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Jon 'Bones' Jones still No. 1 pound-for-pound, but challengers await

Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Ever since Jon Jones' hard-fought victory over Alexander Gustafsson (left) in September, there's been uncertainty atop the pound-for-pound MMA rankings.

Last Sept. 21 in Toronto, Jon Jones had his hand raised, just like he always does at the end of a fight, and walked out of the octagon still owner of the UFC light heavyweight championship.

Nothing changed. Yet everything changed.

Until that night, "Bones" had been indomitable. He'd fought his way through a murderers' row of five former champions and made it look like a jaunt in the park. He was a walking superhero movie. You need someone to take out Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Spider-Man and the X-Men? Here's your man.

But on that autumn evening in Canada, Jones could not take out Alexander Gustafsson. This was shocking. The tall Swede had been billed as nothing more than that -- tall. He stands 6-foot-5, while Jones is a shrimp of 6-4. How silly of the UFC's hype machine to focus merely on the fact that for the first time, Jon would be fighting someone (slightly) taller than him, right? Then again, what else did the carnival barkers have? No one could even touch Jones.

Until Gustafsson did. Again and again. And did something else no one else had done: take Jones down. Before the champion turned the tide with a wobbling elbow in the fourth round, it looked like we were witnessing something extraordinarily game-changing. In a way, despite the fact that Alexander did not win the judges' decision, we were.

Jon Jones, 26 years old and 19-1, still is numero uno in the SI.com pound-for-pound mixed martial arts fighter rankings. But he's no longer Secretariat in '73. The rest of the sport is catching up. Or maybe that was a one-night, one-tall-man phenomenon. We'll find out April 26 when Jones goes face-to-face with Glover Teixeira. The Brazilian will be lugging a 20-fight win streak behind him, but don't get your hopes up. The poor guy stands only 6-2.

Heavyweight

1. Cain Velasquez (13-1)

2. Junior dos Santos (16-3)

3. Fabricio Werdum (17-5-1)

4. Travis Browne (16-1-1)

5. Stipe Miocic (11-1)

6. Josh Barnett (33-7)

7. Mark Hunt (9-8-1)

8. Antonio Silva (18-5, 1 NC)

9. Alistair Overeem (37-13, 1 NC)

10. Frank Mir (16-9)

Werdum and Browne are the top two viable challengers for the title, with dos Santos out of the running thanks to a pair of convincing losses to the champ. So it's fitting that Fabricio and Travis will face off April 16 in Orlando. What a rare example, in today's talk-your-way-into-a-title-bout UFC, of a truly definitive elimination bout.

Light Heavyweight

1. Jon Jones (19-1)

2. Alexander Gustafsson (16-2)

3. Rashad Evans (21-3-1)

4. Daniel Cormier (14-0)

5. Glover Teixeira (22-2)

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

7. Chael Sonnen (28-14-1)

8. Dan Henderson (30-11)

9. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (21-5)

10. Mauricio Rua (22-9)

After Jones and Teixeira dance later this month, Gustafsson will be next. And then? Well, it could be Cormier, if he can show us he has what it takes to beat a light heavyweight who wasn't a barista two weeks earlier. For that reason, Cormier's rumored fight with Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante barely would have registered on the radar screen. Do you see "Feijao" on the list above? No, you do not. He's No. 13 in the official UFC rankings. So it's good that the UFC appears to have opted instead for Cormier vs. Henderson. Yeah, Henderson is 43 and just came off a fight in which he got dinged a tad, but he's our No. 8 man and is No. 6 in the UFC tally. If you're going to bother to have rankings, why not use them?

Middleweight

1. Chris Weidman (11-0)

2. Anderson Silva (33-6)

3. Vitor Belfort (23-10)

4. Ronaldo Souza (20-3, 1 NC)

5. Lyoto Machida (21-4)

6. Michael Bisping (24-5)

7. Luke Rockhold (11-2)

8. Yushin Okami (30-8)

9. Gegard Mousasi (34-4-2)

10. Tim Kennedy (17-4)

With Weidman vs. Machida having been pushed back to July 5 so the champion can heal from surgery to both knees, the whole top of the division is at a standstill. Silva has been dealing with more serious leg woes, Belfort is sorting out a post-TRT future (and an undisclosed drug test result), and Souza is recovering from elbow surgery. Bisping and Kennedy meet April 16 in Quebec City, and Souza has said he wants the winner this summer. Sounds like a grand opportunity to wait in line.

Welterweight

1. Johny Hendricks (16-2)

2. Rory MacDonald (15-2)

3. Robbie Lawler (22-10, 1 NC)

4. Tyron Woodley (13-2)

5. Carlos Condit (29-8)

6. Hector Lombard (34-4-1, 1 NC)

7. Jake Shields (29-7-1, 1 NC)

8. Demian Maia (18-5)

9. Ben Askren (12-0)

10. Matt Brown (18-11)

No one wishes injury upon a fighter, or on anyone, but Hendricks' forearm surgery could serve the 170-pound division well. If Johny had been ready to go, who'd he be going with? MacDonald, after picking apart Maia? Woodley, after smashing Condit? Lawler again? Lombard, after rag-dolling Shields? Askren, after ... oh, wait, never mind. Now there's time for a little sorting out. UFC matchmakers haven't made a peep, but here's hoping a MacDonald vs. Woodley showdown is being arranged. That'd be so appealing that maybe Nick Diaz would show up to watch.

