Theoretically, rankings, especially creations like the pound-for-pound rankings are subjective. By their nature, a good supporting argument means that while opinions can differ, one cannot really be wrong.
Realistically, that’s not the case. After Saturday night, there is only one man who can rightfully stand at the top of the sport’s pound-for-pound list, and that’s UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
In stopping Vitor Belfort in the opening round of their championship tilt, Silva continued adding to his impressive collection of records, defending his title for the eighth time and running his winning streak to a baker’s dozen. The most dominant 185-pound fighter in the history of this sport has finished 10 of the 13 men he’s faced inside the Octagon, a stat that gets forgotten in the criticism stemming primarily from his performances against Demian Maia and Thales Leites.
While there are certainly going to be those who continue to pledge allegiance to Jose Aldo or Georges St. Pierre as the sport’s top fighter, neither can match the success Silva has had inside the Octagon over the last four-and-a-half years.
The former, a fellow member of the Black House family, has indeed looked dominant in running through the WEC featherweight division and into the UFC as its first 145-pound champion, but the his win streak and overall level of competition pales in comparison to Silva. Though his win streak sits at eight, Aldo has defended his featherweight championship just twice so far, and wins over Chris Mickle and Rolando Perez fall well short of being considered even solid competition.
As for the latter, the UFC welterweight champ is the closest rival to Silva at this stage, but trails on two fronts.
Though it was more than three years ago and has subsequently been avenged, St-Pierre’s loss to Matt Serra stands out against Silva’s unblemished record inside the UFC cage. Additionally, and maybe this is more a matter of preference than anything else, the French-Canadian superstar has earned decision wins in four of his last five bouts, the only stoppage coming when B.J. Penn’s corner said “enough is enough” after the fourth round of their 2009 rematch. Fair or not, the overwhelming popular opinion is that finishing fights matter, and in that regard, Silva is far superior to St-Pierre.
The icing on the Silva celebratory cake is that the middleweight champion is one of the very few elite-level talents who has actually proven his dominant skills are transferable across multiple divisions. We can speculate to no end about how St-Pierre or Aldo would do up a weight class, but with Silva we have actual evidence, and it’s convincing.
While blasting James Irvin in 61 seconds may not be a convincing argument to many, embarrassing former UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin should be. Say what you will about the stylistic matchup, you can only beat the man they put before you, and Silva did that and then some when slipped and moved around Griffin’s every punch before putting him away with a stiff right jab while stepping back.
Maybe his personality and nonchalance rubs you the wrong way.
Maybe you wish he would speak English, not wear pink shirts and straighten out his hat.
Maybe you just don’t like him.
All of those things are fine, but when it comes down to his performance in the cage, there is no way to not accept Silva as the very best in the sport today.
In the last four years, three months and 23 days, nine men have worn a version of the heavyweight championship and six have sported light heavyweight gold. Each of the other two flagship divisions of the organization have seen their titles change hands at least once.
Just one man has worn middleweight gold, and he’s the unquestioned best fighter on the planet.
Follow @heavymma on Twitter for more UFC 126 coverage