MMA rankings: 'Bones' still reigns, but movement elsewhere

Jon Jones remains the pound-for-pound champ despite Alexander Gustaffson's challenge at UFC 165.
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

I'm starting to think that the word "pound" in the term "pound-for-pound" is not a reference to weight measurement, as we all assume, but instead is a cruel description of what fighters do to the head of the guy at the top of the heap.

In July we saw Anderson Silva take a pounding from Chris Weidman and fall from the No. 1 slot in the MMA rankings. Then, a little over a week ago, we watched Silva's successor on the throne, Jon Jones, get pounded on by Alexander Gustafsson. In Jones's case, he at least held on to his UFC championship. So he remains the top dog here, too.

This trend is making things interesting, though. When indomitable fighters show chinks in their armor, there's hope for every challenger who steps in the cage.

In a little over two weeks, heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez will defend his belt against a guy we know is capable of beating him. Junior dos Santos already has done so, taking away the big boy strap with a 64-second knockout back in 2011. But then the thunder-fisted Brazilian was, um, pounded in last December's rematch. Can't wait for the rubber match.

Speaking of which, I'm thinking, based on the first two meetings between Cain and Junior, that the word "rubber" in the term "rubber match" is a description of what one of those big men's legs will end up feeling like come Oct. 19.

On to the rankings, which have an eyebrow-raising twist in one of the lighter weight classes ...


1. Cain Velasquez (12-1)

2. Junior dos Santos (16-2)

3. Daniel Cormier (12-0)

4. Fabricio Werdum (17-5-1)

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)

Finally. The only two heavyweights who matter are about to meet again. Saying it that way is not meant to disparage Cormier, Werdum, Barnett or any other big boys, but all that those fellas are jostling for is third place. A distant third. The sad part about Velasquez-Dos Santos III, which takes place in the main event of UFC 166 in Houston, is that it'll likely be the last time we see those two in the octagon together for a long while. It's not often that we get Part IV of a rivalry, especially when there's a championship belt at stake and others are vying for a shot at it. So later this month, when the two baddest men on the planet clash once again, let's savor every moment.

Light Heavyweight

1. Jon Jones (19-1)

2. Alexander Gustafsson (15-2)

3. Chael Sonnen (29-13-1)

4. Rashad Evans (20-3-1)

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)

One of my friends informs me that some online article accused me of being a shill for the UFC for ranking Sonnen so highly. That pisses me off, because I've received not a dime from the promotion. C'mon, Dana White, you guys know my address. If I don't see a check within the week, Chael is a goner.

I suppose I could demand a few kroner from the Prime Minister of Sweden for keeping Gustafsson in the No. 2 slot after his Sept. 28 loss to Jones, but I'm just following directions from White, my benefactor, who says he told the fighter after the tight decision defeat, "You don't lose a thing." Not even his spot in this 205-pound queue, because the Swede remains the second-best guy in the division. With Sonnen right behind.


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. Francis Carmont (22-7)

10. Costa Philippou (12-3, 1 NC)

One name you do not see on this list -- but do see in the Top 10 right above it -- is Lyoto Machida. However, "The Dragon" has a chance to make an immediate splash in the 185-pound division later this month when he takes on Muñoz in the hastily rearranged main event of a UFC Fight Night in Manchester, England. The fight was to feature the host city's native son, Bisping, but he injured his right eye in training and had to pull out. So now two guys who've trained together will go at it for real. Other names appearing and disappearing here: Carmont, who beat Philippou at UFC 165 to earn a spot, and Okami, who despite an August loss to Souza remains on this list ... but not on the UFC roster.


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)

We still have more than a month before we find out if Hendricks's wrestling chops and sledgehammer left hand can make St-Pierre the latest unbeatable belt holder to take a pounding. In the meantime, let's see if Maia can hold his place in line. Beating Jake Shields next week would not elevate the Brazilian from his No. 5 slot, but a steep decline awaits him if he cannot handle the former Strikeforce and EliteXC champ.


