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July MMA rankings: What more can Ronda Rousey do to improve?

In pound-for-pound rankings, is Ronda Rousey suffering from a lack of competition or outdated ideas? Photo:

In pound-for-pound rankings, is Ronda Rousey suffering from a lack of competition or outdated ideas?

Ronda Rousey is the most dominant fighter in mixed martial arts. Based on her 10 victories in 10 professional fights -- every one of them a forceful finish, all but one in the first round, six in the first minute, and six with a championship belt on the line -- we can agree on that much, can’t we? Why, then, is she not No. 1 in everybody’s pound-for-pound rankings?

It’s complicated.

Many who shuffle the deck insist the term “pound-for-pound” transports us to a fanciful world in which 6-foot-1, 240-pound heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez stands shoulder to shoulder with 5-3, 125-pound flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson. That’s quite the level playing field, where a mouse is mighty enough to tackle a moose.

This is a “what if?” approach to assessing the fight game, and it's about as realistic as the one EA Sports sells us. (And if that’s the case, why isn’t Bruce Lee in anyone’s Top 10 rankings?) Considering that “pound-for-pound” is a hypothetical no matter how you shape it, though, it’s perfectly reasonable to assemble your collection of the best from each weight class not in the form of a set of matryoshka dolls but as an orderly row of same-size square blocks.

Of course, all of the square blocks in this playroom have to be blue -- no girlie pink ones allowed. Putting a 135-pound female into play along with men of similar size? That’s way too much reality.

Not if, as your question-reality correspondent and some others in the rankings game do, you start from a less far-fetched perspective. What if you have Rousey compete against the men not in the cage, which would be barbaric, but with her in her own universe and them in theirs? Our approach to the pound-for-pound assessment begins and pretty much ends with a look at the pecking orders within each weight class. Which champion has most thoroughly beaten down all challengers? By that pound-for-pound measure, Rousey would reside at the top of the mountain.

It’s not that simple, though. There has to be an allowance for degree of difficulty, right? Jon Jones, for instance, has won eight UFC title fights, five of them against reigning or former champs. Is that definitive evidence that the path “Bones” has taken has been more of a minefield than that traveled by “Rowdy Ronda”? No, not necessarily. We’re taking leaps no matter how we approach the ranking process.

And so in this month’s SI.com pound-for-pound rankings, Rousey takes a leap, all right, but just a little one. Fresh off her 16-second destruction of Alexis Davis on Saturday night, she moves up one spot, to No. 5. That’s loftier perch than most will place her, to be sure, but what more need this 27-year-old evolving athlete do to prove her supremacy?

As the UFC women’s bantamweight roster stands today, it’s going to be tough for “Rowdy Ronda” to climb any higher. But if things out of her control fall into place -- if the UFC cuts the nonsense and signs Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, if “Cyborg” cuts to a reasonable weight and passes the rigorous drug screenings to which she should be subjected -- the sky’s the limit.

On to the rankings ...

Heavyweight

  1. Cain Velasquez (13-1)
  2. Junior dos Santos (16-3)
  3. Fabricio Werdum (18-5-1)
  4. Stipe Miocic (12-1)
  5. Travis Browne (16-2-1)
  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. Roy Nelson (20-9)

This division would appear to be in a standstill until November, when Velasquez and Werdum rumble. Then again, maybe dos Santos and Miocic, whose May meeting was canceled because of Junior’s hand injury, will be rescheduled for before then.

Light Heavyweight

  1. Jon Jones (20-1)
  2. Alexander Gustafsson (16-2)
  3. Daniel Cormier (15-0)
  4. Rashad Evans (21-3-1)
  5. Glover Teixeira (22-3)
  6. Anthony Johnson (17-4)
  7. Phil Davis (12-2, 1 NC)
  8. Ryan Bader (17-4)
  9. Emanuel Newton (23-7-1)
  10. Dan Henderson (30-12)

“Thank you for calling, Mr. Cormier. The light heavyweight champion is currently busy, but your hold time is less than three months.” Jones vs. Gustafsson II is set for Sept. 27 in Las Vegas.

Middleweight

  1. Chris Weidman (12-0)
  2. Anderson Silva (33-6)
  3. Vitor Belfort (23-10)
  4. Ronaldo Souza (20-3, 1 NC)
  5. Lyoto Machida (21-5)
  6. Luke Rockhold (12-2)
  7. Tim Kennedy (18-4)
  8. Michael Bisping (24-6)
  9. Yushin Okami (30-8)
  10. Yoel Romero (8-1)

Weidman fortified his spot at the top of the pack on Saturday night, his smart aggressiveness disarming the dangerous Machida for the better part of five rounds. “The Dragon” surged in the championship rounds, and while it was too little too late, he showed that he still belongs.

