Wednesday September 3rd, 2014

When Renan Barão fainted last Friday a few hours before he was to weigh in for the next evening’s soiree with T.J. Dillashaw, leading to him being yanked from the UFC bantamweight championship bout, aftershocks were felt far beyond the scope of the former champ’s life.

For the UFC, what began the day as a withered pay-per-view now was bone dry. The main event, a rematch of the stunning May bout in which Dillashaw had pulled off perhaps the greatest title fight upset, had been pretty much the only selling point of UFC 177. An undercard that already had lost its co-main event had little that would get fans reaching for their wallets. And now that Dillashaw vs. Barão II was kaput, well, let’s just say that the Brazilian’s adopted fighter name, “Barão,” is Portuguese for “baron,” and his weight-cutting foible had left 177 barren.

Dillashaw was a loser, too. His belt-winning performance had been shockingly dominant, but there are those -- this writer included -- who feel the need to see more evidence before anointing him the future of the 135-pound weight class. He’d floored Barão with an overhand right hand in the first round of their first fight, had followed up with a flurry of punches while swarming on the canvas, and while Renan survived to the horn, how much of him remained is debatable.

What did Dillashaw’s sustained control of the fight and his fifth-round finish really tell us, then? In the SI.com fighter rankings, the new champ -- who had entered the bout at No. 7 among bantamweights -- soared to the top of the 135-pound mountain. He owned the belt now, so it was only right that he should own the top spot. Yet he was nowhere to be found in our pound-for-pound Top 10, the only UFC champion unranked.

There still were questions. Saturday night’s fight was going to answer them. Or not.

Well, Dillashaw ended up fighting Joe Soto instead. The UFC debutante was game, but he didn’t have what it takes to answer any questions we have about the champ. So T.J. remains on the outside looking in.

This is not to suggest that Dillashaw needs a fight with Barão to validate his reign. No, all he needs is a victory over a challenger who’s a true contender. Not someone who’s never fought in the UFC before. Not someone who was given the title bout a day beforehand. Not someone who’s there merely to save the day or at least salvage what the promotion can. Let’s see T.J. get a real win, and then we’ll talk. Is that too much to ask?

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)

While we wait for Velasquez vs. Werdum, which is two and a half months away, we get to feast on some heavy-handed heavyweight action this month. Hunt and Nelson will trade some serious leather on the 20th in Japan. And two other big guys are truly fighting for survival. If Overeem wants to remain relevant, he must lay waste to Ben Rothwell this Friday, just as “Bigfoot” Silva needs a dominant showing against the ghost of Andrei Arlovski on the 13th.

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 (18-4)
7. Phil Davis (12-2, 1 NC)
8. Ryan Bader (18-4)
9. Emanuel Newton (23-7-1)
10. Dan Henderson (30-12)

Now that Jones and Cormier have to wait until January to literally kill each other, and Gustafsson is ignoring callouts by Johnson and choosing to wait for his title shot, there’s little the 205-pounders can do but jockey for position -- a position they’re going to have to maintain and protect for quite a while. Bader stayed in the picture -- off to the side, barely in focus -- with a win over Ovince St. Preux a couple of weeks ago. And the next meaningful light heavyweight bout isn’t until the end of October, when Teixeira and Davis meet.

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)

Souza is hovering near the top as a possible next challenger for the title – once Weidman and Belfort settle matters in December – but first “Jacare” must get by Gegard Mousasi on Friday. Wait, a UFC event on a Friday? Well, yes, and Bellator has a card at a different Indian casino 10 miles away on the same night. Coincidentally.

Welterweight
1. Johny Hendricks (16-2)
2. Rory MacDonald (17-2)
3. Robbie Lawler (24-10, 1 NC)
4. Tyron Woodley (14-3)
5. Carlos Condit (29-8)
6. Hector Lombard (34-4-1, 1 NC)
7. Matt Brown (19-12)
8. Ben Askren (13-0)
9. Jake Shields (29-7-1, 1 NC)
10. Demian Maia (19-6)

You know when you try some unfamiliar food item -- something exotic, maybe – and you get a bad taste in your mouth that just doesn’t quit? Well, apparently that’s the way Woodley felt after a lackluster decision loss to MacDonald in June. He couldn’t get back in the cage fast enough, and when he did so last weekend, he needed just 1:01 to waste Dong Hyun Kim. Bad taste, gone.

Lightweight
1. Anthony Pettis (17-2)
2. Gilbert Melendez (22-3)
3. Khabib Nurmagomedov (22-0)
4. Rafael dos Anjos (22-7)
5. Benson Henderson (21-4)
6. Donald Cerrone (24-6, 1 NC)
7. Eddie Alvarez (25-3)
8. Bobby Green (23-5)
9. Josh Thomson (20-6, 1 NC)
10. Nate Diaz (17-9)

There’s no shiny brass-and-leather strap on the line, but there’s still an air of consequence surrounding the Sept. 27 clash between Cerrone and UFC debutante Alvarez. The winner will put himself in line for a shot at the belt … but not ahead of dos Anjos, who upset Henderson over the weekend, and the unbeaten, avoid-at-all-cost Nurmagomedov.

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. Dennis Bermudez (14-3)

Poirier holds two men’s Top 10 fate in his hands: his own, of course, and also that of Sept. 27 opponent Conor McGregor, who already has proven to be a pound-for-pound star at the gabbing game and now must prove that when he’s in with the big boys he’s not all talk.

Bantamweight
1. T.J. Dillashaw (11-2)
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)

Mizugaki’s hold on that No. 7 spot is tenuous, because on the 27th he faces some unranked guy. Fellow’s name is Cruz, Dominick Cruz. Yep, the former champion is back following an injury-after-injury layoff that on fight night will have reached 1,093 days -- that’s just three days short of three full years.

Flyweight
1. Demetrious Johnson (20-2-1)
2. Joseph Benavidez (20-4)
3. John Dodson (16-6)
4. Ian McCall (13-4-1)
5. Jussier da Silva (17-3)
6. John Moraga (14-3)
7. John Lineker (24-7)
8. Ali Bagautinov (13-3)
9. Brad Pickett (24-9)
10. Tim Elliott (10-5-1)

Johnson defends his belt at the end of the month against Chris Cariaso, whose name you do not see on this list. A better challenger might have been da Silva, also known as Jussier Formiga, although he fought just recently, getting past tough Zach Makowsky.

Women
1. Ronda Rousey (10-0)
2. Cristiane Justino (12-1, 1 NC)
3. Cat Zingano (8-0)
4. Sara McMann (8-1)
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. Bethe Correia (9-0)

Welcome, Ms. Correia. On the strength of your impressive stoppage of Shayna Baszler over the weekend, you get a spot on the list. It’s way down at the bottom, but still, go ahead and hold up 10 fingers. It’s your schtick.

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

Everybody freeze. Stay right where you are ... in the same position as last month. We might soon see movement from “Mighty Mouse,” but if we do, it almost surely would be downward motion. I mean, what could he possibly do in a fight with Chris Cariaso that’d earn him the right to leapfrog “Rowdy Ronda”?

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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