’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10

By Brian Knapp Aug 7, 2017

The pound-for-pound race has heated up with the return of one Jon Jones.

“Bones” recaptured the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight crown by stopping archrival Daniel Cormier with a third-round head kick and follow-up punches in the UFC 214 headliner on July 29 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. In his first appearance in more than a year, Jones closed out Cormier 3:01 into Round 3 and now finds himself in a familiar position atop the Sherdog Pound-for-Pound Top 10 rankings. As a result, the previously top-ranked Demetrious Johnson slides to No. 2 and the formerly 10th-ranked Donald Cerrone falls off the list.

Also on the move, UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and the man he dethroned, Robbie Lawler, climb one spot each. Both were victorious at UFC 214, as Woodley took a forgettable five-round unanimous decision from Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Demian Maia and Lawler claimed a unanimous verdict over the aforementioned Cerrone. Two fights with pound-for-pound implications are on the radar in the coming months: Johnson will risk his flyweight championship against Ray Borg in September, and Michael Bisping will put his middleweight title on the line against Georges St. Pierre in November.

Without further delay, the latest Sherdog Pound-for-Pound Top 10 rankings:

1. Jon Jones (23-1)

It was as if he never left. Jones returned to the Octagon from a yearlong United States Anti-Doping Agency suspension and laid waste to archrival Daniel Cormier in the UFC 214 main event. By moving to 2-0 in his head-to-head series with Cormier, Jones continued to fortify one of the most impressive resumes in MMA history. During his current 14-fight winning streak, “Bones” has beaten among others Cormier (twice), Ryan Bader, Mauricio Rua, Quinton Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira. Not even his most ardent critics can argue with those results. What comes next for the 30-year-old Rochester, New York, native remains something of a mystery, as rumors of a possible super fight with World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Brock Lesnar continue to percolate. A rematch with Gustafsson, the man who gave Jones his stiffest test to date, also remains on the table. Say what you will about his behavior outside of competition, but Jones has no equal inside the cage.

2. Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1)

Johnson dropped a bombshell on the MMA world in June, calling out the UFC for “unfulfilled promises” and “bullying,” stating that the promotion has done little to promote him while trying to coerce him into filling in for an injured Cody Garbrandt to fight T.J. Dillashaw. “Mighty Mouse” even claimed the UFC told him it would fold the flyweight division if he did not acquiesce to fighting Dillashaw. The 30-year-old Johnson can make the case that he has been underpaid, underpromoted and even disrespected by the UFC. Moreover, it is difficult to cast aspersions on his resume, given his accomplishments in two weight classes and his 12-0-1 record at flyweight. Nonetheless, considering his history at bantamweight and how thoroughly dominant Johnson has been at 125 pounds, the MMA world still thirsts for him to embark on even richer historical challenges. For now, it will have to settle for something else. Johnson will look to set an all-time record with his 11th consecutive title defense on Sept. 9, when he meets Ray Borg in the UFC 215 main event in Edmonton, Alberta.

3. Daniel Cormier (19-2)

Regardless of what his future holds as a coach and a broadcaster, Cormier has already established himself as a historically noteworthy fighter. He was a 13-0 heavyweight who routed the likes of Josh Barnett, Frank Mir, Jeff Monson, Roy Nelson and Antonio Silva before he ever cut to 205 pounds, where he has found another division to dominate. Still, no matter how much “DC” has done in two weight classes, he is still forever judged by his legendary feud with Jon Jones. Cormier lost a unanimous decision to “Jonny Bones” in their first encounter in January 2015 and fared far worse in their UFC 214 rematch. There, Jones withstood the American Kickboxing Academy captain’s best efforts, cut him down with a third-round head kick and finished him with a sustained burst of follow-up punches, reclaiming the undisputed light heavyweight championship in most decisive fashion. Now 0-2 in his head-to-head rivalry with Jones, Cormier does not yet have a clear direction moving forward.

4. Conor McGregor (21-3)

He ranks as the biggest draw in Ultimate Fighting Championship history, knocked the greatest featherweight of all-time, Jose Aldo, flat on his face in 13 seconds and demolished Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title to become the first-ever, simultaneous two-division UFC champion. What about Max Holloway, our No. 5-ranked entrant, who scored an incredible championship victory of his own over Aldo? “The Notorious” one was the last guy to beat him before the Hawaiian took off on his red-hot 11-fight winning streak, and he did so with a torn ACL. These things may seem like distant memories to many now that McGregor has decided to put on a different set of gloves for a lucrative Aug. 26 showdown with boxing great Floyd Mayweather Jr. However, the reason McGregor dared to hold the UFC and multiple divisions in the sport hostage while demanding a boxing match with “Money Mayweather” is the fact that he has already established himself as historically great. Maybe someday he will once again bless mere MMA mortals with his presence in the cage.

5. Max Holloway (18-3)

It was roughly four years ago that Holloway, then 21, found himself outworked and outgrappled of all things by one Conor McGregor. Fast forward to 2017 and Holloway finds himself in the same rarified air as the Irishman. He may not have beaten the best featherweight of all-time in a mere 13 seconds, but at UFC 212 in Rio de Janeiro, Holloway nonetheless knocked out the legendary Jose Aldo to claim the undisputed UFC featherweight championship in thrilling fashion. The historic victory pushes the Hawaiian’s winning streak to 11 fights, with nine of those victories resulting in stoppages. More importantly, those wins have come over the likes of Aldo, former lightweight kingpin Anthony Pettis, Ricardo Lamas, Charles Oliveira, Jeremy Stephens and Cub Swanson. At just 25 years of age and with a hyper-dynamic fighting style and charisma to spare, Holloway is the best young fighter in the sport. There are already plenty of naysayers who are keen to point out that he polished off McGregor’s leftovers. With that said, Holloway plans to reign over his division rather than chasing money fights, a la “Mystic Mac,” which means he may take on a challenge McGregor never did and one many accused him of ducking. With Holloway removing Aldo from the immediate title picture, the “Blessed” one is likely to face ever-sharp and relevant legend Frankie Edgar in his first title defense.

