The Pound for Pound Debate

So Fedor and Anderson Silva just ran through their opponents without even getting hit. Georges St. Pierre just racked up another impressive victory over Jon Fitch, who before facing St. Pierre, was riding a 15 fight win streak (8 straight UFC wins). Then there’s BJ “The Prodigy” Penn. Every time I watch BJ fight I’m impressed. Some of the things you see BJ Penn pull off in his fights leave you scratching your head in amazement.

So, right now we have 4 fighters that are seemingly untouchable within their divisions. I don’t see BJ Penn losing at lightweight, nor do I see GSP losing at welterweight. Anderson Silva has basically torn through the entire UFC middleweight division and Fedor, well, Fedor seems to be in a league of his own – he just doesn’t lose.

Every time any one of these fighters win (which is pretty much every time they fight), the forums explode with people convinced that fighter-X is the best pound for pound fighter. To be honest, I doubt that 80% of the people making the claims even know what “pound for pound” means.

The term “pound for pound” refers to a fighters strength and skill-set in relation to his size. If for example, BJ Penn (currently fighting at 155 lbs) is considered to be the worlds best “pound for pound” fighter, it does not mean that he can beat Fedor Emelianenko (who fights at approximately 230 lbs).

So who’s the best “pound for pound” fighter? Honestly, who cares? Fedor is the undefeated heavyweight. If you had to class only one man as the “baddest dude on the planet” – it’s Fedor. All four fighters (Fedor, Silva, GSP and Penn) possess nearly perfect skill sets. When the technical skills, cardiovascular conditioning and determination (heart) of two fighters is equal, the decisive factor is almost always size and strength.

But just for the sake of the argument, let’s analyze the fighters and determine who takes the “pound for pound” crown.

BJ Penn: BJ has looked incredible in this last 3 fights. It appears as if he’s really taking his training and conditioning seriously now and to quote Dana White, “an in-shape BJ Penn is a scary dude”. Unfortunately, we can immediately eliminate BJ from the pound-for-pound contention (at least for now) seeing as how Matt Hughes put him in a crucifix pounded his head repeatedly into the octagon canvas like he was violently dribbling a basketball. And of course, he lost to GSP. We’ll see how the re-match turns out now that Penn determined and back in shape.

Georges St. Pierre: Sherdog just posted a similar article profiling the pound-for-pound contenders and the author awarded GSP the crown. Not surprising. I mean, he’s the latest to fight. Like I said before, people seem to get pretty excited when these fighters win and everyone starts making the “Oh my god, (insert fighter name here) is the best ever!” claims.

I can’t completely knock the article though. I mean, the author did bring up some legit points. George St. Pierre has torn through some tough competition with ease. He’s lost twice, but he’s avenged both losses in convincing fashion, so technically, he’s beat everyone that he’s ever faced.

He’s extremely well rounded. He’s been out-wrestling the divisions top wrestlers and passing the guards of BJJ black belts like butter. His stand-up is crisp and on top of all that, he’s freakishly strong. He’s got it all. GSP is a perfect fighter.

Anderson Silva: Anderson’s stand-up skills are just scary. What’s most impressive to me is the way he switches in and out of his fight stances. For someone to be able to transition between a southpaw and conventional stance the way Anderson can – it’s just amazing. With a guy like Anderson, you’d figure the game-plan would be to get the fight to the ground as quickly as possible, but that’s not even much of an option – he’s got a BJJ black belt from the Nogueira brothers.

If there’s any weakness, it’s his wrestling. If a decent wrestler wanted to take him down (as we saw with Henderson), they wouldn’t have any problems taking the fight to the ground. By the same token, if Silva was being out-struck (which doesn’t exactly happen), he would likely have difficulties securing a takedown on anyone with decent takedown defence.

You really have to respect Silva’s decision to fight in both the 185 and the 205 division. The fact that he moved up in weight rather than down just shows what a warrior he is. Brandon Vera made the cocky claim that he would be the first UFC fighter to hold titles in two weight divisions at the same time and it doesn’t exactly look like that’s going to happen for him anytime soon. But for Silva on the other hand, it’s a definite possibility.

Fedor Emelianenko: When you’re at the top, you’re bound to have haters. Everyone is constantly criticizing Fedor’s level of competition. If you back-track and analyze his past fights, his opponents weren’t pushovers at all (for Fedor maybe, but not to the average MMA fighter).

