On the heels of his reinstatement by the UFC, Jon Jones is back atop SI.com's pound-for-pound rankings

By Jeff Wagenheim
October 23, 2015

MMA fighter rankings have rung a little false lately. That’s because the top competitor in the sport, today and throughout its history, has been conspicuously missing.

When Jon Jones had his UFC light heavyweight title stripped from him in April and was suspended indefinitely, both indignities being byproducts of a hit-and-run accident for which he faced felony charges, he was yanked from the SI.com rankings. To be eligible for our tally, a fighter must be active in the sport. Jones was not.

But now he is. On Friday the UFC reinstated Jones to its active roster. This move comes three weeks after a judge in Albuquerque granted him a conditional discharge as part of a plea deal under which Jones got no jail time, just 18 months of supervised probation during which he must make 72 speaking appearances with children.

“We’ve made it clear to Jon that this new opportunity to compete in UFC is a privilege and not a right, and that there are significant expectations we have regarding his conduct moving forward,” CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said in the UFC statement announcing the reinstatement. Jones took to Facebook to issue his own statement, which said in part: “This marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life and my career, and let me assure you, the best is yet to come.”

No date was announced for Jones’s return to the octagon, but presumably he will challenge Daniel Cormier for his old belt. Jones defeated Cormier in January, in his last defense before being stripped, and once the title was vacant, Cormier seized it with a victory over Anthony Johnson. He successfully defended the strap earlier this month, earning a decision over Alexander Gustafsson.

So Cormier is the champion, but this will be a rare case of a belt holder taking a back seat to a challenger in our rankings. Jones, upon reinstatement, re-enters the SI.com 205-pound rankings at No. 1.

He also replaces Ronda Rousey as our No. 1 pound-for-pound. Rousey is the biggest star in the sport—neither Jones nor anyone else in MMA dazzles the masses on late-night talk shows, on happy talk morning shows, or in Hollywood blockbusters like the women’s bantamweight champ. And Rousey’s dominance as a fighter is transcendent. But so is Jones’s, and he’s done it against a murderer’s row of challengers.

Welcome back to normal, MMA rankings. Let’s get to them …

1. Fabricio Werdum (20-5-1)
2. Cain Velasquez (13-2)
3. Junior dos Santos (17-3)
4. Stipe Miocic (13-2)
5. Andrei Arlovski (25-10, 1 NC)
6. Travis Browne (17-3-1)
7. Ben Rothwell (35-9)
8. Mark Hunt (10-10-1)
9. Alistair Overeem (39-14)
10. Josh Barnett (34-7)

We know who. How about when and where? The UFC announced back in August that Werdum’s first defense of the belt he took from Velasquez in June will be against the ex-champ. But we still have no date and no venue for the rematch. Velasquez told Fox Sports that it could come in March in Brazil. That’s a long time to wait.

Light heavyweight
1. Jon Jones (21-1)
2. Daniel
Cormier (17-1
3. Anthony Johnson (20-5)
4. Alexander Gustafsson (16-4)
5. Ryan Bader (20-4)
6. Phil Davis (13-3, 1 NC)
7. Glover Teixeira (23-4)
8. Liam McGeary (11-0)
9. Rashad Evans (19-4-1)
10. Ovince Saint Preux (18-7)

If the UFC champ has any complaints about being ranked No. 2, he should take them up with Bader, who had a four-fight win streak and was poised for a title shot, but was passed over, then added another impressive win to put himself back in position for a grab at the golden ring … and now this.

1. Chris Weidman (13-0)
2. Luke Rockhold (14-2)
3. Ronaldo Souza (22-3, 1 NC)
4. Yoel Romero (10-1)
5. Vitor Belfort (24-11)
6. Lyoto Machida (22-7)
7. Tim Kennedy (18-5)
8. Michael Bisping (26-7)
9. Thales Leites (25-5)
10. Uriah Hall (12-5)

Hall sneaks into the Top 10 on the strength of an exhilarating KO of former No. 9 Gegard Mousasi, using a spinning kick and
flying knee to get the job done.  

1. Robbie Lawler (26-10, 1 NC)
2. Johny Hendricks (17-3)
3. Rory MacDonald (18-3)
4. Tyron Woodley (15-3)
5. Matt Brown (20-13)
6. Ben Askren (14-0)
7. Carlos Condit (30-8)
8. Demian Maia (21-6)
9. Stephen Thompson (11-1)
10. Dong Hyun Kim (20-3-1)

Lawler vs. Condit is official for Jan. 2. The champ has elevated his game demonstrably, while the challenger has been largely inactive. Still, fireworks are on order. 

