By Jeff Wagenheim
February 11, 2015


Just like that, an athlete’s legacy can go up in smoke. Well, not exactly up in smoke, because the ones who get caught enjoying a little marijuana aren’t the rule breakers with which we’re concerned. But if you’re found to have injected anabolic steroids or any other performance-enhancing drug into your already toned physique, everything you’ve ever accomplished is going to be called into question, forever and always.

And more to the point of the disenchanted utterings in this space: You’re not going to be in the fighter rankings.

We were all set to publish our February mixed martial arts Top 10’s last week, as we do at the start of every month, when some stop-the-presses! news jumped out in front of us, causing us to slam on the brakes: Anderson Silva tested positive for two banned substances in a random drug test prior to his Jan. 31 bout with Nick Diaz.

The man at or near the top of the short list of candidates for Greatest Fighter of All Time is a cheater? That hurts. It was especially painful in the wake of his emotional return to the octagon a few nights earlier. “The Spider,” coming off 13 months of rehab for a gruesomely broken leg, earned a unanimous decision that solidified his spot in our middleweight and pound-for-pound rankings.

But not any longer. Gonzo and gonzo.

As for Diaz, he went into the fight unranked because he’d been away for nearly two years. He put on a solid performance, especially for a welterweight stepping in against a 185-pounder. So even in defeat he seemed worthy of reclaiming a spot in our 170-pound Top 10. But then the news came that, in a post-fight drug test, Diaz had tested positive for pot, so we had no choice but to …

Put Diaz back in the rankings.

That’s right, because testing fighters for weed or other recreational drugs (see Jon Jones, cocaine) is about public relations, not about gauging whether an athlete has seized an unfair competitive advantage.

There is a drug problem in MMA, just as there is in other sports. But the testing system is misguided, as are the priorities of those who enforce the arcane rules. Think the NFL has banned Cleveland receiver Josh Gordon from now 'til the end of time because the pot he smoked made him run faster go routes? If only he had had just said no to weed and instead just had beat up his girlfriend, he could have been back on the field after two games (unless a bad-PR video surfaced). Even when policing in accordance with social mores, pro sports gets it wrong.

So we’re going to commit ever more strongly to keep our eyes on the prize. Going forward, our rankings will not include those whose rankings-worthy performances have been enhanced illicitly. We’re not going to be retroactive about this -- so you’re safe, Josh Barnett and Vitor Belfort -- and we’re not going to heed rumors or innuendo -- if we did, we might not have 10 eligible fighters in some divisions. And an athlete who pops dirty can be redeemed by a subsequent untainted performance. We’ve got to start somewhere. This sport needs a clean bill of health. Badly.

1. Junior dos Santos (17-3)
2. Fabricio Werdum (19-5-1)
3. Stipe Miocic (12-2)
4. Travis Browne (17-2-1)
5. Josh Barnett (33-7)
6. Mark Hunt (10-9-1)
7. Andrei Arlovski (23-10, 1 NC)
8. Antonio Silva (18-6, 1 NC)
9. Roy Nelson (20-10)
10. Ben Rothwell (34-9)

Our monthly reminder: Cain Velasquez is the baddest man on the planet but is ineligible for this list because he hasn’t competed in over a year. While we wait for him to return and render Werdum’s faux/interim belt obsolete, we get to see “Bigfoot” Silva and Frank Mir go at it on Feb 22 in Brazil.

Light heavyweight
1. Jon Jones (21-1)
2. Anthony Johnson (19-4)
3. Daniel Cormier (15-1)
4. Alexander Gustafsson (16-3)
5. Glover Teixeira (22-4)
6. Ryan Bader (19-4)
7. Phil Davis (13-3, 1 NC)
8. Emanuel Newton (25-7-1)
9. Ovince Saint Preux (17-6)
10. Jimi Manuwa (14-1)

Johnson moved up the ladder with a vengeance last month, knocking off Gustafsson via a knockout that was especially vicious in that it played out in front of 30,000 of the Swede’s fans. He’s next in line for Jones. Falling out of the queue was Rashad Evans, who is ineligible for this list after having been inactive for over a year. A fight to watch this month: Newton’s defense of the Bellator crown against Liam McGeary on Feb. 27.

1. Chris Weidman (12-0)
2. Vitor Belfort (24-10)
3. Luke Rockhold (13-2)
4. Lyoto Machida (22-5)
5. Ronaldo Souza (21-3, 1 NC)
6. Tim Kennedy (18-5)
7. Yoel Romero (9-1)
8. Gegard Mousasi (36-5-2)
9. Thales Leites (25-4)
10. Michael Bisping (24-7)

Weidman vs. Belfort was to take place this month, but the champ had to withdraw because of a rib injury and “The Phenom” wouldn’t accept a replacement fight unless it (a) was for the real belt, not an interim one, or (b) was against an unranked fighter, not one of the top guys offered to him. Thanks, but no thanks, Vitor. And consider yourself lucky that our rankings’ PED ban isn’t retroactive. Speaking of which: Bye bye, Anderson Silva.

