Pettis leapfrogs Henderson in lightweight, pound-for-pound rankings

Thanks to Anthony Pettis (left), Benson Henderson (right) was the second UFC champion to be dethroned in two months.
Ed Mulholland/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Another month. Another dethroning.

In July, we saw the mixed martial arts world turned on its head when Anderson Silva -- winner of 17 straight fights, UFC middleweight champion for nearly seven years and the sport's consensus reigning and all-time pound-for-pound king -- was knocked out by Chris Weidman. Then, as August came to a close this past weekend, Benson Henderson had the lightweight belt ripped away from him via an armbar submission by Anthony Pettis.

Watch out, Jon Jones. The light heavyweight champ defends his strap on Sept. 21, with challenger Alexander Gustafsson hoping to keep the one-champ-a-month-goes-down trend going.

WAGENHEIM: Anthony Pettis finds the perfect ending by beating Benson Henderson

There's certainly plenty of opportunity this fall for turmoil at the top, as Cain Velasquez puts the heavyweight title on the line next month, Georges St-Pierre faces a welterweight challenge in November and both middleweight Chris Weidman and women's bantamweight Ronda Rousey face championship challenges in December.

Before the year is out, five of the nine champions in's pound-for-pound mixed martial arts rankings will put their belts on the line. Cue the record player for a game of musical chairs. Actually, our Top 10 already has a new resident ... and a new champ. We inserted Pettis only because he twisted our arm -- actually, it was Henderson's arm that got twisted, but we felt it, too.

On to the rankings ...


1. Cain Velasquez (12-1)

2. Junior dos Santos (16-2)

3. Daniel Cormier (11-0)

4. Fabricio Werdum (16-5-1)

5. Josh Barnett (33-6)

6. Antonio Silva (18-5)

7. Travis Browne (15-1-1)

8. Stipe Miocic (10-1)

9. Roy Nelson (19-8)

10. Mark Hunt (9-8)

Barnett doesn't budge an inch despite his first-round knockout victory last weekend. That's due in part to those ahead of him all being on solid footing, and also to the faded status of his opponent, Frank Mir. The former champion has lost three straight and wasn't the least bit competitive in any of those fights. And then there's Alistair Overeem, who was highly competitive in his last two -- he was looking like a winner most of the way, in fact -- but ended up being knocked out both times. So he has now dropped out of the Top 10, and the man who vanquished him nearly three weeks ago, Browne, moves into The Reem's old spot. Overeem has proved to be such a disappointment that he's been replaced in the Top 10 by a 9-8 fighter.

Light Heavyweight

1. Jon Jones (18-1)

2. Alexander Gustafsson (15-1)

3. Chael Sonnen (29-13-1)

4. Rashad Evans (18-3-1)

5. Glover Teixeira (22-2)

6. Phil Davis (12-1, 1 NC)

7. Lyoto Machida (19-4)

8. Dan Henderson (29-10)

9. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (21-5)

10. Gegard Mousasi (34-3-2)

How did Sonnen move up five spots in a month? Well, first of all, he started out in a deceptively low spot because his entry into light heavyweight was so inauspicious, a first-round destruction by Jones back in April. But everyone loses to "Bones," so that told us nothing. When Chael then thoroughly dominated "Shogun" Rua in a first-round submission win on Aug. 17, that spoke volumes. It showed that, on top of excelling at middleweight -- since 2009, he had lost only to the champion -- Chael could do more than simply beat a Top 10 light heavyweight, he could crush one. So ...

Sonnen leapfrogs Henderson, who has lost two in a row. He skips past Machida, who edged Hendo but lost to Davis. He climbs over Davis, whose biggest win, over Lyoto, was as narrow as victories come, nowhere near as impressive as Chael's destruction of Rua. Sonnen also rumbles ahead of Teixeira, who despite having won an amazing 20 in a row has yet to author a signature UFC win. (The fading "Rampage" Jackson? No. Ryan Bader, who dropped him before walking into some Glover thunder? Nope.) And Chael even cuts in front of Evans, who had that terrible outing against Little Nog. Sonnen's only bad nights have been against Jones and Anderson Silva.

