MMA Rankings: Cain Velasquez clear No.1 after Dos Santos win

Cain Velasquez is No. 1 among the heavyweights, and No. 2 isn't even close.
Andrew Richardson/US Presswire

The heavyweight rankings in mixed martial arts are the opposite of your car's passenger-side mirror.

You know that tiny message printed on the reflective glass? It warns the driver that objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. Well, when it comes to fighter rankings, heavyweights who appear in close proximity to the champion belong much farther away.

Here at, we try our best to make the monthly Top 10 list for each weight class paint a realistic picture of the division's hierarchy. But the format has its limitations. Where there's a No. 1, it only follows that there should be a No. 2, and so on. If our big-boy rankings were a true reflection of the state of the division, though, here's what the upper half of our list would look like:

1. Cain Velasquez

2. No Way I'm Getting Right Up Next To That Guy

3. Still Within Arm's Reach, So Too Close For Comfort

4. Nyah, Nyah, You Can't Rea-- Oof! Ouch!

5. OK, Finally At A Safe Distance (I Hope)

You could have said much the same for light heavyweight until Jon Jones got a run for his money from Alexander Gustafsson in their September bout. The middleweight division was a one-man show, too, until Chris Weidman stepped onstage and turned Anderson Silva's slapstick routine into a beatdown. Georges St-Pierre has reigned at welterweight since the George W. Bush administration, but Dana White & Co. always seem capable of producing a plausible challenger. The only UFC division as lopsided as heavyweight is women's bantamweight, but the women's rankings take into account fighters in other promotions (and in neighboring weight classes), too, so Ronda Rousey has a contender in Cris "Cyborg" Justino.

This heavyweight totalitarianism is a new development. A month ago, the dominion of large fellows had a two-party governance. Velasquez had split two meetings with Junior dos Santos, getting knocked out in barely a minute the first time they danced. The thinking as Velasquez vs. Dos Santos III approached was that the only man alive who could threaten Cain was Junior, because the thunder-fisted Brazilian had shown he could. Well, a little over two weeks ago Velasquez squashed that theory as authoritatively as he squashed Dos Santos.

So there's only one ranked heavyweight, despite what you're about to read.


1. Cain Velasquez (13-1)
2. Junior dos Santos (16-3)
3. Daniel Cormier (13-0)
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. Mark Hunt (9-8)
10. Roy Nelson (19-9)

Velasquez's next challenger is Werdum, who, just as Dos Santos had a puncher's chance against the champ, has a choker's or arm twister's chance. Fabricio owns black belts in judo, muay Thai and jiu-jitsu, but it's really only in the last of those disciplines where he has a serious shot at putting Cain in danger. He did, after all, end Fedor Emelianenko's decade-long unbeaten streak with a quick submission. Can Werdum handle the in-your-face pressure of Velasquez, though? Seems doubtful. But someone has to try. We no longer have an ongoing Cain vs. Junior vs. Cain vs. Junior series to perk our interest.

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. Dan Henderson (29-10)
8. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (21-5)
9. Gegard Mousasi (34-3-2)
10. Mauricio Rua (21-8)

The UFC needs to get Gustafsson an opponent, and fast. He was set to fight Nogueira in March, with the understanding that, if he won that one, he'd get a rematch with Joners, provided that "Bones" could successfully defend his belt against Teixeira around the same time. But "Little Nog" already has pulled out, citing an injury. If the UFC doesn't line up someone for "The Mauler," the upper echelon of the 205-pound division could get out of sync. That might work out in favor of Daniel Cormier, who is planning a move down from heavyweight. Ugh. I realize the UFC doesn't necessarily require fighters to have a victory in their chosen weight class before handing them title shots, but it'd be nice if they did.


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. Lyoto Machida (20-4)
7. Yushin Okami (29-8)
8. Luke Rockhold (10-2)
9. Mark Muñoz (13-3)
10. Francis Carmont (22-7)

If you're a Lyoto Machida fan, you might have been dismayed by not seeing him in the light heavyweight Top 10, where he was No. 7 as recently as last month. But now you see what happened: the old switcheroo. Or, in this case, the old kickeroo. A head-kicking left foot made the middleweight debut of "The Dragon" eye-opening -- or eye-closing, if you were Mark Muñoz. After the KO win, Machida said he's staying put at 185 pounds, and that was our signal to find a spot for him here. If he does to the next guy what he did to his friend Mark, the former light heavy champ soon could be going for his second brass-and-leather belt.


