A familiar face has moved into the pound-for-pound penthouse from which Jon Jones has once again been evicted.
Jones appeared to be back on the right track at UFC 214 on July 29, when he felled archrival Daniel Cormier with a third-round head kick and follow-up punches to reclaim the undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight title. Not all was as it seemed, it appears. The United States Anti-Doping Agency on Aug. 22 announced that Jones had been placed on a provisional suspension after he was flagged for a possible doping violation; his “A” sample allegedly tested positive for the performance-enhancer Turinabol. A little less than a month later, Jones “B” sample confirmed the positive test. The result of the bout was changed to a no-contest, and the UFC light heavyweight crown was stripped from his possession and returned to Cormier. Jones, 30, now faces the possibility of a four-year suspension.
Into the pound-for-pound vacancy steps UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. The AMC Pankration cornerstone has compiled a 12-0-1 record since dropping to 125 pounds, all but cleaning out the division in the process. Johnson laid claim to the inaugural flyweight title at UFC 152 in September 2012, when he was awarded a unanimous decision over Joseph Benavidez. In the five years that have passed since, “Mighty Mouse” has successfully defended the championship on 10 different occasions, equaling the mark set by the great Anderson Silva at 185 pounds.
Without further delay, the updated Sherdog Pound-for-Pound Top 10 rankings:
1. Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1)Johnson dropped a bombshell on the MMA world in June, calling out the Ultimate Fighting Championship for “unfulfilled promises” and “bullying” and stating that the promotion had done little to promote him while trying to coerce him into fighting T.J. Dillashaw as a fill-in for the injured Cody Garbrandt. “Mighty Mouse” even claimed the UFC told him it would fold the flyweight division if he did not acquiesce to facing Dillashaw. The 31-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 Oct. 7, when he meets Ray Borg in the UFC 216 co-main event.
2. Daniel Cormier (19-1, 1 NC)Cormier is once again UFC light heavyweight champion and the No. 1 205-pound fighter in the world, though it is far from how he wanted to stay on the throne. Cormier could not defeat Jon Jones in their July 29 rematch and now settles for a no-contest after Jones’ “B” sample came back positive for steroids. While the American Kickboxing Academy becomes a victim by proxy in the “Bones” saga, no one can overlook his stellar accomplishments in two weight classes. High-profile victories over Josh Barnett, Frank Mir, Dan Henderson, Anthony Johnson (twice), Anderson Silva and Alexander Gustafsson highlight his resume. No matter his future in the cage, “DC” remains inextricably linked to Jones while also facing great uncertainty about the identity of his next UFC title challenger. A rematch with Gustafsson, a man who lost a five-round split decision to Cormier two years ago, seems like the most plausible suspect.
3. Conor McGregor (21-3)“The Money Fight” was actualized on Aug. 26 in Las Vegas, where McGregor was knocked out by Floyd Mayweather in the 10th round. Having made tens of millions from the historic spectacle, McGregor is in no need to race back to the Octagon, and his next move remains as unpredictable as ever. Does he defend his Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight crown against the winner of the forthcoming interim title bout between Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee? Will he go big-game hunting again and attempt to become the sport’s first major three-division champion by taking aim at the welterweight belt? Only “Mystic Mac” knows for sure. While UFC President Dana White shot down talk of a trilogy bout with rival Nate Diaz, rumors persist.
4. Max Holloway (18-3)A little more than four years ago, 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 pushed 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 seems likely to face ever-sharp and relevant legend Frankie Edgar in his first title defense.
5. 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 Ferguson, Missouri, native 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 he outpointed Maia. His next challenge could take any number of forms, including a rematch with Lawler.
6. Stipe Miocic (17-2)Unless you the Fedor Emelianenko or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira of 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 breakout win against Roy Nelson four years ago, 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 the oft-injured 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.
7. 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 of excellence 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.
8. 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 just turned 31 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. Up next for Aldo is an expected but not yet announced rematch with Ricardo Lamas in December.
9. 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 sound, “The Ultimate Fighter 3” winner defeated two of the top 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.
10. Tony Ferguson (22-3)One of the best fighters in the sport over the last four years and a winner of nine in a row inside the Octagon, Ferguson has been angling for a title shot for some time. “The Ultimate Fighter 13” winner strengthened his case during his current run of excellence, which includes victories over Josh Thomson, Edson Barboza and Rafael dos Anjos. “El Cucuy” no longer has to wait for his crack at promotional gold. It is far from the crowning moment about which Ferguson might have dreamed, but with Conor McGregor counting his millions from “The Money Fight” against Floyd Mayweather and Khabib Nurmagomedov still on the sidelines, the 33-year-old Oxnard, California, native will take on big-talking blue chipper Kevin Lee for the interim lightweight championship at UFC 216 on Oct. 7.
Sherdog’s Pound-for-Pound Top 10 is voted upon by a panel of Sherdog.com staff members and contributors: Jordan Breen, Tristen Critchfield, Mike Fridley, Brian Knapp, TJ De Santis, Eric Stinton, Jesse Denis, Todd Martin, Josh Stillman, Nick Grinups, Jake Hughes and Anthony Walker.