So there's my thinking, which already has been questioned by some friends in the sport. (I'm a voter in the UFC rankings, so my Sonnen upgrade has been out there for a couple of weeks.) I understand why others rank Chael lower. But for me it comes down to this: Which one of the above-mentioned guys would you pick in a bout against the loquacious fighter? The only scenario in which my prediction wavers is Sonnen vs. Evans, and luckily for us, that won't be a hypothetical after Nov. 16.


1. Chris Weidman (10-0)

2. Anderson Silva (33-5)

3. Vitor Belfort (23-10)

4. Ronaldo Souza (19-3, 1 NC)

5. Michael Bisping (24-5)

6. Yushin Okami (29-8)

7. Mark Muñoz (13-3)

8. Luke Rockhold (10-2)

9. Constantinos Philippou (12-2, 1 NC)

10. Tim Kennedy (16-4)

"Jacare" Souza! That was quite an emphatic statement he made on Wednesday night, taking a very tough man, Okami, entirely out of his game and finishing him within three minutes. Will it earn the former Strikeforce champion the next shot at the belt, once Weidman and Silva rematch in December? That's tough to say, because a lot can change between now and then. But Muñoz and Bisping have their work cut out for them. The winner of their Oct. 26 meeting had better be especially impressive if he hopes to trump Souza. Oh, and there's Belfort to consider as well. Although he's off fighting Dan Henderson at light heavyweight, Vitor has been tossing his hat into the ring for so long, and so relentlessly, that UFC president Dana White has taken to joking about him. Not sure how that affects his candidacy.


1. Georges St-Pierre (24-2)

2. Johny Hendricks (15-1)

3. Carlos Condit (29-7)

4. Rory MacDonald (15-1)

5. Demian Maia (18-4)

6. Nick Diaz (26-9, 1 NC)

7. Ben Askren (12-0)

8. Martin Kampmann (20-7)

9. Tarec Saffiedine (14-3)

10. Matt Brown (18-11)

Condit had a dominant win over Kampmann last week, yet he stays put. There's not much room to ascend if you're No. 3 in a division behind only the champion and the man who'll challenge for the belt in November. There are no moving parts, really, in the top half of the rankings, but further down, well, look out below! Askren and Kampmann traded spots after Martin fell to Condit and Ben had another in a string of domineering Bellator performances. If the former Olympic wrestler moves to the UFC, as many have speculated he will now that his contract with the second-tier promotion is up, it'll be interesting to see how the one-dimensional (but what a one dimension!) fighter will fare. I wouldn't mind seeing him start with one of the guys right below him, Saffiedine or Top 10 newcomer Brown. Matt's 29-second finish of Mike Pyle last month was his sixth straight win and fourth straight KO. His electrifying performance nudged Robbie Lawler from No. 10.


1. Anthony Pettis (17-2)

2. Benson Henderson (19-3)

2. Gilbert Melendez (21-3)

4. T.J. Grant (21-5)

5. Josh Thomson (20-5, 1 NC)

6. Pat Healy (29-16, 1 NC)

7. Michael Chandler (12-0)

8. Gray Maynard (11-2-1, 1 NC)

9. Nate Diaz (16-9)

10. Jim Miller (22-4, 1 NC)

In being dethroned by Pettis, Henderson was finished in the first round. Yet he drops only one spot here. Why? Because he's better than everyone below him. That's not to suggest that Grant, who has been given the nod by Dana White to be Pettis's first opponent as champ, is an unworthy challenger. Henderson has had two shots at Anthony, and Melendez had a shot at Benson. It's T.J.'s time. Thumbs up to the UFC for putting a talked-about superfight between Pettis and José Aldo on hold, and letting the two champs take care of business in their own weight classes first. I mean, can we get one defense of the belt out of "Showtime" before he's going all super on us?