When Fedor fought Lindland, Lindland was, at the time, the top ranked middleweight fighter in the world (sort of like how Anderson Silva is right now). People dismissed him as legit competition saying that he was 2 weight classes below Fedor (even though they were within 10lbs of each other when they fought). Fedor won and people claimed that it was because he grabbed the ropes (he did NOT grab the ropes!).

Before Lindland, Fedor fought Mark Hunt, who again, people dismissed as legit competition. I don’t understand how fighting someone who has almost a 100lb weight advantage and has victories over MMA’s elite in Mirko Cro Cop and Wanderlei Silva gets dismissed as a “can”. Fedor wins again – people still criticize.

After Lindland, Fedor fights Hong Man Choi who while inexperienced, is a threat to anyone. Choi is an accomplished K1 level kickboxer and although he only had 1 MMA fight prior to his fight with Fedor, that one fight that he had ended with a devastating first round knockout. Do I think that Choi deserved a shot at Fedor so early in his MMA career – absolutely not! But do I think that Choi is an easy win for most heavyweights out there – absolutely not.

In his latest fight, Fedor dispatched of multi-time UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia in quick, devastating fashion. If you go through all of Fedor’s fights, you’ll see that Fedor is always just a little bit more technical, quicker and smarter than his opponents. It’s almost as if he’s on an entirely different level. His only loss, back in 2000, was due to a cut from what was actually an illegal strike. He later avenged that “loss”.

As a matter of fact, I don’t think Fedor has even lost a round in the last 8 and a half years. Not since his fight with Ricardo Arona in the Rings promotion. It should also be noted that in Rings, Fedor wasn’t allowed to implement his “ground and pound” techniques that he’s known for. If the rules had been different, who knows, perhaps Fedor never would have even lost a round to date.

So all things considered, who’s the best pound for pound fighter?

Everyone is going to have their own opinion on this. It’s not one of these questions that has a concrete answer. It’s all a matter of opinion. I’m writing this article so I’ll say that in my personal opinion, I think that Fedor Emelianenko is not only the best overall fighter in the world (weight not being a factor), but also, I think he’s the best “pound for pound” fighter as well.

What do you think?

Leave a comment below and state your case for who you believe is the best..



  1. Can’t agree with you anymore. I base my rankings on the records, how can you argue with a guy who has never technically lost a fight, defeated world champions and doesn’t cut weight because he’s that damn good. At the end of the day all the other fighters are great but Fedor is just in a league of his own.

  2. Gegan,

    Thanks for the feedback.

    Another important point that everyone seems to overlook is the fact that GSP weighs 170 and never fights guys that weigh more than 171 (at the time of the weigh in). The same goes for BJ (whether he fights at 155 or 170) or Anderson Silva (whether it be 185 or 205).

    They’re always the same size as their opponents. Well, these are “pound for pound” rankings. Fedor is a small heavyweight and he’s not fighting in the UFC where the max. weight for a heavyweight is capped at 265.

    Look through Fedor’s record and see how many times he’s been outweighed by his opponents. Hong Man Choi, Mark Hunt, Tim Sylvia, Semmy Schilt – the guy is constantly fighting giants (and dominating!).

  3. the jake rossen article, for my money, is right on point. i’m not sure how people can argue with it really. georges has faced greater competition and nearly completely demolished them all. nobody worth their salt disagrees he’s not the most well-rounded fighter in mma. the way he has spanked through THE cream of the crop for his division is certainly more impressive than anderson’s latest flurry of wins (yes franklin is good, yes marquardt is a top 5 or 10), and fedor’s main claim seems to be the fact he’s never lost, which is of course very very impressive. however if you apply this same logic to, say, jon fitch or any other number of fighters out there with great records (huerta?), you can see that they have NOT gone through the cream of the crop in the same fashion st. pierre has. seriously, he has SMOKED dudes. his back to back dominations over hughes were ridiculous, just total clinics. this was a guy who was the most feared WW in the world, unarguably the greatest of his time, and since georges he’s essentially been written off for good since he was thrashed so soundly.

