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Georges St-Pierre takes a tumble in pound-for-pound rankings

Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Georges St-Pierre (left) won a split-decision over Johny Hendricks, but took a beating in the process.

Georges St-Pierre lost.

No, I'm not siding with the singlet-wearing, beard-growing, athletic commission-bashing conspiracy theorists who've been insisting for over two weeks that Johny Hendricks should be walking around with the UFC welterweight belt. True, there's no denying that the challenger fought a robust fight back on Nov. 16, and if he and the champ had met in a shadowy alleyway off the Las Vegas Strip, Johny would have been declared the clear winner by the crowd of drunkards and gambling degenerates who'd have gathered around to watch and place side bets.

But the bout was contested inside the octagon set up at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, under the rules of mixed martial arts. Therefore, the cuts and bruises that covered St-Pierre's face, and his fuzzy-headed affect in interviews afterward, were only tangential to the discussion of who won and who lost. The three judges, assessing the athletic contest based on the set of criteria they were charged with following, deemed GSP the winner. Yes, we can argue whether even within the boundaries of the sport's judging rules, Hendricks should have been awarded the decision. But he wasn't. St-Pierre had his hand raised. He was the winner.

So why did I say that Georges lost?

I'm thinking in terms of lost ground in the fighter rankings, particularly the most mythical of all, the pound-for-pound ones.

St-Pierre has been part of the Top 3 in the SI.com rankings for as long as I can remember. He's never been No. 1 during my time here, but he did spend a long spell right below top dog Anderson Silva until Jon Jones made a big enough splash to jump ahead of Georges. Then, after Silva was upset back in July, GSP slipped back into the No. 2 spot, moving up right behind "Bones."

What did that signify? Well, some concoct pound-for-pound rankings as if in a fantasy world where all fighters -- from heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez down to 125-pound belt holder Demetrious Johnson -- are the same size and therefore can compete on a level playing field. But putting Cain and "Mighty Mouse" nose to nose is too fanciful for even my dreamy imagination.

I choose to stack fighters from different weight classes in accordance to how they do when picking on someone their own size. Jones is No. 1 here because he's been more dominant against light heavyweights than any other champ has been within his division. This, too, is a judgment call, of course.

Jones's close call against Alexander Gustafsson knocked him down a notch on the dominance scale, for sure, but Jon remained at the top of the heap largely because of the path of destruction he'd created before that fight. You beat five former champions, finishing four of them and thrashing the other, and you deserve a little leeway.

One could make the same argument for St-Pierre. Prior to the Hendricks fight, which was his 12th straight victory and ninth successful title defense, he'd barely lost a round to a challenger. But he'd allowed the last six of them to hang around for the full five rounds. A win is a win is a win, yes, but a finish is an exclamation point. And because GSP hasn't been punctuating his fights with something to shout about, there were question marks attached to his dominance.

And now, having been beaten up by Johny Hendricks along the way to a split-decision title defense, St-Pierre is moving down a few slots in the SI.com pound-for-pound hierarchy. UFC featherweight champion José Aldo, he of the 16-fight winning streak, is our new No. 2. And Velasquez, who might well be the most dominant of all champs but does get dragged down a bit by the 2011 loss to Junior dos Santos, is No. 3. Then comes St-Pierre.

Sacre blue! On to the rest of the rankings ...

Heavyweight

1. Cain Velasquez (13-1)

2. Junior dos Santos (16-3)

3. Daniel Cormier (13-0)

4. Fabricio Werdum (17-5-1)

5. Josh Barnett (33-6)

6. Antonio Silva (18-5)

7. Travis Browne (15-1-1)

8. Stipe Miocic (10-1)

9. Mark Hunt (9-8)

10. Roy Nelson (19-9)

Velasquez's title defense against Werdum is still up in the air, pending the condition of the champ's injured left shoulder. If surgery is needed, that could push the fight back a ways. But the train keeps a-moving, and the next heavyweight in line could be determined later this month, when Barnett and Browne face off at UFC 168. On this weekend's fight card in Australia (Saturday night local time, Friday night in the United States), Silva and Hunt will be competing for continued relevancy.

