a contract with the UFC if he hopes to prove he is truly one of the best at 155lbs.
Sean “The Muscle Shark” Sherk (Ranked 9th in 2007)
Sean Sherk was riding a three fight winning streak over Nick Diaz, Kenny Florian and Hermes Franca, both winning and defending the vacant UFC Lightweight title in the process. His record was a very impressive 34-2-1 with wins over promising young fighters Manny Gamburyan and Karo Parysian (twice). However, his record was tainted, his wins were questioned, his titled was stripped and his career took a nose dive when he was one of the very first fighters in MMA history to test positive for Anabolic Steroids. After re-entering the UFC as a clean fighter, Sherk went 2-2 unable to find victory against more elite fighters such as BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar. Sherk has since retired, but his career will forever be tainted by his poor decision to use steroids in order to obtain an advantage over his opponents.
Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto (Ranked 10th in 2007)
Back in 2007 “Kid” Yamamoto was on fire. Competing in both MMA and K-1 successfully, holding a 16-1 MMA record with countless knockouts against the likes of Jeff Curran, Caol Uno, Genki Sudo, Royler Gracie and Bibiano Fernandes, with a perfect K-1 career record of 5-0. It’s no wonder Dana White was a fan and very interested in getting him to the UFC as fast as possible. However since Yamamoto has made the transition to the big leagues, he’s been unable to find a single victory in three bouts against two relatively mediocre opponents… Not a good way to impress your boss if you ask me. If Yamamoto can’t find a way to adapt to the cage and put himself in the winning column against the vicious bantamweights of the UFC, then you can bet your life savings that he’ll be cut real soon.
Honorable Mentions On Both Lists:
I don’t think I need to explain why this man has not only remained on the p4p list but shot up to the #1 spot. He’s remained unbeaten and (with the exception of the Chael Sonnen fight) untouchable for the past seven years. He’s defeated almost everyone in the Middleweight division with relative ease and even dabbled at Light-Heavyweight on a few occasions. He could potentially surpass Fedor as the very best of all-time, but he’ll need to remain active and undefeated against top competition for a couple more years before I give him that title and respect.
He continues to win, even at the age of 41 and to be completely honest, shows relatively no signs of slowing down. Like Couture, Hendo seems to be getting slightly better and wiser with both age and experience. On a four fight winning streak with victories over Shogun, Fedor, Cavalcante and Babalu, expect him to remain on the p4p list for the next little while. It’ll be interesting to see what he can do in his upcoming bout with Jon Jones.
I’m not a fan of his and it’s practically a fact that he’s overrated. The truth is, he should have never been ranked on any p4p list, now or then. Don’t get me wrong he has a great record of 21-2 against some solid opponents, but he’s pretty much never fought a highly ranked lightweight from the UFC and has yet to prove himself against the very best at 155lbs. Why he was ranked 3rd in 2007 or even 9th right now makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. If he can weasel his way into the UFC and win a few against elite competition, then not only will he have gained my respect, but he’ll also have solidified his p4p rank and shut me up in the process.
Georges St. Pierre
GSP was dropped from the 2007 p4p list directly after his title loss/upset against the unranked, relatively unknown Matt Serra.
So there you have it, folks! After reviewing this list, one realization that has to be taken into consideration, is the popularity of the Pride Organization at the time, its roster of elite fighters, its appeal to the more ‘hardcore” MMA audience and ultimately its obvious influence on the rankings at that time. The UFC was in a transition period of becoming the largest/premiere Mixed Martial Arts Organization via the purchase of Pride. But these rankings prove that at one point in time, the very best fighters in the world were not employed by the UFC.
Let this article be a testament to how fast this sport is truly growing and how quickly things can change. The rise or fall of a fighter’s career can last minutes, days, years or decades. As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.