1. José Aldo (23-1)

2. Chad Mendes (15-1)

3. Frankie Edgar (16-4-1)

4. Ricardo Lamas (13-2)

5. Cub Swanson (20-5)

6. Pat Curran (19-4)

7. Chan Sung Jung (13-4)

8. Dustin Poirier (14-3)

9. Nik Lentz (24-5-2, 1 NC)

10. Darren Elkins (17-3)

I'm slow. It took me three months before I recognized what we have in Mendes. There was no shame in being stuck below Edgar in the rankings, but on the strength of last week's demolition of Clay Guida, his fourth straight KO, Chad moves up a spot. It's got to be between him and Lamas, a winner of four straight, for the next shot at Aldo. Ricardo hasn't had his yet, while Mendes has, but Chad has been a killer lately, and that's the kind of thing that tends to influence UFC matchmaking. Down at the bottom of the rankings, Guida and Erik Koch drop out with losses, and a couple of hot fighters step in right below Poirier (who's the guy who took out Koch).


1. Dominick Cruz (19-1)

2. Renan Barão (30-1, 1 NC)

3. Michael McDonald (16-2)

4. Urijah Faber (29-6)

5. Eddie Wineland (20-8-1)

6. Scott Jorgensen (14-7)

7. Raphael Assunção (20-4)

8. Brad Pickett (23-8)

9. Takeya Mizugaki (18-7-2)

10. Bibiano Fernandes (14-3)

Cruz hasn't fought since that epic battle with Tank Abbott at UFC 6. No, it hasn't been quite that long since we've seen "The Dominator," it just seems that long. But as long as he's still owner of the belt, he warrants a spot here. Barão, who has also been on the mend, defends his interim strap Sept. 21 against Wineland. The two guys between them on the list, McDonald and Faber, put on masterful performances last month and could be on a collision course. Make it so! (And hello to Mizugaki, winner over Erik Perez last week, and to Fernandes, winner of six straight outside the UFC and the beneficiary of Perez and Mike Easton, loser of two straight, dropping out.)


1. Demetrious Johnson (18-2-1)

2. Joseph Benavidez (19-3)

3. Ian McCall (12-4-1)

4. John Dodson (14-6)

5. John Moraga (13-2)

6. John Lineker (22-6)

7. Jussier da Silva (15-3)

8. Darrell Montague (13-2)

9. Tim Elliott (10-3-1)

10. Chris Cariaso (14-5)

Montague, whose only loss in 11 fights dating to 2009 was to McCall, makes his octagon debut next month, and the matchmakers aren't exactly easing him in. He faces Dodson, who'll give him a quick -- oh so quick -- tour of the new office. The boss is still Johnson, but the workplace's power broker is No. 2 man Benavidez, who knocked Da Silva down a peg with a first-round TKO on Wednesday night. It was Joseph's third straight win since dropping a split decision to "Mighty Mouse" in last year's inaugural flyweight title bout, and he has three KOs in five fights since the 125-division launched. No word from the UFC on what's next, but are you ready for Johnson vs. Benavidez II?


1. Ronda Rousey (7-0)

2. Cristiane Justino (12-1, 1 NC)

3. Cat Zingano (8-0)

4. Sarah Kaufman (16-2)

5. Liz Carmouche (9-3)

6. Sara McMann (7-0)

7. Miesha Tate (13-4)

8. Jessica Aguilar (15-4)

9. Marloes Coenen (21-6)

10. Alexis Davis (14-5)

All right, finally we can settle back in our seats and watch the fiery rematch between Rousey and ... what? Ronda and Tate don't fight until December? Why are we so worked up, then, in the first days of September? I guess because that's the only rivalry we have to chirp about while Rousey's true archenemy, Justino, is competing in a different weight class (145 pounds) in a different fight promotion (Invicta). That is, when "Cyborg" isn't detouring into Muay Thai competition.

Pound for pound

1. Jon Jones

2. Georges St-Pierre

3. José Aldo

4. Cain Velasquez

5. Chris Weidman

6. Anderson Silva

7. Ronda Rousey

8. Demetrious Johnson

9. Anthony Pettis

10. Dominick Cruz

Benson Henderson slips from No. 7 to Nowhere Man after his title fight loss last week, with Pettis entering the fray, just above the ghost of "The Dominator." Our top dog, Jones, puts it all on the line this month.

Questions? Comments? To reach Jeff Wagenheim or contribute to the MMA mailbag, click on the E-mail link at the top of the page.

WAGENHEIM: With victory in Indy, Carlos Condit moves closer to the spotlight

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.