’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10

By Staff Jul 12, 2016

Jon Jones found a way to ruin UFC 200 and the surrounding events of International Fight Week for a lot of folks, especially arch rival Daniel Cormier, who lost several millions of dollars through Jones getting popped for his June 16 anti-doping test and necessitating a Cormier-Anderson Silva matchup.

For the purposes of these pound-for-pound rankings, Jones is spoiling someone else’s “special night” this time, namely Eddie Alvarez, who took the UFC lightweight crown from our previously third-ranked pound-for-pound entrant Rafael dos Anjos in blistering fashion on July 7 to earn the biggest prize of his distinguished career as a pro, nearly 13 years in. Instead, despite Alvarez making his pound-for-pound top 10 debut, the major story of this update is the top-but-tenuous position of “Jonny Bones.”

Since Silva’s fall to Chris Weidman three years ago, Jones has sat atop the pound-for-pound throne. Now, his days may be limited, despite no one breaking his dominance in the cage. Jones being flagged for two banned substances in his pre-fight doping test could see him catch a two-year suspension and as much as a $500,000 fine from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Even if Jones can argue a contaminated supplement, he may still wind up with a suspension that will remove him from competition for over a year. Quite simply, even if he does not lose anytime soon, Jones may be done as the king of the sport.

It is also a bitter update of sorts for fourth-ranked Daniel Cormier and eighth-ranked Jose Aldo. At UFC 200, Cormier dominated former pound-for-pound kingpin Silva, albeit an out-of-shape incarnation on days’ notice, while Aldo turned in one of the best performances of his career over fellow pound-for-pounder Frankie Edgar. However, Cormier remains haunted by his clear decision loss to Jones, while Aldo, despite an outstanding win in masterful fashion, cannot jump past tormentor Conor McGregor just yet, unless either Nate Diaz replicates his UFC 196 win over “The Notorious” one at UFC 202 or Aldo can get a second day in court with the Irishman.

Read More » Sherdog Divisional Rankings

1. Jon Jones (22-1)

No light heavyweight has accomplished more in the division, and arguably no man has accomplished more period in the history of MMA than Jones. While Jones has run roughshod over the 205-pound division over the last five years and taken out an incredible cross-section of legendary talent in that period, his penchant for sabotaging himself outside the cage is almost inversely proportional to his in-cage ability. Headed into UFC 200, his rematch with Cormier was not just an opportunity to earn a second win over his archrival and perhaps put their feud to bed but would have given him another victory over one of the very best fighters in the world. Instead, his failed doping test from June 16 means that “Bones” may not be on top of this list much longer. The Jackson-Wink MMA rep may face a two-year suspension, which would leave him inactive long enough to lose his spot, even without dropping a fight inside the Octagon. For a man whose greatest opponent throughout his career has been himself, it would be a sadly fitting way for Jones to lose his alpha-dog status.

2. Demetrious Johnson (24-2-1)

Johnson had a full plate not too long ago: After blowing out Olympic gold medal wrestler Henry Cejudo in round one at UFC 197 in April, Johnson was scheduled to defend his UFC flyweight title for a ninth time against Brazilian Wilson Reis at UFC 201 on July 30. However, an injury forced “Mighty Mouse” from the card and left him with a Dec. 3 date opposite the winner of Season 24 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” The season has been entirely geared around finding a new 125-pounder to face the exceptionally dominant Johnson. Beyond that, the Kentucky-born, Washington-based fighter could soon earn himself the chance of a lifetime, stepping back up to 135 pounds to try and even the score with fellow UFC champion and former tormentor Dominick Cruz. Even if Johnson has to wait for that opportunity, Jones’ failed anti-doping test could ultimately put “Bones” on the sideline long enough to allow “Mighty Mouse” to ascend the pound-for-pound throne by acclimation.