1. Anthony Pettis (17-2)

2. Benson Henderson (19-3)

3. Gilbert Melendez (21-3)

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

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

6. Michael Chandler (12-0)

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

8. Khabib Nurmagomedov (21-0)

9. Nate Diaz (16-9)

10. Pat Healy (31-16, 1 NC)

Grant isn't ready to come back from the concussion that sidelined him, so Thomson will step in and be the first challenger of the Pettis reign. Josh was last seen head-kicking Diaz into la-la land (but apparently not knocking sense into him, judging by Nate's reluctance to follow through with a scheduled Maynard fight because on that same night he has a high school reunion, where if he goes through with this he'll likely be voted least likely to succeed). Before that bout, Thomson dropped a split decision to then-Strikeforce champ Melendez. Gil is ahead of him in these rankings as well as the UFC's media-voted ones, but "El Niño" had his chance at the strap, with a split decision going Henderson's way, not his. Whatever. Maybe they're all just keeping the seat warm for the unbeaten Nurmagomedov, who enters the Top 10 on the strength of his dominant win over Healy.


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)

Who's the new kid in the division? Didn't catch his name, but his initials are B.J. Oh, wait, that's his first name. Yeah, I'm poking fun, but how else to respond to the out-of-left-field announcement that Edgar and B.J. Penn will meet for a third time early next year after coaching the next season of The Ultimate Fighter. Their first two bouts, both won by Frankie, were for the lightweight championship, but this time they'll compete at 145 pounds. That'll be a first for Penn, who once wore the UFC welterweight belt and, deeper in his past, fought future light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida. This should be an adventure, or perhaps a spectacle. At the very least, it's something to think about while Aldo recovers from a broken foot.


1. Renan Barão (31-1, 1 NC)

2. Dominick Cruz (19-1)

3. Michael McDonald (16-2)

4. Urijah Faber (29-6)

5. Eddie Wineland (20-9-1)

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)

What? The champion is No. 2? Well, some media outlets that compile MMA rankings have eligibility rules that have kept Cruz, who hasn't fought in two years, out of their Top 10s. We have no such rule here. These rankings are based purely on a subjective assessment of who's best -- not necessarily the owner of the most sparking resume or even the shiny belt. True, in every other weight class, the champ is No. 1. But while "The Dominator" has been rehabbing from two knee surgeries, Barão has become the bantamweight division's real dominator. He's unbeaten in his last 32 fights, dating to 2005. And in the time since the Cruz injury, Renan has beaten five Top 10 guys, finishing three of them. He wears the interim belt, which is a faux belt. But not faux long. Cruz is expected back in early 2014, and when he and Barão meet, I fully expect the Brazilian to walk away with the real strap. This ranking reflects that.


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)

We knew it was coming, but two weeks ago the UFC made it official: Johnson and Benavidez will do it again. They met a year ago in the fight promotion's first 125-pound championship bout, and Demetrious walked away with the belt on the strength of a split-decision victory. Since then, "Mighty Mouse" has successfully defended twice and Benavidez has become the division's most exhilarating force, winning three times, including twice against Top 10 guys (McCall, da Silva). The rematch is set for Nov. 30 in Las Vegas as part of a card built around the finale of the current season of The Ultimate Fighter.


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)

Can we just fast-forward through this season of The Ultimate Fighter and get to the Rousey vs. Tate rematch already? I wasn't so keen on the matchup when it was announced -- Miesha didn't give Ronda much trouble the first time, after all, and is coming off a loss -- but now I'm interested. The women's portion of TUF has some intrigue as well, since all of the fighters you possibly had heard of (veterans Tara LaRosa, Shayna Baszler and Roxanne Modafferi) have already been eliminated. It's looking like the UFC's roster of women will be getting some new blood.

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. Renan Barão

No change at the top, despite Jones being given a fight for the first time in his career. (If this were a Top 15, Jon's toughest challenger, Alexander Gustafsson, probably would have a spot.) There is a change at the bottom, though, with Barão taking the place of bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz, he of the two-year injury layoff. Renan's rise has been long in coming, and with his TKO of Eddie Wineland on Sept. 28, we simply could wait no longer to give the guy his due.

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

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