Dan Henderson has rejoined the Sherdog pound-for-pound list with a huge win. | Photo: Dave Mandel
In August 2007, when Sherdog.com first published its pound-for-pound top 10, one Dan Henderson clocked in at the four spot. It's been a few years, but “Hendo” has returned to this list, hot on the heels of an absolute war.
Henderson's Nov. 19 victory over fellow pound-for-pound list entrant Mauricio Rua was one of the most rousing MMA contests in recent years. However, the fight didn't just serve as a 25-minute thriller. Instead, the bout re-emphasized how truly incredible Henderson's recently roll has been, as the 41-year-old is putting major names across three weight divisions on his record.
Henderson's pound-for-pound return isn't the end of 2011 as far as this list is concerned, however.
The final weeks of the year will still see three of this list's players in action, as Jon Jones and Gilbert Melendez have titles to defend, while Jon Fitch would desperately love another crack at UFC gold.
1. Anderson Silva (31-4)
Oh, the drama. After weeks of Anderson Silva and former challenger-stroke-antagonist Chael Sonnen going back and forth in the media, it appears that Silva's shoulder bursitis and associated issues will keep him sidelined into mid-2012. Though his hit list is beyond reproach, if “The Spider” is unable to step back into the Octagon until June, the lucrative rematch with Sonnen -- now unquestionably the middleweight division's no. 2 -- will have to wait. Presently, Sonnen is expected to tangle with rising challenger Mark Munoz in early 2012.
2. Georges St. Pierre (22-2)
A knee strain and a hamstring pull nixed Georges St. Pierre's much-anticipated Oct. 29 title defense against Carlos Condit. However, that same night, former Strikeforce champion and welterweight antagonist Nick Diaz went out in the Octagon and brutally took apart B.J. Penn, earning his biggest career win and another chance to try to fight for the UFC welterweight crown. Come Super Bowl weekend in February, St. Pierre will have the chance to put yet another welterweight star in his win column in his seventh consecutive UFC title defense.
3. Jon Jones (14-1)
In consecutive bouts, Jon Jones has taken apart light heavyweight icons Mauricio Rua and Quinton Jackson. On Dec. 10 in Toronto, he will have the chance to lock up consensus “Fighter of the Year” status when he looks to do likewise to another former UFC champion in Lyoto Machida. Jones' talent seems to have no visible ceiling, and perhaps his pound-for-pound cred, too: if Jones downs Machida, he's looking at a bout with another former UFC titlist and one-time pound-for-pound entrant, Rashad Evans, in what would be one of 2012's most anticipated showdowns.
4. Frankie Edgar (14-1-1)
Frank Edgar is the leader of the pack in perhaps MMA's finest weight class. The Toms River, N.J., native's thrilling Oct. 8 fourth-round knockout of Gray Maynard was exactly the kind of signature performance the champ needed. If Edgar can hold onto the UFC strap, he may quickly carve out a very enviable résumé. Next on tap for Edgar is former WEC champion Ben Henderson come Feb. 26 in Saitama, Japan, in an early candidate for 2012's “Fight of the Year.” After that? Names like Anthony Pettis, Donald Cerrone, Nate Diaz, Joe Lauzon -- not to mention fellow pound-for-pounder and Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez -- could be on deck. Talk about a tough schedule.
5. Jose Aldo (20-1)
The top pupil from Rio de Janeiro’s star-making Nova Uniao camp passed his latest test with flying colors. Defending his UFC featherweight strap against former lightweight contender Kenny Florian, Aldo picked apart “KenFlo” from all angles, near and far, across five rounds in October. To date, it is Aldo's most significant win, having dominated the former two-time lightweight title challenger. But Aldo’s next challenge could prove the most rewarding and most dangerous yet: On Jan. 14, “Scarface” will compete in his home country for the first time in nearly five years when he takes on dominant and unbeaten Team Alpha Male wrestler Chad Mendes at UFC 142 in Rio.
6. Dan Henderson (29-8)
Dan Henderson has been consistently viewed as a multi-divisional standout throughout his nearly 15-year career, a reputation forged early by his 1999 Rings King of Kings tournament victory. However, more recently, Henderson has ripped off big wins from 185 right up to heavyweight, improbably re-emerging as a pound-for-pound stalwart at the age of 41. With his epic Nov. 19 win over fellow pound-for-pound entrant Mauricio Rua, Henderson is in line for some big fights that could see him move up not just this list, but also the list of all-time greats.
7. Jon Fitch (23-3-1, 1 NC)
Over the past six years, the former Purdue Boilermaker has compiled a welterweight record second only to Georges St. Pierre, including decision wins over strong divisional standouts Thiago Alves, Paulo Thiago and Mike Pierce. Despite his best efforts, though, Fitch could not put away former two-division UFC champ B.J. Penn in February, and injuries to both men derailed plans for a rematch. However, having recuperated from shoulder surgery, Fitch will take on fellow collegiate wrestling standout Johny Hendricks on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas with the chance of adding another elite welterweight to his list.
8. Dominick Cruz (19-1)
Zuffa’s 135-pound ruler has out-boxed, out-grappled and out-worked all contenders to his belts, both UFC and WEC, since earning his first title in March 2010. In October, it was speedy challenger Demetrious Johnson who came up short in a 25-minute affair, Cruz’s fifth straight title defense. Cruz will face a familiar foe in his next outing as he tries to put a button on his trilogy with Urijah Faber on an as-yet-undetermined date. Faber's Nov. 19 domination of former champion Brian Bowles -- the man Cruz took the title from -- reaffirmed “The California Kid” as the most important and pressing opponent for Cruz.
9. 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. If and when Melendez does end up in the UFC, it could give him not only a chance at UFC lightweight gold, but the chance for a positively huge lightweight clash with Frankie Edgar that would crown an undisputed lightweight ruler in the MMA landscape.
10. Mauricio Rua (20-6)
The former prince of Pride Fighting Championships has struggled to find his footing since entering the Octagon in September 2007, and those woes continued on Nov. 19. Rua was pummeled early and surged back late, but ultimately dropped a unanimous decision to ex-Strikeforce titleholder Dan Henderson in a brutal, back-and-forth five-rounder at UFC 139. Since winning the UFC light heavyweight belt from Lyoto Machida in April 2010, Rua is 1-2, a knockout of Forrest Griffin sandwiched between losses to Henderson and reigning champ Jon Jones.
With the entry of Dan Henderson into the pound-for-pound rankings, previously 10th-ranked Jake Shields exits the top 10.