By CagePotato contributor Dan “siksik6” Teague
#8: Gray Maynard
When fans and fighters complain about wrestlers in MMA, they’re talking about Gray Maynard. He takes fighters down because that’s what he’s good at. In Maynard’s nine-fight UFC career, he has just one stoppage, a KO of Joe Veres over three years ago. He’s earned his title shot not because of his performances, but rather because what the hell else do you do with a guy who’s undefeated and has won eight straight fights, including one over the current champ? Cole Miller said it best: Taking people down should be a means to an end. Gray needs to start having some refs pull him off of people if he’s ever going to have any drawing power.
#7: Ben Askren
Ben Askren is just starting to make his way into mainstream MMA discussions. However, it’s not exactly a heralded arrival. The kid makes picking strawberries look like it belongs in the X Games. His last “stoppage” was a controversial sub over Ryan Thomas, who promptly and correctly displayed his best WTFIYP face. Before that it was a north-south choke over some guy you’ve never heard of in some organization you’ve never heard of back in August of ’09. For his last fight, in which he won the Bellator welterweight strap, he came about as close to finishing Lyman Good as I did. I was on the couch eating Mayfield Butter Pecan ice cream. It was delicious. As a title holder for an up-and-coming organization, Askren needs to show more of a killer instinct if he ever wants his fights to be broadcast by anyone other than Fox Sports South.
#6: Jake Shields
One can make the argument that Jake Shields gets a bum rap for being a boring fighter. Not so long ago he went on a tear of eight straight stoppages, including a hat trick over Robbie Lawler, Paul Daley, and Nick Thompson. Unfortunately, his last three fights have been snoozers, and in a “what have you done for me lately” sport, all Jake Shields has done for us lately is resurrect the classic Yo Mama-style cracks about how boring he is. Casual fans who don’t think MMA exists outside of the UFC heard the comments about Shields leading up to his fight with Kampmann. And damn if he didn’t go out and back ‘em right up. Jake Shields needs to submit his tape to Extreme Fighter Makeover. Besides, it would be a cross-promotional dream to have his next fight cornered by Ty Pennington and that Paige chick with the impressive ta-tas.
#5: Forrest Griffin
Look, we all love Forrest, but he’s kinda getting a pass because of his fan favorite status. His last stoppage win was his rear-naked choke of Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in September 2007 — the same version of Shogun that struggled mightily against Mark “Ken Shamrock: Part II” Coleman. Other than that, you have to go back to a TKO over Elvis Sinosic and a sub over something called a Bill Mahood, both in 2005. I hate to say it, but all the meaningful stoppages involving FoGrif have ended with him either crying in the corner of the Octagon, or fleeing it altogether. Anything less than an impressive victory over a smaller and past-his-prime Rich Franklin moves Forrest ever closer to being the beloved gatekeeper. In which case, I hear Clay Guida has room in his RV.
#4: Michael Bisping
Michael Bisping is the flagship of British MMA. And with good reason I guess. Who else is it going to be, the two-headed monster of Paul Kelly-Taylor? So it doesn’t give the best impression that your country’s version of Royce Gracie is cool with leaving it in the hands of the judges. For Christ sake, he said his game plan against Chris Leben was to not put himself in danger and come away with the decision. Come on, playa. Bisping could never win another fight and his countrymen would still love him. However, as Ol’ DW will tell you, going global is the hot thing in MMA right now. Bisping needs to start Denis Kang-ing some fools again if he’s going to have a shot at earning fans outside of Jolly Old England.
#3: Jon Fitch
Jesus, Jon Fitch. If I could shake my head in print, now would be the time. There has been some discussion on whether or not Fitch should have a nickname. I’d like to offer “Decision Factory” as a candidate. Thirteen of his twenty-three career victories have been awarded by the judges, including his last seven. Whereas we tend to poke fun at Jake Shields, there seems to be some genuine disdain towards Fitch in the MMA community because of his fighting style. There’s not much to say about Fitch that hasn’t already been said. He’d win against anyone at 170 not named Georges, yet I wouldn’t watch him fight if it were live in my kitchen.
#2: Frankie Edgar
Frankie Edgar’s mom didn’t give him a chance against BJ Penn. He went out and beat him not once, but twice, and the second time it wasn’t even close. It’s impossible not to respect him for that. That being said, eight of his thirteen wins have been by decision. Edgar has proved that his endurance is top notch, and I understand that you have to use whatever advantages you have. But damn homie, outlasting guys with no real attempt to finish them will only take you so far with the fans. Besides, what happens when you run into the guy that won’t let you outpoint him? (I know I’m not the only one that thinks The Answer would get smoked by featherweight champ Jose Aldo.) Edgar is going to spend some time on his back against Gray Maynard. A successful armbar finish against the guy responsible for his record’s only blemish would do more to improve his image than the guy who used a fake ID to get a flaming eagle tattoo when he was in 10th grade.
#1: Georges St. Pierre
There was no question who would be #1 on this list. Simply put, Georges hasn’t been the same since Matt Serra shocked the world. When Matt Hughes tapped him out, he had the “I was fighting my idol” thing to fall back on. But Serra punched him in the face. And he wobbled around and fell. And Serra punched him a lot more. It was embarrassing. And he’s just a different fighter now. In his seven victories since, four have gone the distance. And the three stoppage wins weren’t particularly stirring: an armbar over a disinterested Matt Hughes, BJ Penn’s corner knowing that the last round wouldn’t be any different than the first four, and Matt Serra silently saying “Alright, alright, I get the point, it was a fluke.”
You can’t say that GSP hasn’t been dominant. Alves and Fitch both looked like they tried to make out with a garden tiller. He hit two sub attempts against Dan Hardy that 99 out of 100 fighters would have tapped to. But still. It may be unfair, but we need more from St. Pierre. Now that Chuck is gone (we think), Georges is the face of the company. He’s expected to be what Chuck was. Champion? Check. Highly marketable? Check. Adored by men and women alike? Check.