"Bones" justifies No. 1 spot in divisional MMA rankings at UFC 128
Now you know why SI.com had Jon "Bones" Jones ranked at No. 1 among light heavyweights last month, above a bunch of fighters with more sparkly resumes, including then-UFC champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua.
Actually, judging by the e-mails that came flowing in after our rankings were published at the start of the month, a lot of readers were in agreement that "Bones" was the top dog at light heavy. But some fans -- and a lot of media rankings -- steadfastly insisted on keeping Jones down somewhere in the middle of the pecking order until he'd shown what he could do against an elite opponent.
How do you like him now?
Obviously, I was not surprised by the result of the UFC 128 main event a couple of weeks ago in New Jersey. Ranking him at the very top among light heavyweights last month made it clear that I expected Jones to beat Rua and claim the belt. What I didn't anticipate, however, was the dominant destruction a guy with three years of mixed-martial-arts training could wreak upon a decorated veteran of the sport. I can't wait to see what "Bones" can do once he knows what he's doing.
Unfortunately for Jones, his stunning win does absolutely nothing for him in this month's SI.com rankings. That's the bittersweet byproduct of being viewed as No. 1 even before you've got the shiny belt around your waist. The top threes in some other weight classes hold steady as well, although there's a little movement, too -- most notably, a curious case of a guy falling in the rankings after a win. I'll explain when we get there.
The pecking order here is the same as it was last month, and frankly, it's probably going to remain in a holding pattern for a couple more months. Then everything could change during one busy week in June, when Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem finally fights in the Heavyweight Grand Prix, seeking to avenge a 2006 loss to Fabricio Werdum, and Junior dos Santos takes on former UFC champ Brock Lesnar for a shot at Cain Velasquez's belt, which has been gathering dust since October. We got a little teaser of that latter bout when Season 13 of
Where did "Shogun" Rua go? Last month's No. 2 showed absolutely nothing -- other than an ability to withstand punishment -- in being thoroughly dominated by Jon Jones at UFC 128, so he no longer belongs in the top three. Who does? Quinton "Rampage" Jackson might have a claim, except I thought Lyoto Machida should have won the decision in their November bout. Ryan Bader? Gegard Mousasi? Phil Davis? I'm going with newly minted Strikeforce champ Dan Henderson, a dangerous man at this weight with his ability to scramble out of trouble and then scramble brainwaves with that right fist. "Rampage" did beat him in 2007, but Henderson was just a kid of 36 back then.
A more realistic middleweight ranking might have Anderson Silva at No. 1 and no one at Nos. 2 and 3. Chael Sonnen hasn't been seen since he came within a couple of minutes of winning the UFC belt last August. And Yushin Okami is still waiting for the title shot he earned with a win over Nate Marquardt in November, and likely will be waiting a while longer. UFC president Dana White, who prides himself on saying he gives the fans the fights they want to see, has been talking a lot about a showdown between Silva and welterweight belt holder Georges St-Pierre, a matchup fans have been touting for a while. If GSP takes care of business April 30 against Jake Shields, the wheels will start churning. And Okami, Sonnen and everyone else at 185 pounds will get to sit around and read a good novel.
Nothing changes here, but it could soon. Next weekend we'll see if I've been wrong all along about Nick Diaz. We won't be able to determine if I've been right, though, because if he beats Paul Daley it will not be an accomplishment that'll overly impress the fans and media who believe he's being overrated here. After all, Daley is not exactly the cream of the welterweight crop. Just before being exiled by the UFC, he was easily controlled by Josh Koscheck. So if Daley beats Diaz or even gives him trouble, this ranking will look bad. But I don't expect that to be the case. Unless, of course, Nick stubbornly stands with him, in which case who knows? Daley has sledgehammers at the ends of those arms, and one clean shot could knock down both Diaz and me. A couple of weeks later, Nick's friend and training partner Jake Shields has a chance to take down No. 1. I don't expect that to happen, either.
Pay attention, Eddie Alvarez, Jim Miller and any other lightweight who thinks he's top-three material. Gilbert Melendez puts his Strikeforce title on the line next weekend, and if he goes down, someone could be moving up in these rankings. Miller stated his case by handing Kamal Shalorus his first loss at UFC 128, and Alvarez faces Pat Curran this weekend in a battle of the last two Bellator tournament winners. Melendez's opponent is Tatsuya Kawajiri, last seen beating ex-Strikeforce belt holder Josh Thomson on New Year's Eve at an exciting night of fights called Dynamite!! 2010. (I know it was exciting because dynamite is an explosive and the promoters used not one but two exclamation points in the name!!)
Will Mark Hominick be the featherweight who makes Jose Aldo finally break a sweat? We'll find out at the end of the month. The spot below Aldo still belongs to Manny Gamburyan, the last victim of the Brazilian's explosiveness. The solid judoka has been inactive since that September fight because of a back injury, but he has enough impressive wins to hold this position. For now. After that I'm slotting Chad Mendes, who to this point has been overlooked. His UFC debut in February, a clear decision victory over Michihiro Omigawa, ran his record to 10-0. But with Kenny Florian dropping to featherweight for a June bout against 16-1 Diego Nunes, things might soon change.
When is a win a loss? When a fighter is rewarded in victory with a drop in the rankings, as is the fate of Urijah Faber. Last month I slotted the former WEC featherweight champion at the top of these bantamweight rankings, above even champ Dominick Cruz, and not just because Faber beat him when Cruz challenged for the featherweight belt back in 2007. I simply thought "The California Kid" would be too big and strong for this weight class. But seeing him struggle to handle Eddie Wineland at UFC 128 gave me a change of heart. No disrespect to Wineland, who is a former WEC champ and a tough guy, but he's no Dominick Cruz. And when Faber and Cruz rematch for the featherweight belt in July, I now give the edge to the champion. So he moves up to No. 1, with Faber dropping to No. 2. Go ahead and pull a Karl Rove on me, labeling me a flip-flopper.
This is the one ranking where resumes do matter, because I'm stacking these guys up based not on how I think they'd do against each other but on how they've done in their respective weight classes. So whether or not I think welterweight king Georges St-Pierre can bulk up and beat Anderson Silva at middleweight is irrelevant. And Jon Jones, for all his dominance at UFC 128, hasn't done enough yet at light heavyweight to supplant any of the top three. He's going to have to show me more scalps than just Shogun's. Of course, if "Bones" handles Rashad Evans as easily as he did Rua, he's taking someone's position in the top three next month. And with both GSP and Jose Aldo fighting April 30, there could be spots up for grabs.