Josh Gross
Monday December 28th, 2009

For the final mixed martial arts rankings of 2009, it makes sense to look back to where things stood at the start of the year.

Four fighters remain atop their respective divisions: Fedor Emelianenko at heavyweight; Anderson Silva at middleweight; Georges St. Pierre at welterweight; and B.J. Penn at lightweight. Changes at No. 1 include Lyoto Machida replacing Rashad Evans at 205, Jose Aldo supplanting Mike Thomas Brown in the featherweight division, and Brian Bowles asserting himself against Miguel Torres at 135.

Taken as a whole, the welterweight and lightweight divisions remained the most consistent over the course of 12 months, where No. 2-ranked fighters Jon Fitch and Shinya Aoki held on to that post all year.

Which class stabilized the most? Probably heavyweight, where several young, talented fighters emerged. Which remains in flux? Despite the steadying influence of a focused No. 1, lightweight stands out as athletes excelled across multiple promotions.

This was the year lighter weight classes matured. It was a banner campaign at 145 and 135, and for the first time we included rankings at the 125-pound limit.

Expect much of the same in 2010, including the long-awaited and discussed debut of female rankings.

Frank Mir's dominance over Cheick Kongo combined with Josh Barnett's inactivity lifted the former UFC champion into the top three of the heavyweight division.

Quinton Jackson's return to the rankings is no surprise; all it took was an announcement in early December that he intended to fight again. Luis Arther Cane falls off the list as a result.

• Off an excellent victory against Josh Thomson (who was ranked before injuries derailed him), Gilbert Melendez once again is considered among the 10 best lightweights in MMA. Diego Sanchez was removed to make room for the two-time Strikeforce 155-pound champion.

• The bantamweight division underwent several significant updates. Dominick Cruz, Joseph Benavidez and Scott Jorgensen moved up. Takeya Mizugaki, Akitoshi Tamura and Rany Yahya moved down. And Eddie Wineland dropped out, a victim of the shuffle.

Heavyweight

1. Fedor Emelianenko (31-1, 1 NC) 2. Brock Lesnar (4-1) 3. Frank Mir (13-4) 4. Josh Barnett (24-5) 5. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (32-5-1, 1 NC) 6. Alistair Overeem (31-11, 1 NC) 7. Shane Carwin (11-0) 8. Junior dos Santos (9-1) 9. Cain Velasquez (7-0) 10. Brett Rogers (10-1)

Others receiving consideration: Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva, Gabriel Gonzaga, Todd Duffee

Light Heavyweight

1. Lyoto Machida (16-0) 2. Mauricio Rua (18-4) 3. Rashad Evans (13-1-1) 4. Quinton Jackson (30-7) 5. Dan Henderson (25-7) 6. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (18-3) 7. Anderson Silva (25-4) 8. Forrest Griffin (16-6) 9. Gegard Mousasi (27-2-1) 10. Thiago Silva (14-1)

Others receiving consideration: Luis Arthur Cane, Jon Jones, Keith Jardine, Randy Couture, Rich Franklin

Middleweight

1. Anderson Silva (25-4) 2. Dan Henderson (25-7) 3. Nate Marquardt (29-8-2) 4. Vitor Belfort (19-8) 5. Jake Shields (24-4-1) 6. Robbie Lawler (16-5, 1 NC) 7. Demian Maia (11-1) 8. Chael Sonnen (24-10-1) 9. Yushin Okami (23-5) 10. Mamed Khalidov (20-3-1)

Others receiving consideration: Jorge Santiago, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Kazuo Misaki, Paulo Filho, Ronaldo Souza

Welterweight

1. Georges St. Pierre (19-2) 2. Jon Fitch (21-3, 1 NC) 3. Thiago Alves (16-6) 4. Paulo Thiago (12-1) 5. Josh Koscheck (14-4) 6. Matt Hughes (43-7) 7. Carlos Condit (24-5) 8. Marius Zarmoskis (13-3) 9. Dan Hardy (23-6) 10. Mike Swick (14-3)

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

Lightweight

1. B.J. Penn (15-5-1) 2. Shinya Aoki (22-4, 1 NC) 3. Eddie Alvarez (19-2) 4. Tatsuya Kawajiri (25-5-2) 5. Gray Maynard (8-0, 1 NC) 6. Frankie Edgar (11-1) 7. Kenny Florian (12-4) 8. Gilbert Melendez (17-2) 9. Joachim Hansen (19-8-1) 10. Sean Sherk (33-4-1)

Others receiving consideration: Tyson Griffin, Joe Stevenson, Mizuto Hirota, Kazunori Yakota, Diego Sanchez

Featherweight

1. Jose Aldo (16-1) 2. Mike Thomas Brown (22-5) 3. Urijah Faber (22-3) 4. Hatsu Hioki (20-4-2) 5. Raphael Assuncao (14-1) 6. Takeshi Inoue (17-3) 7. Mackens Semerzier (5-0) 8. Wagnney Fabiano (12-2) 9. Bibiano Fernandes (7-2) 10. Manny Gamburyan (10-4)

Others receiving consideration: Michihiro Omigawa, Leonard Garcia, Joe Soto, Masanori Kanehara, Marlon Sandro

Bantamweight

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

Others receiving consideration: Eddie Wineland, Antonio Banuelos, Eduardo Dantas, Marcos Galvao, Mike Easton

Flyweight

1. Jussier da Silva (3-0) 2. Shinichi Kojima (10-4-5) 3. Mamoru Yamaguchi (22-5-3) 4. Yuki Shojo (9-5-2) 5. Yasuhiro Urushitani (16-4-6) 6. Ryuichi Miki (10-3-3) 7. Mitsuhisa Sunabe (11-5-3) 8. Pat Runez (3-0) 9. Masaaki Sugawara (9-4-1) 10. Alexis Vila (6-0)

Others receiving consideration: Ayumu Shioda, Atsushi Takeuchi, Kiyotaka Shimizu, John Dodson, Isao Hirose

Pound-for-pound

1. Anderson Silva (Brazil) 2. Georges St. Pierre (Canada) 3. Fedor Emelianenko (Russia) 4. B.J. Penn (U.S.) 5. Lyoto Machida (Brazil) 6. Jose Aldo (Brazil) 7. Dan Henderson (U.S.) 8. Brian Bowles (U.S.) 9. Miguel Torres (U.S.) 10. Shinya Aoki (Japan)

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.