’s Pound-For-Pound Top 10

By Staff Dec 16, 2013

If it is not the end of an era, it is at the very least an extended postponement of one. When Georges St. Pierre announced during a conference call with Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White that he would be taking a leave of absence from the sport and vacating his welterweight title in the process, it signaled big changes near the top of the pound-for-pound rankings.

An extended streak of excellence has made St. Pierre a fixture here, and while he may very well return to MMA somewhere along the line, until he does, his spot -- like his belt -- has been vacated. As a result, Gilbert Melendez, who has one disputed defeat in the past four years, is the latest entrant into the pound-for-pound poll.

If one is looking for a new candidate to fill the void left by GSP, both in terms of skill and professionalism, look no further than flyweight king Demetrious Johnson. “Mighty Mouse” scored the most dominant victory of his reign at UFC on Fox 9, knocking out No. 1 contender Joseph Benavidez slightly more than two minutes into their highly anticipated rematch. No, Johnson has nowhere near the box-office clout of St. Pierre, but even the longtime welterweight champion had to start somewhere.

1. Jon Jones (19-1)

Heading into the UFC 165 main event, Jones viewed his showdown with Alexander Gustafsson as a chance to cement his place as the greatest light heavyweight champion in promotion history. While “Bones” surpassed Tito Ortiz’s record for 205-pound title defenses with a unanimous decision triumph, he learned that the 6-foot-5 Swede measured up to the challenge in more ways than just height. While 25 hard-fought minutes against “The Mauler” exposed more chinks in the New York native’s armor than his previous five title defenses combined, Jones also displayed admirable heart in the face of adversity. An eventual rematch with Gustafsson appears inevitable, but surging Brazilian Glover Teixeira will challenge the pound-for-pound king at UFC 172.

2. Jose Aldo (23-1)

The featherweight division’s Brazilian ace was not at his leg-kicking best at UFC 163, thanks to a foot injury sustained early in the bout; but, as champions do, Aldo found a way to win. When challenger Chan Sung Jung separated his shoulder in the fourth round, Aldo pounced on his wounded foe and pounded out his fifth consecutive title defense. While the Nova Uniao fighter continues to discuss a potential move to lightweight, his next challenge will come at 145 pounds when he defends his belt against Ricardo Lamas at UFC 169.

3. Cain Velasquez (13-1)

Velasquez removed any doubt as to who is the best heavyweight in the world by administering a brutal beating to Junior dos Santos at UFC 166. The final bout of the trilogy was never really in doubt, as the American Kickboxing Academy ace dominated in the clinch and rarely allowed his opponent any space to unleash his formidable boxing. Velasquez dropped his opponent in the third round and earned the stoppage late in the fifth, where dos Santos finally wilted after hitting his head on the canvas following a failed guillotine attempt. Brazilian submission specialist Fabricio Werdum was expected to receive the next shot at Velasquez, but after undergoing shoulder surgery, the champion could be out until late 2014.

4. Anderson Silva (33-5)

For the first time in 17 UFC appearances, Silva’s night ended without his hand being raised at UFC 162. After taunting, baiting and clowning Chris Weidman for little more than a round, the Brazilian met his demise when the challenger connected with a left hook and follow-up punches to put a shocking and abrupt end to Silva’s championship reign 1:18 into round two. Until he steps into the Octagon again, the debate will rage on as to why “The Spider” suffered the first loss of his UFC career. Was it his apparent disregard for Weidman’s skills or was it something deeper, such as a waning motivation to compete? Silva took up UFC President Dana White on his offer of an immediate rematch and will try to take back his belt at UFC 168.

5. Chris Weidman (10-0)

For months, Weidman claimed he was the man to dethrone reigning middleweight champion and pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva. In the UFC 162 main event, he backed up his talk, knocking out the Brazilian a little more than a minute into the second frame. The Serra-Longo Fight Team member has demonstrated rapid progression in each fight, and his blend of wrestling, jiu-jitsu and constantly improving standup makes him a formidable obstacle for any potential challenger. Weidman will attempt to repeat his feat and prove his win over Silva was no fluke when they rematch at UFC 168.

6. Demetrious Johnson (18-2-1)

There is “Mighty Mouse,” and then there is the rest of the flyweight division -- that much remains clear. When Johnson bested Joseph Benavidez at UFC 152 for the promotion’s inaugural flyweight strap, it was a closely contested split decision in favor of “Mighty Mouse.” In their rematch at UFC on Fox 9, Johnson removed all doubt as to the identity of the division’s undisputed king with a first-round knockout victory. Since he first captured 125-pound gold in September 2012, Johnson has defended his title three times, each in increasingly impressive fashion. As it stands, the AMC Pankration representative has bested the three men directly below him in the flyweight division: Benavidez, John Dodson and Ian McCall. While a rematch with Dodson could eventually come to fruition, Johnson could also look to pursue super fights against opponents from other weight classes.

7. Anthony Pettis (17-2)

Pettis needed five rounds and the remarkable “Showtime” kick to wrest the WEC belt from Benson Henderson in 2010, but he required far less time to earn his second victory over “Smooth” and become the new UFC lightweight king. In the UFC 164 headliner, Pettis softened his opponent with a series of brutal body kicks and then locked in a fight-ending armbar with 29 seconds left in round one. About the only thing that went wrong for Pettis was a knee injury he suffered while checking a kick. While the ailment was diagnosed as a sprain, lingering issues with the knee forced the Roufusport standout to withdraw from a UFC on Fox 9 showdown with Josh Thomson. After undergoing surgery, Pettis is likely out until mid-2014.

8. Renan Barao (31-1)

With one spectacular spinning back kick to the face of challenger Eddie Wineland, Barao continued to put more distance between himself and the “temporary” label. With a resume that includes triumphs over Brad Pickett, Scott Jorgensen, Urijah Faber, Michael McDonald and the aforementioned Wineland, nobody can deny that Barao has earned his current spot atop the 135-pound division. The Brazilian will attempt to make his standing official when he welcomes reigning titlist Dominick Cruz back to the Octagon at UFC 169.

9. Benson Henderson (19-3)

After seven consecutive triumphs to begin his UFC career, “Smooth” relinquished his lightweight crown to the same man who snatched WEC gold from his clutches in December 2010: Anthony Pettis. The MMA Lab product had no answer for Pettis’ dynamic attack at UFC 164, as “Showtime” had Henderson reeling with a series of hard body kicks before finishing the fight with an armbar from guard in the opening frame. Henderson will return to the cage in January, when he squares off with former Strikeforce champion Josh Thomson in the UFC on Fox 10 headliner.

10. Gilbert Melendez (22-3)

After a narrow -- and controversial -- loss to Benson Henderson in a lightweight title bout in April, Melendez returned to his winning ways at UFC 166. For two rounds, “El Nino” showcased his technical superiority over Diego Sanchez before electing to go all-in during a wildly entertaining third-round brawl against “The Dream.” Despite some harrowing moments, Melendez emerged with a three-round verdict and likely increased his fan base in the process. The Skrap Pack representative’s only defeat in the past four-plus years came against Henderson, meaning he should not be far removed from the 155-pound title picture.


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