Lightweight

1. Anthony Pettis (17-2)

2. Benson Henderson (20-3)

3. Gilbert Melendez (22-3)

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

5. Josh Thomson (20-6, 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)

Your best view of this division is not in video but in still pictures. There aren't a lot of moving parts in the 155-pound machine. Pettis is out until fall. Henderson is healthy but a nowhere man, at least in terms of contending, having dropped two to the champ. Melendez is sitting and waiting for "Showtime." Grant is nearly a year into his concussion nightmare. Thomson has talked of retirement. And there, ladies and gentlemen, is your top five. Why can't everyone be as low-maintenance as Nate Diaz?

Featherweight

1. José Aldo (24-1)

2. Chad Mendes (16-1)

3. Frankie Edgar (16-4-1)

4. Ricardo Lamas (13-3)

5. Cub Swanson (20-5)

6. Chan Sung Jung (13-4)

7. Dustin Poirier (15-3)

8. Pat Curran (20-5)

9. Nik Lentz (24-6-2, 1 NC)

10. Daniel Straus (22-5)

You'll note that the two paragraphs directly above have ended with quips about the Diaz brothers. Too bad Nick and Nate don't have a 145-pound brother, because this division could use some spicing up. Mendes would appear to be next in line, and as tough as he is inside the cage, he's too much of a gentleman at promotional events to play the role of Aldo's foil and generate some buzz for the rematch. Hype aside, next time Chad presumably will bring more than he did to his first-round KO loss to José in 2012. Mendes has won five straight since then, with four KOs. Maybe that'll be enough.

SI Now: Blueprint for growing the MMA fanbase
On Friday's SI Now, co-founder of the UFC Campbell McLaren discusses his new reality TV show "Combate Americas" on Mun2 and how time is the only factor keeping mixed martial arts from being one of America's most popular sports.

Bantamweight

1. Renan Barão (32-1, 1 NC)

2. Urijah Faber (30-7)

3. Michael McDonald (16-3)

4. Raphael Assunção (22-4)

5. Eddie Wineland (21-9-1)

6. Bibianio Fernandes (15-3)

7. T.J. Dillashaw (9-2)

8. Takeya Mizugaki (18-7-2)

9. Eduardo Dantas (15-3)

10. Iuri Alcantara (29-5)

We assumed Assunção. Everyone including Barão expected Raphael to be the next challenger for the 135-pound belt, but the UFC needed a main event for next month and Assunção is still nursing injured ribs. So instead Renan will get Dillashaw in the main event of UFC 173 on May 24 in Las Vegas. It's not a matchup the promotion dreamed of seeing in lights on the marquee, but T.J. has some fight in him. He'll need it if he hopes to break Team Alpha Male's streak of coming up short in title bouts. (No, that's not a size joke, Tommy Toe Hold.)

Flyweight

1. Demetrious Johnson (19-2-1)

2. Joseph Benavidez (19-4)

3. Ian McCall (12-4-1)

4. John Dodson (15-6)

5. John Moraga (13-2)

6. Ali Bagautinov (13-2)

7. John Lineker (23-7)

8. Jussier da Silva (15-3)

9. Brad Pickett (24-8)

10. Zach Makowsky (17-4)

Johnson's next title defense will be against Bagautinov, according to a report by the Russian media outlet MMA Boxing. That makes sense, since Demetrious has mowed down everyone who stands in front of the Sambo champ. Bagautinov has won 11 in a row, but "Mighty Mouse" is a different animal. Is Ali equipped to exterminate?

Women

1. Ronda Rousey (9-0)

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

3. Cat Zingano (8-0)

4. Sara McMann (7-1)

5. Miesha Tate (13-5)

6. Alexis Davis (16-5)

7. Jessica Eye (10-2, 1 NC)

8. Sarah Kaufman (16-2, 1 NC)

9. Liz Carmouche (9-4)

10. Jessica Aguilar (15-4)

Did you see "Cyborg" Justino lose over the weekend? Don't put any stock in it in terms of its impact on the potential, inevitable, essential Justino vs. Rousey fight. It wasn't an MMA fight but a Muay Thai bout, against one of the best in the world in that discipline. Good for Justino for taking on the challenge ... which would be like Rousey challenging the best in the world in something other than MMA or judo. So the Cyborg slim-down continues. And we wait.

Pound for pound

1. Jon Jones

2. José Aldo

3. Cain Velasquez

4. Chris Weidman

5. Demetrious Johnson

6. Renan Barão

7. Ronda Rousey

8. Anthony Pettis

9. Anderson Silva

10. Johny Hendricks

Thanks, everyone, for the standstill since last month's group photo. OK, Jon Jones, step forward and show us what you've got.

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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