1. Georges St-Pierre (24-2)
2. Johny Hendricks (15-1)
3. Carlos Condit (29-7)
4. Rory MacDonald (15-1)
5. Nick Diaz (26-9, 1 NC)
6. Ben Askren (12-0)
7. Martin Kampmann (20-7)
8. Demian Maia (18-5)
9. Tarec Saffiedine (14-3)
10. Matt Brown (18-11)

The time for training and talking and drug testing -- or not drug testing -- is over. Now we get to see if the man often acclaimed as the greatest MMA wrestler can handle the most decorated amateur wrestler in his weight division. We get to see if a champ -- who, while dominant, has occasionally been susceptible to getting clipped -- can avoid taking a big shot from a man who's shown he's capable of one-punch destruction. We're always looking for reasons to believe that the next guy can compete with St-Pierre, and then Georges always shuts him down just as he shut down the previous challenger. Will Hendricks be exposed as just another guy, next in line for a beatdown? Or is he the one? We'll see on Nov. 16.


1. Anthony Pettis (17-2)
2. Benson Henderson (19-3)
3. Gilbert Melendez (22-3)
4. T.J. Grant (21-5)
5. Josh Thomson (20-5, 1 NC)
6. Eddie Alvarez (25-3)
7. Michael Chandler (12-1)
8. Gray Maynard (11-2-1, 1 NC)
9. Khabib Nurmagomedov (21-0)
10. Nate Diaz (16-9)

Alvarez is a new addition to this list, on the strength of his gutty, ruthless performance in regaining the Bellator belt last weekend. Chandler, the other half of that throwdown, lost his "0" and a lot of blood, but he didn't lose much ground here. Here's hoping he's a fast healer, so we can see Alvarez vs. Chandler III.


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. Chan Sung Jung (13-4)
7. Dustin Poirier (14-3)
8. Daniel Straus (22-4)
9. Nik Lentz (24-5-2, 1 NC)
10. Pat Curran (19-5)

Maybe this is what Bellator needs to do in order to get its fighters' names out there. Chandler wasn't the only champion to lose on Saturday night. So did Curran, who had been a steady presence in our Top 10. Now he's been pushed down to the bottom, but he's still on there. And, as with lightweight, the second-fiddle promotion now has two fighters on the elite list. Straus seems deserving after his title-winning effort. But there are some UFC names nipping at the heels.


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 (21-4)
8. Brad Pickett (23-8)
9. Takeya Mizugaki (18-7-2)
10. Bibiano Fernandes (15-3)

Two years and four months. On Feb. 1, Dominick Cruz will set foot in the octagon and finally, [ITAL] finally [/ITAL] make his return after two years and four months. On the night before the Super Bowl, and just down the road, in Newark, the UFC will have something super brewing. Along with a José Aldo featherweight title defense against Ricardo Lamas, Cruz will put his belt on the line against a fighter who, while he was away rehabbing from a pair of knee surgeries, was staking his place as the scariest 135-pounder on the planet. Barão wears an interim belt now, but he'll be looking for the real Lombardi Trophy. Dominick had better be ready.


1. Demetrious Johnson (18-2-1)
2. Joseph Benavidez (19-3)
3. Ian McCall (12-4-1)
4. John Dodson (15-6)
5. John Moraga (13-2)
6. John Lineker (23-6)
7. Jussier da Silva (15-3)
8. Tim Elliott (10-3-1)
9. Darrell Montague (13-3)
10. Chris Cariaso (15-5)

It wasn't that long ago. It just seems that way. Johnson became the UFC's first 125-pound champion just a little more than 13 months ago when he took a split decision from Benavidez in the finale of the promotion's four-man tournament. It was clear that night that these two men were well matched. But "Mighty Mouse" went on to defend his belt against two other contenders, and Joseph had to take out three fighters in order to earn the return engagement that will take place Nov. 30. Don't you get the sense this won't be their last meeting?


1. Ronda Rousey (7-0)
2. Cristiane Justino (12-1, 1 NC)
3. Cat Zingano (8-0)
4. Liz Carmouche (9-3)
5. Sara McMann (7-0)
6. Miesha Tate (13-4)
7. Jessica Eye (11-1)
8. Sarah Kaufman (16-2)
9. Jessica Aguilar (15-4)
10. Marloes Coenen (21-6)

We're still seven weeks away from Rousey vs. Tate II. Wouldn't it be nice if reality television made the time pass more swiftly and we could get right down to some real fighting? You know, the kind that involves not just loud words, mean looks and obscene gestures?

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

Velasquez deserves to move up after that beatdown of Dos Santos, but there's no upward mobility in this Top 10. Jones, St-Pierre and Aldo all have earned their spots. Cain will just have to wait until someone falls.

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

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