Photo:

Johny Hendricks

Welterweight

  1. Johny Hendricks (16-2)
  2. Rory MacDonald (17-2)
  3. Robbie Lawler (22-10, 1 NC)
  4. Tyron Woodley (13-3)
  5. Carlos Condit (29-8)
  6. Hector Lombard (34-4-1, 1 NC)
  7. Jake Shields (29-7-1, 1 NC)
  8. Ben Askren (13-0)
  9. Matt Brown (19-11)
  10. Demian Maia (19-6)

If Dana White is to be believed, Lawler and Brown will be tug-of-warring for a shot at Hendricks in their July 26 meeting. The UFC president ought not discount MacDonald, who took Woodley apart last month and has a championship-challenger resume.

Lightweight

  1. Anthony Pettis (17-2)
  2. Benson Henderson (21-3)
  3. Gilbert Melendez (22-3)
  4. Khabib Nurmagomedov (22-0)
  5. T.J. Grant (21-5)
  6. Josh Thomson (20-6, 1 NC)
  7. Nate Diaz (17-9)
  8. Eddie Alvarez (25-3)
  9. Jim Miller (24-4, 1 NC)
  10. Will Brooks (14-1)

Is Henderson perpetually stuck at No. 2? His submission of Rustam Khabilov ensured that he won’t be fading away, but a third shot at Pettis seems far away. “Smooth” might be wise to root for Melendez when Gil challenges Pettis later this year.

Featherweight

  1. José Aldo (24-1)
  2. Chad Mendes (16-1)
  3. Frankie Edgar (17-4-1)
  4. Ricardo Lamas (14-3)
  5. Cub Swanson (21-5)
  6. Chan Sung Jung (13-4)
  7. Dustin Poirier (16-3)
  8. Pat Curran (20-5)
  9. Patricio Freire (21-2)
  10. Daniel Straus (22-5)

We’re going to have to wait a while for that No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown, as Aldo was injured in training and needs a few weeks to recover. Meanwhile, within the last couple of weeks, Nos. 3, 4 and 5 all kept the engines purring with decisive victories.

Bantamweight

  1. T.J. Dillashaw (10-2)
  2. Renan Barão (32-2, 1 NC)
  3. Urijah Faber (30-7)
  4. Michael McDonald (16-3)
  5. Raphael Assunção (22-4)
  6. Eduardo Dantas (16-3)
  7. Takeya Mizugaki (20-7-2)
  8. Bibianio Fernandes (16-3)
  9. Iuri Alcantara (30-5)
  10. Johnny Eduardo (27-9)

Faber is a little guy who sees the big picture. He agreed to a spot in the UFC 175 prelims over the weekend, knowing the Fox Sports 1 telecast would reach millions and he wasn’t going to get a piece of pay-per-view revenues anyway. And when asked if he would fight his teammate, new champ Dillashaw, he basically said that money talks. Good answer.

Photo:

Demetrious Johnson (L)

Flyweight

  1. Demetrious Johnson (20-2-1)
  2. Joseph Benavidez (20-4)
  3. John Dodson (16-6)
  4. Ian McCall (12-4-1)
  5. John Moraga (14-3)
  6. Ali Bagautinov (13-3)
  7. John Lineker (23-7)
  8. Jussier da Silva (15-3)
  9. Brad Pickett (24-8)
  10. Tim Elliott (10-5-1)

Johnson fended off Bagautinov’s challenge and Dodson took out Moraga, setting them on a collision course for a rematch that, despite both fighters’ lightning-fast explosiveness, can’t get here fast enough.

Women

  1. Ronda Rousey (10-0)
  2. Cristiane Justino (12-1, 1 NC)
  3. Cat Zingano (8-0)
  4. Sara McMann (7-1)
  5. Miesha Tate (14-5)
  6. Alexis Davis (16-6)
  7. Jessica Eye (10-2, 1 NC)
  8. Sarah Kaufman (16-2, 1 NC)
  9. Liz Carmouche (9-5)
  10. Jessica Aguilar (15-4)

The temptation is to go with Nos. 1 and 2, followed by eight blank spaces. But the rest of the women in MMA already face enough hurdles without being disrespected like that. Somewhere, somehow, however, the women’s game needs a contender to emerge.

Photo:

Jon Jones

Pound for pound

  1. Jon Jones
  2. José Aldo
  3. Cain Velasquez
  4. Chris Weidman
  5. Demetrious Johnson
  6. Ronda Rousey
  7. Anthony Pettis
  8. Anderson Silva
  9. Johny Hendricks
  10. Daniel Cormier

Rousey moves up one rung on the ladder, as mentioned earlier. What about Weidman? He looked mighty impressive against Machida over the weekend, but it’s going to take more performances just like that for him to break into the Top 3.

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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