1. Rafael dos Anjos (24-7)
2. Khabib Nurmagomedov (22-0)
3. Anthony Pettis (18-3)
4. Donald Cerrone (28-6, 1 NC)
5. Benson Henderson (21-5)
6. Eddie Alvarez (26-4)
7. Myles Jury (15-1)
8. Will Brooks (16-1)
9. Tony Ferguson (18-3)
10. Edson Barboza (15-3)

One week in December will sort out this division nicely. Nurmagomedov, who hasn’t fought since dominating Dos Anjos back in April 2014, faces rising Tony Ferguson on Dec. 11. Then, a week later, Dos Anjos defends his belt against Cerrone. Action and more action.

1. José Aldo (25-1)
2. Frankie Edgar (19-4-1)
3. Conor McGregor (18-2)
4. Chad Mendes (17-3)
5. Ricardo Lamas (15-4)
6. Patricio Freire (22-2)
7. Max Holloway (14-3)
8. Cub Swanson (21-7)
9. Charles Oliveira (20-5, 1 NC)
10. Jeremy Stephens (24-11)

December is big for the 145-pounders, too. Edgar and Mendes face off on Dec. 11, and the next night is Aldo vs. McGregor. Call it a two-night tournament, with the finale down the road.

1. T.J. Dillashaw (12-2)
2. Dominick Cruz (20-1)
3. Renan Barão (33-3, 1 NC)
4. Urijah Faber (31-8)
5. Raphael Assunção (23-4)
6. Bibianio Fernandes (16-3)
7. Marcos Galvão (17-6-1)
8. Aljamain Sterling (11-0)
9. Joe Warren (12-4)
10. Eduardo Dantas (16-4)

Dillashaw has a lot on his plate. He’s changing training camps, which is an X factor in his preparation for a Jan. 17 dance with Cruz. And his departure from Team Alpha Male also rankled the alpha of the Alphas, Faber. So the champ could end up fighting his friend and mentor, in a case of hurt-feelings matchmaking.

1. Demetrious Johnson (23-2-1)
2. Joseph Benavidez (22-4)
3. John Dodson (17-7)
4. John Moraga (16-4)
5. Henry Cejudo (9-0)
6. Ian McCall (13-5-1)
7. Jussier da Silva (18-3)
8. Zach Makovsky (19-6)
9. John Moraga (16-4)
10. Kyoji Horiguchi (15-2)

Is Cejudo next? “Mighty Mouse” has beaten back challenges by all contenders other than the 2008 Olympic wrestling gold medalist. But don’t try to match them up in Las Vegas. Cejudo has said he will not fight in Nevada, in protest of what he considers the corrupt vindictiveness the state’s athletic commission showed in handing Nick Diaz a five-year suspension based on a bogus test for marijuana.

Women’s bantamweight
1. Ronda Rousey (12-0)
2. Cat Zingano (9-1)
3. Miesha Tate (17-5)
4. Alexis Davis (17-6)
5. Sarah Kaufman (16-3, 1 NC)
6. Julianna Peña (7-2)
7. Amanda Nunes (11-4)
8. Liz Carmouche (10-5)
9. Holly Holm (9-0)
10. Sara McMann (8-3)

Peña jumps into the Top 10 on the strength of a win over former No. 5 Jessica Eye. That puts her within reach of Rousey, who is running out of challenges.

Women’s strawweight
1. Joanna Jedrzejczyk (10-0)
2. Claudia Gadelha (13-1)
3. Carla Esparza (10-3)
4. Jessica Aguilar (19-5)
5. Rose Namajunas (3-2)
6. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (7-0)
7. Joanne Calderwood (9-1)
8. Tecia Torres (6-0)
9. Valerie Letourneau (8-3)
10. Maryna Moroz (6-1)

The unbeaten Kowalkiewicz signed with the UFC last month, so the 115-pound division has some good matchups ahead.

Pound for pound
1. Jon Jones
2. Ronda Rousey
3. José Aldo
4. Demetrious Johnson
5. Chris Weidman
6. Robbie Lawler
7. Fabricio Werdum
8. T.J. Dillashaw
9. Cain Velasquez
10. Daniel Cormier

Jones jumped right back to the top of the mountain, but Cormier made a significant hop, too. He was No. 10 last month but, on the strength of his successful title defense, leapfrogged Frankie Edgar. That turned out to be important, since Cormier’s new spot is the last on the list.

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