  4. Im sorry Fedor has not taken on the cream of the crop of the new area of fighters. In order to be called the best “pound for pound fighter” he must face the best “pound for pound fighter” currently. Not to spank on Tim Silvia, but he has lost most of his recent fights. Fedor was the best pound for pound fighter maybe 3 years ago. In my opinion people can say and write all they want but it is just opion intill he is put against better fighters. I think he should fight in 205 pound divsion it looks like he has tire a fat around his belly. He would produce some great fights everybouty would love it.

  5. Why is BJ Penn automatically dismissed in this discussion? his transition to 170 is much more dramatic then Anderson Silva’s to 205, penn is even small for a lightweight. He’s practically smaller and weaker then everyone he fights wether it be lightweight or middleweight, he wins with pure skill. I’m not taking anything away from any of these fighters, hell Fedor could probably fight light heavyweight. My point is when the discussion of who is the best “pound for pound” fighter is brought up, it is impossible to dismiss penn. Also i’d like to bring up the fact that he has some very notable wins in his record(Gomi, Matt Hughes, Matt Sera ect.), so a few losses do not immediately discredit him from the conversation. Also in my opinion he was winning the GSP fight until he gassed due to his conditioning, or lack thereof. In any event i believe this upcoming fight should be one of the greatest fights in mma history; Two “pound for pound” contenders in their prime.

  6. I agree. You put up a good argument and I think you’ve covered most of the bases. Fedor is untouchable. Everyone he fights is a threat, but somehow he still destroys them all. He’s a smart fighter, fast, and powerful. If and when he takes down the “top” heavyweights in the US (Couture, Lesnar, possibly Kimbo??) everyone will know.

  7. Wait people, lets talk skill. BJ Penn is amazing and worth his praise but as the author has explained he was manhandled by Matt Hughes. GSP beat hughes twice so he has automatically already become better than Penn in my perspective. You could argue that BJ is much smaller but did not someone above point out he is always smaller than his opponents. Silva is very sound in his striking and ground game, but i see some weakness. He is not a good wrestler at all for this level and in his mind he does not have to be. He thinks his bjj will save him from wrestlers. This is true unless you get a dominant wrestler who can also stalemate him in bjj. Such as if matt hamil( excluding weight) were to spend time soley on bjj he could counter and in my mind dominate the ground game between the two. Fedor, you just cant say enough about the guy. His victories are brutal his technique is sound and his ability to get into his opponents mind is unquestionable. Technically speaking you cant attack him. He is very good at what he does, ground and pound. In the stand up game his hands fall like sledge hammers and when it goes to the ground they just keep coming. If there is any room for improvement it would be in his bjj. He relies heavily on his ground and pound and therefore his bjj suffers. He could also tone up his weight a little more. There is also a fighter i feel has been left out that no one has taken the time to mention. Uriah Faber is right now dominating the WEC in his division. He has not had the challenges of GSP or even Fedor but give him some credit. His style is new and fresh, his body tonned to the core, and his domination can not be unnoticed. He will be better in time than all the great ones mentioned above. Give him time and hopefully he will move up to the UFC and bump up to 155 then, watch out BJ Penn. Now he is not the best but if you include Penn in the discussions than Faber must also be mentioned.

  8. Don’t forget that Silva walks at 220 lbs, he said it himself. Fedor walks at 230 lbs.
    Silva works his weight down and gains 15+ pounds the day after the weigh in. He could never do a tournament like Fedor did.

    Also a list of his stats

    There is only ONE fighter that has beaten:

    5 different X UFC champions

    4 kick boxing champions

    6 different MMA champions

    2 silver olympic medalist

    1 ADCC open weight champion

    Honorable mention
    Mirko Crocop
    3 time K-1 finalist
    2005 GP finalist
    2006 GP winner Post Fedor fight

    There is only 1 fighter that has gone 30+ fights that has

    – Never lost a decision.
    – Never been sub’d
    – Never been knocked out

    Only one fighter that has ever won 5 different mma championships.
    – Wamma HW belt
    – Pride HW belt
    – Pride Grand Prix tournament
    – Rings king of kings tournament
    – Rings world class tournament

    All while finishing 76% of his opponents.
    A current 25 fight win streak
    With 22 victories in the first round
    4 victories in the first minute
    12 victories in the first 2 minutes

    No other fighter in all MMA has any where near the list of accomplishments.

    Fedor Emelianenko