Josh Gross
Tuesday September 29th, 2009

It's all about turnover in mixed martial arts rankings. With aging fighters leaving the sport, established contenders pursuing options away from the cage and young challengers clawing their way to the top, job security reads like an oxymoron for the men atop SI.com's MMA rankings.

Though divisional figureheads remain fairly consistent, heavyweight through bantamweight challengers compete and train knowing they're one win away from being considered No. 1.

Even more exciting are a fresh crop of active prospects who, with proper grooming and fights against the right opponents, could easily appear on this list within a year.

Two undefeated mixed martial artists immediately come to mind. Displaying quality striking skills and a strong desire to finish, The Ultimate Fighter 8 lightweight winner Efrain Escudero (12-0) ran through Cole Miller on the undercard of UFC 103. Escudero won't face a shortage of challenges as he attempts to climb up the 155-pound rankings.

Friday in Oklahoma., impressive welterweight prospect Tyron Woodley (4-0) finished veteran Zach Light as part of the Strikeforce Challengers cards on Showtime. To my eye, Woodley is the top prospect at 170 pounds, and a case could be made that he's the best unranked talent in MMA with less than five pro fights. It will be interesting to see how Strikeforce goes about promoting the former University of Missouri All-American wrestler over the next 18 months.

Strikeforce officials said Friday they plan to keep him on the Challenger's cards for several more fights. Whether or not the promotion can provide Woodley, 27, with the type of bouts he needs to progress as a fighter -- and eventually vault into the rankings -- will be a test of Scott Coker's ability to nurture quality prospects.

• Because he wasn't officially suspended for a positive steroid test in July, and with a bout in Japan likely by the end of the year in Japan, Josh Barnett clings to his position in the heavyweight rankings. It's not terrific, but I haven't been convinced it's the right call to pull him.

• For the first time in more than four years, former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski is not included in the heavyweight top 10.

Quinton "Rampage" Jackson was removed from the light heavyweight and pound-for-pound rankings following his "retirement" from fighting. Brazil's Thiago Silva takes the No. 10 spot at 205 pounds, and Jake Shields makes his first appearance on the P4P list.

• Shields also joins Dan Henderson and Anderson Silva as the only fighters mentioned in two weight divisions. After a bit of shuffling at 185 pounds, Shields gets the credit he deserves for submitting Robbie Lawler in June. Yoshihiro Akiyama does nothing wrong, but slides out of the 10 spot as a result.

Yushin Okami's inactivity, combined with quality results from Dan Henderson and Nate Marquardt, pushes the Japanese fighter from No. 2 to No. 4 in the middleweight position. A UFC bout in Los Angeles on Oct. 24 against Chael Sonnen will determine his worth at 185 pounds.

Martin Kampmann takes the biggest hit after a first-round knockout loss to unranked Paul Daley. The Dane drops of the welterweight list after coming in at No. 6 in SI.com's previous rankings. Mike Swick, despite a thin resume at 170 pounds, slides in at the bottom of the division.

• A year to forget for Strikeforce lightweight champ Josh Thomson was punctuated last week when he re-injured a troubled broken leg responsible for postponing fights against Gilbert Melendez. A full 12 months out of action knocks him off the rankings. Diego Sanchez makes for a fine replacement.

• Veteran Japanese featherweight Dokonjonosuke Mishima drops out following a decision loss at the end of August, paving the way for talented prospect Josh Grispi to makes his first appearance in the 145-pound rankings.