6. Tyron Woodley (18-3-1)

Woodley may not have endeared himself to the masses or UFC President Dana White, but he nevertheless kept a firm grasp on the welterweight title with a five-round unanimous decision over 2007 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Demian Maia in the UFC 214 co-main event. Per FightMetric, “The Chosen One” denied all 21 of Maia’s takedown attempts across 25 minutes of tepid action that saw champion and challenger combine to land just 85 significant strikes. Despite being lustily booed by fans at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, and drawing the ire of his boss, Woodley walked away with the title strapped to his waist and continued to bring stability to the post-Georges St. Pierre welterweight division. The 35-year-old dethroned Robbie Lawler by first-round knockout at UFC 201 a little more than a year ago and has since retained the championship on three different occasions, going 1-0-1 in a two-fight series with Stephen Thompson before outpointing Maia. His next challenge could take any number of forms, including a rematch with Lawler.

7. Stipe Miocic (17-2)

Unless you are Fedor Emelianenko or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira from a decade ago, it is difficult for a heavyweight to hold down a steady place in the pound-for-pound rankings for a sustained period of time. However, Miocic now has more than a year under his belt on this list and shows no signs of slowing down. Since his June 2013 breakout win against Roy Nelson, Miocic is 8-1 and has avenged that lone loss, atoning for his December 2014 misstep against Junior dos Santos by knocking out “Cigano” in just over two minutes at UFC 211. In his last five starts, the Ohio native has knocked out five top-10 opponents, and only Mark Hunt saw the second round. The other four -- dos Santos, Andrei Arlovski, Fabricio Werdum and Alistair Overeem -- are all historically accomplished heavyweights; in the case of dos Santos, we are talking about one of the 10 best heavyweights ever and in Werdum perhaps one of the three finest of all-time. The dos Santos win gave Miocic two consecutive UFC heavyweight title defenses; one more would give him the outright record for the weight class. Though the likes of Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou represent fresh heavyweight challengers, which are always at a premium, Miocic is tearing through so many of the division’s legends that it has many fans coveting a clash with Cain Velasquez -- a bout with much richer historical significance and one with the rare ability to help elevate a heavyweight’s pound-for-pound stature.

8. Robbie Lawler (28-11, 1 NC)

Back in the Octagon for the first time since being removed from the welterweight throne, Lawler showed once again why he has become such an adored figure in the eyes of the buying public. Now training under Henri Hooft at the Combat Club, the “Ruthless” one weathered a difficult second round against Donald Cerrone and responded late with clubbing uppercuts and nasty body kicks to claim a unanimous decision over “Cowboy” at UFC 214. Lawler, 35, has won six of his last seven bouts -- a three-year run that includes victories over Jake Ellenberger, Matt Brown, Johny Hendricks, Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit. It should come as no surprise that he remains in the title hunt at 170 pounds: A rematch with the last man to defeat him, reigning welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, has already been floated as a possibility by UFC President Dana White.

9. Jose Aldo (26-3)

In the often backwards logic that guides MMA discourse, perhaps there is no greater proof that we are in the midst of a legend than to see that same fighter pilloried for a defeat. If nothing else, it certainly seems to be the case for Aldo. From November 2009, when he savaged Mike Thomas Brown in World Extreme Cagefighting, to that fateful December 2015 night in which he met Conor McGregor for just 13 seconds, Aldo did not just stand atop the featherweight division but ruled it with an iron fist. After he was dethroned by McGregor at UFC 194, he responded with a brilliant victory over a surging Frankie Edgar -- a win even more historically rich than the first time he defeated “The Answer.” Many seem keen to write off the Nova Uniao product, even though he does not turn 31 until September and was up 20-18 on all three scorecards against Max Holloway prior to his third-round knockout loss at UFC 212. Plain and simple, Aldo may be 1-2 in his last three bouts, but all three of those contests have come against truly special fighters: the UFC’s first simultaneous two-division champion, a two-division legend and the best young fighter we have seen since Jon Jones. It is hard to say what fight makes sense next for Aldo and how much longer he has left in the cage, but for now, “Scarface” can still fight.

10. Michael Bisping (30-7)

Bisping’s late-career ascent to UFC middleweight champion has been truly bizarre. Two years ago, he was already on the wrong side of 35 years old; his career had been defined by big-fight failures; he was suffering through a detached retina; and it seemed like “The Count” may top out with respectable-but-unspectacular wins over the likes of C.B. Dollaway and Thales Leites. Then came his dramatic, controversial upset of Anderson Silva. Bisping followed his unanimous decision over “The Spider” by somehow destroying a cresting Luke Rockhold on short notice to claim the middleweight crown and parlayed his performance there into revenge on a 46-year-old Dan Henderson. Weird as it might be, “The Ultimate Fighter 3” winner defeated two of the 10 mixed martial artists in history in less than 18 months and has now taken aim at a third. With interim middleweight champion Robert Whittaker sidelined by a knee injury, Bisping will defend his half of the 185-pound title against a returning Georges St. Pierre at UFC 217 on Nov. 4.

Sherdog’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10 is voted upon by a panel of staff members and contributors: Jordan Breen, Tristen Critchfield, Mike Fridley, Brian Knapp, TJ De Santis, Mike Sloan, Eric Stinton, Jesse Denis, Josh Ramsey, Joseph Santoliquito, Andreas Hale, Josh Stillman and Anthony Walker.


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