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

We are barely halfway through 2016, and even with the amount of outstanding fights we have seen so far, it still seems overwhelmingly likely that Lawler will take “Fight of the Year” honors for a third straight year, courtesy of his UFC 195 title defense against Carlos Condit on Jan. 2. However, the “Ruthless” one has not risen into our top three simply because he is exciting; he has done so by dishing out damage and defeating an incredible slate of opposition over the last three-plus years. Since returning to the UFC at 170 pounds, Lawler has gone 8-1 in one of MMA’s best weight divisions, avenging his lone loss in that stretch to Johny Hendricks to take the UFC welterweight title at UFC 181 in December 2014. The 170-pound division remains red-hot and replete with exciting new challengers for Lawler. First up will be Tyron Woodley in the UFC 201 headliner on July 30 in Atlanta. If the 34-year-old American Top Team rep can continue to reign atop the welterweight division with his brand of violence, he will have no shortage of elite, accomplished opponents with which to contend and potentially continue to build a legendary resume that has been forged almost entirely past the age of 30.

4. Daniel Cormier (18-1)

Cormier is one of the best fighters in the world. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be the biggest MMA event in history turned into an absolute nightmare for him. After waiting around for Jones to clean up his personal life and allow a rematch to happen at UFC 200, Cormier was left essentially high and dry on July 9. Jones’ failed anti-doping test revelation just days out from the event robbed Cormier of the chance to fight the only man to ever defeat him and also cost him millions of dollars in terms of fight purse and potential pay-per-view money. In addition to losing millions, Cormier was forced to suffer through a questionably conceived last-minute fight with former pound-for-pound king and middleweight ruler Silva, who entered the bout well outside of fighting shape and played defense nearly the entire time; meanwhile, the Las Vegas crowd booed Cormier for not striking with “The Spider.” It was a no-win situation, and Cormier may have more of them in the future. For all his greatness, Cormier will always be viewed as a counterfeit UFC champion if he cannot avenge his January 2015 loss to Jones, even as Jones may face a two-year suspension from the United States Anti-Doping Agency. Cormier could wind up as a reigning 205-pound champion with the chance to put other quality names on his ledger, but he is likely to be forever judged through his rivalry with Jones, who has proven a less-than-ideal foil for the American Kickboxing Academy team captain on multiple levels.

5. Eddie Alvarez (28-4)

Since 2008, Alvarez has been one of the best lightweights in the world, toiling and thriving in the most dynamic and talented weight class the sport has to offer. Since breaking out with his Dream wins over Andre “Dida” Amado, Joachim Hansen and Tatsuya Kawajiri, Alvarez has never strayed far from the 155-pound elite. For much of his career, however, Alvarez sought the biggest contracts he could outside the UFC. When Alvarez finally made his Octagon debut at UFC 178 in September 2014, he was leg kicked and dominated for 15 minutes by Donald Cerrone. Just three fights later, Alvarez took the UFC lightweight title in thrilling fashion, unloading his trademark chain-gun punching on previously third-ranked Rafael dos Anjos and earning the stoppage in under four minutes. In his last three appearances, Alvarez has topped Gilbert Melendez, Anthony Pettis and dos Anjos, adding another three historic lightweights to his resume. The Philadelphia native now stands on the precipice of facing the likes of Edson Barboza, Michael Chiesa, Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov. If Alvarez can reign atop 155-pound with any consistency -- which has never really happened in the UFC lightweight division -- he could wind up having faced the greatest amount of quality lightweights ever across his pro career, now going on 13 years.

6. Rafael dos Anjos (25-8)

In his second UFC lightweight title defense on July 7, dos Anjos was absolutely raked on the feet by Alvarez; and though the Brazilian never hit the ground, he had his crown captured by the former Bellator MMA champion. However, dos Anjos maintains a comfy place in these rankings because of his recently outstanding resume and the quality of the division over which he lorded, if only temporarily. Dos Anjos was 10-1 in his last 11 outings heading into the Alvarez bout and had beaten Benson Henderson, Nate Diaz, Pettis and Cerrone, consecutively and in dominant fashion. It remains to be seen if dos Anjos can knock off another string of elite lightweights to get another crack at UFC lightweight gold. The 31-year-old’s track record over the last four years suggests he will have ample opportunities to put high-level prizefighters on his ledger, even if he finds it hard to come by a rematch with Alvarez.