Heavyweight

1. Fedor Emelianenko (30-1, 1 NC) 2. Brock Lesnar (4-1) 3. Josh Barnett (24-5) 4. Frank Mir (12-4) 5. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (32-5-1, 1 NC) 6. Alistair Overeem (29-11, 1 NC) 7. Shane Carwin (11-0) 8. Brett Rogers (10-0) 9. Junior dos Santos (9-1) 10. Randy Couture (16-10)

Others receiving consideration: Andrei Arlovski, Cain Velasquez, Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva, Gabriel Gonzaga

Light Heavyweight

1. Lyoto Machida (15-0) 2. Rashad Evans (13-1-1) 3. Dan Henderson (25-7) 4. Mauricio Rua (18-3) 5. Anderson Silva (25-4) 6. Forrest Griffin (16-6) 7. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (17-3) 8. Gegard Mousasi (26-2-1) 9. Thiago Silva (14-1) 10. Luis Arthur Cane (10-1)

Others receiving consideration: Jon Jones, Keith Jardine, Tito Ortiz, Quinton Jackson, Rich Franklin

Middleweight

1. Anderson Silva (25-4) 2. Dan Henderson (25-7) 3. Nate Marquardt (29-8-2) 4.Yushin Okami (23-4) 5. Vitor Belfort (19-8) 6. Jorge Santiago (21-7) 7. Jake Shields (23-4-1) 8. Robbie Lawler (16-5, 1 NC) 9. Demian Maia (11-1) 10. Chael Sonnen (23-10-1)

Others receiving consideration: Yoshihiro Akiyama, Kazuo Misaki, Paulo Filho, Ronaldo Souza, Hector Lombard

Welterweight

1. Georges St. Pierre (19-2) 2. Jon Fitch (19-3, 1 NC) 3. Thiago Alves (16-6) 4. Jake Shields (23-4-1) 5. Matt Hughes (43-7) 6. Paulo Thiago (11-1) 7. Josh Koscheck (13-4) 8. Carlos Condit (23-5) 9. Marius Zarmoskis (12-3) 10. Mike Swick (14-2)

Others receiving consideration: Martin Kampmann, Jay Hieron, Dan Hardy, Mike Pierce, Paul Daley

Lightweight

1. B.J. Penn (14-5-1) 2. Shinya Aoki (21-4, 1 NC) 3. Eddie Alvarez (18-2) 4. Tatsuya Kawajiri (24-5-2) 5. Joachim Hansen (19-7-1) 6. Gray Maynard (8-0, 1 NC) 7. Frank Edgar (10-1) 8. Kenny Florian (11-4) 9. Diego Sanchez (21-2) 10. Sean Sherk (33-4-1)

Others receiving consideration: Tyson Griffin, Gilbert Melendez, Mizuto Hirota, Satoru Kitaoka, Gesias Calvancante

Featherweight

1. Mike Thomas Brown (22-4) 2. Urijah Faber (22-3) 3. Hatsu Hioki (20-3-2) 4. Wagnney Fabiano (12-1) 5. Jose Aldo (15-1) 6. Takeshi Inoue (16-3) 7. Leonard Garcia (13-4) 8. Raphael Assuncao (13-1) 9. Joe Warren (2-0) 10. Josh Grispi (13-1)

Others receiving consideration: Bibiano Fernandes, Joe Soto, Masanori Kanehara, Marlon Sandro, Yoji Hoshino

Bantamweight

1. Brian Bowles (8-0) 2. Miguel Torres (37-2) 3. Masakatsu Ueda (10-0-2) 4. Takeya Mizugaki (12-3-2) 5. Dominick Cruz (14-1) 6. Akitoshi Tamura (14-7-2) 7. Will Ribeiro (10-2) 8. Damacio Page (11-4) 9. Rani Yahya (15-4) 10. Joseph Benavidez (10-1)

Others receiving consideration: Manny Tapia, Eduardo Dantas, Marcos Galvao, Antonio Banuelos, Mike Easton

Pound-for-pound

1. Anderson Silva (Brazil) 2. Georges St. Pierre (Canada) 3. Fedor Emelianenko (Russia) 4. Lyoto Machida (Brazil) 5. B.J. Penn (U.S.) 6. Mike Thomas Brown (U.S.) 7. Dan Henderson (U.S.) 8. Brian Bowles (U.S.) 9. Miguel Torres (U.S.) 10. Jake Shields (U.S.)

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