The Pound-for-Pound Debate


Warning: the terms “pound-for-pound” and “P4P” are grossly over-used in this entry.

Pound-for-pound rankings have always been a subject of endless debate amongst fight fans, and ever since the fall of Fedor Emelianenko, many have put either Georges “Rush” St.-Pierre or Anderson “The Spider” Silva at the top of that list. Yahoo! Sports, Sherdog, ESPN and numerous other publications and fans consider Silva to be the top dog, with GSP coming in close second. Quite recently, LW champ Frankie “The Answer” Edgar was tossed into the top of the P4P rankings after his comeback KO victory against Gray Maynard.
During the post-fight press conference of UFC 136, company President Dana White said that he considered Frankie Edgar to be the number 2 guy pound-for-pound in the world behind Anderson Silva. MMAFighting’s Arial Helwani referred to this as a “bold statement” but White’s point was simple, “if you look at what pound-for-pound means, you cannot deny that Frankie Edgar is no. 2.” Edgar is undersized for the 155 pound division yet he defeats guys who are bigger than he is, it’s that simple. Plus, let’s not forget the fact that he dethroned and defeated highly touted P4P great BJ Penn, twice. This is ironic though because Dana White has publicly contested notions that Fedor Emelianko was the P4P greatest fighter, despite his being undersized as he defeated larger heavyweights in the prime of his career. Then again, it could be argued that Fedor’s level of competition during his winning streak wasn’t that high. Nevertheless, with three straight losses–one being via KO against the smaller Dan Henderson–making a case for Fedor to be the P4P king is difficult to entertain.


Frankie Edgar has been moved up to the number 4 spot on Yahoo! Sports’ P4P list, but while he has definitely cemented his place as the best LW fighter in the world, many still consider GSP to be the number 2—or even number 1—fighter pound-for-pound. Silva-believers (and Dana White) say that the numbers speak for themselves when it comes to proclaiming Silva as the P4P king. Silva has the most number of consecutive wins (14) and consecutive title defenses (10) in UFC history, he has defeated fighters at 205 lbs. (including former LHW champ Forrest Griffin) and he finishes his fights in devastating fashion. He has been the middle weight champ since 2006 and it seems like a no-brainer to call Silva the pound-for-pound greatest fighter on the planet. Some, however, make the argument that GSP is the real pound-for-pound king for a number of reasons.

I believe the reasons given on Bleacher Report pretty much sum it up. First of all, we have all-around game. GSP has no holes in his game—striking, grappling, and wrestling are all unmatched—while Silva seems to have a difficulty when faced with wrestlers. Though Silva is excellent in submissions and striking, his wrestling and takedown defense are weak, while GSP is excellent in all aspects of the game. The second argument is level of competition. Silva is in what many have referred to as the weakest division in the UFC. And while GSP has defeated four fighters considered in the top 10 pound-for-pound rankings at the time of their bouts (Matt Hughes, BJ Penn, Jon Fitch, and Jake Shield), Silva has only defeated two (Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson). Therefore, GSP has defeated better opponents than Silva has. This would also counter the argument that Silva is better than GSP because he finishes more fights. Wouldn’t it be more difficult to finish fights if your opponents were better? And didn’t GSP finish P4P juggernauts Matt Hughes via TKO and BJ Penn by TKO-corner stoppage? The last reason, which I think is probably the weakest, is the fact that GSP can dominate whoever he goes against for the entire fight. Silva, on the other hand, doesn’t do as well in the championship rounds, as seen in his rather ridiculous performances against Damian Maia and Thales Leites. But then again, his 5th round submission on Chael Sonnen debunks this notion.

While GSP and Silva seem to be toe-to-toe in the P4P rankings, one man actually simplifies the debate for us: Matt Serra. With a first round TKO defeat against Matt “The Terra” Serra, GSP’s chance of being the undisputed pound-for-pound king is heavily compromised. Yes, GSP has become indestructible since then, but it shows that his opponents have a puncher’s chance against him, while with Silva, a puncher’s chance doesn’t exist.

Ultimately, some fight fans say that the two must square off in the octagon for the world to know who the better fighter really is. With GSP’s injury though and Silva announcing that he may only have four fights left in the tank, time is of the essence when it comes to putting together and witnessing the biggest superfight in MMA.

Food for thought: With all these pound-for-pound debates going on, maybe middleweight contender Chael Sonnen is right that there is no such thing as pound-for-pound. Check this video out and wait for the 3:00 mark to hear his argument.

Gab Pangalangan

Gab Pangalangan is a former collegiate national Judo champ and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of DojoDrifter.com. You can find his other works in the Philippines' leading magazines and websites.
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