For months the e-mails continued to arrive, mostly at a trickle but the flow intensifying at the beginning of each month. That's when the latest SI.com fighter rankings would serve as a cruel reminder to fans of Anderson Silva that the UFC middleweight champion had been leapfrogged at the top of the pound-for-pound rankings by his BFF, light heavyweight belt holder Jon Jones.
The messages from readers ranged from genteel rebuttal to vicious ridicule, but through them all there ran a singular theme: Too soon.
Jones is great and his time will come, the fans' argument went, but this is Silva's time. In supporting his or her case, each correspondent would toss in a couple of details from the Brazilian's curriculum vitae: 15 straight wins (at that time), nine title defenses, 31 wins overall, 18 knockouts ...
How does one argue with those numbers? One does so by pointing out that a P4P ranking is not a lifetime achievement award, it's an assessment -- subjective, of course -- of how the sport's top fighters stack up right now. Not against each other, but each against the competition within his weight class. And while Jones was stampeding everyone at 205 pounds, Silva had hit a speed bump named Chael Sonnen. Anderson did win the August 2010 fight against the mouthy wrestler, but only after he'd been dominated for four rounds plus.
So "Bones" Jones got promoted.
What did Silva get? A Sonnen rematch. It was his opportunity to show that his armbar triangle submission win at 3:10 of Round 5 was no last-ditch stroke of luck. In a sense, a second go-round with Chael represented a chance for "The Spider" to avenge a victory. Crazy.
Before the rematch went down, I wrote in last month's rankings article that if Silva won the July 7 bout decisively he would reclaim the No. 1 spot. And within hours of the story first appearing, e-mails began pouring in. All of those teeth-gnashing Silva fans now expressing relief, appreciation or righteousness, right? Nope.
Most of the new batch of e-mails sounded pretty much like this one I received from a reader in Austin, Texas, named Teddy: "So, if Silva's last three W's (over Yushin Okami, Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen) weren't enough to keep him above Jon 'Bones' Jones in your pound-for-pound rankings, how would one more win against Sonnen catapult him back in front? Are those four wins more impressive than Jones' current streak of four straight current/former world champions? I do not think so, and a few months ago, you didn't, either, because that is what led you to put Jones ahead of Silva in the first place. Anderson is definitely Top 3 pound-for-pound these days, but to say that one more emphatic win against a foe he has already dispatched of fairly recently is enough for him to take back the top spot is ridiculous."
Well argued, Teddy, except for one thing: Silva's victory over Sonnen last month was not "one more emphatic win." If the 2010 victory had been emphatic, Anderson would not have lost the top spot to begin with. Jones has been magnificent, to be sure, but if Silva's aura of invulnerability hadn't been severely shattered, "Bones" still would have had to settle for No. 2.
And now that's where Jones is once again. Silva's emphatic second-round TKO in the Sonnen rematch -- coming after the champ was buried beneath a Chael blanket for the entirety of the first five minutes -- served as an eraser. It didn't erase the 2010 fight from the record book, but it did erase any doubt that Anderson Silva is the most dominant fighter in mixed martial arts. Still.
As the great Texas band the Flatlanders sings:
Put me on the hot seat, put me on the spotTell me I'm in trouble or tell me I'm notIt feels so good I might be right where I belong ...
1. Junior dos Santos (15-1)
2. Cain Velasquez (10-1)
3. Daniel Cormier (10-0)
Cormier will be tested by Frank Mir when they meet Sept. 29 in the Heavyweight Grand Prix champion's final Strikeforce bout. If Daniel wins, he deserves to be first in line for the dos Santos-Velasquez winner. What about Alistair Overeem? No matter how stout the man with the superhero physique is as a fighter, when a guy is coming back from a drug suspension (as Overeem is expected to do by the end of the year), he should step to the back of the line and prove himself all over again.
1. Jon Jones (16-1)
2. Dan Henderson (29-8)
3. Rashad Evans (17-2-1)
You might notice that none of the four fighters in the UFC on Fox 4 main event (Mauricio Rua vs. Brandon Vera) and co-main event (Lyoto Machida vs. Ryan Bader) are listed in the division's Top 3. That is not a misprint. Even if this were a Top 10, one of the light heavies vying for a title shot this weekend still wouldn't be on the list, and it wouldn't be a misprint.
