New MMA poll rates fighters


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BJ Penn, taking a left in a TKO loss to Georges St. Pierre in January, is the top-ranked lightweight in the USA TODAY/SB Nation consensus MMA rankings.
By Eric Jamison, AP
BJ Penn, taking a left in a TKO loss to Georges St. Pierre in January, is the top-ranked lightweight in the USA TODAY/SB Nation consensus MMA rankings.

By Beau Dure, USA TODAY

Who's No. 1?

Within each mixed martial arts promotion, the question is easily answered by the man with the belt. But who's No. 1 among all promotions?

Opinions might vary. That's why the USA TODAY/SB Nation consensus MMA rankings are a compilation of opinions from many sources representing a mix of mainstream media, well-established MMA sites, respected bloggers and sanctioning body WAMMA.

Bloody Elbow, SB Nation's comprehensive MMA blog, compiles the rankings. The previous rankings in the table refer to the last Bloody Elbow rankings, compiled through the same process. Henceforth, the rankings will appear monthly, though not always on the same week, allowing them to reflect the most recent major fights.

Many of the fighters in the top 10 of each weight class fight for Ultimate Fighting Championship, the dominant American promoter. UFC has the top eight light heavyweights, seven of the top 10 middleweights and nine of the top 10 welterweights. A UFC fighter is ranked first in four of the five weight classes UFC promotes.

The big exception is heavyweight, where Russian Fedor Emelianenko is the unanimous No. 1. When UFC bought out Japan's Pride promotion, Emelianenko went elsewhere. His last two bouts have been with upstart promoter Affliction, which has landed several other top heavyweights.

Japanese promotions are especially strong in the lighter weight classes, starting at lightweight, where Shinya Aoki is a close No. 2 behind UFC champion BJ Penn.

Bloody Elbow also compiles rankings for weight classes below the top five. Top fighters there are spread between UFC affiliate World Extreme Cagefighting and several Japanese promotions.

Some fighters are hard to pin down.Alistair Overeem is the Strikeforce heavyweight champion but has fought four times for other promoters since taking the belt.

The rankings could change over a busy April, which builds toward a UFC card with two matchups of top-10 fighters.

Some upcoming MMA events involving ranked fighters:

•Wednesday, UFC Fight Night (Spike, 8 ET): Welterweights, No. 5 Carlos Condit vs. Martin Kampmann. Condit was the last fighter to own the WEC belt before UFC absorbed the welterweight class. His first test in UFC is against Kampmann, who has moved down from middleweight and gets a few votes in his former and current classes.

•April 3, Bellator (ESPN Deportes, 10 on April 4): Lightweights, No. 5 Eddie Alvarez vs. Greg Loughran. This is the first round of an eight-man tournament, which will run for 12 weeks. Jorge Masvidal, who has a few votes as well, also fights in the first round.

•April 5, Dream 8 (HDNet, start time TBA): Welterweight Grand Prix contestants Shinya Aoki and Hayato Sakurai have votes, though Aoki is ranked much higher at lightweight.

•April 5, WEC (Versus, 9): Bantamweights, No. 1 Miguel Torres vs. No. 4 Takeya Mizugaki. No. 2 Brian Bowles withdrew with an injury.

•April 11, Strikeforce (Showtime, 10): Lightweights, No. 8 Josh Thomson vs. No. 17 Gilbert Melendez. The lightweight title fight isn't the main event, which is a catch-weight bout in which fighters of different weight classes split the difference. In the main event, Frank Shamrock has a few votes at middleweight, while Nick Diaz gets votes at welterweight and lightweight.

•April 18, UFC 97 (pay-per-view, 10): Middleweights, No. 1 Anderson Silva vs. No. 9 Thales Leites. Also light heavyweights, No. 5 Chuck Liddell vs. No. 8 Mauricio Rua.

The biggest card of the month includes Silva's title defense and a bout of fighters trying to stay in the top 10. Liddell, dominant through 2006, is 1-3 in his last four bouts. Rua was a star in Japan's Pride series before losing his UFC debut to Forrest Griffin. After a long injury layoff, he unconvincingly beat 44-year-old Mark Coleman.

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