7. Conor McGregor (19-3)

Cruel as it is, while Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar duked it out at UFC 200 for the interim featherweight title, McGregor sat in the stands, eyeballing two potential opponents. Before “The Notorious” gets back to defending the featherweight title he won by smashing Aldo in just 13 seconds in December, he will try to redeem his UFC 196 loss to Diaz, this time at 155 pounds in the UFC 202 headliner on Aug. 20. It remains unclear if McGregor will ever return to the 145-pound division to defend his title, and it remains even less clear how a win over Diaz in their rematch would alter that course. Ultimately, McGregor is such a major superstar for the UFC that he will get to call his shot in the event of a victory. If he feels a rematch with Aldo at 145 pounds is a way to garner a major payday, the Irishman will likely strain his body to make the featherweight limit at least once more. If he rolls through Diaz, however, and prefers a different goal, the UFC will likely acquiesce to McGregor’s demands, whether they reside at 155 or 170 pounds. Even in a murky, chaotic situation, the major silver lining to McGregor’s current predicament is that we know his primary motivation: big fights and big money. That means McGregor, regardless of the weight class in which he fights, will always meet the sorts of folks that can make a difference in his pound-for-pound placement.

8. Jose Aldo (26-2)

It is a tragedy of sorts when two pound-for-pound entrants square off against one another and the victor cannot advance in these rankings. Such was the case with UFC 200: Aldo scored arguably the biggest win of his career over a surging Edgar, which was even more dominant than his first victory over “The Answer” at UFC 156 in February 2013. For 25 minutes, Aldo dealt with Edgar's incessant pressure with sharp counterpunching, timed knees and his sublime takedown defense, perhaps the finest in MMA history. Aldo’s virtuoso performance may have earned him the UFC interim featherweight title and impressed onlookers, but until he can get back in the cage with McGregor and avenge his 13-second knockout loss from December, Aldo will be second fiddle to “The Notorious.” Fortunately for Aldo, he was so impressive in dispatching Edgar that it seems at least possible that McGregor -- whether or not he prevails in his Aug. 20 rematch with Diaz -- may see big money in a rematch with the all-time best featherweight. If McGregor opts to vacate the 145-pound throne rather than rematch Aldo, “Scarface” may regain his top spot over the featherweight division, one he held from 2009 to 2015, but he may eventually need to chase the Irishman to 155 pounds if he wants a second crack at him.

9. Dominick Cruz (22-1)

At only 30 years of age, a huge part of Cruz’s prime as a prizefighter has already been stolen by knee and groin injuries. However, since his latest return in 2016, he has managed to fight twice already, regaining his UFC bantamweight title from T.J. Dillashaw in a nip-tuck split decision in January before retaining it in the rubber match against rival Urijah Faber. The question for Cruz, one of the best fighters in the game looking to quickly re-establish his dominance in the division, is whether or not he can replicate his win over Dillashaw. Outside of a rematch with Dillashaw, the golden goose for Cruz -- at least as far as hardcore fans and media are concerned – is a rematch with flyweight ruler Johnson, who has gone on to dominate the 125-pound weight class since he first lost to Cruz as a bantamweight back in October 2011. While the 135-pound division may lack for depth of contenders right now, Cruz’s next likely opponents, Dillashaw or Johnson, both give him the chance to add major wins to his record and make up for the lost time he watched go out the window due to his spate of injuries.

10. Frankie Edgar (20-5-1)

Edgar was defeated for a second time by Aldo across 25 minutes at UFC 200 on July 9. While “The Answer” was competitive, it was an even more outstanding performance by his Brazilian foil, as Aldo did not use his vaunted leg kicks at all, relying on precise counterpunching and timed knees to shut down Edgar’s pressure and volume striking on the feet. However, with his recent blowouts of Faber, Cub Swanson and Chad Mendes, Edgar retains a place on the pound-for-pound top 10, having thoroughly dominated several elite fighters at 145 pounds. However, Edgar’s spot at No. 10 is hotly contested, with the likes of formerly 10th-ranked Cerrone, Dillashaw, Joseph Benavidez and Michael Bisping creeping just outside of our top 10.


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