’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10

By Staff Apr 25, 2016

Expectations are a powerful force, and they play a critical role in the latest pound-for-pound discussions in the sport.

Jon Jones, the sport’s incumbent alpha dog, spent 15 months away from the cage, living (and driving) recklessly and getting into legal trouble. When he returned to the Octagon at UFC 197, it was not against nemesis Daniel Cormier but injury replacement Ovince St. Preux. A far cry from the pound-for-pound clash that was anticipating with Jones-Cormier 2, folks looked at the “OSP” bout as a cakewalk for Jones.

Jones broke St. Preux’s arm, slammed him around the cage and bashed him late, but he could not stop the former University of Tennessee linebacker over 25 minutes. Jones failed to live up to the unfair expectations that come with being arguably the best MMA fighter ever, which gave Demetrious Johnson all he needed to get a conversation started.

In his eighth successful UFC title defense, Johnson crushed 2008 Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo with knees to the body in less than three minutes. The latest sterling performance from the flyweight king sees him move up to No. 2 in these rankings, ahead of UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, but “Mighty Mouse” was so good that he has incited serious talk as to whether or not he, not Jones, is the king of MMA.

Johnson’s quest for pound-for-pound supremacy likely cannot be won at 125 pounds, but fortunately for him, a potential dream rematch with UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz might be the sort of thing to convert hearts and minds. Unfortunately for Johnson, Jones is still due for his blood feud rematch with No. 7 entrant Cormier later this year, which is a profound opportunity for “Jonny Bones” to re-affirm his spot on top of this sport and this list.

Read More » Sherdog Divisional Rankings

1. Jon Jones (22-1)

UFC 197 marked the end of a tumultuous 15-month absence from the cage for the sport’s top fighter. The event took on a vastly different complexion once his archrival Daniel Cormier pulled out with a leg injury, however, necessitating an interim light heavyweight title fight beween Jones and Ovince St. Preux. The combination of Jones knocking the rust off over 25 minutes plus the expectations that come with being MMA’s pound-for-pound king may have gotten “Bones” some criticism, but the perfunctory win over “OSP” does give Jones yet another win over another perennial top-10 light heavyweight. Barring injury or any further legal issues, Jones will meet up with Cormier later this year in one of the most anticipated rematches in MMA history; a second win over Cormier would silence many who question Jones’ alpha status.

2. Demetrious Johnson (24-2-1)

The biggest beneficiary of Jon Jones’ leisurely domination of Ovince St. Preux was MMA’s flyweight king. While Jones fell short of unfair expectations in his return bout, Johnson shattered and surpassed expectations as “Mighty Mouse” blew away Henry Cejudo in less than three minutes, stopping the 2008 Olympic gold medalist with beautiful knees to the body and handing him his first loss. Johnson also benefits from Jones being forced to relinquish the light heavyweight strap last year, as Johnson is now just two UFC title defenses shy of Anderson Silva’s record of 10. Debate as to whether Johnson is the sport’s greatest fighter will continue, but the ultimate antidote to that conversation might be if he returned to 135 pounds in the near future to rematch bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz and prevailed in a super fight that seems more realistic every day.

3. Rafael dos Anjos (25-7)

Dos Anjos lost a chance to add a fellow pound-for-pounder to his resume and some zeroes to his bank account in March, when his broken foot nixed his fight with Conor McGregor. With McGregor now otherwise occupied to say the least, dos Anjos will defend his UFC lightweight title on July 7 in Las Vegas against perennial division standout Eddie Alvarez. It is a fight that typifies both the shark tank that is MMA's lightweight division, as well as dos Anjos’ hot streak in general: a victory in July would give the Brazilian consecutive wins over Benson Henderson, Nate Diaz, Anthony Pettis, Donald Cerrone and Alvarez, which is an amazingly deep cross-section of the best 155-pounders over the last eight years. Yet, in order for dos Anjos to incite conversations about whether he is the top fighter in the sport or the greatest lightweight ever, he will need to eventually rematch and defeat 23-0 Khabib Nurmagomedov, who dominated RDA in the champ’s last loss in April 2014.