1. Robbie Lawler (25-10, 1 NC)
2. Johny Hendricks (16-3)
3. Rory MacDonald (18-2)
4. Tyron Woodley (15-3)
5. Matt Brown (19-12)
6. Ben Askren (14-0)
7. Carlos Condit (29-8)
8. Nick Diaz (26-10, 1 NC)
9. Kelvin Gastelum (10-1)
10. Jake Shields (30-7-1, 1 NC)

Welcome back, Mr. Diaz. And, yes, we’ll adjust that record of yours as soon as the Nevada Athletic Commission changes your loss against the juiced-up Silva to a no contest. Meanwhile, Gastelum is no longer undefeated after running into Woodley, but he remains right where he was last month -- he didn’t move up a spot, like many others, following the departure of Hector Lombard (failed drug test). But Kelvin’s ranking might be moot, because after missing weight again, he might need to move up to middleweight.

1. Anthony Pettis (18-2)
2. Khabib Nurmagomedov (22-0)
3. Rafael dos Anjos (23-7)
4. Donald Cerrone (27-6, 1 NC)
5. Benson Henderson (21-5)
6. Gilbert Melendez (22-4)
7. Josh Thomson (20-6, 1 NC)
8. Eddie Alvarez (25-4)
9. Will Brooks (15-1)
10. Miles Jury (15-1)

The only movement here is flip-flopping Cerrone and Henderson after “Cowboy” had his hand raised following a close fight with the former champ last month. Benson might not be here much longer, though, since he’s returning to the octagon this Saturday (Feb. 14) to face Brandon Thatch -- at welterweight.

1. José Aldo (25-1)
2. Frankie Edgar (18-4-1)
3. Chad Mendes (16-2)
4. Ricardo Lamas (15-3)
5. Conor McGregor (17-2)
6. Cub Swanson (21-6)
7. Patricio Freire (22-2)
8. Dennis Bermudez (14-4)
9. Dustin Poirier (16-4)
10. Nik Lentz (25-6-2, 1 NC)

McGregor stays put, despite a virtuosic showing against Dennis Siver, because there’s nowhere for him to rise. Edgar, Mendes, and Lamas all have earned their positions. That’s not really an issue for McGregor, though, because if the Irishman does what he says he’s going to do to Aldo this summer, he’ll leap to the top of the heap anyway.

1. Dominick Cruz (20-1)
2. T.J. Dillashaw (11-2)
3. Renan Barão (33-2, 1 NC)
4. Urijah Faber (31-7)
5. Raphael Assunção (23-4)
6. Michael McDonald (16-3)
7. Bibianio Fernandes (16-3)
8. Takeya Mizugaki (20-7-2)
9. Joe Warren (12-3)
10. Iuri Alcantara (31-5, 1 NC)

We’re keeping Cruz on top of this list, even though he’s not going to fight anytime soon after blowing out his knee again. But that likely will change in a couple of months when Dillashaw and Barão fight a rematch.

1. Demetrious Johnson (21-2-1)
2. Joseph Benavidez (21-4)
3. John Dodson (16-6)
7. John Lineker (25-7)
4. Ian McCall (13-5-1)
5. Jussier da Silva (17-3)
6. Ali Bagautinov (13-3)
8. John Moraga (16-3)
9. Zach Makovsky (18-5)
10. Dustin Ortiz (14-4)

Lineker moved up one spot, swapping places with McCall after winning a close decision over “Uncle Creepy” a couple of weeks ago. That victory should have earned the Brazilian a shot against “Mighty Mouse,” but Lineker missed weight and now is being told by the UFC to move up to bantamweight. Back to the drawing board. And the scale.

Women's bantamweight
1. Ronda Rousey (10-0)
2. Cat Zingano (8-0)
3. Miesha Tate (16-5)
4. Sara McMann (8-2)
5. Alexis Davis (16-6)
6. Jessica Eye (11-2, 1 NC)
7. Sarah Kaufman (16-2, 1 NC)
8. Liz Carmouche (9-5)
9. Bethe Correia (9-0)
10. Lauren Murphy (8-1)

Rousey faces perhaps her stiffest test when she fights the relentless and resilient Zingano on Feb 28. But “Rowdy Ronda” is getting better and better, and it’s likely she’ll vanquish Cat, all nine lives of her. Then what? Well, “Cyborg” Santos does fight in Invicta the night before. Is the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao of women’s MMA finally on the horizon?

Women's strawweight
1. Jessica Aguilar (19-4)
2. Carla Esparza (10-2)
3. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (8-0)
4. Rose Namajunas (2-2)
5. Joanne Calderwood (9-0)
6. Claudia Gadelha (12-1)
7. Jessica Penne (12-2)
8. Tecia Torres (5-0)
9. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (6-0)
10. Felice Herrig (10-5)

Esparza makes her first defense of the UFC belt next month against Jedrzejczyk. Nothing yet set up for Aguilar over in the World Series of Fighting.

Pound for pound
1. Jon Jones
2. José Aldo
3. Chris Weidman
4. Ronda Rousey
5. Demetrious Johnson
6. Anthony Pettis
7. T.J. Dillashaw
8. Robbie Lawler
9. Frankie Edgar
10. Johny Hendricks

Anderson Silva was lingering toward the bottom of the Top 10, despite having not fought in 13 months. His decision victory over Nick Diaz, a welterweight who’d been in retirement for nearly two years, didn’t exactly elevate the stock of “The Spider,” but at least he was back in the game, which seemed like enough for him to hold his place. But then the drug test results came in. So now Silva is gonzo.

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

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