by Rob Dore | UFC writer
This weekend at UFC 148 in the MGM Grand Arena, Las Vegas, Anderson Silva takes on Chael Sonnen for the second time. Sonnen came closer than anyone to beating the man universally regarded as the greatest mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter we have yet to see. Ultimately Silva found a way to win, via a fifth-round submission, and if he wins again on Saturday he’ll defend his UFC middleweight title for a record extending 10th time.
In a sport where every opponent provides multiple dangers and challenges, Silva’s five-and-a-half year reign as champion is as remarkable as it is unprecedented.
Although at 37 he is far from over-the-hill in MMA, Silva has suffered from various, niggling injuries over the last few years and if he convincingly beats Sonnen this Saturday there’ll be few worthy challenges left for him in the UFC. A fight with Mark Munoz is as good as it gets within his own division, though here has been talk of a super-fight with one of George St Pierre or Jon Jones. Both of whom have made it in to our top five pound-for-pound list.
Silva is undoubtedly the best but how about the rest of our top five? If you don’t agree then let us know who you’d have instead and why.
1. Anderson Silva (31-4)
Silva (37) is unbeaten in 14 UFC fights, right back to his debut win over Chris Leben in June 2006. He won the UFC middleweight belt in his second fight in the octagon, decisively stopping Rich Franklin. Since then he has defended his title a record nine times and made two successful forays in to the light-heavyweight division. Only two of his fights have gone the distance and only Chael Sonnen has even come close to beating the Brazilian. A phenomenal striker who has dominated a packed division and has made a mockery of some top level fighters. There’s no one better than the Spider right now and some believe there never will be.
2. George St Pierre (22-2)
Largely touted as the most well-rounded fighter in MMA today, GSP (31) has been the UFC welterweight champion for over four years, making six defences of his belt. The two defeats on his record (Matt Hughes and Matt Serra) have been comprehensively revenged and he has dominated every fight since becoming champion for the second time. There have been complaints that he has been too conservative in his last few fights but there’s no doubting his dominance in every area. Injury has kept him out since his win over Jake Shields but GSP is due to return against the latest challenger to his crown, Carlos Condit. GSP may be second on this list but there’s not much in it.
3. Jon Jones (16-1)
The rising star of the UFC has had some legal issues of late which has tainted his image. In the octagon he has yet to put a foot wrong. Jones (24) became the youngest UFC champion, winning the light heavyweight belt of Mauricio Rua in March of last year when still just 23 years old. He has defended his title three times since, all against former champions and all of whom he dominated. He faces the legend that is Dan Henderson next. If he beats Hendo as convincingly as he has beaten everyone else he may be getting bumped up this list.
4. Jose Aldo (21-1)
Unbeaten in nearly seven years, Aldo (25) is the inaugural UFC featherweight champion, which he has defended three times, and was the reigning WEC featherweight champion before the two organisations merged in 2010. He is another phenomenal striker who possesses devastating leg kicks and a world class take-down defence. With the division still developing he may not get the mainstream attention other fighters do but it only requires a quick look at his high-light reel to know that this guy is a star.
5. Junior Dos Santos (15-1)
Perhaps the most contentious inclusion in the top five but you have to get a heavyweight in. And he deserves to be here. Since joining the UFC in 2008, Dos Santos (27) has fought the best fighters in the division and worked his way up to a deserved title shot. At 6’5 and 17 stone he possesses the boxing technique and footwork of a middleweight. Combined with an excellent take-down defence and solid Brazilian ju-jitsu Junior may reign as the UFC’s heavyweight champion for some time. Plus he’s a really nice guy.