Light Heavyweight

1. Jon Jones (19-1)

2. Alexander Gustafsson (15-2)

3. Rashad Evans (19-3-1)

4. Glover Teixeira (22-2)

5. Phil Davis (12-1, 1 NC)

6. Chael Sonnen (28-14-1)

7. Dan Henderson (29-11)

8. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (21-5)

9. Gegard Mousasi (34-3-2)

10. Mauricio Rua (21-8)

We're still waiting for Jones' defense against Teixeira to be scheduled, too, with the champ still dealing with a lingering foot problem. Looking ahead, assuming a "Bones" victory, he has indicated an interest in taking on a superfight against Velasquez. So that leaves the rest of the 205-pounders in limbo. Gustafsson's fight with Jimi Manuwa isn't until March, and Evans is still awaiting his next test after a destruction of Sonnen.

Middleweight

1. Chris Weidman (10-0)

2. Anderson Silva (33-5)

3. Vitor Belfort (23-10)

4. Ronaldo Souza (19-3, 1 NC)

5. Lyoto Machida (20-4)

6. Michael Bisping (24-5)

7. Yushin Okami (29-8)

8. Luke Rockhold (10-2)

9. Tim Kennedy (17-4)

10. Mark Muñoz (13-4)

Can Weidman do it again? Finally, the rematch with Silva is upon us, and that UFC 168 main event is going to be a Main Event. But let's not lose sight of the rest of this division, which has turned into a murderer's row. Belfort is kicking everyone in the head. Souza has added knockouts to his finishing arsenal. Machida has dropped down from light heavy, and Chael Sonnen has indicated he's on the way here as well. Whoever wins the Dec. 28 title bout is going to have a line of mean faces waiting for him.

Welterweight

1. Georges St-Pierre (25-2)

2. Johny Hendricks (15-2)

3. Carlos Condit (29-7)

4. Nick Diaz (26-9, 1 NC)

5. Rory MacDonald (15-2)

6. Ben Askren (12-0)

7. Martin Kampmann (20-7)

8. Demian Maia (18-5)

9. Robbie Lawler (22-9)

10. Tarec Saffiedine (14-3)

This is a hard division to suss out. Some would put Hendricks on the top of the mountain based on his Nov. 16 performance against St-Pierre, but I won't go that far. Let's just say, though, that No. 2 inched a lot closer to No. 1. And what was I supposed to do with MacDonald after he was upset by Lawler that same night? I've already gotten heat for leaving Robbie below Rory in my tally for the UFC official rankings, but my rationale is that MacDonald was near the top and Lawler was unranked, so I dropped one and elevated the other, and this is where they ended up. The other question: How long does Diaz stay here before we believe he's retired?

Lightweight

1. Anthony Pettis (17-2)

2. Benson Henderson (19-3)

3. Gilbert Melendez (22-3)

4. T.J. Grant (21-5)

5. Josh Thomson (20-5, 1 NC)

6. Khabib Nurmagomedov (21-0)

7. Nate Diaz (17-9)

8. Eddie Alvarez (25-3)

9. Michael Chandler (12-1)

10. Pat Healy (29-17, 1 NC)

I was going to go with the Diaz rankings, but I wasn't sure who should be No. 1, the Melendez who lost to Henderson or the Nate who was dominated by Benson and KO'd by Thomson? Sorry for that lapse into fantasy. Let's get back to the real world of subjective rankings, in which Diaz does move up three spots after his thorough thrashing of Gray Maynard last Saturday night and might have moved up even more if there weren't so many killers standing between him and the top.

