It's tough to argue against Anderson Silva. The man has not lost a fight in over seven years, and in all the time since then he has decimated opponent after opponent with his lethal fluidity. He won the UFC middleweight championship way back in October 2006 and has successfully defended it a record nine times. He also owns UFC bests in consecutive wins (14), longest title reign (six years and six months, and counting) and most gasps of disbelief from awestruck fans.
It would take something extraordinary for "The Spider" to be unseated from the top spot in the mixed martial arts rankings.
Meet something extraordinary. Otherwise known as Jon Jones. Otherwise known as "Bones." Otherwise known as the new No. 1 in the SI.com pound-for-pound rankings.
While it's tough to argue against Silva, it's impossible to hold down Jones any longer.
Just ask Rashad Evans, the former light heavyweight champion who walked into the octagon 10 days ago with his head filled with hopeful visions of regaining the belt. Until his vision was blurred, if not outright blinded, by an onslaught of boney elbows to the temple.
Just ask Lyoto Machida. Just ask Quinton Jackson. Just ask Mauricio Rua. Those were Jones' three conquests prior to dominating Evans at UFC 145, all of them former or reigning champs who were made to look run of the mill.
True, Silva has dominated most every fighter the UFC has stuck in the octagon with him, but he's not faced the murderer's row that Jones has recently. Four champions in 13 months! And while one might argue that "Bones" hasn't been doing it for as long as Silva has, this ranking is no lifetime achievement award. Even if it were, Jones has won all 17 fights he's been in (the one "L" on his resume was a questionable no-warning disqualification in a fight he was finishing). Jon Jones, at age 24, is on top of his game and deserves to be recognized as such.
Dana White no doubt will disagree. The UFC president has insisted over and over, loud and clear, that Silva belongs in the No. 1 spot. And Dana will get no argument on that from the majority of the MMA media. Our friends over at Yahoo! Sports compile a pound-for-pound ranking based on a monthly survey of a couple dozen folks who cover MMA, and in the most recent tally I was one of only seven voters to rank Jones above Silva. Last month, however, "Bones" received just two first-place votes. So people are coming around.
1. Junior dos Santos (14-1)
2. Cain Velasquez (9-1)
3. Frank Mir (16-5)
It was tempting to rank Shane Carwin at No. 3, since he owns an emphatic knockout of Mir, who'll challenge Dos Santos later this month for the championship. But I reconsidered because, well, I can barely remember the last time I saw Shane fight. For the record, it was last June, when Dos Santos handed him his second straight loss following that 2010 win over Mir. Carwin is still healing from back problems and has no fight scheduled, so we'll wait on him. Alistair Overeem, the former No. 3, also won't be fighting for a while, thanks to his shady testosterone situation in Nevada. He's not technically ineligible here, but the Reem ought to know better, so he's out.
1. Jon Jones (16-1)
2. Dan Henderson (29-8)
3. Rashad Evans (17-2-1)
We've had Henderson ranked at No. 2 for many months, so it's fitting that he's next for Jones. But even though Hendo is a spot above Evans, Rashad has a skill set that was better equipped to give "Bones" some trouble (it didn't), while Henderson does not have anything of the kind (so watch out, Dan). Why, you ask, is Evans still in the Top 3 even after losing to Jones? Because he at least went the distance, and no one else has fended off survived a date with the indomitable champ. Maybe Machida or Rua will become reinvigorated, or Phil Davis or Alexander Gustafsson will polish up his game. But for now the pecking order remains intact.
1. Anderson Silva (31-4)
2. Chael Sonnen (27-11-1)
3. Michael Bisping (22-4)
Round 1 goes to Sonnen, who no longer has to travel to Brazil to fight Silva in the most hostile environment imaginative. Is that justice? After all, Chael is responsible for turning a pro-Spider crowd into a rabid mob, with all of the xenophobic things he's said about the Brazilian people and culture. I know it's all in the name of WWE-style hype, but the gangster from West Linn has gone over the line on too many occasions to be given a pass ... and a plane ticket reroute from Rio de Janeiro to Las Vegas, where Sonnen will challenge Silva at UFC 148 in July.
1. Georges St-Pierre (22-2)
2. Carlos Condit (28-5)
3. Jake Ellenberger (27-5)
Still no announcement on a date for St-Pierre vs. Condit, but UFC 154 in Montreal seems like the logical landing spot for that title bout. Beyond that, Ellenberger has an opportunity to fortify his No. 3 position when he meets Martin Kampmann next month, although the winner of this Saturday's Johny Hendricks-Josh Koscheck fight will have ample ammunition for stating his case. And boy did Rory MacDonald look good at UFC 145.
1. Ben Henderson (16-2)
2. Frankie Edgar (14-2-1)
3. Gray Maynard (10-1-1, 1 NC)
Watch out, Gray, there's someone sneaking up behind you. We'll learn the name of your stalker this Saturday, when Jim Miller and Nate Diaz fight it out in the main event of UFC on Fox event in New Jersey. The winner has been promised a title shot, and an especially impressive win by one of them could nudge Maynard out of the way in next month's rankings. But for now the once-beaten "Bully" owns the No. 3 ranking, and he'll have a chance to secure his status next month when he fights Clay Guida.
1. José Aldo (21-1)
2. Hatsu Hioki (26-4-2)
3. Chad Mendes (11-1)
Hioki's hesitancy is Erik Koch's gain. With Hatsu having decided he needs one more fight before daring to take on the champion, the title shot is going to the 13-1 Koch, according to MMAjunkie.com. That's good news for the 23-year-old Iowan, but I'm left wondering about Hioki. What does he think he's going to learn in next month's bout with Ricardo Lamas that will help him when the UFC finally shoves him into a cage with José and locks the door shut?
1. Dominick Cruz (19-1)
2. Urijah Faber (26-5)
3. Renan Barão (28-1, 1 NC)
Was anyone clamoring for Cruz-Faber III back before the match was made? "The Dominator" seemed fully in control on the night back in July when he lived up to his nickname while successfully defending his belt against Faber. But the embittered rivals are now engaged in vicarious combat, coaching competing teams of fighters on The Ultimate Fighter: Live. So we get to watch "The California Kid" take another shot while the likes of Barão and UFC 145 winner Michael McDonald get their games ready for the big step up.
1. Joseph Benavidez (16-2)
2. Demetrious Johnson (14-2-1)
2a. Ian McCall (11-2-1)
Johnson and McCall put on a show in their UFC tournament semifinal back in March, but because of a scoring error the fight ended in a draw, settling nothing. They'll try to rectify that next month, and expect the FX television audience to be duly entertained. Meanwhile, Benavidez sits and waits for the winner.
1. Jon Jones
2. Anderson Silva
3. George St-Pierre
What more can I say? If you want to have your say, send me an e-mail via the link at the top if this story.