Jon Jones' work manifested in another dominant win over another 205-pound star. | Photo: Terry Goodlad
MMA's busy final months have gotten off to a roaring start, marked by standout performances by defending UFC champions Jon Jones and Dominick Cruz.
At UFC 135 in Denver, Jones dominated perennial divisional standout and former UFC champion Quinton Jackson for three rounds before impressively choking him out in the fourth. Jones' sensational 2011 campaign might end on an even higher note if a December clash in Toronto with Rashad Evans comes to fruition. If victorious, Jones' one-year campaign would stack up with the greatest of all time.
A week later in the nation's capital, “D.C.” stood for “Dominick Cruz” as the UFC bantamweight champion showed off his stalwart wrestling and grappling en route to an impressive unanimous decision verdict over speedy challenger Demetrious Johnson.
Not all entrants have been so lucky, however, as the month of September saw Jake Shields lose consecutive bouts for the first time in his career. The former Strikeforce middleweight champion failed to rebound from his April loss to UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, as he was knocked out in the first round against hot up-and-comer Jake Ellenberger.
However, if the pattern of impressive UFC championship performances continues, we're in for a treat in the very near future, as UFC 136 in Houston features both UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and UFC featherweight ace Jose Aldo in marquee affairs.
1. Anderson Silva (31-4)
The Spider spun another gem on Aug. 27, avenging his 2006 disqualification loss to Yushin Okami in vicious fashion and leaving little doubt as to who is the finest fighter operating in mixed martial arts today. Before a raucous Rio de Janeiro crowd, the Brazilian champ once again displayed the technical wizardry and violent, precise striking which has allowed him to defend his UFC middleweight title a record nine times while racking up a remarkable 14-0 mark inside the Octagon. Next on tap for Silva would seem to be the winner of the Oct. 8 clash between Chael Sonnen and Brian Stann.
2. Georges St. Pierre (22-2)
St. Pierre has been cleaning out the elites of the welterweight division with startling, unprecedented efficiency. Over the last four years, St. Pierre has dominated the most impressive schedule of opponents in MMA, making other pound-for-pounders look ordinary. However, as a result of his dominance as well his style, constantly critiqued for its conservatism, onlookers demanded a new-look opponent for GSP. Dana White complied with fans’ wishes, signing former Strikeforce champ Nick Diaz to a new UFC contract, but that matchup fell apart when Diaz failed to fulfill his promotional duties. Instead, St. Pierre will meet another hard-hitting finisher, Carlos Condit, at UFC 137 on Oct. 29.
3. Jon Jones (14-1)
Making good on the hype bestowed upon him, 24-year-old “Bones” retained his UFC 205-pound title and put on yet another impressive display on Sept. 24, disposing of ex-champ Quinton Jackson via fourth-round submission. Jones will face another stiff challenge in his next defense against former teammate Rashad Evans, which may take place t UFC 140 in December.
4. Jose Aldo (19-1)
Few fighters have the dynamism that Aldo possesses, a trait that saw him rocket to the top of the 145-pound division. However, Aldo’s ongoing neck issues have slowed the Brazilian’s roll. First, Aldo’s health stalled discussions of a bout against unbeaten wrestling standout Chad Mendes. It has also delayed his bout with former UFC lightweight challenger Kenny Florian, now expected to take place Oct. 8 at UFC 136. Should Aldo emerge victorious, he will return to a quickly expanding pool of opponents, as more fine featherweights emerge and more accomplished lightweights make the cut to 145.
5. Frankie Edgar (13-1-1)
In spite of taking a pair of wins over an all-time great in B.J. Penn, many still view the UFC lightweight champion with skepticism. January’s bout with Gray Maynard was Edgar’s chance to cement his place in the MMA world; however, the disastrous opening period meant Edgar’s heart, not his skills, had to take center stage. An Edgar back injury has postponed a third match with Maynard until Oct. 8. Should he win, “The Answer” will have no shortage of challengers, as the UFC lightweight division is seemingly overflowing with contenders such as Melvin Guillard, Clay Guida and Benson Henderson, to name just a few.
6. Jon Fitch (23-3-1, 1 NC)
The welterweight division’s other dominant is finally back in business, having undergone shoulder surgery in May which forced him from a planned rematch with B.J. Penn. Perennial contender Fitch resumed training in September and now has a date for his return: Dec. 30 in Las Vegas, where he will face fellow collegiate wrestling standout Johny Hendricks.
7. Dominick Cruz (19-1)
Cruz took a different approach to overcoming his latest obstacle, but the result was the same. Rather than rely on his well-known boxing tactics, “The Dominator” clinched, took down and controlled Demetrious Johnson en route to yet another five-round defense of his UFC bantamweight title. Cruz did not emerge unscathed, however, suffering a hand injury which will require surgery.
8. Gilbert Melendez (19-2)
Melendez has looked absolutely sensational in taking out high-level lightweights in recent memory, including the likes of Josh Thomson, Shinya Aoki and, most recently, Tatsuya Kawajiri. Another dangerous challenger, Jorge Masvidal, is lined up to vie for Melendez’s Strikeforce title on Dec. 17. The only unknown is whether “El Nino” will make the jump to the UFC before that fight can take place.
9. Mauricio Rua (20-5)
Rua not only avenged a nagging loss at UFC 134, he did so in vicious fashion. Showing flashes of his Pride-era brutality, the Brazilian took out Forrest Griffin in Rio de Janeiro and took back the upset dealt to him in his UFC debut. Now back on track for title contention, Rua will next have to deal with the returning Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC 139 on Nov. 19.
10. Jake Shields (26-6-1)
Shields’ knockout loss at the hands (and knee) of Jake Ellenberger in September was shocking for its speed and violence, but also for its rarity. It had been more than 10 years since Shields was finished in a fight, during which time he defeated such potent punchers as Dan Henderson, Carlos Condit, Robbie Lawler and Paul Daley. The next step remains unknown for Shields, who has now lost back-to-back bouts for the first time in his career.