Anderson Silva is not the baddest man on the planet. Neither is Jon Jones. Or Georges St-Pierre. Or José Aldo. Or even Ronda Rousey. That honor would go to Cain Velasquez.
It's one of the perks of being UFC heavyweight champion.
(That's right, Tyson Fury. Try beating a Top 10 boxer before you start calling out the alpha male of combat sports.)
But even though Velasquez dominated Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva a little over a week ago, his merciless blitz didn't dislodge anyone in the crowd above him in the SI.com pound-for-pound rankings. Last month Cain was No. 5, behind Silva, Jones, St-Pierre and Aldo. This month? Five again. Velasquez has probably reached his high mark unless someone above him sinks.
Pound rankings are a smaller man's game. Those who try to postulate how a matchup between same-sized versions of Cain and, say, Aldo would go invariably add positive attributes to the 145-pounder and subtract from the big dude. And even those of us who sort out our rankings by assessing how each fighter performs within his or her weight division tend to downgrade the heavyweights, if only subconsciously.
Why? Well, for one thing, putting a hulking man mountain at the top of these fanciful rankings would take the fun away. There's something empowering about viewing a grown man the size of a middle schooler as the toughest of the tough.
So for now and for the foreseeable future, Velasquez, having knocked out 10 of the 12 men he's beaten over his fighting career, will have to settle for the distinction of being No. 1 in the pound-'em-out-for-pound-'em-out rankings.
On to the other rankings ...
A true Top 10 in this division would have Velasquez at No. 1, Dos Santos at 2, then around five or six empty spaces before we get around to the rest. Cain surely wouldn't go for that, considering the high opinion he has of Cormier, his American Kickboxing Academy teammate. But if UFC 160 showed anything, it's that the champ and ex-champ are at a different level from everyone else. Werdum gets a chance this Saturday night in Fortaleza, Brazil, to show he's worthy of being mentioned in the same breath, but even if he smashes Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, he's going to have to wait a while to step in the cage with the champ. The UFC already announced that Velasquez-Dos Santos III is a go.
If you're a 205-pound fighting man with your eye on the prize, there's light at the end of the tunnel. Jones has made it known that he's planning to fill out that long, lanky frame of his and compete at heavyweight, perhaps as soon as by the end of the year. First, the UFC champ needs his injured toe to heal. Then he needs to put his belt on the line one more time in order to break the record he now shares with Tito Ortiz for most light heavy title defenses. With Machida slated to face Davis in August and Henderson and Evans going at it later this month, Jones's most likely final foe at 205 would be Gustafsson, who at 6-feet-5 inches would also provide "Bones" with a preview of what it might feels like to be in with bigger bodies.
What are we to make of Belfort's explosive finish of former Strikeforce champ Rockhold last month? That's two straight headkick KO's of top contenders by the 37-year-old Brazilian. Are we supposed to ignore the obvious? Vitor's use of testosterone replacement therapy is sanctioned by athletic commissions (although the Nevada commission is on record as casting doubt on his future licensing there), so he's not breaking any rules. But the rules they are a-changing. And if the UFC puts Belfort and his fountain of youth in a title fight, which could happen if he beats one more Top 10 guy while Silva vs. Weidman is playing out, the promotion risks crowning a champion who's on the fringe of legitimacy. In Belfort's defense, though, the guy does put in the work and is exciting to watch. And that's nothing to dismiss.
Last month in this space I quoted from the previous month's 170-pound rankings writeup, noting that the Top 10 had not changed a bit. That's still the case. St-Pierre and Hendricks are said to be on a collision course, unless GSP opts for a superfight, which seems unlikely. Johny is raring to go -- anytime, anywhere. So let's just do it.
Thanks, TJ. By smashing Maynard in barely two minutes at UFC 160, you made me look bad. I'd been ranking Gray at No. 2 in this weight division for a long, long time, going against the tide of support for guys like Melendez and Pettis. And why not? "The Bully" entered Memorial Day weekend with but one loss on his resume, and twice had come so close to unseating Frankie Edgar on the 155-pound throne. But Grant simply demolished him, earning his fifth straight win since dropping down from welterweight and securing a shot at Henderson. Sometimes the mighty fall. Sometimes the mighty rise.
Everyone stayed put from last month, but there could be a lot of rearranging this summer. We're still two months from seeing Aldo go mano a mano with the most explosive striker he's faced, lightweight contender Anthony Pettis. And the two guys in the promotion who are ranked right below also face tests, as Edgar takes on Charles Oliveira next month and Mendes clashes with Guida at the end of August. Meanwhile, Curran remains the top non-UFC fighter in all of the SI.com rankings.
So now what does the UFC do? Name an
"I think he's boring." That's Moraga talking about Johnson, whom he'll challenge for the UFC belt in July. So it's just trash talk, right? I mean, "Mighty Mouse" is the fastest thing in the promotion this side of Chael. Boring? Nonsense. Well, maybe not to those fans who show up at the arena thinking slugfest more than track meet. And Moraga thinks he knows why we hear so much booing during Johnson's fights. "He runs around too much," said the 11-1 former All-America wrestler. "He doesn't fight. He doesn't put on exciting fights." We'll see about that.
The creative team at Fox couldn't have scripted a more compelling drama. When Zingano blew out her knee and had to withdraw from her coveted coaching assignment opposite Rousey on the upcoming season of
Pound for pound
Yes, but the rest of these guys (and gal) would have to gang up on Cain if the man with the big-boy belt got riled up.