1. Anderson Silva (32-4)
2. Chris Weidman (9-0)
3. Chael Sonnen (27-12-1)
Michael Bisping talks a good game, but not good enough to stick around in the Top 3. After Weidman's elbow turned top contender Mark Muñoz into macaroni three weeks ago, the Long Islander couldn't be denied a spot. Sonnen graciously had made room for him by losing a few days earlier. But Chael didn't disappear altogether, instead merely nudging Bisping out the door. So does Weidman deserve the next shot at Silva? Of course he does.
1. Georges St-Pierre (22-2)
2. Carlos Condit (28-5)
3. Johny Hendricks (13-1)
Will somebody just fight, already? St-Pierre has been out for 15 months with a knee injury, and when the UFC opted to keep the weight division's heart beating by creating an interim championship, Condit won the faux belt in February. Then put it on mothballs. "The Natural Born Time Killer" is expected to face GSP at UFC 154 on Nov. 17 ... so why, exactly, did we need the interim title? Hendricks is scheduled to face Martin Kampmann -- who's ostensibly No. 4 in this three-man ranking -- at that same event in Montreal. Finally.
1. Ben Henderson (16-2)
2. Frankie Edgar (14-2-1)
3. Gray Maynard (11-1-1, 1 NC)
Henderson-Edgar II is just a week away, and no matter which fighter one favors, all fans can agree on one thing: no draw, please. Win or lose, we've got to get Edgar out of this cycle of rematches, not just for his own sanity but also for the well-being of a stacked weight class. Aside from Maynard, Nate Diaz and Anthony Pettis also are waiting for their shots at the UFC belt. And who knows how long it'll be before Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez will get the Cormier treatment and be given a UFC opponent?
1. José Aldo (21-1)
2. Chad Mendez (11-1)
3. Chan Sung Jung (13-3)
Aldo was scheduled to fight in the main event of UFC 149 last month, but a leg injury forced postponement of his bout against Eric Koch. That left the Calgary event hurting worse than his injured leg. Now Aldo and Koch reportedly will meet at October's UFC event in Rio de Janeiro, which means cageside fans hoping for an autograph need simply to have their pens ready for when the champ comes running out of the octagon and into the crowd, as he did the last time he fought in Rio. Can Koch slam the door on the one-man victory parade? Probably not, but good for him for stepping up and taking his best shot. (Yes, we're looking at you, Hatsu Hioki.)
1. Dominick Cruz (19-1)
2. Renan Barão (29-1, 1 NC)
3. Michael McDonald (15-1)
(tie) Urijah Faber (26-6)
Why the tie? Maybe that's just a feeble way of not making a tough call. But it doesn't feel right to drop Faber entirely after the former No. 2 lost last month to Barão. That's five losses in his last 10 bouts, but every setback has come against a champion: Mike Brown twice, Jose Aldo, Dominick Cruz and now Renan, who earned an interim title for his trouble -- and, like Carlos Condit, is choosing not to defend it, instead opting to wait for Cruz's knee injury to heal. As for McDonald, the 15-1 buzz saw simply can no longer be ignored. Even at just 21 years old.
1. Joseph Benavidez (16-2)
2. Demetrious Johnson (15-2-1)
3. Ian McCall (11-3-1)
History will be made next month in Toronto, when the UFC crowns its first 135-pound champion. Michael Bisping might think that his middleweight bout against Brian Stann is the true main event of UFC 152, but the only thing bigger than Benavidez vs. Johnson is Bisping's mouth. Which Stann might shut before the night is out.
1. Anderson Silva
2. Jon Jones
3. George St-Pierre
Superfights bringing together champions from different divisions should not factor in to pound-for-pound rankings, which are meant to assess a fighter's dominance in his own weight class. But I look at this ranking and am left somewhere between perplexed, amused and disappointed by the purported stance of Silva: no interest in packing on a few pounds and stepping up to fight Jones, who's conveniently now his good buddy, but serious interest in fattening up a welterweight for the kill. Depending on which Silva manager you listen to, that could mean GSP, who's been out for more than a year and is expected to return in November, or it could mean Nick Diaz, last seen losing an interim title fight and now inactive while on suspension for pot use. Let's try to get our story straight, guys. If it's just about competition, then take the Weidman fight because it's the best challenge there is at middleweight. If it's about big money, well, no fight would generate the kind of money that Silva vs. Jones would. What's it going to be?
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.