Georges St. Pierre (above) remains the world’s most decorated mixed martial artist. | Photo: Dave Mandel
Georges St. Pierre maintained his position as the best MMA has to offer on April 30, picking apart fellow pound-for-pounder Jake Shields en route to yet another five-round unanimous decision UFC welterweight title defense.
Before a partisan crowd of more than 55,000 at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, “G.S.P.” used his now-trademark left jab and a variety of other striking attacks while stifling the takedowns of one of the sport’s most tenacious grapplers. It wasn’t the finish St. Pierre stated that he so badly desired, but it was another impressive chapter in the 29-year-old’s remarkable career. Shields, meanwhile, slips one spot in this edition of our rankings, supplanted at No. 6 by the UFC’s new 205-pound champ, Jon Jones.
Two other pound-for-pound rankers upheld their reputations in April. Shortly before St. Pierre took to the cage on April 30, the world’s premier 145-pound fighter, Jose Aldo, survived a late scare and gutted out a five-round win against Mark Hominick in his first UFC featherweight title defense. Meanwhile, Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez made quick work of Tatsuya Kawajiri, disposing of his Japanese challenger with brutal elbow strikes in the first round of their April 9 encounter.
1. Georges St. Pierre (22-2)
St. Pierre’s latest UFC title defense didn’t help his reputation as a non-finisher, but did prove once again that the 29-year-old French Canadian can muster a win against virtually any of the world’s top welterweights. Tasked with dispatching durable grappler Jake Shields, St. Pierre took the expected route on April 30, keeping the fight standing and picking apart his challenger on the feet with jabs, spinning back fists and a particularly damaging head kick. Shields did break up the champ’s impressive streak of 30 consecutive rounds won, but St. Pierre emerged with his ninth straight win and sixth title defense. With the rumored Anderon Silva mega-fight looking less and less likely, all eyes have turned toward a potential title unification bout between St. Pierre and his Strikeforce counterpart, Shield’s teammate, Nick Diaz.
2. Anderson Silva (28-4)
With one front kick on Feb. 5, Silva stifled all talk of his diminished dominance over the middleweight division. Following a Hail Mary fifth-round submission of Chael Sonnen last August, the “Spider” sought to make a statement against challenger Vitor Belfort, and make a statement he did. Silva’s elegant, seemingly effortless first-round knockout of his countryman at UFC 126 was a throwback to the violence of his earliest Octagon appearances, the sort of thing fans knew him for prior to controversial outings against the likes of Thales Leites and Demian Maia. Silva will attempt to wipe the most recent defeat from his record before a partisan crowd on Aug. 27, when he meets Yushin Okami in Rio de Janeiro.
3. Jose Aldo (19-1)
If the Brazilian phenom looked less than phenomenal on April 30, it could be excused. Returning from a seven-month hiatus due to injury -- his longest layoff since entering the Zuffa ranks in 2008 -- Aldo made his UFC debut whilst defending his brand new featherweight title against hard-nosed contender Mark Hominick. Despite fading late and enduring a fifth-round scare, Aldo showed flashes of the brilliant violence that was his WEC trademark, using great head movement and crisp kickboxing to badly disfigure his hometown opponent’s face. Post-fight, UFC boss Dana White made it known that the UFC is expecting Aldo’s next title defense to come in August against unbeaten wrestler Chad Mendes.
After twice upsetting the man considered by some to be the sport’s greatest lightweight, Edgar looked to erase the only blemish on his record in a Jan. 1 rematch with Gray Maynard. For five minutes, it appeared that Edgar would have a second mark chalked up in his loss column, as the “Bully” dealt out a throttling which nearly saw the champ finished on multiple occasions. In a show of heroic mettle, Edgar valiantly battled back over the next four rounds to salvage a draw and set up a rubber match between the pair, set for UFC 130 on May 28 in Las Vegas.
5. Jon Fitch (23-3-1, 1 NC)
While Fitch didn’t lose against B.J. Penn on Feb. 27, he also failed to do something which he had done in 13 of his 14 previous UFC outings -- win. It was not for lack of trying, as the onetime welterweight title challenger threw all he had at former two-division champ Penn, but a bruising final frame from Fitch was not enough to avoid a split draw. The former Purdue Boilermaker was slated for another dance with “The Prodigy” in July, but Fitch was forced out in late March with a shoulder injury which will require surgery.
6. Jon Jones (13-1)
The UFC’s newest superstar joined the ranks of the elite in March with his stunning performance against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Jones mauled the former Pride star the way none had before, snatching the Rua’s 205-pound title with ease and becoming the company’s youngest ever champion in the process. Immediately afterward, the dynamic 23-year-old was swept up in the drama of having to defend his belt against a teammate. But “Bones” won’t be fighting Rashad Evans, or anyone else, anytime soon: weeks after earning his gold, Jones revealed that he will undergo surgery on an injured right hand and will likely be sidelined until late 2011.
7. Jake Shields (26-5-1)
Six years, four months, two weeks and two days. That’s how long Jake Shields went between losses. After dropping his Shooto world 167-pound belt to Akira Kikuchi in 2004, the Cesar Gracie protégé ran off 15 consecutive wins, defeating such regarded opponents as Dan Henderson and Carlos Condit while earning multiple titles. That streak ended on April 30, when Shields ran into current welterweight king and top-ranked pound-for-pounder Georges St. Pierre. The 32-year-old went toe-to-toe with GSP for 25 minutes, but could not find a single takedown with which to apply his grappling skills. Shields came out on the losing end of a unanimous decision and has been relegated back to the contenders’ pool for the time being.
8. Gilbert Melendez (19-2)
Just when he seemed to be in for the toughest test of his reign as Strikeforce lightweight champ, Melendez went and made it look easy. “El Nino” was scheduled for a five-round tilt with Dream import Tatsuya Kawajiri on April 9, but needed little more than three minutes to victimize the Japanese star with vicious ground-and-pound elbows. Now, Melendez is back to where he was before: being one of the world’s most talented 155-pounders in a promotion where few, if any, challenges remain.
9. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (19-5)
Returning from nearly a year-long layoff due to surgery on his seemingly ever-injured knee, Rua did not have much to offer young challenger Jon Jones in their March 19 title bout at UFC 128. The third-round stoppage was the first true knockout of the Brazilian’s career, and perhaps the first fight when Rua never looked competitive. The “Shogun” will have a chance to both reclaim his past glory and avenge a stinging loss when he rematches fellow ex-champ Forrest Griffin in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 27.
10. Rashad Evans (15-1-1)
After becoming the UFC’s No. 1 light heavyweight contender with a May 2010 win over rival Quinton Jackson, Evans opted to wait out then-champ Mauricio Rua’s knee surgery. Nearly one year later, just weeks out from their title clash, Evans suffered a knee injury of his own. In stepped training partner Jon Jones, who took Rua’s belt with ease and set up a clash of the Greg Jackson teammates. Now, with Jones sidelined due to hand surgery, that matchup has been postponed. After more than 14 months away from the Octagon, “Suga” will have much to prove against unbeaten prospect Phil Davis in Philadelphia on Aug. 6.