4. Luke Rockhold (15-2)

Since he was knocked out by Vitor Belfort in May 2013, few if any fighters have put on the displays of offense inside the Octagon like those of Rockhold. His December title capture against Chris Weidman was not just an outstanding pound-for-pound quality win, but one in which Rockhold showed off the athleticism, well-roundedness and technique that has made him just as likely to stop a foe with a liver kick as an inverted triangle choke. However, as is often the case in MMA, Rockhold cannot set about beefing up his resume just yet, as he is due to rematch his fellow pound-for-pound entrant Weidman at UFC 199 in June. If victorious, Rockhold’s focus will likely shift to Olympic silver medalist Yoel Romero.

5. Fabricio Werdum (20-5-1)

With every passing fight and every thorough win, Werdum stakes a stronger and stronger claim that he is the greatest heavyweight in MMA history. Some may prefer Fedor Emelianenko still, some may prefer Cain Velasquez’s historical track record, too, but the fact is Werdum tapped them both. At UFC 198 in May, in front of a partisan Curitiba crowd in Brazil, “Vai Cavalo” will put his mantle up for grabs against deserved challenger Stipe Miocic, who has solidified himself as a long-term top 10 heavyweight. While the heavyweight division is widely critiqued for its lack of depth, Werdum may have some surprising opportunities if he vanquishes Miocic. Improbably, his rival Alistair Overeem is on a tear and could earn a title shot if he defeats Andrei Arlovski on May 8, which could clear the way for a rubber match with Werdum. On top of that, Junior dos Santos’ vintage performance against Ben Rothwell has him back in the championship hunt again, and a dos Santos rematch would give Werdum the chance to exorcise the demons of his then-shocking October 2008 loss to “Cigano” in JDS’ UFC debut.

6. Robbie Lawler (27-10, 1 NC)

After authoring several classic battles over the last two years, Lawler exceeded himself in January with his split decision win over Carlos Condit in what is still the 2016 “Fight of the Year” frontrunner. It goes without saying that Lawler has earned himself some time off, but soon that will come to an end, as UFC President Dana White has said that Lawler is likely to defend his title against former American Top Team training partner Tyron Woodley at UFC 201 or UFC 202. A run of three consecutive “Fight of the Year” trophies is one heck of an accomplishment, but rising up this list is contingent upon Lawler acing tests like Woodley in the always-outstanding welterweight division.

7. Daniel Cormier (17-1)

A leg injury robbed Cormier of a chance to avenge his lone career defeat to Jon Jones at UFC 197, but he figures to get his chance for revenge in the summer. Cormier already has an outstanding resume, with elite wins at both heavyweight and light heavyweight, but getting a win back against “Bones” would be truly something special. As it stands, Cormier probably would not be considered a top-five all-time fighter in either weight class, but knocking off Jones might represent the single most prestigious victory in MMA history, regardless of division. It is a win that would not only make Cormier the legitimate, undisputed light heavyweight champion but also rocket him to near the top of this list and into true all-time greatness.

8. Conor McGregor (19-3)

How quickly things can change: Just over two months ago, folks were wondering if the newly minted UFC featherweight champion could audaciously move back up to 155 pounds and take the lightweight crown from Rafael dos Anjos. Dos Anjos broke his foot, Nate Diaz filled the spot and the rest is history. Now, McGregor politicking over media availability and money leaves us with very little clarity about what is next for the Irishman. As it concerns this list, one thing is for certain: McGregor is a superstar who craves big fights and big-money fights, and that is normally a recipe for facing elite opponents each time you step in the cage, which is what these rankings are all about.

9. Jose Aldo (25-2)

Conor McGregor’s whims and demands have the featherweight division on freeze, so Aldo will need to wait for a chance at revenge. In the meantime, he will be playing the opposite role in an interim UFC featherweight title fight at UFC 200 on July 9, as he seeks to replicate his February 2013 win over former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. While it is not McGregor, a second win over Edgar would still be an outstanding feather in Aldo's career cap. His 13-second knockout loss to “Mystic Mac” raised questions as to whether Aldo is still in prime form, and Edgar’s own recent run at featherweight means that a second W over “The Answer” would be an even richer accomplishment, arguably he finest of Aldo’s storied career.

10. Chris Weidman (13-1)

With two stoppage wins over former pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva, Weidman looked poised for P4P status for years to come, especially knowing that he could one day end up at 205 pounds. However, Luke Rockhold deftly derailed those plans, at least temporarily, at UFC 194 in December. Weidman can get right back on track at UFC 199 if he can knock off Rockhold in their rematch, after which he would likely see Yoel Romero, Ronaldo Souza or a rubber match with Rockhold -- the sorts of fights that can help craft a historic résumé.


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