Featherweight

1. José Aldo (23-1)

2. Chad Mendes (15-1)

3. Frankie Edgar (16-4-1)

4. Ricardo Lamas (13-2)

5. Cub Swanson (20-5)

6. Chan Sung Jung (13-4)

7. Dustin Poirier (14-3)

8. Daniel Straus (22-4)

9. Nik Lentz (24-5-2, 1 NC)

10. Pat Curran (19-5)

Aldo vs. Lamas is set for Super Bowl weekend in New Jersey, but this month also has a showdown of top 145-pounders. The Dec. 14 fight between Mendes and Lentz might determine who's next in line ... at least while we wait for Edgar and B.J. Penn to get it on following their ongoing coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter.

SI Now: Dominick Cruz & Renan Barao on being UFC 169 main event
On Wednesday's SI Now, UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz and interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao discuss being top billing for UFC 169 and putting on an exciting fight to represent the lighter weight divisions.

Bantamweight

1. Renan Barão (31-1, 1 NC)

2. Dominick Cruz (19-1)

3. Michael McDonald (16-2)

4. Urijah Faber (29-6)

5. Eddie Wineland (20-9-1)

6. Scott Jorgensen (14-7)

7. Raphael Assunção (21-4)

8. Brad Pickett (23-8)

9. Takeya Mizugaki (18-7-2)

10. Bibiano Fernandes (15-3)

It's still nearly two months away, but at least it's no longer just conjecture. The matchup between champion Cruz and interim champ Barão was inevitable, of course, but until Dominick's twice-repaired knee was ready to support his inimitable dance moves, we didn't have a fight. Now we do. Not only have both Dominick and Renan signed on the dotted line to headline UFC 169 on Feb. 1 in Newark, N.J., but also they've already traveled to New York to hype the champion vs. champion clash, bringing their title belts with them. We don't know who'll be facing off down the road at chilly MetLife Stadium that weekend, but the NFL will be lucky to end up with a matchup as good as this one. And the winner will have new challenger awaiting: the survivor of the Dec. 14 bout between McDonald and Faber.

Flyweight

1. Demetrious Johnson (18-2-1)

2. Joseph Benavidez (19-3)

3. Ian McCall (12-4-1)

4. John Dodson (15-6)

5. John Moraga (13-2)

6. John Lineker (23-6)

7. Jussier da Silva (15-3)

8. Darrell Montague (13-3)

9. Ali Bagautinov (12-2)

10. Chris Cariaso (15-5)

Johnson vs. Benavidez II has a lot to live up to: Johnson vs. Benavidez I. The rematch, which headlines the UFC's Dec. 14 card, features a pair of fighters who appear to have gotten even better than they were when they first met a little over a year ago. "Mighty Mouse" became the UFC's first 125-pound champ that night, by split decision. Benavidez has won three fights since then to climb back to the top, and he's going to be tough to deny a second time. As always with featherweights, set your DVR for this title fight and then watch in slow-motion so you don't miss any of the lightning.

Women

1. Ronda Rousey (7-0)

2. Cristiane Justino (12-1, 1 NC)

3. Cat Zingano (8-0)

4. Sara McMann (7-0)

5. Miesha Tate (13-4)

6. Jessica Eye (11-1)

7. Sarah Kaufman (16-2)

8. Alexis Davis (15-5)

9. Liz Carmouche (9-4)

10. Jessica Aguilar (15-4)

Within the last couple of months both Kaufman and Carmouche, former title challengers who were thought to be still contenders, were defeated in close fights. Between those results and the emergence of new faces on the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter, the women's game is edging into the spotlight. Last weekend's UFC event had three women's bouts on the five-fight main card. The promotion has announced it will add a 115-pound division. And of course this month brings the grudge match between Rousey and Tate. Much to watch.

Pound for pound

1. Jon Jones

2. José Aldo

3. Cain Velasquez

4. Georges St-Pierre

5. Chris Weidman

6. Anderson Silva

7. Ronda Rousey

8. Demetrious Johnson

9. Anthony Pettis

10. Renan Barão

What can I say here that isn't stated above? Other than this: It sure does look odd to see a Top 3 without GSP in it.

Questions? Comments? To reach Jeff Wagenheim or contribute to the SI.com MMA mailbag, click on the E-mail link at the top of the page.

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